Preview: Short story in progress.

Ever hear someone jokingly tell ya that you will be unprepared? That’s where I was at that night, but there was no joke to be had. A raucous wind blew across the plain, nearly knocking me off my feet periodically. My toes were numb from walking wet, frozen ground, and my fingers ached from tightly clenched fists shoved into the pockets of a less-than-winter-ready coat. The one time it snows here happens to be the one time I push the limits of my gas tank too far, and it was ten miles to the nearest gas station. I could have called for help, but the closest contact was my misogynistic ex, and he’d be all to thrilled to take time to remind me of my inferiority. I had other friends further away but really didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I’d been fired from a job I hated, kicked out of my own band, and dumped in the form of a giggling blonde found in my bed. She deserved the bastard so far as I was concerned, and while I probably should have wept bitterly, my tears had been spent on the first two upsets, both of which held more gravity than my exit from that ungrateful moron’s life.

The wet chill rattled my bones and chapped my soul. A half-smile played at my lips as I tried to make light of my present situation. At least I’d have something other than varying forms of heartbreak to write about later. I could see lights off in the distance, and provided the wind and snow didn’t turn me to stone, I’d make it. Or the visage ahead would collapse into the mouth of some wretched machine hell bent on devouring my joy and success. The latter, though hyperbolic, seemed more likely. The fucking cloud hanging over me wouldn’t bother with someone else’s parade, and my pessimism grew exponentially as the damp weather clawed through my coat, hair, and skin.

A star shot across the sky. How it was noticeable through the clouds and snow remains a mystery, but I stopped to stare in awe. It may have been the most beautiful thing I’d seen all year. In this moment, I made a wish…because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you see one, right? I never really believed in that sort of thing, but if ever there were a moment to start, this was it, smack in the middle of the craziest winter storm the South had seen in the better part of a century.

An old blue Chevy ripped past. I couldn’t tell you how long I’d been staring at the sky, and I realize once again that I’m shivering. Shaking new fallen snow out of drenched hair, I pressed on, gas can in hand. Carry on my wayward son; Kansas spinning on the turntable in my mind. It was how I got through anything. I’ve got a hundred songs for any mood, and I can play them at will anytime. I wanted stage lights more than anything, all their blinding glory, all their warmth. I looked up to see those lights even closer, and I heaved a sigh of relief. This sigh was countered by three cars that passed without a blink my direction. Oh, humanity.

The gas station was half a mile or so forward. I recalled a promise I once made. Forward is the way… There were pinkie swears and forbidden lovemaking, lusty and greedy promises, guilt and a scar that took ages to fade. I found myself repeating this old mantra, and it churned my stomach just enough to make that gas station seem at least twice as far away. I squeezed the gas can under my arm as I choked on bittersweet memories. I was well on my way to Galveston to escape all this for a while. It didn’t matter that it was winter; I needed the sound of waves crashing to cleanse my mind. I needed to touch base with nature the only way I really knew how. I can’t really remember it, but my daddy said I was quite the beach baby. Any day, anytime, give me the ocean.

The parking lot is glimmering white instead of pavement and I nearly lose my footing as I happen on it. I laughed despite nearly kissing the ground. I practically ran through the door, desperate for warmth. The clerk raised an eyebrow and immediately insisted I let him at least drive me back to my car. I agree only because I knew that walk, and stubborn as I was, I didn’t want to do it again. I also had dry clothes in my car. I step into the restroom and nearly squeal in delight as I dry my hair with the hand dryer. I’m reminded of one of many last-minute gigs of my youth. It rained all damn day and night, and I was walking three blocks from the record store I worked at to the dilapidated venue in question. I was surprised to find they had these cursed dryers so I at least stood a chance of looking somewhat professional. The same gratitude was felt but for far less vain reasons.

The freckle-faced boy behind the counter made it a point to fill my gas can, find his coat and an obnoxiously colored beanie, and temporarily close the store while I basked in the hot air blowing over my scalp. When I stepped out, he handed me a cup of coffee, which I nearly dropped. He insisted I finish it before we left so I did, and we climbed into a shiny red truck. The drive was silent, which I was content with. I could still hear the wind in my ears, and my toes had started a dreadful tingle as the truck’s floor heater brought them back to life. We made it back to my car, and I quietly thanked the boy for the ride. We shared a unique moment in which you’re grateful neither of you turned out to be a psychotic murderer. He drove off as I dumped the gas can in my thirsty tank. I crawled into the front seat, rummaged through a bag in the passenger seat, and peeled off my wet clothes. I draped the jacket over the passenger seat and found a plastic sack to put the rest of my clothes in. I wriggled into fresh, dry leggings and tugged a tank top over my head, which was followed by a thick hoodie. I hadn’t brought another pair of boots so I tugged on my old Converse.

A sigh escaped my lips, the sort of sigh you let out when relieved but acutely aware of a long journey or project ahead. My hands rested on the steering wheel, key in the ignition, but I couldn’t bring myself to turn the engine over. Tears welled up and over their dams despite my desperate attempts to stop them. I’m already cursed, I’m already dry… My mind flashes back to October in New Orleans, a bitter chill in the air, not quite enough to warrant an actual coat. City Park is littered with blankets, music lovers, and illicit substances snuck in by a variety of means. The Silversun Pickups played that night, and I basked in the presence of then-best-friends. The festival was a perfect haze of pot, alcohol, Xanax, stargazing, giggles, smiles, and acceptance…but that week wasn’t as honest as those three days. I was mourning the death of those friendships a year after the fact. I’m giving you my trigger, but you’d better never pull it…and he did. That’s where the last twelve months of mayhem originated, and it took every bit of self-control I had not to turn my in-state road trip into one that crossed borders. I wanted to tell the truth, every slimy detail, no matter who it hurt. One more incident like my trek in the snow would likely do me in, send me on the way down just to set the record straight.  That sort of thinking never does any good so I swallowed the angry lump in my throat, told myself to focus, and started my car.  I had at least ten minutes to kill while the car warmed up, and I didn’t want to spend them in tears.  I had to focus on finishing the trek ahead.  The beach would fix it all…or that’s what I told myself.

(To be continued…)

-Kortney Marie

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Honestly (2013)

There won’t be
A “when we meet again”
Or a glimmer of hope
Or “something like friends”
Not even a girl you might know
So afraid to be heard
But I won’t choke back another word

Don’t you want
All my master plans
Late night secret talks
My heart under your command
Do I haunt that boulevard?
I really hope I do
Since we’re all for telling the truth

-Kortney Marie

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