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     “The Long Drive Home”
 
They had spent
the whole day
at ‘Magic Mountain”
in Valencia, CA
they had all
gotten up
at 5:00am
for the three
hour ride,
two couples
and two singles
all six
working together
at a fast food
restaurant,
they were all
pushing it
pretty hard
during the long
hot
summer day
the sun was
still up
when the
thunder showers
struck
hard rain
coming in fast
then quickly
disappearing
the acres of
baked asphalt
began to steam
as the sun
burned the thin
layer of moisture
away,
he was one
of the two
singles
the other was
a girl from
work
both brought
along
just to even
out
the seating
arrangement
in the car
though they
both were
having a great
time
and she was
kind of in
to him
if he would
just throw
her
some attention
there could
be three
couples
in the car
when they
drove home
but he was
in love with
another
and it was
her car
that they had
taken on this
trip
an outdated
car from the
70’s
with surf racks
on the roof
and two big
bench seats
in the interior
she was on
her second
boyfriend
since he knew
her
though she
never really
let go of
her first
boyfriend,
but boyfriend
number two
was an ok
guy to work
with
and he never
ever hit her
something her
first boyfriend
couldn’t claim
to be true
one of the
main reasons
for her late
night phone
calls
to him
someone she
trusted
that she
could talk
to,
he was only
sixteen
when he started
flipping burgers
she was a
year older
boyfriend number
one
was a year
older
than her
she was the
swing manager
of his crew
falling in love
with her
was easy
being so close
to her
was cruel,
the rain was
starting to
switch
to heavy
no more drying
out
between rides
so they decided
to call it
a day
they waited
for a break
in the weather
before making
a dash
for the rear
parking lot
they hadn’t
gone a foot
past the turnstiles
when the sky
opened up
the car still
some distance
away
and unable to
go back
due to the
unforgiving
nature of the
turnstiles
forward
was their only
course of action
but forward is
just a state
of mind
when you can’t
find your car,
he was taller
than the other
five
so he thought
the car
would be
easier for him
to find
as he struck
out
on his own
as the other
five
waited under
a tree,
finding a
late model
70’s car
with surf
racks
especially one
he knew by
heart
would be a
snap to do
but the empty
lot
that they had
parked in
was now filled
with thousands
of old cars
with surf
racks
there where
a lot more
posers
with surf
racks
on their cars
that didn’t surf
then he thought
there would
be,
he finally found
the car
next to a
sign
that had been
easy to spot
when they parked
in the early
morning
he rounded up
the other five
right as the
sun
regained control
of the sky
brightening up
the dirty parking
lot
and everyone’s
spirits
knowing they’ll
soon
be on their
way
back home
she was too
tired to drive
so boyfriend
number two
said he would
instead
as the other
couple
got in the
backseat
along with the
one single
girl
that kind of
liked him
as he waited
by the passenger
side door
for the not
single girl
but the one
that he loved
to get in
everyone else
was already
inside
as she paused
before him
and the open
car door
that he was
holding for
her,
the sun
reflecting off
the shiny wet
asphalt
it’s light now
striking her
from two
directions
giving her a
Hollywood glow
her tee shirt
being pulled
tight
against her
chest
sharping the
lines of her
body
the weight of
the rain
the reason for
this clinging
new look
of hers
as the random
scattered
raindrops
were hitting
her face
she looks
at him
in the eyes
their faces
unseen
by the others
in the car
due to the
angle
of their view
his eyes wishing
they had more
time
to gaze a
pond her
there was just
too much to
see
right now
they didn’t
want
to be rushed,
but it was
her face
that always
dominated
his attention
and in her
eyes
was where he
was looking
when she touched
his hand
as she got
in the car
and gave him
a very
“Personal’
smile
one that was
tied to a
compassionate
look of
understanding
knowing what
he was trying
to say to
her
without him
speaking
a word,
to say that
his whole world
stopped
at the end
of that brief
moment
in time
would be an
understatement
she was the
first girl
in his life
to ever acknowledge
that she knew
that he loved
her
giving him a
type of rush
that he had
never experienced
before
but that feeling
was fleeting
when he lowered
his head
and got in
to the car
only to see
her
sitting close
and leaning against
her boyfriend
where she stayed
after he got
in to the car
and boyfriend
number two
began to navigate
the tight
parking lot
rows
looking for a
way out,
the space
between him
and her
on that bench
seat
seemed unreachable
he wasn’t trying
to wrap the
moment up
in the illusion
that she might
somehow
love him
too
but why did
she
have to sit
so far away
from him
and so close
to boyfriend
number two
in his mind
she was saying
“don’t forget
he’s the one
that I love”
but he knew
better
she didn’t love
him either
no matter how
hard she tried
to portray herself
differently
to the others
even still
he didn’t like
the fact
that’s what
she
was trying to
say
with her body,
there was just
a little small
talk
in the car
exhaustion
setting in
from a full
day of
hitting it
all
at top speed,
the backseat
was the first
to fall silent
as the car
finds its place
in the rush
of freeway
traffic
on the 5
after around
ten miles
she pulls away
from her boyfriend
his constant arm
movements
from driving
are like pokes
waking her up
each time she
is on the verge
of falling asleep
she slides
past the center
of the bench
seat
well on to
his half
not something
anyone else
would ever of
noticed
or probably cared
about
but to him
it meant something
more,
she was leaning
towards him
now
her body
close
only inches
away
he could look
down
and still see
tiny droplets
of rain
still clinging to
the soft smooth
skin
of her legs
each sphere of
water
delicately
balanced
making him
wish
he could take
his finger tips
and drag the
drops
against her
leg
mixing the
feeling of
their wetness
with the
smoothness
of her skin,
then as she
slightly tilts
her legs
trying to get
more comfortable  
the last remaining
drops
lose their hold
and slide down
the full length
of her leg
her right knee
now resting
against him
her eyes
closed
his wide
open
telling himself
its no big
deal
that her current
position
was only due
to luck
and gravity
as the weight
of her upper
body
pins him
to the seat
with her right
shoulder,
he quietly listens
to her steady
breathing
reminding him
of the soothing  
purr
of a kitten
wanting to believe
he was somehow
responsible for
her relaxed
state
but having to
let that thought
go
after he is
unable to
come up with
a reason
that he can
attribute that
state of being
to himself,
he looks over
at boyfriend
number two
what little
attention
he was projecting
out
was aimed only
at the road
not seeming to
notice
or just to
tired
to care
where his
girlfriend
was falling
asleep,
her body began
to melt on
to his
molding itself
around him
as she sunk
deeper
into sleep
he was afraid
to soften his
stance
not knowing
how
to accept her
unconscious
closeness
fearing that if
he looked like
he welcomed
it
they would be
seen by the
others
as being much
closer
than they should
be
in this situation,
so he sat
rigid
his back to
the seat
pretending to be
nothing more
than
an inanimate
object
the deep corner
of a large
couch
that she was
just getting
lost in
thinking he
was
protecting her
from petty
accusations
but the truth
might have been
closer
to an act
of self preservation
knowing he couldn’t
defend
the absurdity
of having such
feelings
for her
if they ever
got out,
he started watching
the road signs
after the car
merged from
the 5
and onto the
126
which took them
to the 101
the most used
freeway
on the coast
of California
and the one
that took all
six of them
back home
he could tell
he had less
than an hour
to go
as each billboard
started looking
more and more
familiar
taunting him
as it flashed
by
each sign
reminding him
that his time
with her
curled up
against him
tightly riding
the left side
of his body
was coming to
an end,
he hadn’t noticed
his breathing
was matching
hers
as he sat
watching
every tiny
rise and fall
of her chest
as she took
a breath in
then slowly
letting it
slip out
not wanting to
miss
even the slightest
of movements
her body
might make,
the big
“Pea Soup Andersen's”
sign
filled the windshield
marking the distance
home
at less than
thirty minutes
much too
soon
for this
moment
to end,
his thoughts
were lost to
confusion
trying to extract
a meaning
out of a
moment
that isn’t there
to be found
wanting to think
that because
he
can feel her
heartbeat
next to his
he is somehow
in her heart,
then a new
thought
takes over
one of
embarrassment
that he ever
let the other
thoughts
get a foothold
on the landscape
of his conscious
mind
unable to control
what he was
thinking about
took up the
rest of his
time
with her
the slowing of
the car
after pulling off
the 101
seemed to
wake-up
everyone at
once
she nervously
smiled
as she pulled
away
from him
sitting up straight
in her seat
as if getting
caught sleeping
in class
a few words
from the others
begin to take
up the empty
space
in the car
till they drove
on to the lot
where everyone
had parked
that morning
to meet up,
he felt like
all the emotions
that he had
been feeling
over the last
three hours
were visible
for all to
see
leaving him
exposed
to retribution,
he quickly got
out of the
car
when it rolled
to a stop
putting a few
feet
between him
and everyone
else
in the car
that he had
just left his
heart in,
no one really
said
anything to him
as they all
got out of
the car
other than the
one single girl
who smiled
and told him
she had fun
and said if
he got bored
to give her
a call
if not
she would see
him
next time they
worked together
the other couple
just started to
walk to their
car
too tired
to say much
of anything
he wanted to
take back the
steps
he had took
in his haste
to get out
of the car
lean into the
open passenger
side window
and say goodbye
to the both
of them
just so he
could
look into her
eyes
one more time
save her face
for a dream
or maybe get
one more
personal
smile
from her
before getting
in his car
and heading home
alone,
but all he
was able to
do
was stand there
as boyfriend
number two
put their car                     
in to gear
and drove
them away
leaving him
and all those
tangled up
thoughts
of his
behind…
 
     Tom Allen…08-25-2018…