Tue 3 Aug 2010
Vinah’s last vestige of development faded from sight. The landscape became an undulating terrain of cheap, one-story homes connected by borders of trees and scrub. Traffic dispersed into wider intervals of encounter.
Wesa exhaled a sigh, tense. She searched the roadside with brief glances in between the business of steering.
Stara blinked her eyes once, then three times in quick succession. “Which way to the coast?”
“I’m not sure,” said Wesa. “There’s an intersection off to the side of this road. The map says it goes through some national park forest or something. IC5 is on the other end.”
“Looks like that’s it.” Stara gestured towards a side road running at an angle away from the main one.
Wesa put on her signal and slowed down to take the turn. A dark gray sedan in the rear-view mirror loomed close, slowing as it swooped into a tailgate. She turned onto the winding road, snapped a glare at the woman driver speeding by.
The trees and brush grew wilder and crowded closer to the side of the road. The one-story homes disappeared in favor of small fields and old, worn farmhouses. They passed a campaign sign encouraging participation in an approaching tribal election.
As her eyes drooped, a blank expression took over Stara.
With a sudden rush of gargantuan presence, a forest loomed up out of the hills and turned the light to soft shadows. A hush absorbed the two girls in the car; their senses dulled and enveloped by a sleepy drowse.
The road wound in a twisting series of curves, rises and descents. Wesa noted the lack of a rail between her car and a ten foot plummet into a stream gully on one side, and the overgrown sheer slope on the other. She shifted down and took the turns carefully, fighting the drowse with firm nibbles on the tip of her tongue.
The speakers played a new track of slow and regretful drums. Stara dozed off into a disassociated state of half-awake dreams.
As the heartfelt refrain began, Wesa turned the music off. The quiet rhythm of the drive lulled at her; she imagined kicking Julio in the butt and out the door of her room.
The smile on her face turned into pursed lips. She blinked once, then her eyes swelled with blushing tears.
Wesa opened her mouth and struggled with words. “Stara, I just had a daydream.”
Her friend jerked awake with a start, “Wha? What was that?”
“I had this daydream. I watched this guy riding in a car with some girl. They were driving to the coast like us.”
Stara rubbed her eyes and said, “You want me to drive?”
Wesa said, “You don’t have a license. This guy. He was so sad, I saw that he’d given up hope. This girl really dug him, but he was like a total buttmunch.”
“Great, a hopeless road.” Stara cleared her throat and blinked herself awake.
“No, it wasn’t this place. It was like the trees were telling me something they’d known from way back. I wanted to tell this guy it was okay, he would be okay. But he wasn’t listening.”
Stara said, “All sorts of people are like that. They never listen to anyone when they’re depressed. Dudes like that draw nurses from all over—drag them through the mud.”
Wesa said, “Why did I have that daydream?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you picked up on something that was really strong. People leave marks on places when their lives get messed up.”
“That must be it,” said Wesa. “There was this deep, timeless ache to this guy’s feelings. He kept going on and on through this moonlight darkness, along a never ending road with this girl. It wasn’t extreme; it was vast and hollow like an endless horizon of sadness. All that guy could do was fall into it forever.”
Stara hissed. “Damn, Wesa. That’s messed up. You had this just now, wide awake?”
Wesa took a sharp curve slow and easy. “Totally.”
“This like that stuff you told me about, how as a kid you used to go places in your head? Talk to people in their minds?”
Wesa made a puzzled face. “No, not like that. But kind of. I never got feelings like this.”
The road straightened out and passed between two waist-high walls of flat, piled rocks. The trees trended sharply away from the side of the road and evening light returned, bathing the girls in reviving expanses of vision. Through the trees on the right, a well-tended farmhouse nestled at the foot of a steep hillside.
Stara said, “You sure we’re on the right road?”
Wesa eyed her friend, then huffed.