Wesa and The Lonce

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.

067_Vinah_7The highway passed through a growing amount of suburban neighborhoods.  Wesa found herself concentrating more intently on the traffic.  She turned down the music volume, casting it further into the background of her inner thoughts.

Stara stirred from her drifting in and out of sleep.  “We there?”

“Almost,” said Wesa.

“We could drop by Julio’s if you want. See his folks.”  Stara’s eyebrows raised as she pursed her lips.

They passed by a large green sign which read:

Vinah    7

Wesa said, “I’ll pass.  I never want to see his creepy stepmother again.”

Stara sat up and stretched in her seat.  “Just testing your resolve.”

“Trust me, I’m resolved.”

The suburban landscape transformed into a series of garish strip malls and towering signs.

Stara said, “What’s Kelly doing for break?”

“I think he’s spending it with some older hippie girl he’s hot for.  I’m not sure.”

Wesa maneuvered the car out of the way of a speeding trucker.  Her hands tensed on the steering wheel.  “Whatever.  I’m done with him too.”

Stara laughed.  “Oh, come on. I thought you liked being groped under the pretense of horsing around.”  She took off Wesa’s shades and blinked at the daylight.  “Damn, I need to eat more carrots.”

“Have a granola bar,” said Wesa.

“I should have had us stop at the store.  I could have bought some apples or strawberries.”

Wesa glanced at her friend and made a face.  “We can stop at a store once we exit.”

“Nah,” said Stara.  “Just testing my resolve.”

They passed down the highway into the center of Vinah.  Wesa took an exit ramp and slowed the car down, merging her vehicle with downtown traffic.  Progress was measured by brief flows of congestion through changing stoplights.

“You know where we need to go?”

Wesa nodded.  “Drew me a map off MapQuest.”

Stara interrupted her. “MapQuest?  They still around?”

Wesa snorted.  “Yeah, they are.  Anyway—once we hit this intersection, we should ditch the traffic.”

A wave of pedestrians crossed the street in front of the stopped car.  Wesa put her right hand to her ear as an ice pick migraine struck her for four seconds.  She had a flush of sensation throughout her body, followed by relief.  Her vision caught the blur of a pedestrian scooting past the rear of her car, then the light turned green.

Stara said, “You alright?”

“Yeah, just another drive-by migraine. I’m fine.”  Wesa shifted up as the car gained speed, the town drifting out of sight behind.

063_roadtrip_wesaStara pulled an MP3 player out of her pocket. She opened the center armrest and took out a tape cassette.  The cassette had a long wire attached to it, ending in a jack.

Wesa said, “What’d you load?”

Stara inserted the casette into the car tape deck and attached the jack to her player. “Some Sinead, bit of Storm In Heaven, and BT.”

“Of course,” said Wesa.

“You know it. BT is life, can’t go anywhere without my BT.  Hey, did you burn anything for the trip?”

Wesa took a moment to savor the sun shining through the clear, early morning sky as they drove south.  “No.  Ran out of time.  I figured you’d bring something though.  Could you get my shades out of the glove compartment?”

Stara opened the compartment and found them.  She held the narrow, close-fitting sunglasses in both hands and said, “I thought Julio took ’em.”

“I gave him back his crappy hat and stole them out of his closet. His room mate always leaves the door open.”

A grin spread on Stara’s face. “It’s about time. You always let him take your stuff.”  She put on the sunglasses and smiled. “No wonder he took them; these things rule. You need to stop being so generous to people.”

Wesa concentrated on passing a slow-moving station wagon.  She returned to the easy groove of driving along the highway and said, “If I ever did that, I’d have to cut you off girl.”

Stara turned on her player and fiddled with the volume.  She sang along with naked enjoyment as Sinead belted out her biggest hit.

A beaming smile appeared on Wesa’s face.  She drove with a distant stare to her eyes while her friend continued to sing along to the track.  The forested landscape turned into rolling fields and long stretches of farmland.

When Stara had finished singing and the music began to fade out, Wesa said, “Again.”

Her friend obliged and hit the back button.  They hurtled down the road at over seventy, passing only an occasional vehicle.

Stara laid back and closed her eyes.  A lenghty BT song followed the Sinead repeat.  She said, “Where we staying for the night?”

Wesa said, “Whatever hotel has a vacancy on the coast.”

“Did you make any reservations?”

“No,” said Wesa.

“I hope you got some money then, ’cause I haven’t got any.”  Stara snorted, a curled smirk on her face.

Wesa said, “I just saw you take some money out.”

“That was all I had. Sixty bucks.”  Stara made a series of stuttering laughs.

Wesa shook her head.  “You damn deadbeat. I’m only carrying two hundred dollars. That won’t last us more than two days.  We’re going to have to sleep in the car and eat McDick’s after that.”

Stara said, “We could be just like that dude who ate nothing but McDick’s and threw up in the parking lot.”

Wesa laughed.

060_cracked_easter_heart_wesaWesa carried the black duffel bag over to her car and placed it on the trunk.  She ran a hand through her thick hair and sighed.

Her hand drew out a cellphone from her sweatshirt pocket.  She opened it and selected a number titled “Jules”.  The balance of her feet grew unsteady and she propped a hand against the driver door.

A girl with a dry-bag over one shoulder approached her from across the parking lot. Wesa put away the phone and waved.

The girl reached the car and said, “You calling anybody?”

“No.  I’m staring at numbers is all.  You ready?”

The girl grinned.  “Staring at a particular number?”

Wesa gave her a look.

“Yeah, all set.  Let’s go.”  The girl pulled a water bottle and granola snack bar out of the dry-bag .

Wesa opened the trunk and they put their bags inside. Her ring-tone went off as she unlocked the car—a recording of her own voice saying “Pick up the damn phone!”  She looked at the name and switched her phone off.

The girl got in the passenger seat and laid back without putting on her seat belt.  After Wesa had gotten in and belted up, she said, “Your ex?”

“No; Nelson. It can wait.”

“Playing hard to get?” The girl opened the bottle and drank half the contents in a matter of seconds.  She gave a satisfied look and burped a little.

Wesa focused herself into gear-shifting mode and started the car.  “Stara, you going to bug me the whole trip?”

Stara chuckled.  “Hey girl, I got nothing going on.  Might as well live vicariously through you.  Can we stop at an ATM?”

After looking around, Wesa backed the car out.  “Sure.”  She gave one last look at the campus.  “I wonder where Noreen is right now.”

Her passenger peeled open the wrapper of the snack bar.  “Who cares?  What matters is the latest volume of Annihilator Goddess Robot Ultra.  I want to know if Tomago is going to come back or sell out Yuki.  That’s what counts.”

They reached the entrance to the lot and Wesa turned the car onto the road running along the campus.  “She’ll be there.  Yuki saved her life.”

Stara talked with her mouth full of granola bar.  “That’s bull.  This is Tomago’s chance to finish Chie and settle the family feud for all time.”

“Who saves Yuki then?  She’s all jacked up; no way she takes on the third strike.”

Stara said, “What about Kiyomi?  She’s got all those bombs.  Could come in and save her.  Then they can draw out the angst between the two best friends.”

As they neared an intersection, Wesa shifted down.  “That would totally blow though.  They’ve been looking for the Crate all this time.  We have to see them use it to one-up and save the planet.”

Stara took a drink of water.  She screwed the top on and tossed the bottle on the floor-mat.  “Maybe they use it later.  Still have to get the Crate back to base so they can study its secrets.  It’s only volume five.”

The traffic yielded and Wesa drove on, shifting up as they rounded a bend.  A lot with a small grocery store, liquor store and Tex-Mex restaurant appeared.  Wesa drove into the lot and idled while her friend went into the grocery store.

Stara returned with a fist full of bills and a receipt.  She shoved them into her pocket and got back into the passenger seat.  “All good.  Let’s go.”

Wesa drove them out of the lot and back onto the road.

They passed a green sign announcing an exit.  “Here we go; no turning back now.”

Stara said, “Hit it.”