In the Middle: Ch. 4

Monday, June 24, 2019


I wake up with only a few minutes before check-out, and in a panic, grab my things and run out the door, tears streaming down my cheeks. 

I stop at the gas station down the street, and brush my teeth in the bathroom, splashing some cold water on my face. My eyes are red and puffy from this morning’s waking tears with dark circles haloed around. I shake my hair out of the bun it’s been in for the past two days, and let my hair fall naturally in waves around my face. 

Then, I grab some coffee, pay for my gas and head out.

For the next several hours, I head aimlessly north, noting with boredom the transition into Idaho. The miles of road seem to stretch out endlessly, so that I almost feel as if I’m driving right into the sky. 

Eventually, I switch direction and head west again, hoping to eventually run into the ocean. It’s the one place I can think of that would have no evidence or memory of Brad.

The hours pass by in a dull blur, the monotony of the road pulling me along. I don’t even realize I’ve crossed another state border and entered Oregon until I pull into a rest stop, and see the state map and travel guides. 

I grab a granola bar and water from the vending machine, and take a few minutes to stretch my aching limbs before crawling into the backseat of my car and falling asleep.

I wake up a few hours later from a dreamless sleep, and blink a few times, adjusting to the bright afternoon light. My stomach grumbles in empty protest, and I quickly scarf down the granola bar, chugging the whole bottle of water too. 

I brush my teeth, and throw my wild hair back into a bun in the rest stop restrooms before heading back to the highway again. I follow the signs toward Portland, and promise my still grumbling stomach and aching limbs I’ll get something real to eat, and perhaps do some exploring on foot. 

The sun is setting by the time I arrive in the city, and for a moment I’m confused by the early time, but then I remember I’ve jumped two time zones in the past few days. 

A swarm of relief washes over me as I realize just how far away from home I am, and the heaviness in my heart lifts a little at the thought.

As I settle in to a window-side table for two at a restaurant advertising a special for their Buddha’s Vegetarian Delight, I allow my eyes to wander over the street view of this unfamiliar city. A group of young women wearing billowing peasant skirts and fringed crop tops are passing out vibrant orange flyers to passerby on the sidewalk across the street; a young man with long dirty blonde hair pulled into a ponytail and John Lennon sunglasses is playing a heavily stickered acoustic guitar while pacing back and forth a little ways down. A man in a suit with his jacket unbuttoned and a cell-phone to his ear stops to place a handful of bills into the guitar-playing young man's open guitar case before continuing on his way. I smile a little at the display of simple generosity.

Suddenly, my street view is obstructed by a girl who looks to be about my age knocking on the glass window. She’s wearing ripped jeans and a white tank underneath a faux fox-skin vest. Her wild curly black hair is tamed down some by a silk scarf tied around her head. Her olive-toned skin and striking blue-green eyes are looking right at me as she spreads her voluptuous lips into a huge grin and waves at me. 

I smile shyly, and awkwardly raise my hand and wiggle my fingers in a hesitant wave back. 

“I’ll be right in,” she mouths, winking at me.

She turns around and points in my direction while saying something I can’t hear over her shoulder. It’s then that I notice the short, hipster dude standing behind her. He crosses his arms over his chest and frowns as she skips into the restaurant and before I know it she's standing right in front of my table.

“Hi, sorry, I’m Dorothy and this might be awkward, but can you do me a huge favor and pretend to be my best friend ever so I can finally shake this dude?” she says.

“Sure,” I say, shrugging.

“Oh thank god!” she says, wrapping her arms around me in an overzealous hug.

She takes the seat across from me, slinging her small backpack to the side, and then waves at the hipster dude outside. He mimes the phone gesture and mouths “call me” before turning around and walking away.

“God, this dude. If I have to hear about his amateur acting career one more time I swear I’m going to puke,” she rolls her eyes and shakes her head.

Then, she smiles and sticks her hand out across the table. “I’m Dorothy by the way. Sorry to intrude on your lunch.”

I give her hand a limp shake. “I’m Sarah, and I don’t mind.”

“I’ve always liked Sarah’s. Good people.”

I shrug. “I guess.”

“Are you from here?” 

“No.”

“Me neither. I met that dude in a bar in Seattle a couple nights ago, and he said he had these tickets to a band I’ve been dying to see playing here last night, so I rode with him down here, but oh my god it was the worst mistake ever. I mean, I couldn’t even enjoy the show he was talking so much. Ugh.” She pulls out her phone and is engrossed in a text message for a moment. “God, my boss is going to kill me if I don’t find a way to get back before my shift tomorrow. But I’m fresh out of cash...unless I tap into my house money but if the water gets turned off again Anna is going to have my head.”

“I can give you a ride,” I say.

I surprise myself with my own offer. I can imagine the horror my parents would experience at the thought of me offering a complete stranger a ride. But it’s not like I’ve had a clear destination in mind this whole trip, and it would probably do me some good to have somewhere to go and someone to talk to.

She looks up from her phone and smiles at me. “Really? It’s a pretty long drive. I live in this small beach town off the northern coast of Washington. You probably haven’t heard of it, but you can just drop me off in Seattle and I can get a ride from there.”

I shrug. “I don’t mind.”

“Awesome! Oh my god! You’re the best! Okay, I’m just gonna let Anna know in case you turn out to be some crazy serial killer, and then we can go?”

I look down at my full plate of veggies and tofu I’ve barely touched and the half-empty water glass, and nod.

“Yeah, sounds good,” I say.

I take out my wallet and put down enough cash to cover the meal plus a tip, and before long I’m walking Dorothy to my car, my adventure renewed.

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