How do you erase the past when she wont stop clawing at your heart?
The truck driver pulled over to the side of the road, just before Interstate 10 merged into the Long Beach Freeway. “Sorry, doll. This is as far as I can take you.” I looked over to the man with wide, mournful eyes. For over three hundred miles, he had been my companion. I didn’t even know his name. Once you knew their names, it became personal. I thanked him quietly and opened the door. I would have grabbed my bag, had I had a bag with me. In the heat of the moment, little things like clothes and money and pepper spray tend to slip minds.
The black surface of the I-10 was like a mirror, reflecting the tail lights of all the cars driving past me. All the people going on with their lives. Maybe they were heading home to their families, to kiss their kids and thank God for all they had. Maybe they too were running away. Before my eyes the city of Los Angeles sprawled. From where I stood I couldn’t even tell where the lights ended and the stars began.
I let out a deep sigh, wishing I had a cigarette. Wishing for a lot of things, really, like a bed, or a cup of coffee, or an explanation as to why everything was so fucked up. I didn’t have any of those, of course; I had nothing but the well-worn Converse on my feet, the two dollar bills I’d found in my pants’ pocket, and the long road stretched out before me. Better start walking, Ruth, I thought to myself. No one’s coming to find you.
I shook out my hair a little in attempt to clear my mind. Started walking. Everything was behind me now. The past was fading into the distance, against a horizon as black as my heart. There was nothing left for me there. The only choice I had was to keep going forward.
“Why do you look so down, Ruth?”
I glanced up through my choppy auburn bangs and the cloud of smoke I’d just exhaled. Brielle had her head cocked to the side in that way of hers, the one that said, I feel your pain, even though she had no fucking idea. I struggled for the words to say, but my head was spinning and all I could do was shrug. I didn’t know if it was the weed getting to me or the way that she was leaning in towards me. Probably both.
“I know you better than that,” Brielle said, but she didn’t press me from there. She took another puff of her cigarette, making it look graceful in a way I never could. Pushed a stray strand of white blonde hair from her eyes. “I’m going to do something crazy.”
I offered a shaky smile, but knew better than to respond. She was always saying things like that, telling me she was going to hitch a ride to Los Angeles and become famous, or something along those lines. I had learned to simply smile along with her. I could think of something crazy that she could do, that we could do together. Sitting there on the couch beside me, facing me but never actually looking me in the eyes, she was so beautiful.
“I’m serious, Ruth,” she insisted, her voice growing whiny in her desperation. Breathe, I told myself. Inhale the smoke and this will all go away.
I didn’t want it to go away, though. At least not forever. I just needed a temporary escape to sort some things out. To figure out how to tell her all the things I so longed, so feared to say. And then, somehow, everything would be perfect, and all the pain and the hurt and the haze would go away.