A dark, dirt road that led upwards, vanishing into untamed bramble, caught my eye as a Ford F-150 screeched to a stop. My chest tightened in a quick, sharp snap, the thought of being T-boned by that monster coming too close to reality. I remembered to breathe, not realizing I had stopped, as my foot pressed the accelerator down. A sign darted by as I sped along, naming the road.
As I drove down Route 9, I found my concentration waver: I wasn’t sure at the moment if it was the near miss of the truck or the near miss of that road. My hands grew clammy, and a buildup of saliva sent me into a small coughing fit as I choked upon swallowing it.
A mile passed in less than a minute. It was a good thing there were no police on the road at the time.
Once I reached my destination, other things took my attention: Kelly, the woman I came to meet, beat me to the picnic grounds. She was waiting by her car. Her purple summer dress clung to her, which drew my eyes at first. The tilt of her head and her half smile brought me closer. “Men,” she said, her smile broadening until it disappeared with the kiss that she laid on me. We stood like that until a woman walking by harrumphed us. Our foreheads met as our lips parted. Eyes closed, I began to smile, but lost it as a stray thought hit me.
She could feel me tense, asking me what just happened. I laughed it off, blaming it on the “harumpher” and her puritanical ways. That got a small smack on my upper arm, another kiss, this one a peck, and we broke apart to get the food she had brought and the blanket and wine I had in my car. Hand in hand, we left the parking lot and traveled into the park for the night’s entertainment.
The music was wonderful, the company more so. We had decided earlier that we’d end our evening here instead of going to one of our places for the night. She was leaving extra early on a business trip the next morning and made the time and effort to at least spend this time with me, for us. I agreed, reluctantly, saying I also had tons to do the next day and also had an early start.
I didn’t, and I’m pretty sure she knew I was fabricating it all. She let it lie, and I appreciated it. Nothing was going on, and nothing had been going on for way too long until she had entered my life. The last thing I wanted to do was to blow it this early in what I hoped would be a relationship.
Stowing away the blanket and picnic ware, we leaned against her car in a Goodnight kiss. She was beginning to waver in her decision to go home alone: I was long past wavering, having mentally abandoned that choice after our first kiss that evening. But, again, I didn’t want to blow things. You know when you can tell there is something really special about the other? She was it, for me, and while I pressed a little bit, I rode evening out as planned.
Her biting my lip with our last kiss did not help in that decision.
She took off first. I idled a little, thinking, adjusting myself, and turned on the car stereo system. Static filled the cabin, and I had to tune around to find something I wanted to hear. At that point, the night’s music was enough in my head, so I turned off the system, put the car in reverse, and almost hit the walking “harumpher” who was passing right behind me.
She screeched, and a stream of well laid curses and obscenities spewed forth. My heart did a quick skip: for that moment, I was back with the almost T-bone, back at Forgotten Way. Then reality hit me as she smacked her hand on the trunk of my car and shambled off. I left the grounds without any further incident and made my way back along Route 9.
A twenty-four-hour gas station/mini-mart was my first destination. I needed the facilities, and a snack would be welcome. The kid at the counter was a familiar face. I’d stopped here a couple of times in the past month, ever since Kelly and I had met cute. He said, “howdy,” I said, “hi,” and he scanned my snack and soda.
Outside, a semi whooshed by, tooting its air horn, and it brought me back to earlier in the evening. I asked the kid about Forgotten Way. It wasn’t that far down the road from the station. He looked at me, bagged my loot, scratched at a pimple on his nose, and shrugged.
“Never heard of it,” he finally answered.
There was nothing to push with the teen. I thanked him and left the mart. Getting in my car, I felt that tightness in my chest again. Taking a swig of my soda, and then popping open the bag of chips and munching a few, did nothing to alleviate the pressure inside of me. Turning the car over, I sat.
There were two ways to get out of the area, the quickest being the road I was already on. I debated for a few moments, feeling silly in the end over my indecision. Part of me wanted to call Kelly, or head over and “surprise” her, but I didn’t.
Checking behind me very carefully-I wasn’t sure The Harumpher wouldn’t have been waiting for me-I backed out of the spot, came to the exit of the lot, and turned right onto Route 9. Towards home. Towards Forgotten Way.
I should have gone the other way home.
To be continued