The Jerk

The average sized person contains around 7×10(18) joules of energy. That’s enough to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs. On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in LA, I unleashed my energy and with it, all the destructive force.

“Do you want to drive to LA?” I asked. “How long is it?” Blonde replied, I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was reluctant, probably thinking it was unfair of me to expect her to do the entire stretch. “It’s about an hour and a half” I answered, avoiding eye contact, already having calculated the five hours I’d driven the day before and the three that morning, compared to her two yesterday and one that day.

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Somehow, I ended up driving regardless but after an hour of sitting in traffic I pulled off into a run down shack of a town to find a bathroom and swap over. The high street was a ghost town, boarded up windows and broken down cars “do you want to get back on the free-way and we can find a gas station there?” Blonde offered.

The sharp stabs on pain in my shoulders advised otherwise “no, there has to be something around here…” I spoke through gritted teeth. After 12 weeks I was sick of doing the majority of the driving. I hadn’t noticed it at first, not until Alaska pointed out it was always me delivering a third more each day. I’d worn it as a badge of honour at first, a silent act of martyr to push through over the final hump and get us to that night’s accommodation. But my efforts went unnoticed and finally became expected; unconsciously I started keeping a mental log that rubbed away, yet another thing I’d failed to communicate.

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It really was unfair on Blonde ‘how could she not notice I was always driving more often and longer, she’s just selfish and lazy!’ I’d moan internally when she’d suggest we swap over, only half the time put in. Realistically she was probably completely unaware or thought I’d say something if it was grating. “Yeah but I haven’t had my coffee yet” “I’m tired” “well I can drive more later on” she’d respond the few times I did brave a confrontation on the subject, but my words always seem to go in one ear and have drifted out again by the next day as the cycle repeated itself.

“I’m going to nip to the loo” I stated once we found a supermarket, “I’ll come with you” Blonde followed. I knew I was being petty but the conversation in the car had been getting to me, I could feel agitation building. I needed a moment alone, to calm myself before I rolled my eyes or got snappy, but Blonde never quite mastered giving other people space, and so, together we went.

“Can we sort the money out, who owes who what?” I asked once back in the car. “Yeah, I’ll do it in the next few days” Blonde decided, adjusting the mirrors to her position in the driving seat. “No!” I said a little too sharply “I’ve been asking you to look at your receipts everyday for the last two weeks and you keep saying you’ll do it in the ‘next few days’! We leave America in three days and then we’d have to convert the money into Mexican or Cuban! It’s getting annoying, can you just sort it out tonight! I want to know who owes what!” I snapped.

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“Ok. I’ll do it later. I’ve got it all here and on my phone. And on some receipts” she held up a bunch of crumpled papers with scribbles all over them, dropping some on the floor as she drove. ‘Ugghhhh why couldn’t she be organised, why isn’t it all neatly written down on her phone, with dates and who paid for what and clearly laid out? This is how you lose stuff!’ I complained to my subconscious. ‘This is how you lose stuff‘ my mothers words forever chasing me throughout my 20’s, she’d have laughed to know I was echoing her. ‘I should never have left her to keep track of the finances, why hadn’t I just done it’. I clamped my mouth shut, tasting the pill before it sat on the top of my throat, threatening to spill back out.

“Can you text the host to let him know what time we’ll arrive? I haven’t topped up the credit on my phone” Blonde asked, immune to my inner rage, she’d been out of phone credit for three days now, requesting I send messages back and forth to Geo or looking up everything that needed looking up.

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With the LA rush-hour successfully navigated, we reached our final couch surfing host, a Columbian man in his early 30’s who sold Christmas cookies for a living. Cans of Santa shaped biscuits sat boxed up in his kitchen, I was starting to think the Universe was playing some sort of Santa based joke on me that had long grown old.

After some additional nagging, Blonde, at last, sat down to sort the money out “I think I’ve lost some receipts, I’m sure there are more than these” she waved her hand over the pile of tatty papers scattered across the kitchen table “I might go check the car again”.

“Wait a sec, I’m looking up hotels for Mexico, we still have to book for when we land on Friday, or we’ll be sleeping in the airport before our flight to Cuba in the morning!” I pointed out, something I’d been suggesting we booked since before we left Australia. “I’ve got a deal here, it’s got a pool too! We can land from LA and spend the afternoon by the pool, it’s not a bad price” I twisted the computer for her to see. “Hmmmm, I don’t know, I reckon we can get somewhere cheaper, I’ll have a look tomorrow” Blonde announced, heading towards the front door, car keys in hand.

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I felt provoked, infuriated I snapped “ughhh, I have been trying to book this one night accommodation for five bloody months and every time I mention it, you say you’ll look at it tomorrow! Now we’re three days away and you’re still putting it off! You know what, I’m just going to book mine, you can stay there or not but I just want to get it done”. She looked at me, anger flashing behind her eyes “fine” she clamped her mouth shut.

I tried to be friendlier the next morning, I really tried. I woke early, tip toeing around not to wake Blonde whilst I showered and gathered the washing, ready to put in the machine as soon as she awoke and could give me her items. I was sat at the computer searching for jobs “I’m going to go top up my phone, do you want to stay here and get the washing out when it’s done?” Blonde reported, jingling the car keys.

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She returned in time for lunch “I picked up some food” she called cheerfully and set about plating up some salads. “Ahhh thanks for getting these” I’d been a little annoyed to have been left with the washing and waiting around all morning alone but most things can be forgiven when presented with lunch. “So shall we head down to Santa Monica in a bit? We can walk around for awhile and then maybe watch the sunset on the pier?” I suggested.

“How much longer are you going to be?” Blonde nodded at the computer I was typing away on. “Almost finished, give me ten minutes and I’ll be done” I answered without looking up. “Ok well I might go for a walk then” she decided. ‘I just said I’d be 10 minutes! How far are you going to get in ten minutes?! Can’t you just hang on ten minutes? Fine, just go, I just can’t today!‘.

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Half an hour came and went. I packed the computer away and sat on the couch. I cleaned the plates and stacked them away. I used the bathroom. Folded the clean laundry. Looked at Facebook. At the clock. I put my shoes on. ‘Where was she!‘. “Hey, where abouts are you? I’m done here, ready to go when you are” I text. No reply. “Ummm are you nearby?” I text fifteen minutes later. I tried to call, she didn’t answer. ‘Umm should I be worried?’ I pondered. ‘She’s probably calling her mum, that’s why she’s not picking up or responding to the messages‘. I sent a message on Facebook. The hour passed. ‘SERIOUSLY! Where the fuck is she! I said I’d be 10 minutes and she’s been gone over an hour! We were suppose to leave ages ago! She’s wasting one of our last days and I’m stuck inside!’. The hormones began to race.

“You know what, fuck this! If she won’t answer her phone or reply to text messages, I’m just going to leave her. Screw it, I’m taking the car. She takes the car without saying anything all the time, I’ve never taken the car. Fuck it, I’m taking the fucking car and going to Santa Monica for the afternoon. It’s her own fault for pissing off for so long!” I decided, grabbing my bag and heading to the front door. “AAGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” I groaned to the door, she’d taken the hosts keys, I had no way of exiting the apartment without leaving his apartment unlocked. I stomped back to the couch and flopped down.

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I was bored and annoyed. “WHERE ARE YOU!!!!” I text, everything screaming at me for the unfairness of the situation, bright sunlight streamed through the window teasing me, I felt trapped in a box. I paced back and forth, every moment stretching into hours. “Fuck this, fuck this. I’m so fucking bored!!!” I complained to the walls, acting like a caged animal.

After an hour and a half I’d had enough. “Screw it, I’m taking the car! And if the apartment gets broken into, well, that’s on her!” I rationalised unfairly, all sense of self control long since gone. A strange sort of excitement rushed over me as I clambered down the stairwell, the rebelliousness at taking the car without permission. Only I couldn’t find the entrance to the underground parking lot, deflated that my adventure had ended so easily I huffed my way back to the apartment, the door was locked.

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“What!” I knocked to no answer. I didn’t understand, now I was trapped in the building, couldn’t workout how to access the car park and was locked out the apartment too. I stamped my foot just as my phone rang “WHERE ARE YOU! ARE YOU IN THE APARTMENT? IT’S LOCKED!” I yelled. “I’m outside, I just went up but you weren’t there so I locked it” Blonde replied.

I flew down the stairs, every hormonal impulse I ever had heightened beyond control ‘calm down Becky, there’s probably a reasonable explanation for this two-hour disappearing act’ the logical side of my brain insisted ‘fuck off! It’s been two decades! I’m so fucking mad right now. She’s done it on purpose to annoy you‘ the emotional side screamed back. I took a deep breath at the fire exit door ‘ok, be nice‘ I warned as the door opened. And then I saw Blonde sitting in the car. ‘SHE TOOK THE MOTHER FUCKING, FUCKING, FUCK FUCK OF THE FUCKING CAR! AGAINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN‘ I lost it. I absolutely lost it.

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In thirty years of friendships not once have I raised my voice to a friend, not once. Sure I’d had plenty of fights over the years, drawn out silences, short text messages exchanged, notes explaining who said what in class, but I’d never yelled. Not even at Bridezilla and she probably deserved a good yelling. No, if I was ever upset at someone, I’d bite my tongue and go moan to my mum until I felt better. But not this day, this day I became something else entirely.

I launched into the passenger seat and like a tornado, tore up everything in my path. “WHERE THE ROYAL FUCKING FUCK HAVE YOU FUCKING FUCKKKKK….AND YOU TOOK THE FUCKING FUCK OF THE FUCKING FUCKKK CARRRRR A.FUCKING.GAIN. I CAN’T FUCKING STAND YOU, I’M FUCKING DONE, YOU SUCH A FUCKING….” and so I went on.

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And you know what? It felt AWESOME!!! Why don’t people scream at each other more often? It feels utterly amazing to yell at the top of your voice, throwing in as many swear words of choice as you can. It was as though every bitter pill I’d swallowed came tumbling out and I felt so much better for it, poisoning the air. It felt amazing for exactly three minutes and then I ran out of words. Blonde however hadn’t, I guess she’d been holding back her frustrations too, and unleash them, she did.

“I didn’t know you were trying to call me. Your messages all just came through at once. I thought you were on your computer, you seemed irritable, I didn’t want to disturb you, I thought I was giving you time to finish what you were doing, I didn’t take the car, I went to the apartment as I hadn’t heard from you but you weren’t there so then I went to get the car…” her excuses all seemed plausible but I could only counter them.

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“You’ve been gone nearly two hours, I said I was almost finished, why would you not think that there might be something wrong with your phone if you’d not heard from me in that time! You always take the car! You were just doing what you wanted to do as usual!” I snarled.

We were driving by the time Blonde started listing off all the ways I was a terrible person, how all the couch surfing hosts had agreed when she read out the text argument exchange from Vegas to them, how I needed to get my hormone levels checked out “there’s nothing wrong with my hormones”I screamed back. “You’re a nasty person” she spat.

It stung, “well you’re fucking selfish!” I countered as she drove erratically in the direction of Santa Monica. “You need medication for your hormones, you’re a nasty person, it always has to be your way” she repeated. “Are you fucking kidding me! It’s always your prerogative first! You always do what’s best for you, never thinking of anyone else! You act like you’re the victim all the time,’oh poor Blonde blah blah blah’ fucking grow up! It’s pathetic” I insisted, no longer feeling the need to yell.

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“You’re horrible, it’s always your way, you get in a mood and I can’t say anything” she started to sniff. “Oh here we go, go on, cry, poor Blonde, again!” I rolled my eyes.

“See! You’re nasty!” she insisted. “No! Every time anyone calls you out on your shit you put on crocodile tears so people feel bad for you!” I answered, beyond fed up. “They’re not crocodile tears! I’m upset!” she instantly stopped crying.

“I can’t be bothered pandering to you any more. I’m done! All I do is spend my days explaining stuff to you because you’re completely incapable of reading a situation or knowing the appropriate thing to say, it’s fucking exhausting!” I calmed down after that but Blonde was far from done, continuing to yell.

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“And you’re always yelling…” she went on. “I haven’t said anything for the last twenty minutes, you’re the one yelling. You’ve said the same thing ten times over, like usual! I get it, I’m the worst person in the world, you’re the greatest person, you’ve made it all clear. Shall we just leave it now?!” she didn’t, she kept going, reeling over and over again every single thing I’d done wrong.

“OK! Right, I get it! I’m done. With you. With this trip. With everything! Tomorrow we can part ways. I’ll go stay with my friends, you can remain with the host. The car is in my name, I’ll just pay for the last two days” I instructed.

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“What if I don’t want to stay with the host! I don’t see why I can’t come stay with your friends, we don’t have to talk” she asked naively. For the last time my eyes rolled uncontrollably in their sockets “because they’re my friends, why would I bring this” I waved between her and me “into their house! It’s not really my problem what you do any more” I spoke callously “I’m done with organising everything for you!”.

“Well then I don’t think you should get to stay at the couch surfers tonight!” she shot back. “What, with the person we met together, at the same time, who neither of us had any prior relationship with? It’s not like you’re friends with him! I’ll leave in the morning. You can do what you like!” we fell silent after that, pulling into the busier traffic as we approached the coast.

Tears started to spill behind my sunglasses, I tried not to sniff and reveal myself but I couldn’t hold them back. Blonde didn’t notice, or pretended like she hadn’t and I had no right to want her to care. I turned my head to look out the window and great blobs dripped down my face, whilst I subtly whipped them away. I felt sick  and empty, it was all I could do not to wail, partly from release but mostly from desperation.

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We parked in a multi-storey car park near the beach and agreed to meet back in a few hours, Blonde strolled away from the car as I hung back. As soon as she was out of sight I cracked into inconsolable tears. I felt awful ‘What was my problem! I’m an asshole! I’d gone beyond snapping, she hadn’t deserved that, no one deserved how I acted. I’d called her a selfish bitch, I’d gone so far beyond what was acceptable, there was no coming back from this’ another wave of tears engulfed me as I tried to come to terms with destroying another relationship, hurting Blonde was like hurting a puppy, as irritating as I’d found her, the blame lay at my door, all she’d ever done was be naive and innocent.

I’d never sworn at any of my friends before, well not to their faces at least. Of all the things she’d said back, it was the nasty comment that really stung. Most of her arguments had been true, but the nasty one? ‘Was I really a nasty person?’.  Things usually hurt the most when you’re scared they might be true.

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The car was hot but I couldn’t leave my bubble, it was all that was left. Sweat mingled with my tears. There hadn’t been a single day that passed since mum had died that I hadn’t missed her, there were countless times where I longed to hear her voice. But at no point in the entire two years did I ache so badly than in that moment. Not that I deserved it but I so wanted her to tell me ‘it was ok, how I’d coped really well and for as long as I could, I was bound to boil over at some point, Blonde would forgive me and most of all, I wasn’t nasty’. It didn’t matter that I was 31, as I sat alone crying, I really, really wanted my mummy.


And because the world is made up of a million tiny miracles, my phone beeped.

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Burnley, my fellow expat friend from Oz “hey chick, how’s it all going?”. I wiped the snot with the back of my hand and laughed a tear as I typed an explanation.

“You’re not a nasty person at all, you know that! Travelling with someone is super hard. We discussed this before you left, you knew it would be hard. I was the same way with the girl I travelled with. I looked like a super nasty person too but deep down I knew I wasn’t. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s ok to get upset and stressed out, you’re human and it’s hard to be in close proximity with someone that you don’t know that well and travelling certainly makes or breaks people. I’m here if you need me doll…any time!”. I smiled and cried and smiled a little more, feeling just a little less alone.

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“But Blonde has a point, I have been really irritable the whole trip and snapped whenever she’s done something annoying which felt like a lot! It’s been so hard, everything has got to me, when she wears my stuff, buys the same things as me. She never leaves me alone, it’s a million questions, all the time. I can’t take it any more, I’m so tired, I’m tired all the time. I feel like I’ve been fighting for so long, I can’t do it” I wrote, not really talking about Blonde at all. “Everything she said was true, anything I said back sounded petty because I just can’t articulate it. I hate that her and the boys think I’m this moody, irrational cow. It’s horrible feeling like a bitch all the time” I sent the message with fresh tears streaming down my face.

I waited as Burnley typed a reply through “you have come so far, and being snappy isn’t like you, have you thought why you’ve been feeling like that? I was the same when I was travelling, I was constantly snapping at the other girl” this surprised me, for Burnley had been one of the most laid back, easy going souls I’d ever met, if she’d had similar troubles travelling, perhaps this wasn’t unusual after all!

To be honest it’s totally understandable to feel the way you do, after everything… Take a step back, you don’t have to stay with them, take a few days and see how you feel, this is your experience too and you want to enjoy it! You’re not failing lovely, I know what you are going through, you’re ok” Burnley added, I silently thanked the stars for letting me have her as my friend.

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The next day I left. I drove to my friends, the friends I’d met three years earlier with Bridezilla. I hadn’t seen them since the holiday with Bridezilla but we’d stayed in touch online, they were vaguely aware Bridezilla and I no longer spoke. If I’m honest, I was a little worried about having to explain that relationship breakdown and now turning up without Blonde too! I was afraid they’d also think I was a nasty person, but fortunately, because people are lovely, they welcome me with opened arms, settled me on the sofa and gave me tea. That’s what people do with British people in crisis, they feed us tea and it’s exactly what we need!

I felt awful to be heading to Disney World the next day with my LA friends without Blonde. I messaged asking if she wanted to join us, that I’d come pick her up, she sent a frosty reply declining. I couldn’t blame her.

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Whilst I wore Minnie Mouse ears and rode roller-coasters, Blonde took herself for a walk. Feeling a little lost and hurt she strolled the streets of LA until she came to a large building, the sign on the front of the building struck her curiosity and so, she walked into the headquarters of the Church of Scientology.

I posed for pictures with Cinderella and filled my arms with Disney merchandise. Blonde was rushed in for testing “oh dear, you have big emotional problems, you need urgent counselling, we should do it now” she was told. She’d been amused at first, texting Geo a running commentary of events but when Blonde decided she’d had enough she made excuses of being hungry and needing to go for lunch in an attempt to leave. The church offered her crackers which she then panicked had been poisoned, running out on to the street convinced she was about to be brainwashed.

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Two days later we sat next to each other on the plane to Mexico in silence, heading in different directions for our hotels once we’d landed. The next morning we reconnected with the boys at the airport to fly to Cuba, another three weeks of each others company…

The Big Sur, Santa and the return of hormones

Honestly, we haven’t seen any mosquitoes, you really can’t miss this” I closed my phone to Blonde’s message, I was sulking. We’d driven north from Yosemite, back to Lake Tahoe. It had been over two months since our first stay with Matt Damon, he’d been amongst the first of our couch surfing hosts and remained one of our firm favourites.

With Alaska and I not having settled our differences from the fight earlier that day, I was continuing to self-alienate, refusing to join the others on the beach, using the threat of mosquitoes as an excuse to remain in the car alone. “You have to come see this!” Blonde messaged again. ‘Damn it, I did hate to miss out‘ I muttered, heading to the beach, rewarded with the most incredible sunset “it’s caused by the pollution from LA and San Fran” Alaska pointed out as I joined them, I ignored him hoping his words wouldn’t dull the sky for me.

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We dropped the boys at the bus station the next day, waving them off as they made their way to San Francisco, to stay with Geo’s aunt. Blonde and I had chosen to remain a few days longer in Lake Tahoe, keen for a rest. “So, come on, tell me about the trip, what’s going on with the boys?” Matt Damon enquired as soon as we returned.

Blonde and I glanced at each other, neither quite sure where to start. We relayed what details we could but the conversation was stilted. I liked Matt Damon, the first time we visited, he and I stayed up long into the night talking. He had that wonderful calmness about him that was so rare, the type of quiet where silences aren’t uncomfortable and anything can be shared without judgement. I’d been looking forward to catching up again, to talk to someone outside of our group but who wasn’t too far detached from it all, someone who understood.

I wanted to talk about Alaska, my growing anxieties of the relationship I found myself in but I didn’t want to have that discussion in front of Blonde. Gradually, as the weeks rolled on, I became aware exchanges shared about Alaska to Blonde always made their way back to Geo who in turn let them slip to Alaska, before we knew it, the car was a circle of Chinese whispers. “I’ll tell you later!” I laughed at Matt Damon’s questioning on the subject. Blonde looked put out, insulted to be excluded “well I’ll talk to you separately as well!” she stated to Matt Damon. I rolled my eyes. “I hate it when you do that!” I was unaware she’d been watching me “It’s really rude Becky!” Blonde pointed out.

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With a few days to relax, no driving, no sightseeing, no boys creating drama; I breathed a huge sigh of relief, stretched out my back and….got right down to making myself busy.

Conscious it wasn’t long until my return to England and with no mother’s house to base myself from whilst I sorted my life out, I flew into action. Searching for somewhere to live, updating my CV, applying for jobs, looking at mobile phone contracts, arranging my social life; I worked myself up into a state. All in all, the realities of life came crashing back down, adult life seemed a little overwhelming after a year of gallivanting around the world.

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Blonde returned from the supermarket that evening and found me at the computer on my bed, she perched on the end “I couldn’t find the right butter” she complained before bursting into tears. “Oh my god! What’s happened?!” I asked concerned at her reaction, placing the computer aside.

“I don’t know. Seeing you all stressed and trying to get stuff sorted for when you get home made me think about when I go home too. I started to get a bit worked up about it. Then I went to get the stuff for dinner and I couldn’t find all the ingredients, so I went to another store and they still didn’t have everything we needed, so I came back here” she offered up half laughing, half crying in gulps. I laughed with her “oh god, girls are the worst aren’t they! Why do we get ourselves so worked up over nothing! I totally get it though, sometimes if feels like everything just gets on top you and you need to let it out” I replied, smiling, wondering if I ever took my own advice.

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Matt Damon called up the stairs announcing his friend’s arrival for the BBQ. “I’m going to go get changed” Blonde turned to me wiping the last of her tears away, “cool, I’ll be down in a second”. I smiled as she left, a little touched that she came to me and slightly nostalgic at knowing that feeling, when there isn’t really anything wrong but you feel a bit overwhelmed regardless.

My phone beeped a message from Alaska, asking how my day had been. As I listed all the progress I’d made in trying to sort my life out, that little hormonal devil on my shoulder began to filter in some dark thoughts. Blonde wasn’t writing her CV or looking for jobs, she’d gone on dog walks and read magazines all day. When she goes home, she has a loving family to pick her up at the airport with open arms to embrace her, a bedroom with all her belongings exactly how she left it. There’s security, home cooked meals and the world no different, all waiting for her return. And yet it was her crying about feeling stressed.

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I’d confused my reaction at the time for a flash of PMT, but in reality, I was jealous. I was so jealous it stirred all these emotions that I didn’t know how to process and ruptured my go to response of angry. A wave of sadness engulfed me as the realisation that no one would be waiting at the airport to collect me. My mind raced back a decade earlier, my mother and I waiting eagerly at Heathrow.

He’d been gone a year, travelling the world with his girlfriend but finally, he was coming home. My mum’s face was etched with excitement and then worry when my brother’s face didn’t walk through the sliding doors. We waited hours unaware his flight had been delayed, causing him to miss a connection. Eventually, the doors opened and there was my lanky big brother, more skinny and tanned than he’d left. My mum’s face practically burst with joy at the safe return of her son, the love shining out of her like sunbeams. But not for me, that face would not be there when I arrived jet lagged and cold from the change of climate and the realisation broke my heart a little.

Blonde had everything to go home to, I didn’t even have a home. I’d worked all day trying to straighten things out for a smooth return to normality but she’d been the one to cry. It’s unfair I know, but it made me kind of mad. That’s what jealousy does to a person, it makes you concentrate on all the things you don’t have, forgetting the amazing things you do.

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The following day, Blonde and I set out for some morning paddle boarding, it had been a long time since she sat on the front of my board as I negotiated the waves at the beginning of our trip in Hawaii, I’d thought at the start, we’d be so close by the end but our friendship had frayed with every new day, no inner twine of history and time to hold it together.

I needed to get back to the house and finish off a few more emails but was easily swayed into going for a walk along the lakefront. Within moments the hormones were reigning their ugly head as I became frustrated at Blonde walking too quick for my legs to match pace comfortably. I stopped abruptly “I’m going back, I don’t have time to walk” I announced spinning on my heels.

I marched back in the direction of the house, annoyed at myself for being too short with Blonde, verbally and physically it turned out, annoyed my long legs weren’t quite as long as hers to match the speed. Annoyed that I couldn’t act like a normal person for half an hours walk without letting my hormones get the better of me. I walked faster, mentally checking all the things I wanted to get done that afternoon. I was so engrossed in my own thoughts I almost missed the old lady hurrying across the road to me.

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“Can I ask you a question?” the woman stopped “Are we in Lake Tahoe?”. I was confused, of course we were in Lake Tahoe, where else would we be?! She’d have had to of driven here to have come from anywhere else but before I could answer she added “I’ve pee’d myself” she gestured to a damp patch on her trousers that I hadn’t noticed. “I’m lost. I have Alzheimer’s. I know I went for a walk, I’m staying at my brothers, but I couldn’t remember how to get back and I couldn’t find a bathroom. I’ve been walking around for ages. I don’t know where I live. Where will I live?” the panic bubbled over, as she burst into tears.

I didn’t know what to do other than tell her it would all be alright. “I’m so embarrassed” she remarked, gesturing to the wet again “it’s fine, don’t worry, honestly, we’ve all been there” I stated, pretty sure my drunken stories of early drinking accidents weren’t really of any comfort as we walked the streets trying to find a familiar house.

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I called Blonde to come meet us with the car, deciding it might be easier to drive around than walk, or worse case, find a police station for help. Somehow, I managed to track down the brother’s telephone number on the internet and call his wife. A rather disgruntled woman appeared at the front door as soon as we reached the correct house, she was angry, yelling at the old woman “where have you been! I told you not to go out! I was about to call the police. I thought you’d been kidnapped, how would I pay the ransom, we haven’t any money…” she went on as the older lady was ushered into the house.

“Why was she yelling at her, it’s not her fault, she’s ill!” Blonde asked alarmed, pulling the car away from the kerb. “She was probably just worried” I answered, my face still turned towards the house, wondering what would become of the woman. It felt overwhelmingly sad, that a physically fit person could have everything stripped away from them, even their memories. I thought of my mum, how quickly the cancer had withered her frame ‘perhaps it was better she was taken so quickly, I couldn’t imagine how awful it would be to watch someone you love suffer for extended periods of time. No years of pain or invasive treatments, no retirement home or loss of independence – she’d have hated that the most! Maybe going the way she did was better?‘ I pondered internally and then felt a rush of guilt that I could ever think her death was a good thing. I swallowed back the surge of tears that blazed at my eyes before Blonde could notice any shift in my temperance.

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A day or so later, we joined the boys in San Francisco. I was getting ratty as the hormones increased, or at least that’s what I was blaming it on, in reality, I was probably worn out from being a walking, talking  pressure kettle, always simmering, ready to boil over but never quite blowing my load, just the occasional spit up to burn people with. That, combined with the understanding that I would soon be going home and then the real challenges would be faced of what I was supposed to do next! Everything was annoying me and those around me stood no chance.

It was our last night in San Francisco, Geo was going to stay with his aunt a few more days before joining us in Cuba whilst Alaska headed to LA to visit friends before he too flew to Cuba. Blonde had ruled out Alaska joining us for the drive down the Big Sur, determined that we should end the road-trip as we’d started, ‘just the two of us‘, as such, Alaska was left with no option but to get the bus.

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I laid in bed, unable to sleep. Blonde was out cold on the spare cot. Geo sleeping on the floor next to her was snoring to extremes, like small locomotives escaping the tunnel of his mouth to torment me. Alaska lay next to me on the mattress, my body pulsing with frustration which he chose to ignore. Unable to sleep, anger surfaced, I needed Geo to stop snoring! I needed to get away from the lot of them! Fucking hormones!

The bitter pills were almost over flowing from my stomach, I was ready to scream in desperation. Alaska eventually sat up and tried to hug me, he might as well have hugged a ticking bomb. Nothing I tried could block out the noise, every rasp alerted my heightened senses until I was waiting for the next sound. I lay down, listening to every fucking breath, feeling so awake and so angry. My feet kicked out uncontrollably, my body riddled with chemicals and hormones that I wish I knew how to control.

We left the next morning, I, in my ever grumpy morning state had initiated a disagreement with Alaska as we departed. “Why do you always orchestrate a fight between us when we part ways?” his text once Blonde and I reached the highway. I stared out the windows, dry grassy banks, bleached yellow from the sun rose high on one side and the twisting coast of the Big Sur fell beneath us on the other. “Is it to make saying goodbye easier on yourself?” Alaska enquired.

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I watched the pelicans fly overhead; the pull of the winding road and gentle rhythm of the rolling sea, accompanied by the acoustic soundtrack we were playing on the radio was doing much to calm my senses. “Is that what I do? I didn’t realise until you just pointed it out” I replied. I thought for a moment “You’re right. It’s easier to say goodbye when you’re angry, you can hold on to that. It makes the sadness more bearable when you don’t want to leave them” a gust of wind caught my hair as I pressed send, the sea breeze so much more refreshing than the stagnant air of the roads in the mid-west we’d become so familiar with.

The shore line reflected the beauty of the sky, lending itself to the calmness. It dawned on me I’d done the same thing with my mother, I was so angry at her for dying that I’d never really accepted it, clinging on to that anger for so long, scared something more painful might be lurking underneath.

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We were shattered by the time we reached the restaurant that evening “I’m not hungry, are you? Do you think we can just meet the host, stay for an hour and then get an early night?” Blonde asked whilst we parked the car. “Yeah, I don’t want to eat either. Let’s say hi and then go to bed! He said to meet him here, it’s his friends birthday, I’m sure he won’t mind us leaving early” I yawned my reply. The host, however, had other ideas.

“The worst kind of couch surfers are the ones who turn up and just want to go to bed, can’t be bothered interacting with the hosts, use it as a free hotel” he eyed us wearingly, it felt somewhat like a warning. “We’re going to a bar after this and you two are going to sing karaoke”. The man wasn’t taking no for an answer, forcing a reluctant agreement from us, but when it came time to sing the song, I wimped out. I didn’t appreciate being bullied into doing something I didn’t want to do but worse, singing in public and what’s more, singing sober, utterly terrified me! Overcome with stage fright I refused the microphone.

Blonde took one for the team and stepped up, about two lines in I felt overcome with guilt once again and managed to join her, we sounded like a pair of banshees as we jumped about, the lyrics well rehearsed from our hours in the car. We finished the song to not a single clap. “We’ve sung! We’re going to bed!” Blonde marched up to the host, stating the facts.

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A short while later I was stretched across a sofa, my feet dangling over the edge, listening to Blonde’s breathing from the other couch. We’d had a pretty good day together, and I so admired her balls at getting up to sing alone, not to mention standing up to the host. It was nice to be away from the boys, some of the anxiety of the trip forgotten as I remembered all the fun we’d had along the way.

I felt like I’d been in a mood the entire time, and for no apparent reason either. Maybe we were friends after all; that constant ache in my shoulders, the hunchback I was sure to be developing, the lack of sleep, it all seemed rather silly now. Why did I think she annoyed me so much? And my hormones weren’t that bad, especially not this time around, in fact, I was barely noticing them. A rolled over, mildly content ‘Yeah, it’s ok, we’ll all be ok. I just need to chill out a bit, the rest of the trip is going to be fine, a good night sleep will see me right..’ I told myself, falling asleep with a smile on my face.

“Right girls, get up! We’re going for breakfast” the host announced the next morning, opening a door to let a great dane bounce into the room, his wagging tail knocking everything in sight. At some point the night before I must have mentioned the Santa Claus job I’d had in Australia “I’ve a great idea” the host announced, disappearing. He returned holding up a Santa outfit “you can wear this to breakfast”. There was no getting out of it, plus I kind of felt like I owed Blonde for taking the slack with the singing the night before, so to breakfast I went. I swear Santa was out to haunt me!

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Despite insistence I should keep it on for the rest of the day, I managed to escape the Santa outfit and before long we were back on our way.

“Do we really have time for this tour?” Blonde muttered as we rode the bus up to Hearst Castle. “Sure we do, we’ll take a quite look around and get going again” I announced, the structure peeking over the bridge of the hill. “Oh wow!” Blonde remarked as the house came into view.

“Hearst employed the only female architect in San Francisco. He was looking to build a grand house on the coast but after the great earthquake that devastated San Francisco…anyone know what year that was? Yes, that’s right sir! 1906. The great earthquake of 1906. Hearst wanted to ensure his house would remain standing. He walked amongst the rubble streets of San Francisco enquiring so to who had built all the buildings still standing” the tour guide informed as we were led around the grounds. “Think I’d like a house like this” I told Blonde in a whisper.

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“Hearst was directed to a young female architect who claimed she was too busy to work on his house no matter how much he paid but after much persuasion, she finally gave in and accepted the job on weekends only. Hearst liked animals so set about making his own zoo. He sent a few men off to Africa to find him a pair of Giraffes. Well after a few weeks the men sent a telegram saying they had the giraffes but were having trouble getting them on the train. Can you guess what Hearst did ladies and gents?  Hearst said ‘no problem, give me a couple of days’. And a few days later, the men received a telegram stating ‘I’ve bought the railroad, get my giraffes on the train’. He was a character that Hearst!” the guide glared at Blonde and I who were busy gossiping about what features we’d have in our dream houses, mine had a slide from the bedroom to the pool, hers had at least three yachts moored on the private marina.

Aware of the glare from the guide, we remained silent for the rest of the tour, absorbing the history and characters entertained in this grand villa. The house was so beautiful, full of details and snippets of the famous guests who’d visited, Amelia Earhart, Winston Churchill, Edwin Hubble. Everyone ate the same, staff, guests, builders (the building was never finished, always more work to be done). Hearst was really conscious of his guests and didn’t want them to have to share bathrooms, he even built closets outside of the bedrooms so they wouldn’t be disturbed by the maid. At the time the general population had outside loos, his house had 67 toilets! And showers with seven jets – you’d never get planning permission in California for that now. He was a real advocate of women being equal, believing they could do anything just as well as men. By the time we caught the bus back down the hill to the carparks, Blonde and I were pretty much in love with the man and his home.

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“Thanks for suggesting we visit this place, I wouldn’t have even thought to come” Blonde said in passing as we left, it touched me that she would say so, I’d been a bit insistent that we visited, despite the lack of time to reach Santa Barbara before dark.

The next afternoon Blonde pulled the car over so I could nip into a store before we left Santa Barbara for the drive to LA, our final stop on the road-trip. I returned to find a traffic warden writing a ticket. Blonde sat oblivious in the front seat, unaware she was parked in an ambulance only spot.

The ticket was $300 and the warden would not hear a word against it as I tried to talk my way out, Blonde having looked up and noticed me talking to the warden pulled the car back into the road and parked across the street, leaving me alone with the now angry warden “moving the car isn’t going to help her” the warden stated sassily, readjusting her belt over her belly. She was about to hand me the ticket when an 80-year-old man dashed over to our rescue, insisting the cop tore up the ticket, we were foreigners, we didn’t know the rules and it would set a bad impression for the town. Before I knew it, the ticket was dismissed and the man was encouraging me to hug the cop.

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With the warden’s departure, the old man insisted he take Blonde and I for lunch. He was local but from England originally and keen to talk about the homeland. Indebted to him for getting us out of the rather large fine, but having already eaten and concerned about the time, we settled on coffee.

On the walk back to the car, Blonde grew a craving for frozen yoghurt. Spying a bathroom before the drive, I nipped in. Meanwhile Blonde offered the old gent a taste of her ice cream. Rather than accept the small plastic spoon she was holding, he decided to suck a drip of ice cream from the end of her finger. Blonde was too in shock to respond.

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By the time we reached the car, the old man was in full swing trying to convince us to stay “the traffic will be bad, you should hang out for another hour. Or leave in the morning!”.

We said our goodbyes, thanking him once again for getting us out of the ticket. With a kiss on each cheek, he handed over his address and email with requests we stay in touch. Believing we were done with the goodbyes, I moved around to the side of the car, only to watch in amusement as he went in for one last hug with Blonde.

Only this time, he wasn’t aiming for her cheeks when planting the kiss, she dodged it at the last second and got in the care flustered. “Yeah, getting him to suck your finger was definitely sending the wrong impression” I teased as soon as the door was shut. “Oh shut up! That was so strange, let’s get out of here!” she responded, a little shell-shocked.

Yosemite and self alienation

At 47 degrees Celsius , Death Valley was a little uncomfortable, to say the least! My flip flops began to melt on the crusted earth if I stood in the same spot for too long, spiky grass sliced into my feet and ankles as we made our way out onto the salt flats, even the car was having a hard time.  Struggling to keep the engine cool with the suppressing heat, the car started pumping the smell of gas through the AC and providing everyone with head aches. No air travelled through the windows and without the air conditioning, we slowly baked alive. The engine sputtered and stalled a couple of times as we mentally prepared ourselves for a breakdown followed by swift death from dehydration.

Miraculously, as we climbed into higher-ground, gulping in the fresh cool air whilst the car found it’s wheels once again, we lived to fight another day, and of course, a fight it would be…

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The boys, not recovered from the heat of Death Valley insisted on turning the air conditioner on the motel room. It was noisy and plunged the room into a nuclear winter. Blonde grew angry and with it, restless. A short war raged based entirely of turning the thing off and on, a battle Alaska won but at the cost of Blonde’s patience and the rest of our ears as she shared her complaints. Enraged by the discomfort, Blonde trekked back and forth to the loo, to the car for a sleeping bag, to dig out more jumpers from her bag. She moaned, sat bolt upright in the bed, pushing the covers back with an elaborated sigh as she shredded and then reapplied the jumpers “can you just settle! Everyone else is trying to sleep!” somebody called into the dark, it was probably me.

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She finally fell asleep around 2, I breathed a sigh of relief and tried to finally succumb to that beautiful place of rest. Blonde had other ideas. A soft rippled of snores erupted, growing louder as she fell deeper. I was convinced she’d was doing it on purpose to torment me, she rarely snored, they only ever came out when I was really, really tired. Geo joined her and before long the room was a chorus of other people’s dreams, even Alaska had rolled over, his hair falling on my face as hot tainted breath blew loudly in my ears.

Blonde wasn’t done, with the creeping dawn, Blonde rose repeatedly to go to the toilet, I was beginning to question her bladder control as she stumbled over bags, pulled light cords, slammed bathroom doors and let the fans whiz and clatter into noisy action. Finally, finally with the morning sun sneaking through the curtains, the world fell silent and with it, blissfully, sleep came.

And then Blonde’s alarm attacked the room. She was up bashing about in no time, opening the front door to flood the room with aggressive light, sunbeams prising at my eye lids. I pulled the cover over my head and cursed the world. How I hated her in that moment.

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I was grumpy, oh so, so grumpy. I reached out to Alaska, wanting to be consoled at my loss, my dear friend sleep, forever missed, never enough time spent together. Alaska misread the signals, pointing his dick at me instead. I pushed him away, even more irritated, a rejection that sparked an argument.

My feet rested on the dashboard, body sunk low in the passenger seat, reading the message Alaska had fired through.

When I don’t act the way you expect or the way you want me to, then you need to communicate it. Which you did well enough. But not recognising your part in the fuck-up is childish and immature. I’m not going to apologise for what I said, I was right about the way you venting frustration at me, when you should have been yelling at Blonde. You venting is fine, but attacking me because of your issues is not ok. Period. I will always call you out on it. I’ve had enough of that in my lifetime to where I refuse to put up with that shitty behaviour. This is something that I’m not going to back down on, so argument is moot. Venting = ok; attacking Alaska when someone else deserves it = not ok!” I wasn’t really in the mood to be reasoned with but he probably had a point, not that I was going to admit it to him. I had been a bit shitty with him after all.

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I could hear him type out another message, which buzzed through before I had a chance to reply. “I still love you and will keep loving you. In the shower this morning I was thinking about what you said about me giving up everything for you if I moved to the UK and you not wanting me to do that. I don’t see myself giving up anything. I see it as being able to be with someone I love. It’s not a sacrifice to go hungry, to get possibly some of the shittiest jobs in my life before finding one that has me contributing as much as I should and want to towards our relationship”.

I love you very much, and unfortunately the only way I seem to know how to express it to you is to continuously throw myself into the void. Whether you want to take that leap is still a fear I have and will openly admit. If you want to talk more in depth about it later I’m here for you” my hands tightened around the phone, I didn’t want him to move to London, I didn’t know what I wanted!

He’d been trying to broach the subject of us living together for weeks, a conversation I’d been avoiding, telling him that we should both go to our separate homes after the trip and just see how things went. I felt trapped and misunderstood, he’d completely misread the mornings fight, my fingers went to work on the phone keyboard.

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Last night, before we went to sleep, you were very huggy and not in a sexual way, so I we hugged for a long time. This morning I was agitated because I was very tired. I wanted comfort from you and went to hug you, you didn’t instantly respond so I twisted your nipple. It was meant to be playful but perhaps it didn’t come across that way? What’s not on, is the second Geo and Blonde went for a walk, you tried to have sex. You didn’t even hug me! You just went straight for it. I wanted comfort and it felt like you just wanted sex. There was no affection, hugging, kissing, just you trying to poke me! Fine, if I didn’t communicate what I was wanting and you interrupted it as something different but regardless, even had it been sex, the way you went about it felt disrespectful and made me feel cheap and uncomfortable, none of which you even recognised!” I paused, looking at the grey cloud in the wing mirror, it had been chasing us since we’d woken.

Yes later I was angry at Blonde for using all the hot water and ruining sleep and not apologising or even realising. I vented to you, wanting support but you just got annoyed at me. All I wanted was to be hugged and told it was ok but you tried offering me solutions which only frustrated me so I lashed out…and you lashed back! You really lashed back!”

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“You yelled at me and then slammed the door in my face! Then you sent Blonde to come and see me as I was packing up my things, telling her I wanted to have a go at her! It is not your place to intervene in Blonde and my irritations at each other! It is NEVER your place to force a conversation or argument between other people! How dare you tell her to come see me and that I needed to ‘vent’ at her! I will have a conversation with Blonde on my own time, in my own way. You do not get to decide when! We’ve had this fight before, it’s not up to you to dictate my actions, you know I hate that! It feels like you’re trying to manipulate and control me, instruct when and how I do things” I took a deep breath, there were too many words to say all the things I really thought.

“I yelled at you when I came down to the car for sending Blonde up. That eruption was nothing to do with not having got enough sleep or being annoyed at Blonde, it was entirely about you sticking your nose in and trying to force my hand! You didn’t like me standing up for myself against you or pointing out that you’re controlling. When I said this you screamed at me. I yelled yes but I’ve never been screamed at the way you did. You lost all your patience and it scared me. I got in the car to get away from you and you leaned in the other side, continuing to scream at me, in public with people staring and then slammed the door in my face again! Why would I want to be with someone like that?! I told you to leave me alone because you were scaring me, I even put my head phones in to block you out and you just kept standing there, yelling”.

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“I switch between thinking maybe we could be something and then getting completely freaked out when you act like this! I never want to be with someone who gets so angry, slams doors, makes me feel cheap, or tries to force my reactions. I don’t want to be in that kind of relationship! And if you’re like that, even if it’s your way of fighting back at me when you think I’m being unreasonable, then I don’t want it. I don’t want you if you’re that person. Half the time good isn’t enough” I bashed send, watching the rain drops speckle and race each other on the windscreen before the wipers ended the game early.

His reply came through a short while later. “I was huggy last night and you pushed me away when you got bored of it! This morning I misread what you were doing as playing, to make up for yesterday, and I thought I was playing back. I’m sorry that I made you feel cheap. That definitely was not my intention, my intention was *poke* and then you going ‘stop, behave yourself’. It makes me smile when you bat my advances away. I didn’t mean for it to appear that I was forcing myself upon you. I knew we wouldn’t be able to have enough time for sex, but we would have at least had some playful banter”.

I was tired this morning too. You looking for comfort was fine and me offering solutions was me not being in the right head space considering that I wanted to get packed up due to always being last to cover for your packing” This annoyed me, I’d gained a reputation as being the last ready in the mornings but this had rarely been the case, it was pointed out early in the trip that I was always last out, ever since I’d been making effort not to but yet, the blame remained at my door no matter who was to blame.

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I read on “Contributing to the lack of being in the right head space is I don’t see us having much space when we all go to Mexico and Cuba together, for us to be us and be together. Put that along with trying to figure out how to make things work for London being another issue that is still in my mind” I bit my tongue, as much as Alaska tried to discuss him moving to London, I always remained relatively quiet on the subject, largely convinced the intensity of the road-trip would fade away and we’d all start to see things in a different light.

This is the first time, I feel, that I’ve honestly yelled directly at you. It’s very significant and I want to make sure to highlight it. We’ve fought in the past, but I’ve never been pissed off at you. Frustrated, yes, pissed, no” I rolled my eyes, why was he making such a big point of this, it was all getting so dramatic.

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The main reason for yelling I already expressed in the previous message. The other contributing factors though is the way you feel about being controlled is exactly the same as how I feel about being controlled. You treating me as a lapdog and getting upset when something doesn’t go your way. For example, when I said in Vegas that I might go to Pheonx instead of continuing on to San Francisco, of not comforting you when you’re in the wrong or when I’m upset or frankly just not in the mood, makes me feel like I’m being manipulated. These are things that grate on me. I’m there for you but you seem to be setting double standards if things don’t go your way. This is how I feel”.

Last night you expressed wanting to be free but that I wasn’t allowed to be free. That was completely fucked up, we both know that. The reason we both work is that we both know that we trust and love each other and can be free with no worries about the other person straying but to put restrictions on the other person is a HUGE fuck no” I bit hard into my lip to avoid turning around and smacking him on the head.

We’d been joking the night before when I’d said at the end of the trip we should just see how things went, no pressures, that I wanted to feel free to find my feet again but that I’d be pissed if he just went home and shagged about. It had been an off hand comment that he’d said nothing about at the time, and now here he was making out it was a major factor in our relationship. I wanted to throw the phone out the window and Alaska along with it, instead, I read on.

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You crossed the line and didn’t even recognise it or flinch to correct it. We are both free and can do whatever we want, because I’m yours and you are mine. But you didn’t do anything to fix what you said” ughhhh I am NOT yours and I don’t want you to be mine, I internally screamed.

Forcing the convo was me venting to Blonde and literally saying ‘fucking talk to Becky, she’s in a mood because of last night and lashing out at me. I am not fucking dealing with it right now’. Geo laughed when Blonde went up the stairs. I asked him what was so funny and he said ‘when you guys are married it’ll be like this all the time between you’ which I said ‘I’m not in the mood right now to hear that, it’s not funny’. I have every right to be upset right now but will apologise for the way I made you feel cheap this morning and will also apologise for appearing to ‘force’ the conversation with Blonde but everything else is on you. I’m still angry and will probably calm down in half an hour or so. Love you and hate that you feel as torn as you do, due to the argument (which I will entirely own and have been mostly my fault the rest of the time. Talk to you later and love you skunk breath” he signed off with an emoticon, I wanted to punch it and him.

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A wise person might have left it there but I was not wise, plus I wanted to address all the inaccuracies of his message, most importantly however, I wanted to have the last word! And so, my fingers danced…

I only pushed you away in the hugging last nigh when I wanted to go to sleep. I’ve told you before, I find it hard to sleep when someone is breathing on my face and hugging me. I like my space. You insisted on hugging all evening, we hugged for hours! I just wanted a little space to sleep, that’s not pushing you away, I certainly didn’t feel the need to ‘make it up to you’ this morning!”

Always covering up for me being late in the mornings?! Fuck you! I wasn’t even last yesterday, that was Geo! And Blonde the day before that, and you the one before that! In fact, apart from today I haven’t been late in weeks! Do not try and make out you’ve been covering for me!”

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“And I do not treat you like a lapdog! That’s so unfair! You vent your frustrations about Blonde to me, but where I might complain about trivial things, you go far deeper calling her stupid, spoilt and saying things that really are quite mean! You aren’t nice in how you talk about people. You confide in me all this ‘poor you’ stuff, it’s always how you’ve been dealt a bad hand in life, how tough it was growing up in a broken family and that no one ever loved you, you even told me you’ve had it far worse than me or anyone else”.

You’re so stuck in this martyr act and you put it all on me to pull you out of it and cheer you up. You say all this stuff as if I’m suppose to save you, it’s SO much pressure and I can’t live up to that kind of expectation. It’s too much to put on one person. Loads of people come from divorced homes, feeling guilty for the pain of the break up they see in their parents faces, no teenager ever feels wanted, that’s just how teenagers feel, but you have so many people around you who care and all you do is push them away. And you think your pain is worse than other peoples? Pain isn’t comparable, what counts is how you move on. So when I say things like I did last night about wanting freedom when I get home, you think I’m being unfair to you. But I’m trying to protect myself, to keep you at arms length away because I don’t want you to expect too much and then I not be able to deliver. I was trying to lighten the mood by making a joke but you take it all so seriously. You take the words for the words, never hearing what’s truly being said”.

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Also fuck you about Phoenix! Yeah I didn’t want you to go and yes that spiralled into a fight because we always do. We went through that fight we don’t need to go through it again!  I said go to Phoenix. I said go because I didn’t want you deciding to stay being used against me later on. You said you would never do that and it was entirely your decision whether to stay or go. I said you would use it against me in a fight. And you, you promised you never would…you just fucking brought it up in an argument, just as I predicted! You’re so fucking out of order! You can’t be trusted!”

Yeah sure, be upset, yes you have every right. Fine if you felt I was lashing out at you for things you didn’t do. I was lashing out half for Blonde and half for you! You didn’t see your part and then you retaliated. You tried to forced a fight between me and Blonde. I snapped at you for that and then you really went for me like I’ve never seen before. But yeah, sure, you get all upset but when you decide you want to kiss and make up, I’m suppose to suddenly be fine. You try to control me. I will not be controlled, not by you, or by anyone!”

‘Leave me the fuck alone!’ I yelled inside again, all the world crashing down around me because right there on that road trip, the car was the world.

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The conversation lasted the entire drive to Yosemite National Park, one of the most famous parks in America. We’d been looking forward to a hike, some fresh air and a few hours away from the car….typically it was raining. It always rained when we got to a national park, possibly a good thing considering I wasn’t in the mood to climb a mountain, all I really wanted was a very long nap in a private hotel room, away from everyone else, maybe followed by a few cosmopolitans too for good measure! I’d probably have been a much nicer person for it.

With a break in the clouds, Blonde and Geo, left for a short meadow loop walk, keen to get away from the building tension between Alaska and I. Unable to communicate, we only inflamed each other further until he told me all the reasons why no one would ever love me and slammed his exit from the car.

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I wanted to drive away. To leave them all, I inched to take to the open road and never look back. I didn’t know these people, not really, what did I care, in a few years they’d discuss that crazy Brit who ditched them in Yosemite but what would I ever know of that conversation, why should I care?! I should go, fuck em all! Fuck Blonde and her stupid sleep ruining antics, fuck Geo and his, well Geo hadn’t really done anything wrong other than sucking up to Blonde always on her side, whether she’d was in the right or not, yeah fuck Geo too. AND FUCKKKKKK Alaska! Of course there is someone out there who will love me, all of me, the good and the bad. I’m not the miserable person he insisted I was! It’s not me ruining the trip for everyone, it’s them! It’s everyone else!

car-leaving

I spun the car away hearing the wheels scream as I pulled on to the road, zooming for the park entrance. I knew I couldn’t leave them for good, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t have it in me to be that callous, plus that would have involved emptying all their stuff from the boot and I was a little worried the pile of bags might get stolen while they walked, that and I was far too tired for such exertion. But, I needed to get away just for an hour or so, to clear my head, to breath, the pressure on my chest was so heavy.

My hands clung tightly to the steering wheel as I tried to catch my breath, short, raspy gulps whilst anger roared over me in waves ‘fuck em, fuck him, fuck everyone. I hate this. Why am I here! Why am I with them. I need to call someone, I want to talk to my mum, I want my mum’. And with that the sky tore open again, raining down with the tears on my face. The car slowed as guilt rippled through me. I turned the car around, ashamed to be leaving my friends in the rain, pulling up at the entrance to the meadow walk where I left them.

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They didn’t spot the car, walking part as I cried, staring at pictures of my mum on my phone and feeling entirely consumed ‘why am I not over this yet, when will it end! I’m soooo tired‘. The hail began to fall so I drove the ten yards to the visitors centre where I could see them watching the rocks fall from the safety of the centre’s balcony. I watched them laughing and joking with each other, the storm overhead increasing, drowning out the sound of the stereo until I was left with nothing but the beat of the outside world.

I tried to beep the horn, so they’d know I hadn’t left them, that I was here but the hail stole the sound. I text them and called but their phones went unnoticed and eventually even the mobile signal gave up on me. There’s nothing worse than being so close to people and feeling so alone, especially when you’ve built the walls yourself.

Finally they spotted me but the hail fell like bullets, leaving no choice but to wait it out. The storm increased until I could no longer see. I stayed in the car.

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When I was a very young child, my father would have the news on, watching it behind a newspaper. The stories filled the screen with pictures of war in far off lands. I later learnt these were civil unrests in Eastern Europe. IRA bomb attacks and protests for Thatcher. I didn’t understand any of it, standing there in my nightgown, still a little too big for me, the fabric puddling around my feet, hiding my toes from the ground.

In my child like naivety, I wanted to speak to the Queen, to ask her to fly me in to the trouble – even at three years old I wanted to be in the centre of the drama! I thought, if I could just be there, in the middle of all the angry people somehow I’d be able to make them see that their fights were silly and they needed to learn to share their toys. All would be better after a bedtime story and a good nights sleep. I thought it was that easy.

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Vegas weddings and the alien brothel

Going to the chapel and I’m…gonna get mar-a-arrriedddd’ fake church towers, neon flashing  signs and giant hearts blurred past the windows as we entered Old Vegas.

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“Do you want to be Best Man?” Blonde enquired, turning to Geo. “Err what?!” I interrupted “hang on, it’s our wedding!” my hand waved between myself and Alaska “you don’t get to decide who’s in the wedding party!” I announced. Blonde only smiled “yeah, but what other choices do you have?”. I had to admit “well you have a point. I guess that makes you Maid of Honour then?” I glanced at the Little White Chapel across the street.

‘It’s not real, just a Vegas wedding, they don’t count, not in England, it’s not legal. It’ll be fun, Elvis might be there…’ I rationalised internally. “Errr, ok, well, I guess we should do this then…” I added, sounding more sure that I felt. “I’m up for it” Alaska laughed, everything a game to him. “I’m getting a frozen coke first!” Blonde insisted, clambering out the car and disappearing into the 7Elleven.

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An argument similar to the one between Blonde and myself a few days earlier would usually have derailed a friendship to weeks of the silent treatment at best and serious questions over the continuation of friendship at worst. We’d conducted the argument over text message, thus removing a level of confrontation that neither of us felt quite brave enough to face. Well that, and if we let the words hang out to dry, we might really mean them and we just weren’t quite ready for that.

Everything was magnified in the car, every action a personal slight or the funniest exchange. We laughed till our sides hurt and rolled our eyes at each other in equal annoyance. The wonderful thing about travel however, is that arguments blow over with the sunrise. The next day we continued on as though the fight had never happened, or at least that’s how it appeared on the surface, internally Blonde harboured growing hurt at my increasing irritation and I continued to gnaw at my severely bitten tongue.

In an effort to experience the ‘real Vegas’ we booked ourselves into a hotel on the strip for our last night. Geo, who was easily convinced to remain on the trip until as far as San Francisco, checked into a room with Blonde.

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Alaska and I, finally finding ourselves entirely alone for the first time since meeting and with no risk of being disturbed, did what any new couple would do when faced with such an opportunity! That’s right!… We took a nap.

Ok fine, we had sex! Really awkward, this is pretty shit, staring at the ceiling, can you just finish now, kind of sex. It’s not that I didn’t like Alaska in that way but where I should have been lost in the moment, the reality was, all I could think about was his comments on my physical appearance. The words he’d said in anger about finding me fat and unattractive still burned bright in their memory making me conscious of his every touch.

‘Oh no, don’t touch there! That bits squidgy! No! not the stomach! Ughhh oh god, the hips are the worst bit, go back to the stomach! Actually no! I’m just a sack of lard! I am so not comfortable right now! Do you think we could possibly have sex without touching? With the lights out? Maybe if we could get drunk first? Or how about I just lay here and not move?’.

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So I did what I’m sure thousands have done before me, I pretended all was well because it really wasn’t him after all. It was entirely down to how I felt about myself, having lost layers of self confidence and with no one to go to for reassurance to help me build myself back up, my self worth had slipped pretty low.

“Oh yeahhhh,….that was amazingggg! Great sex! The best! Best sex ever! Loved it! High five?”. I laid there, waiting for sleep, riddled with guilt for failing as a girlfriend and wondering if I’d ever be able to find enough conviction to make this relationship work.

self-confidence

“This place is cool!” Alaska announced the next morning as we pulled on our hospital gowns and settled in for a meal at the heart attack grill. “I forgot we were coming here for lunch, I’ve already eaten” Geo declared, reviewing the menu “I could eat though…”.

A nurse approached the table “what can I get you guys?” she enquired, pulling up a seat and leaning forward in her tight costume. “I’ll just get a chocolate shake, double ‘quadruple bypass burger’ and some fries…” Geo announced. “Ummm you do realise the shakes are made with butterfat? They’re like 3,500 calories each!” I asked Geo, wondering if he’d actually read the menu.

heart attack grill .jpg

“4000 and they’re served with a lump of butter on top too!” the nurse corrected. “Umm I’ll go with the hot-dog and a shake please” I asked mentally totting up the 7000 calories for my meal. Once we were finished ordering the nurse turned to leave before hanging back “You’ll know that if you don’t finish your meals you get spanked right?” she winked as a loud cheer erupted from the other diners.

A man was pulled from his seat by a nurse and taken to a wall where he clung to a metal rail. We watched in horror and amusement as a midget nurse swung a paddle at his behind. This was followed by a series of nurses who each took their turn in blistering the poor man’s cheeks. As his yells of pain amused the other diners, I calculated Geo’s meal. “You know you just ordered 15,000 calories of food right? You’re so going to get spanked!”.

Heart attack burger.jpg

Sweat dripped from Geo’s brow as he alternated between the butter fat shake and lard fried burger. My own meal sat heavy in my stomach, I’d forced down the last few bites, determined no waitress was going to bruise my ass! My body would spend the next few days working through the mass of calories, no inclination of hunger was felt again until we reached Cuba a couple of weeks later.

Defeated, Geo made his way to the spanking supports. The paddle whistled through the air before landing with a sharp thwack. Again and again the paddle swung, finally Geo hobbled back to us, a slight elation creeping at the edges of his features.

“Good on you” Alaska praised, “it wasn’t too bad actually” Geo decided. Alaska shot a wink at me “oh really? Almost sound like you enjoyed that!” I teased. “You did!” Blonde joined in to Geo’s protest. “Is your bum bruised?” Blonde continued as the cheeks on Geo’s face grew red, I presume to match those of his arse. “Come on, show us!!” Alaska encouraged. “Shouldn’t we get going?” Geo attempted a change in conversation.

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With bloated bellies, we waddled away from the restaurant, ambitiously trying to walk off our gained pounds…and for one of us, swollen bum cheeks!

Old Vegas was filled with wedding chapels, the little white wedding church made famous by various celebrity couplings, signs for Elvis as the minister, pirate themed receptions, drive through ceremony….they had it all! It was a world that felt both naff and charmingly nostalgic. The sugar/lard influx had sent us all into a rather loopy mood, somehow it was decided Alaska and I should visit one of the venues.

“They want to get married!” Blonde leaned across me to yell out my window at the lady in the booth. We’d chosen the Little White Chapel drive through branch, a wedding ceremony that didn’t even require getting out of the car, for those really in a rush (or too weighed down by burgers to be bothered walking down an aisle). I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d agreed to, it might be nice to be married, my friends seemed to enjoy it, but then, they had been in love with each other to begin with, that was probably important?

elvis

‘What if this is my only chance to ever get married? Who wants a wedding anyway? Ugghh I’d hate to make anyone feel even a hint of how Bridezilla made me feel! Plus without Mum to walk me down the aisle or drink champagne at the dress fitting or sit on the top table with me, well…what’s the point in having a big do anyway!  A normal wedding someday would be far too painful to get through! And who’d marry me anyway! ….hmmm Alaska wants to, maybe I’ve had the whole love thing all wrong? I’ve been looking for one of those Hollywood love stories, with sweeping gestures and butterflies in the belly. What if love is completely different than that? Perhaps I could grow to fall in love with Alaska? Hmmm, yeah, this is good idea, yeah, I can definitely get married in Vegas! What could possibly go wrong? Solid plan!’ I mentally concluded, turning to face the lady who’s own face looked less than impressed at the contents of our car.

“License?” she requested, any enthusiasm for the sanctuary of marriage long gone from the conveyor belt of drunken couples she’d witnessed.

wedding

“Oh, we haven’t got one…” I answered. “Courthouse’s around the corner, it’s open 24 hours, it’s 70 bucks and will take 20 minutes, go get that, then come back here and you can choose which package you want” she relayed with a bored voice, clicking an invisible button to open the gates for us to leave.

“Oh damn! We don’t really have time if we’re going to get to our motel before dark….we should probably leave it” I advised, some logic finally surfacing.

The seducing lights of Vegas faded in the wing mirrors as we headed deep into the Nevada desert. The roads were quiet with only the odd truck mysteriously pulling off the free-way onto dirt tracks that led to a single run down building viewable from the main road. “They’re brothels” Alaska explained “it’s legal in this part of Nevada”.

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“Ohh look! They sell hot sauce!” Blonde announced, pointing at a washed out billboard whilst pulling into a neon green painted gas station. Large letters attached to the building read ‘Area 51 Alien Centre’.

“Are we in Area 51?” I asked excitedly, “close to it I think, it’s not exactly listed on the map” Geo replied. “I’m going to see what hot sauce they have” Blonde remarked, heading into the station.

The shelves were lined with alien themed tourist tat, I was in my element! “Oooohhh I could get an alien hat! And an inflatable alien! Everyone needs an inflatable alien! Do you think they’ll tell me how to get to the actual Area 51 site! We might see a real alien!! How cool would that be!” I blabbered whilst roaming the shelves, “you don’t need an inflatable alien, put it down. PUT IT DOWN!” Alaska wrestled E.T from my clutches, rolling his eyes as I handed him some bug eyed sunglasses to wear.

area-51-gas-station

“The hot sauce is next door?” I found Blonde at the till speaking to the cashier who didn’t appear terribly amused as I emptied my arms of the Area 51 ‘keep out’ sign, iron on Alien patch and neon yellow alien face socks onto the counter. The woman was probably only a few years older than me but she wore a face of twice that, she looked tired of life, like someone who’d seen it all and had long since given up on any expectations from people.

“Well yeah, they have hot sauce, but…you know it’s a brothel?!” the woman explained to Blonde whilst readjusting her cleavage. “Yeah, that’s fine, I just really love hot sauce” Blonde bubbled back. The woman’s eyes flitted between me and Blonde “you know what a brothel is?!”.

Blonde giggled “yeah, but I just want hot sauce” she laughed again, I was beginning to feel uncomfortable something about the encounter seemed rude, I worried the cashier would think Blonde was playing dumb on purpose, misunderstanding her naivety and think she was taking the piss at the cashiers expense. “I’m going to go next door” Blonde sauntered off. The woman watched her go, wearing a somewhat bewildered expression as the door slammed shut at Blonde’s departure “She knows what a brothel is doesn’t she?”.

“Umm yeah, sorry, sorry about that. She really likes hot sauce and so errr yeah, sorry. Can I please just have these please, thanks, sorry. Thanks, thank you” I bothered in a typical British way, feeling as though I ought to be apologising for everything that had caused the woman to reside in this strange place, living her life alternating between her shifts next door and selling alien junk to tourists.

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Alaska was lying down in the back seat of the car, his feet the only part visible sticking out of the door as the radio played loudly. “Where’s the others?” I asked kicking a foot once I’d reached the vehicle. “They’ve gone in there” Alaska sat up, nodding in the direction of the brothel. “Oh god! She took Geo in too!” I smiled, a little alarmed. “This has been a big day for him! Getting spanked by a host of women, including a midget lady and now he’s in a brothel. In Area 51! An alien themed brothel at that!” I remarked, flinging my bag of merchandise onto the passenger seat.

I debated going in to fetch them, a little concerned they were being forced to part with all their money for a type of hot sauce they hadn’t been expecting. Alaska appeared at my side before I had a chance to move “let’s dance” he reached for my hand, motioning me into a twirl.

nevada-area-51

We swayed under the ‘Aliens welcome sign’ in the empty car park, the sky a patchwork of pinks whilst we both fought to lead. “You ready to go?” Blonde’s voice interrupted, announcing their return.

“How was the brothel?” I enquired. “Bit weird, we asked for hot sauce, so she went and got some chips for us to try it with, we just sat in the foyer alone waiting” Blonde answered as I pulled back onto the free-way. “She told us she’d put a glove on first before touching the chips” Geo added commentary from the back seat, Alaska and I grimaced at the understanding. “The hot sauce wasn’t hot enough but they kept asking if we wanted to try anything else” Blonde finished. I laughed “so brothels aren’t the place to go for decent hot sauce then? Good to know”. I watched the road ahead, half expecting a UFO to fall out of the sky and a little disappointed when one didn’t.

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Vegas and the Monsters within us

“Monsters are real. Ghosts are too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win” – Stephen King

Disney rarely explains how the villain became so, well, so villainy! The tale is always told from the perspective of the innocent, good-natured teen, who sweeps us up in their catching, show stopping tune, complete with adorable woodland creatures and general good-natured innocence. Not once have I seen a Disney princess throw a temper tantrum because they were feeling a bit hormonal that day or their boss was being a bit of a dick! But, like most little girls who grew up on the sugary syrup of ‘far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells and a prince in disguise‘ I thoroughly believed, that I was the heroine of my story. Unbeknown to me, somewhere along the path, I’d transformed into the villain.

Unaware of my slow decent to the dark side, I sunk lower in my seat, the weather beaten recliner letting out a groan in protest to the shift of weight, as I drank in the setting sun greedily. “It’s so nice here” I exhaled peacefully, lifting my feet onto the stone ledge in front. “It really is!” Blonde responded, her head tilted back to capture the remains of the day. We sat in silence together, both content on watching the evenings light bounce off the canyons walls opposite, the burnt amber filtering down to charcoal in the ravines gaping mouth; a smile forever frozen in an eternal yawn.

grand canyon lodge

Unusually, it had been a relatively drama free day as we twisted our way around the Grand Canyon national park, singing along to the radio as we drifted from one view point to the next. Blonde and I had soundtracked the drive in perfect vocal harmony, producing an acoustic somewhat similar to how alley cats might sound late at night. Alaska had grown tired of the beautiful harmonies, disturbing the music with a scream for quiet. Blonde and I, ever fearful of the next bump in the road that might break the peace, fought for the preservation of the moment, rebutting Alaska at always ruining the happiness. He sliced the air, turning the words back on me “that’s you’re role!” leaving my skin raw at the cut. We clambered out the car bickering, and then posed for pictures like the best of friends.

All was forgotten once the road led us to the lodge, the stone and timber frame retained all of it’s original 1920’s charm, providing an oasis for our storms. Whilst Blonde and I watched the red rocks bath in a purple rinse as the night’s sky blotted to ink. “Here, take one of these before I drop em!” Alaska announced his return from the bar, leaning down to pass me a crystal cut glass filled with swirling amber. “Yes! A cherry!” Blonde leant forward, snatching her reward from one of the remaining glasses Alaska was placing on the wall. “Can I have yours too?” she added, leaning toward my drink. “No you can not!” I mocked seriousness, jokingly appalled at her suggestion. “I’ve got pizza” Geo beamed, appearing behind Alaska.

Just for a moment, as the Old Fashioned’s warmed our stomachs and the days heat left the air, we stilled in quiet contentment, each lost in their thoughts. With the stars winking into life across the cosmos above, my thoughts, as always, drifted to my mother. ‘I’m doing ok aren’t I? I’ve got this whole adult thing down right? I’m good now?’ I asked silently, hoping for a whisper on the wind and hearing none.

relaxing at the edge

Had it not been for the mosquitoes who sniffed me out as soon as the sun blinked it’s final goodnight over the cusp of the horizon, I’d have stayed there all night! Reluctantly we left the historic beauty of the old lodge in search of more affordable accommodation that didn’t require booking two years in advance. Blonde offered to drive, negotiating half of her cocktail in exchange for my cherry.

The dark roads twisted downwards with no sign of life outside of our car. I sat hunched in the passenger seat, the knot that had started as a twinge in one shoulder had worked it’s way across my back, knitting a crochet blanket of pain that ached in spasms no amount of whisky could ease. Unable to coach out the hitch myself, Alaska’s warm hands reached over from the back seat to the rescue. “Your shoulders are fucked!” he announced as I twisted in discomfort at his accusing thumbs. “Ohhh, I want a massage” Blonde moaned from the drivers seat. “Ouchhhhhh! It’s not pleasurable!” I declared letting out a groan of pain “no, don’t stop! I can’t sit up straight!” I added as Alaska tried to pull his arms away. As if on cue, Geo’s hands appeared on Blonde’s shoulders.

The grand canyon

“We’re on Route 66 again” I nodded at the sign overhead the next day “I kind of get why they call it the mother road, you keep coming back to it!”. We’d spent most of the morning visiting more view points of the Grand Canyon, taking in the sights from every angle. With only a few hours left driving for the day, I switched in for the graveyard shift.

“SHIT!!” I yelled alarmed, startling the rest of the cars inhabitants who were close to sleep. “The petrol light is on! I don’t know how long it’s been on!” I panicked, aware the gas stations on this stretch of road were few and far between. It wasn’t the first time this had happened, in fact it seemed whenever Blonde and I switched seats, she’d fail to alert me to the fact the gas was low and I’d fail to check. After nearly three months together I impulsively wanted to scream she’d put me in this position on purpose, thankfully logic won out on this occasion but the pull of the dark cloak tightened around my neck regardless.

“How far to a gas station?” Alaska asked leaning forward to look at the gage. “I don’t know! How would I know! The light could have been on for the last half an hour!” I despaired, convinced we were going to have to free-wheel it to the hard shoulder and walk 50 miles to a station, probably getting picked up by chainsaw murders and turned into wax figure attractions on the side of the road.

“Sugar! According to your phone, the next gas station is 72 miles this way and 40 back the way we came, but it looks like we can’t turn around for another 30 miles any way” Blonde instructed staring at the screen. “Ummm how many miles does a car run on empty for?” I enquired. “About 20 or 30” Geo answered.

Route 66

“Right, well we’ve got 72 miles! We’re not going to make 72 miles!” I repeated. “Just turn off everything electric” Alaska stated. “How will that help? That’s the battery, not the gas!” I was pretty sure I knew at least that much about cars. “The gas charges up the battery though” Geo explained.

As the day grew old and the light faded, so did our hopes. We drove in silence, with no headlights, sweat bubbling and breaking across our brows as we all missed the air conditioner. “Don’t!” Alaska snapped as I lowered my window for some much needed air, the stench from the boys unwashed t-shirts poisoning the environment more than necessary. “It’ll slow the car down” he added as I reluctantly buzzed the window back up. With knuckles white on the steering wheel, my shoulders screaming from the tension and sweat pouring down my neck, I free-wheeled when possible, all of us leaning forward to help the cars momentum down hills, finally, on some miracle, our puttering little car huffed his way, 72 miles later into the gas station.

“That ones cheaper” Blonde insisted cheerfully, pointing to another gas station across the road as I pulled up at the pump, the car giving one final breath, all it’s energy exhausted on the last turn of its wheel. Hanging off the steering wheel, relief and pain washing down my back in equal measures as sweat dripped from my chin, I slowly turned my head “I. Am.Going. To. This.One!” I quipped. “But this will cost us more” she chimed. I let out a sigh “Do. Not. Give. A. Fuck!” I breathed heavily at each work “I don’t think the car will even make it across the road!” I unbuckled my seat belt, too tired to fight. Alaska appeared as I pumped the gas, his hands working at my shoulders”yeah, I’m going to start calling you Quasimodo”.

the hunchback

“My hair’s going to burn” Blonde squinted at the sun, a hand placed on her head as we stepped out of the car at the Hover Dam the next day. “Here, you can wear my hat” Geo rode in to the rescue, passing the hat from his head, Alaska shot me a look with a raised eyebrow, I passed a quizzical one back. “Oh, I left me sunglasses in the car” Blonde realised, already half way up the climb to the viewing platform. “Here” Geo lifted his own from his face, once again offered with a smile. Alaska pulled my arm to hang back as the others moved ahead “She’s taking advantage of him!”. I stared at him, my head tilted “I know, I’m not sure she realises though” I offered, frowning at the pair in front.

“It’s not on, he’s so puppy dog in love with her and she’s just taking when she’s not even interested!” Alaska complained, concern caught in the crumple of his forehead. “Have you said anything to him?” I enquired, sweat starting to roll as the Nevada heat pounded down on our stair climb. “No! He wouldn’t listen any way!” Alaska snapped, picking up pace and racing ahead of me, clearly done with the conversation.

like someone

The wind whipped the heat away at the top of the dam, resulting in goose pimpled skin which the sun continued to burn. The others paused for pictures but sensing an opportunity for both exercise and solitude, I set out on a one woman competition to reach the other side of the dam before anyone else. Hair torn free from my ponytail, danced around my face as the ghost of my mother kept pace with my march. How I longed to speak to her, tell her of the adventures, the frustrations. She’d be so proud of how mature I was being. My mind flitted back to Geo and Blonde, yeah, I was way more mature than everyone else! Alaska was right, Geo held his arms open and Blonde took whatever she wanted, never giving anything back. It annoyed me, and that in turn, the fact that I cared annoyed me. My mother always gave the best advice, but then, she also knew when to hold her tongue…something I hadn’t quite mastered.

come on

I don’t like seeing people taken advantage of. We’d all had those crushes in high school where you’d do anything to make the person happy, helplessly falling into some shitty friend role, grateful for any attention lavished your way. And worse, when you sit on the other side of that fence, mildly aware that your friend likes you but you’ve no intention of ever acting on it. Still, it’s nice to know there is always someone to turn to if you need a pick me up or help moving house or heavy boxes to lift. I lent across the edge of the rail trying to comprehend the curving drop beneath me, a lifetime of relationships playing on loop in my mind. Blonde and Geo were dots in the distance, Alaska lots in the haze of the summer beyond. ‘How is this all new to you?!‘ I asked staring in their direction “what did you do in high school! I’m sooooooo much more mature than you guys!‘ I told myself ostentatiously.

A girl would learn

“I thought you weren’t interested in Geo?” I asked Blonde just as soon as we were alone later that day. “I’m not, we’re just friends” she fired back quickly. “Hmmm” I responded, my eyes on the path in front. “What?!” she turned to look at my face, intuitively picking up something in my voice. “Does he know that, though?” I replied. “Yeah….”Blonde started. “Ok, well just be careful, you know, don’t be ‘that girl‘ is all” I warned.

“What girl? I don’t understand?” Blonde looked confused. “It’s obvious he likes you, just don’t lead him on” I tried to advise. “I’m not leading him on, I’m not doing anything” she defended, annoyance creeping in. “Well…he gives you shoulder massages, hugs, you wear his hat, sunglasses…” I listed. “But I don’t ask for that stuff, he just gives it to me” Blonde adjusted said sunglasses on her nose.

sunglasses

“Well yeah, you might not directly ask but you hint, knowing full well he’ll give them to you” I tried. “Alaska gives you shoulder massages and hugs too!” she had me there, I wasn’t quite sure how to explain that Alaska and I were in a relationship, not a relationship I fully understood but certainly not one I wanted to try and explain to her.

I sounded like a hypocrite ‘well you see, Alaska and I are sleeping together and are kind of boyfriend and girlfriend even though he only apparently likes my personality and finds me mildly physically repulsive which hurts my feelings and makes me feel pretty insecure but maybe he’s right and I am hideous? I’m not sure I want a relationship with him at all but I’m kind of in it now and it’s not like anyone else wants to fall in love with me….so you see, it’s entirely different than Geo wanting be your boyfriend and you pretending not to notice!‘ I answered internally before deciding that wouldn’t do.

oh really

“Errr it’s different with Alaska and me, we both know how it is, we’re just…good mates” I tried and failed. “I’m sure Alaska fancies you though, and you accept the shoulder massages, I don’t see how it’s different” Blonde answered logically. “Umm, yeah. I’m just saying don’t be ‘that girl’, I think you should just be clear with him if you’re not interested, just don’t leads him on. It’s not a nice place to be for either person” my point had got lost in the confusion of Alaska, I should have just come out and been honest with her, but that would have meant being honest with myself and nobody wants to do that!

We pulled into Vegas late afternoon, each of our faces pressed up against the windows as the famous strip loomed in front. We had managed to secure accommodation with a professional 23 year old poker player from the East coast. “Shall we go and walk the strip tonight, just to get a feel for the place? We’ve got a couple more days for big nights out”. It was decided.

vegas

Blonde and I marched ahead, leaving the boys to chat. “I sort of wish we were here without the guys now” Blonde announced as we strode into the crowd “I want to go out, just us and get chatted up and meet people” Blonde whispered even though the boys were too far back with the host to hear. “Yeah, I know what you mean, it would be nice to let our hair down and see who we meet, I mean, we are in Vegas after all!” I agreed.

Our comradely didn’t last long. As soon as we got back to the hosts house, Blonde decided she and Geo would share the very comfortable looking double bed, leaving Alaska and I to an airbed on the floor. “Ugghhhhhh!!!!” I erupted as soon as the bedroom door closed. “Why does this always happen! Why does SHE get the bed. EVERY TIME! It’s so unfair! I’m the one who never gets to sleep because she’s always getting up or banging around. I just want a good nights sleep! Just for once!” I moaned to Alaska.

wide awake.jpg

“Doesn’t matter, at least we’re not all sharing a room for a night!” Alaska tried to sooth, arms out in an approach to hug me. I was too riled up to be appeased “No!” I battered his arms away, ducking out of reach to the other side of the bed “She’s so selfish!”. “Well don’t take it out on me!” he snapped, picking up a pillow and throwing it at me aggressively. “Hey!” I yelled at his gesture, slamming the pillow to the ground in response. We descended into whispered bickering, my frustration relocated to his lack of support for my cause, his annoyance at me turning on him. With backs turned, his breathing quickly fell into a low rhythm as sleep descended.Why do boys always find it so easy to fall asleep after a fight?!

I laid there, staring at the dull glow of a street light creeping in from the edge of the blind. ‘Why can’t he and I get on?! Is it me? It must be me! Other people don’t have these fights! I don’t even know how I cause them. I used to be so happy, I mean sure, I’d get a bit moody time to time but I had whole relationships that didn’t have one raised voice. And now I can’t stop snapping! We’re suppose to be in the rose tinted glasses, can’t keep our hand off each other stage but I’m not sure I even like him half the time. Ugghhhhhh it’s me! I’m awful! I’m an awful person.  I create these fights all the time, I don’t even know how I’m doing it!” I rolled over and watched his chest rise and fall. With an arm resting on my forehead I sighed and stared at the ceiling.

always with you

‘I’m unloveable. That’s it! I’m unloveable! Everything ever loveable about me died with my mother. That’s why Bridezilla deleted our friendship just after mums death. And why my ex wouldn’t sit in the front row with me at the funeral. And why all those boys since disappeared after a few dates. People have just been putting up with me ever since because they’re good people and feel sorry for me, not because they like me. I’m horrible. I’m making everyone on this trip have an awful time. It’s because I’m fat and ugly and mean. I’m going to end up alone. With cats. I don’t even like cats but I’m going to be 50 and really super fat and surrounded by 10,000 cats and I’ll have to invite door to door sales people into my house just so I have someone other than Mr Whiskerface to talk to! And all because I’m this horrible, moody shithead who no one is ever going to love again!’  and so those dark thoughts found me, sneaking in during the twilight hours, twisting in my mind. Tears slipped silently out of scrunched eyes as I rolled over and clung to Alaska’s sleeping body, unfulfilled comfort as he lifted heavy limbs to embrace me.

don't look back

We sneaked into one of the hotel pools the next day. Roman statues stood on pillars in the centre of the tiled pool. Models in bikini’s stretched golden limbs across beach-beds and screams of rich babies squawked from the shallows. “I’m going for a walk!” Geo cut bluntly, disappearing from view behind the marble statues.

“What’s up with him?” I asked, my eyes following Geo’s retreat. “He says he’s flying back to his Grandparents tomorrow morning” Blonde replied glumly. “Why?!” I turned to Blonde, her expression lost behind sunglasses “I told him I just wanted to be friends”. I paused, guilty from the conversation I’d initiated “But he already knows that, you told him so” I turned to see Alaska climb into the water, escaping. “He won’t go, he’s just being dramatic” I dismissed hopefully. “He booked a flight earlier…” Blonde added to my surprise.

Goodbye

“But why? You told him ages ago you just wanted to be friends” I was impressed she’d finally been clear with him but hadn’t anticipated the consequences. “Yeah…but I think he thought there was still a chance. It was so awkward this morning…anyway, he leaves tomorrow. First thing, said he’s tired of the road-trip” Blonde explained, an edge to her voice. I liked having Geo around, he was smart and unassuming, bringing some much needed balance to the fiery personalities of the rest of us. Despite the constant drama, we’d become a little family – a dysfunctional one at best but the only family I felt I had.  Alaska reappeared, flopping down on the bed next to me, shaking his wet hair across our legs “Oiiii” I yelled as the cold water dripped “don’t!” he only laughed, “you should get in the water, it’s really nice” he smiled.

Caesars-Pool-Vegas

I clambered back onto the bed, self-consciously pulling on a t-shirt, quickly trying to hide my ever growing body. Blonde turned her head at my return “I just feel so bad…” she began. I sighed, settling down next to her. I’d been supportive, I’d listened, but she’d been saying the same thing for hours and my patience was wearing thin. “It’s so hard when someone likes you and you don’t feel the same way…”she frowned at the pool. I stayed silent. “He just likes me sooo much, I feel sooo bad…”. Alaska rolled his eyes at me from the edge of the pool and flipped backwards into the water.

I was starting to think Blonde was enjoying this “do you think he’ll be ok? He really likes me and..” I couldn’t take any more, interrupting with “well you can’t blame him for being annoyed” the words slipped from my mouth before I could catch them. “What do you mean!” Blonde fired. “Well if you weren’t interested, why did you keep messaging him and asking him to come on the trip? When he finally agreed to come, you spent the whole time hugging him, wearing his stuff and getting back massages! You’ve never actually been clear with him until today, you have kind of led him on so it’s no wonder he’s upset” I spoke sharply.

“No I haven’t! I’m not!” Blonde snapped, hurt by the bluntness of my words “I wanted him to come because we’re friends. It’s the same as you and Alaska! You knew Alaska had feelings for you and you still encouraged him to come. And he gives you shoulder massages and stuff” she had a point and once again I couldn’t explain why it was different.

you're annoying me

The mood hadn’t improved by the evening, Geo retreated for an early night, Alaska took the host out to dinner, I caught up on messages and Blonde popped out to the store.
“What time is it?” I asked Alaska at his return. “Nearly midnight” came the response, surprised to see me still awake. “What! I thought it was about 8! I’ve been waiting for Blonde to get back, she went to the store about four hours ago! I was going to go pick some stuff up myself! What the hell!” the truth was I’d wanted some time to myself that didn’t hold any risk of being disturbed by the other three. An opportunity to cry, or scream or laugh like a crazy person in the safety of the bubble the car provided. I was feeling trapped and needed an escape. I wanted to wander the aisle of the supermarket alone, stare at all the foreign American foods, advertised by cartoon characters long since banned on packaging in England. I wanted some freedom, but Blonde hadn’t returned.

“Where is she!” I snapped, my blood spiking – it boiled so quickly those days, all the irritations eating away like fire ants under my skin. “Dunno” Alaska shook his shoulders non-pulsed. “No, seriously, she went out hours ago. What if she’s in a supermarket car-park on the phone or something. It’s Vegas and we’re out on the edges, it’s dangerous! She could be getting attacked! She could be being raped and murdered in a Walmart carpark right this second!” my concern overrode my frustration as I reached for my phone and typed out a message ‘Where are you??’.

Her reply beeped through a moment later ‘Just walking around the strip, back soon’.

vegas driving

I dropped the phone on the bed and turned to Alaska “WHAT THE ROYAL FUCK! Oh my god! I’m going to fucking kill her! She said she was popping to the store. I’ve been sitting here all night and she’s just taken the car for her own agenda again! How many times! No seriously, how many times have we had this argument about her taking the car and not telling anyone! Fuck, I’m so sick of her! Agghhhhhhhhhh” I was out of words, three months worth of bile biting at the back of my throat, ready to erupt like a volcano.

“Calm down, she’s a dick, you know this. Why do you let her get to you so much. So she’s a selfish cow, if she gets murdered in a car park it’s not your problem” Alaska smiled, placing his hands on my shoulders. “Not funny!” I stared at him, slumping down on the air mattress, pushing two fingers either side of my temples “AGGGHHHHHHHHHH! This is such hard work! I feel like I’m responsible for her, like I have to be her mother or some sort of social guide, it’s exhausting! I’m so fed up with this whole thing!” a rush of emotions gathered at the back of my eyes as I fought the urge to burst into tears, swallowing the feelings past the lump in my throat.

fucking kidding me

Alaska dragged his hand over his mouth “you know why she’s gone to the strip don’t you?” he asked, raising a knowing eyebrow. I stared at him for a second “because she was hoping to get attention from guys?” I asked, already knowing the answer. He smile showed his agreement “with Geo leaving tomorrow she wants validation, she’s such an attention seeker!” he offered, I wasn’t sure that was entirely fair, I’d probably have behaved the same if Alaska decided to up and leave the next day, she certainly hadn’t been getting any support from me all day but hey, if I could survive on my own, why couldn’t she! “You know what, she’s been a nightmare all day! I’m not having this” a flash of anger propelled me into momentum as I reached for my phone.

“Seriously, this is not on! We’ve had this exact fight before about you taking the car! You said you were heading out to grab a few things, you’ve been gone hours! It’s Vegas, it’s not safe for a girl to be out on her own like that. It’s not fair for you to take the car for that long. You are so incredibly selfish! You have to learn to communicate! I’m so fed up with you acting so stupidly! You can’t just put your priority above everyone else’s and presume things all the time. There are other people on this roadtrip! You’re fucking out of order!” I bashed out the message and hit send, reading it back to Alaska for his thoughts “am I being unfair?” I asked, “no, you’re just being honest, it’s good, you never say what you think, it’s good you’re finally speaking truthfully” he encouraged, feeding my flames.

burn with me

Her reply came through quickly “I thought that we weren’t going out tonight. I can come back and get you. It’s unfair that you yell like this Bec. I was trying to leave you to do your thing. I just got the impression that you didn’t want to go out. I’ll head back now”. It wouldn’t have mattered what she’d said, I was on fire and wanted the world to burn with me.

“It’s not unfair that I yell. It’s a text message, there are no raised voices! Read your first message, you didn’t communicate anything to me other than you were going to the store to grab a few things! Look at your behaviour! Stay out on the strip, I’m not dealing with you when you come back. Once again you’ve fucked up by acting selfish, only thinking of yourself and not communicating anything. You act incredibly stupid at times and then expect everyone else to look after you. Sort your shit out, I’ve had enough of you acting like this. You didn’t tell me, you didn’t tell anyone that you were going to the strip, you just went off and did what you want to do. I was worried about you because Vegas isn’t that safe. But as it turns out you just didn’t think as usual and did what you wanted to do without ever considering anyone else”.  “You’re still not being fully honest, you’re holding back, say what you really think!” Alaska encouraged after I read my reply.

can't take it.gif

Actually I went to Walmart initially to try and find some Jurassic Park Lego for Geo to cheer him up. I couldn’t find it then went to another one and it wasn’t there. I was just dealing with shit and wanted a walk. So I went along the strip where there are heaps of people. I figured that was a bit safer than a dark street. It’s been a rough day and I had no one to talk to about it so I wanted a walk. And at the same time you could have come into my room and told me you were sending messages, I just went by what Alaska told me. Sorry you were concerned. You just get so annoyed when I try to talk to you. Every time. So I tried to leave you alone and deal with this. Alaska said we would go out tomorrow so I thought I was doing the right thing. Apparently not”. In retrospect Blonde was being entirely fair but in the moment all I saw was bait, losing myself in the energy of aggression.

“You got yourself into the situation with Geo and then spent the day asking the same stupid questions ‘why do I feel so bad’ ‘how long will I feel like this’ ‘does my face look bad’ and crying about it like a child! You made your bed, lie in it, take responsibility and stop behaving like a brat! Nobody wanted to deal with that today, it’s always poor Blonde and having to talk you through things. If you wanted to talk you could have come and talk about it, I’m not going to keep asking, you’re upset every other day about something or other!
The point still stands, you said you were going to grab a few things but decided to take the car for the whole evening, go to the strip and not communicate anything to anyone. Once again you behaved selfishly, didn’t think anything through and put your prerogative above everyone else’s” I was losing steam but determined to make my point stick at any cost.

the dark side.png

You know that’s unfair to say” the phone glowed.

“Go back and read the messages. You fucked up. Again” I snarled.

“I don’t mention how often you’re upset. It just happened this came up. I can’t help that I was upset. Read what you said. Why do you think I don’t want to talk about it. Because you throw it back in my face. And that’s not fair. That’s not what friends do.”  neither of us wanted to back down, I could feel the anger coming through Blonde’s messages, adding kindling to mine.

“Really, want to go into how friends behave? Look in the mirror! You are so, so selfish. Id’ rather you didn’t talk to me about it, I have never thrown anything in your face until this conversation, instead everyday I’m listening to your stuff and helping you with it. It’s draining and completely one sided. Yes I vent about Alaska occasionally but I never put my problems on to you or ask for your help. The point is, you put yourself above everyone else again tonight, you messed up and once again refuse to take any responsibility for it. We went through all this at Geo’s grandparents house and yet you didn’t take any of it in”  I spun back, Alaska checking my words were fair and just and not telling me the truth.

i felt nothing.gif

I heard the car pull in to the driveway a short while later, I rolled over on the mattress trying to shut the entire world out whilst I fed on the anger I’d spent two years brewing. Alaska, despite agreeing and dictating parts of the messages, slipped out the room to sit on the couch with the host whilst Blonde read out the messages for agreement on how cruel I was.

It was only later, much, much later when the trip was long gone did I look back at the messages. In the cold light of day, when the embers of anger had long burnt out did I realise just how nasty I’d become. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you discover you’re not the hero any more. It turns out, I wasn’t all that mature either. Worst of all, I wasn’t so sure my mother would have been proud of who I’d become, and this was only the start of things…

i kind of hate me

Monuments and condoms

“BECAUSE I’M BLEEDING FROM THE VAGINA!!!!” I yelled from the end of my tether, silently wondering where exactly I left my dignity.
….
With its copper ground and cumbersome pillars, Monument Valley was a world dedicated to Cowboys and Indians. A landscaped captured on the silver-screen that played across my childhood. Whilst my mother repainted the hallway walls and my father read the newspaper; I lost many a rain-drenched Sunday afternoon to the fire of guns and arrows respectively, all tangled up with racing horses and hell-bent bikers disappearing into dust clouds on lonely roads. The world in that box, so far removed from the battered rock in the Irish Sea I’d called home, provided a delightful escapism, a hint of freedom and adventure.
Monument Valley
 That rocky image lay dormant for years, sleeping in forgotten memory. Quietly burning like an ember waiting to catch light again. And then mum got sick.
Gradually the red sands began to blaze, the clouds cleared and that single path called. Through the twisted roads of cancer, the image burnt brighter and brighter. I clung to the escapism through the cluttered responsibility that comes with tidying up after other people’s death, from daydreaming out of office windows and empty bank balances. As the emotions rained down and smashed into office windows, I stared on longingly from my desk. Over the year, when I’d held myself together so tightly that I cracked apart, I mentally built layer upon layer on those rocks of Monument Valley. Hair whipping in the wind of my daydream, Baba O’Riley blasting from the stereo in my head. Only then, as I drove towards the gates of the mountains blurring on the horizon, would I finally be free of it all.
Cowboy Monument Valley
Or at least that was the idea…
In reality, I’d combined Monument Valley with the road from Death Valley, two entirely different places. I wasn’t in a Cadillac or on a Harley Davidson or even a horse for that matter. I also happened to have three other people coming along for the ride, all of which were never going to quite appreciate how monumental, Monument Valley really was to me. However, worst of all, my life still wasn’t a heart warming film with a kick ass indie soundtrack! Plus, as we drove towards the valley of rocks, I really, really needed to pee!
monument valley view
“That was pretty cool” Geo declared as we left the reservation. “Hmmm” I responded, the rocks slipping from view in the rear mirror. “Didn’t you like it?” Alaska asked leaning forward to make his voice heard over the radio. “No. Yeah. I did. I just, dunno. It just wasn’t quite how I pictured it. It’s beautiful, just, well, I always thought they were part of the backdrop of America, that you kind of stumble across, not an actual reservation were you pay to enter and then drive around following each car like on a safari, stopping to take pictures of the rocks like you would an elephant!”really, I’d been expecting some big life changing moment, a realisation of something or shift in perspective. The only change of perspective we’d gained was checking the bottom of the car to make sure we hadn’t caused any damage as Blonde bumped us around the rocky track.
“Me and Geo thought we would camp tonight. So we can drop you guys off at a motel if you like and then pick you up in the morning” Blonde declared nonchalantly as we headed towards Lake Powell. ‘Why do you presume you’d get to have the car and drop us off, why can’t we drop you off! Also, there is only one tent so if you’re camping it means we have to get a motel, and it also means we have to pay twice as much than if we were all sharing!’ the thoughts flooded through, building on a bitterness that kept growing ‘ughhhh you’re so selfish! Why don’t you think of anyone but yourself!‘ I took a deep sigh ‘calm down, she’s not trying to annoy you on purpose, you’re being overly sensitive again‘ I swallowed the bitter pill back down, it landed on top of all the others as I silently wondered how long it would be until there was no room left.
camping
“Ummm, no I don’t want to be without the car tonight. If you two are camping we can drop you off and then pick you up in the morning” I responded trying and failing to sound friendly. “What? No, I don’t want to be camping without having the car nearby, what if something happens!” Blonde replied alarmed. “If something happens you can call us and we’ll come and get you” I stared at the road, refusing to compromise. I felt the boys fall back deeper into their seats, an icy tension frosting the windows once again.
“But that doesn’t make sense, I don’t see why we can’t have the car…”Blonde started before I snapped an interruption “I am not being without the car tonight! I don’t care. If you want to camp fine! But I’m having the car!” I was fed up with her always taking it without saying anything in the evenings, making decisions that affected everyone else without any consideration, if it meant I had to act like a stubborn cow then fine, I hadn’t got to feel the wind in my hair or a life changing moment that morning but I could at least hold on to a tiny slither of freedom that the car represented should I suddenly need to create my own dust cloud in the distance!
road trip
“But you’re being unreasonable! You can’t just decide like that!” Blonde started again. “You just said the exact same thing! You decided! I don’t care, I’m not being without the car tonight!” even in my stubbornness I had to admit to myself it did make more sense for them to take it than Alaska and I but there was no was I was going to admit it. “The car is both of ours, you can’t just decide who takes it” Blonde tried. “Well, you have for the last two months! Presides, the car is in my name, on my credit card so actually, I can decide and I’m taking it tonight!” I declared once again, feeling rather uncomfortable on the rocky ground I’d placed my feet.
“Why don’t we camp as well?” Alaska interjected, I flashed him a warning look in the mirror. “We don’t have a tent!”.  “Well we could pick up a cheap one from a Walmart or something” he suggested. “You can camp if you want to but I’m not!” I responded, flashbacks of freezing to death in Alaska and hiking through the dark to find a loo in the middle of the night.
“The stars will be really clear tonight and we can camp near the water, it’ll be really good” Geo offered. “I’m not camping!” the truth was, lying beneath the stars on a warm evening followed by a morning swim as the mirrored lake reflected the sunrise was something I desperately wanted to do but it appeared I’d rather cut my nose to spite my face. The prospect of a night without Blonde waking me every time she went to the bathroom or sleep going uninterrupted from the removal of Geo’s snoring was too good an opportunity to pass up, presides, I couldn’t possibly admit they were right or let them win!
stars
“Yeah! Let’s camp” Alaska joined in. I felt bullied “You do what you want, we don’t even know if we can find a tent to buy! Presides, I’ll get eaten to death my mosquitoes!” I moaned. “Well we’ll sleep in the car, it’ll be fun” Alaska added. “You can all sleep where you like, but I’m not!” I was getting angry, the pills in my stomach begin to rattle. “Well I don’t think it’s fair that you get to have the car, what if Geo and I need to get something or go somewhere” Blonde started up again.
“You won’t and you can call us if you do” I said as finally as I could. “But it’s not fairrrrr” she began as my knuckles turned white around the steering wheel. “We could all share the tent, it says two-man but I can sleep outside…” Geo was trying to be appease the situation but it was too late. “I AM NOT CAMPING!” I snapped “but why…” he stated before I cut in, spitting over my shoulder, trying not to pull the car along with me “BECAUSE I’M BLEEDING FROM THE VAGINAAAAAAA!!!!!” I yelled, only the tiniest spark of embarrassment burning and dying in my conscience.
meanwhile
What is it about periods that freaks boys out so much? The mere mention of blood and vagina in the same sentence and the boys were silenced. Blonde, having lost the battle also retreated back into her seat, silently fuming out the window.
I sat on the grass whilst Blonde, Geo and Alaska emptied the boot trying to locate the various sleeping bags and every possible item Blonde might need for an impending apocalypse or preparing for a months stay. The sun dyed the clouds pink and basked the world in gold, I rested my head on my arms, my knees pulled up close and tried to find some level of peace whilst the  voices of the others floated towards me.
Sunset at Ahlstrom Point, Arizona
“Do you think I can take Becky’s blanket” I could hear Blonde ask Alaska ‘No! And I’ve told you, it’s a scarf, not a blanket! It’s like 100 degrees anyway, you don’t need my blanket!‘ I muttered. “I wouldn’t” Alaska responded reading my mind. “I don’t understand why she’s being so difficult…” Blonde complained. “Don’t…” Alaska answered. “It’s not fair though, maybe you can talk to her? Why does she get to have the car tonight?” Blonde dug up. “Oh shut uppppp!” Alaska fired.
“Hey, don’t talk to me like that” Blonde really never knew when to back off. “Shut the fuck up! Don’t even start with me! You started this when you made demands…” Alaska was yelling now. “Hey, calm down! Don’t yell at her” Geo jumped in. I zoned out as the three of them screamed back and forth at each other, Alaska warning Geo to back down before turning back to Blonde who to her credit gave as good as she got.
The sun sunk lower, I probably should have pulled Alaska away but I stayed rooted to the sandy grass, feeling the warmth of the day subdue.
lake powell
It was dark by the time the boys had the tent up, Blonde walked back and forth carrying blankets and her luggage. With promises to answer the phone at any time should the bogeyman come out to get them, Alaska and I departed.
I quickly realised camping might not have been such a bad idea as we drove around for hours, stopping at every hotel and motel in the small town, finally finding the last bedroom available that came complete with a flooding roof and inch of water across the floor.
Whilst Alaska and I moaned about the frustrations of the day, Blonde was facing her own trials. At some point early on in the evening she discovered a pile of condoms in Geo’s bag, her initial surprise was quickly replaced by anger. “I can’t believe he thought I was going to sleep with him just like that!” she bequeathed to me the next day in whispers across bathroom stalls. Appalled by his audacity and presumption, she quickly closed the bag shut before he saw and kept her legs firmly crossed. “It was a really awkward” she whispered as soon as we were alone the next morning “we took the top cover off the tent so we were just under the netting and could see the stars”.
watching the stars
“Arrr that sounds romantic!” I remarked, a pang of jealousy at having missed out. “Yeah but, we were lying there and he turned his head to face me. I didn’t want him to go in for a kiss so I sort of kept talking. I was constantly blabbing and pointing at the stars and talking and talking without a break so he couldn’t lean in. But he just kept staring at me with this look on his face!” she stopped talking when I started to giggle.
“No, go on, sorry, it’s just, I’ve been there, I’ve done the exact same thing! Just waffled on about nonsense so they don’t have a chance to try and kiss you” I offered my experience in the hope it might make her feel better. “Right, ok” she dismissed “but I don’t think I like him like that. He’s a really nice guy but I don’t fancy him. And how dare he think I was going to sleep with him as soon as we were alone and camping!” she finished. “Oh yeah, beautiful back drop, amazing sky, all the other tents far from earshot, a tall blond Australian in the bed next to him! God, what was he thinking!” my sarcasm was lost on her. “Well I said night in the end and rolled over and pretended to go to sleep”.
camping under the stars
We headed north that afternoon, in search of another national park for the next day. Geo had awoken in a mood that next morning. We were staying with a group of college boys, Alaska had taken it in his stride, presuming I was too old to be of any interest to them. Geo, however looked much less comfortable as Blonde chatted over dinner with one of the locals.
The entrance queue for the park was long and slow, Geo, fed up with the lack of movement stepped out the car and proceeded to climb a tree, resting on the branches and pulling his hat low to cover his face. When we finally reached the car park (having first coached him back into the vehicles once the traffic started moving again) he marked off to the information centre. “What’s up with him today?” I glanced at Blonde. “Well, I think I know” she answered cryptically, I raised an eyebrow for more information.
“I sort of told him I wasn’t interested” she replied. “What do you mean sort of told him?” I enquired. “Well, I kind of made a point that I don’t want to date anyone on this trip and that I just want to have fun and go out and flirt with people in bars and that we’re really good as friends and that he’s really nice”. I looked at her a little bewildered “errrr, so you told him you don’t want to get with anyone but you want to go out and flirt. And then you said he’s a really nice guy? I think you’ve just confused him even more!” I smiled. “What? No, he knows it’s not like that” Blonde defended. “Well I think you might need to spell it out a little more clearly…” I pulled at visitors door handle to follow the boys inside.
man in tree
We walked the famous Narrows path in Zion national park, with only a few days drive
from Las Vegas, there was something about the daunting cliffs that rose either side of the river, our feet slipping off the wet rocks, their outlines lost in the current. It felt like we were sinking further into Dante’s Inferno as we crossed through the river of skulls.
“Here, can you stick this in your pocket” Alaska fished out a sticky looking wrapper from the water. “Ewww, I’m not putting that in my pocket, put it in your own!” I retorted back. “Why won’t you put it in yours! I’m trying to save the environment and you want to destroy it!” he argued. “What?! That’s not true, I just don’t want to put a dirty wrapper in my pocket, you picked it up, why do I have to carry it! Why are you making such a fuss!” I snapped back, confused as to why every outing was descending into bickering. “You’re so stuck up! It’s because you’re from a city, you don’t care about the environment, it’s shallow and vain!” he stated, stopping ahead of me whilst the river pooled around his legs.
the narrows
“What the hell! What are you talking about!” I growled back, his swipes denting my perception of myself ‘I’m not shallow! Or vain. Ok maybe a little vain but I’m not that bad! But just because I lived in London doesn’t mean I don’t care about the world‘ I debated internally. It was only later I realised the litter was another one of Alaska’s tests to see my standing on certain things, tests I always failed without ever knowing the question.
Rather than discuss whatever was really annoying him, we blew up at each other in the middle of the river. Following, Blonde and Geo, who had already turned back, I stomped through the water after them, trying to get far away from Alaska and as quickly as possible. He took his time, whilst Geo, Blonde and I sat at the path entrance. Blonde lost her patience in the wait, resulting in her own fight with him.
With Geo annoyed at Blonde for not responding to his feelings, Blonde annoyed at Alaska, Alaska annoyed at me, and finally me annoyed at everything; we were a ‘happy’ little group, as we headed off to the cinema that evening. ‘Why is it so hard to get on with people, what’s wrong with me?’ I mentally examined not for the first time that trip.
bullllllshiiiiittttt
A couple of days later our journey found us once again on route 66, we’d snaked on and off it since Chicago, those double 6’s providing a hint of both familiarity and a sense that our trip was nearing its end.
“Tell them” a smile twitched at the corners of Blonde’s mouth “I mean, only if you want to of course” she added, glancing at Geo in the mirror. “Oohh come on, now you have to tell us!” I spun in my seat. “Yeah, come on” Alaska cheered on.
An embarrassed smile crept across Geo’s face “Ok, well…” he started. “He bought condoms…” Blonde interrupted excitedly, her initial annoyance at the discovery having clearly passed, “wait! Let him tell it!” I jumped in. Geo picked up the thread “well, yeah. So it was just before I flew out of Colorado to come meet you all in Texas. My uncle took me to the store, and I was trying to get them as quickly as possible whilst he was shopping” he paused for breath. “What was wrong with him seeing?” I asked.
protection
“Well he was staying at my grandparents the same time I was, they’re quite religious and I wasn’t sure if he’d mention it to them. And it’s embarrassing having your family see you buy condoms!” he explained. “Good point! On with the story!” I responded.
“I kept looking to see if my uncle was coming, the person in front of me was taking ages. When I finally got to the checkout the cashier looks at me and goes, really loudly, ‘I’m so proud of you’ and then added ‘I wish my son had bought protection’ I didn’t know what to say, so just said ‘oh’ and she went on ‘now he’s knocked some girls up and he’s not father material. Well good for you! I’m so proud of you!‘ it was a very surreal moment, all I could think of was my uncle is going to appear any second!” Geo laughed. “Ha! That’s brilliant!!” I joined. “There’s more!” Blonde added.
“Well I was trying to hide the packet the entire ride home, I went straight to my room and thought I’d got away with it…” Geo answered. “And then his gran walked in!” Blonde bounced in, unable to contain herself. “And then my Gran came in holding this piece of paper ‘you left your receipt in the car‘ she said handing me the receipt, I couldn’t meet her eyes!”.
she knows

Should I stay or should I go?

Utah welcomed us from beyond the dashboard, it’s open vastness drawing a collective intake of breath from the audience within the car. Sponsored by the lengthy discussion held the night prior, the relief was almost tangible as we slipped from the grasp of the Colorado mountains that morning. The humidity we’d felt trapped between the peaks of the Rockies, with its constant threats of torrential showers and tension filled closeness only reflected the suffocation that had been weighing down on us.

Leaving colorado

“Oh yes! Classic!” I exclaimed buoyantly, leaning across the car and spinning the radio up as we fell into the chorus of the Lion King. I spun in my seat to laugh at the boys whilst Blonde steered the car up the twisted sandstone road towards Arches national park. “It means no worries, for the rest of your days……” whilst our voices sailed, I stared out the window, lost in the contrast of rust coloured sand and turquoise sky, my mind melting back to the night before…
“Do I have toooooo?” my feet dragged along the carpet, trailing Alaska. “I’m tired, can’t we talk about it in the morninggggg” I begged. “But, but….”. “No” he interrupted sternly, flashing a smile over his shoulder to soften the blow “you’ve been putting it off for days already, just say how you feel” he advised. “But I don’t know how I feellllll” I came to a stop, trying to delay the confrontation for as long as I could. Alaska turned “sure you do, if you want to end the trip with them and just you and me continue,that’s ok. I think it’s what would be best for you…”. “Hmmm…” I pondered, hovering at the entrance to the sitting room where Blonde and Geo were waiting.
rock climbing
“Are you coming?” Alaska pulled me back to the present as we came to a stop at the national park “come on!” he called racing after Geo who was already half way up a rock formation.
“I’m not sure that’s safe” Blonde appeared next to me. “If they kill themselves you’re calling their mothers ok?” I joked. “That would kind be kind of awkward!” Blonde replied amused. “We could just leave their bodies here, someone would find them after awhile right? We don’t really have time to deal with them dying” I continued, slightly alarmed as Alaska’s hand slipped, his limbs not as long as Geo’s to reach the next hole.
“Can we dump their stuff out the car too?” Blonde smiled as Geo finally reached the top, shortly followed by Alaska “take a photo” he called, his voice almost stolen by the wind.
“Yeah, would be nice to get rid of all their stinky boy stuff, they’re worse than us for dumping it everywhere, we can barely see out the back window now!” I moaned whilst snapping the picture. “Shall we just leave them now?” Blonde added as we laid down on the rock waiting for the boys decent, the sun trying to stain our skin the same colour as the earth around us.
Climbing the sandstone
Alaska pushed open the door to the downstairs living room, revealing Blonde sitting cross-legged on the floor and Geo perched in a chair in the corner, their conversation silenced by our arrival. “Hey” Alaska cracked the air, settling himself on the floor and leaning back against a bookcase “did you guys want to talk about the rest of the trip then?”.
I took the last available seat, curling my legs under myself on the sofa, facing opposite Blonde. I could feel all the eyes on me. We tangoed in limbo for a short period until Blonde started “yeah, well, do you want to go first?” directing the question at me. ‘No not really’ I twisted uncomfortably.
“Well, I don’t know what to say, like what about? The fight in Santa Fe? The road-trip? What happens next? What?” I questioned, still trying to delay making any decisions. “Yeah, well, all of it!” Blonde prompted. I rolled my eyes ‘why do I have to do all the hard work‘ I internally digested before warning myself to play nice.
hard work
 “How far are we going?” Blonde called after Alaska, the four of us following a trail to one of the famous arches. “It’s just a bit further, nother ten mins or so” Alaska yelled back.
“How far are we going?” Blonde called after Alaska, the four of us following a trail to one of the famous arches. “It’s just a bit further, nother ten mins or so” Alaska yelled back.
“It’s starting to get dark and we’re up pretty high, I don’t want to be climbing over boulders in the dark” Blonde warned. “We’ll be fine” Geo dismissed, offering her his hand to step down onto the next ridge. Alaska ran down a sharp rock face, keen to keep the lead ahead of Geo. It was clear from the various structures we’d stopped at that Geo was the superior climber, Alaska, not used to coming in second place to his quieter friend was seizing the opportunity to lead the pack.
“Will you be careful!” I yelled, as my own feet slipped out from under me and I landed on my bum. Gravity making the safe decision to make the rest of the decent on my arse until my feet could reach firm ground again.
slipping down the revine
“I really think we should be heading back soon” Blonde stated again, her face turned to the inking sky. “Where’s he’s gone?” Geo scanned our surroundings, low bushes casting long shadows as large rocks circled in on us. The light was getting lost behind the pillars, I stared up at the smooth face we’d slid down on, beginning to think Blonde had been right about heading back sooner.
Alaska’s voice echoed around the enclosure, we followed it’s trail, finally finding him attempting to climb to the top of one of the arches. “I’ll go get him” I informed the others, trying to find a path in the sand and foliage to the double arch framing a window onto the sunset.
“We really should go soon” Blondes voice carried, a note of concern audible. “Yeah, come on guys” Geo added. “We’re fine, stop worrying” Alaska shouted back excited at his one-man adventure.
Having made it to the arch I found Alaska back on solid ground, out of view of the other two, he leant in to kiss me “we really should go” I pushed back. The shadows had grown in the escaping light for our return to the sloping rock, it worried me how easily disorientated we’d become in the brief minutes that had past whilst fetching Alaska. A coyote called in the distance as our Geo and Blonde’s voices guided us back to the them and the path.
arches
I sank lower into the sofa, twisting a finger in my hand “ok well. You see. I mean. Well road-trips are hard” I glanced up, no one said anything, forcing me to continue. “And I think we’ve all done really well, it’s been two months and we’ve covered a lot of miles. And, and we’ve done really well haven’t we?” I paused, trying to find the words, how to explain all the things that had been frustrating me, the pressure and responsibility I’d felt, the grief that still hung like a weight from my neck and cut like knives when no one was watching.
I didn’t know how to explain it all, no one spoke. “Ok, Well. I’ve found it harder than I thought I would. You see, I guess it’s felt like I’ve had to organise everything…” I began. “That’s not true..” Blonde began, catching herself from saying anything further, worried I might explode. I twisted my finger tighter “I arranged the flights, planned the route, booked accommodation….” I listed. “I’ve booked accommodation too!” Blonde defended.
“Yes. The drug den in Chicago. That arse in St Louis. The serial killer a few days ago…” I was being unfair. “No, I’ve booked other ones too!”. “Ok yeah, you have booked some accommodation, but only after it was pointed out to you that I was doing everything! Unless I say anything, then it’s left to me to organise everything! I’ve even tried to hold back planning stuff, thinking one of you would realise we had nowhere to stay that night but none of you ever do, it can get to 5pm and the thought of where we will sleep hasn’t even crossed your minds…until I point it out! Then you all stare at me to come up with the solution” I stated, getting agitated.
waiting for the train
“No, that’s not true, we do plan stuff. It’s just… you’re better at it. Anyway, you like organising!” Blonded informed. I sighed “I do like organising, and I find it relatively easy to do so, but that shouldn’t mean it always gets put on me. It’s a lot of pressure and I don’t think any of you realise how much has to be done. It’s hard having to accommodate everyone’s plans” a sadness settled on my shoulders, I hadn’t realised this was how I felt until the words left my mouth.
“But we do your plan all the time” Blonde stated. “What? No we don’t, I’m always asking what everyone else wants to do and then adjusting the route or timings to fit. I really wanted to see Dolly Parton world but you and Alaska didn’t so we didn’t go and I didn’t say a thing!”.
scooby doo at night
 It was almost pitch black as we stumbled over rocks, guided only by our phone lights until the car park emerged behind a gap in two boulders. “I’m so tired” Blonde yawned, I crossed to the drivers seat. It was only a few more miles to the motel, my shoulders ached from the concentration of navigating the sharp turns out of the national park in the dark, the longing for sleep driving me on.
“The stars would be amazing here, let’s pull over!” one of the boys announced, “yeah, lets!!” Blonde added excitedly. The lights of a truck glared in my wing mirrors as it raced up behind us “can we pull over to see the stars” Blonde asked again “I know, I’m trying to find somewhere to stop!” I responded a little too sharply. “Ok but we need to pull over before we get to the town or we won’t be able to see anything” she added. “I know!” I gritted my teeth as the truck rushed past, the change in air pressure pulling the car whilst I struggled to keep a straight line in the dark.
driving at night
Geo busied himself with a cushion in the corner. Alaska’s thumb spun up and down on the screen of his phone. The conversation wasn’t going how I wanted it to, the last thing we needed was another fight, I tried to change tact. “Anyway, it’s not just the organising stuff. I feel like I’ve become a bit of an agony aunt, every conversation is either about your problems or about Alaska’s. It’s exhausting! I never get a moment alone!” I was talking at my feet again, afraid to raise my eyes and meet judgemental stares.
“We share beds, eat together, spend all day driving, go to tourist attractions together. I can’t even use the toilet or shower without one of you knocking on the door asking a question or wanting something!” I paused for breath and went on. “Even in the evenings, if I say I’m going for a walk or to the store, you insist on coming with me! Literally, I can’t remember the last time I was alone for more than five minutes!” it spilled out of me, hanging in the air.
“Well, why don’t you just say you want to go for a walk alone? I go for walks on my own” Blonde questioned. “Because every time I say, you start putting your trainers on!” I answered back. “Well then tell me you want to be on your own” she offered as if it were that easy. “How! How am I suppose to do that?! If I said, you’d think there was something wrong. If I’m quiet for more than a few minutes you all think I’m in a mood!” I raised my shoulders as my eyebrows knitted at the frustration.
Shit directions
“The stars are amazing! They’re so clear!” Alaska observed, his head tilted back. I stared at the spray painted ceiling above us, it was beautiful but couldn’t compare to the entire universe that had hung above the outback outside Alice Springs back in Oz. I knew this should have been a magical moment, the film version would have had us all perched on the bonnet of the car, a blanket wrapped around our shoulders as we watched meteors fall wishes to the ground.
Instead goose bumps pricked my skin as mosquitoes dived at my scent in the dark, tiredness etched the edges of my brain, making me question where I’d find the energy to get us back to the motel safely “umm can we go now” I asked, worrying I was ruining the moment for the others. “A few more minutes, Alaska spun in a circle, his mouth wide. “Do you know the constellation names?” Blonde asked Geo. “Some of them” he responded, pointing out what he knew.
star gazing
 “That’s the Big Dipper” he pointed up. “Which one?” I asked, “See that one there?” I followed his hand. “Oohh the plough?” I realised. “What?” Blonde asked. “The plough, see it looks like an upside down plough, that’s what it’s called in England” I explained.
“That’s the Big Dipper” he pointed up. “Which one?” I asked, “See that one there?” I followed his hand. “Oohh the plough?” I realised. “What?” Blonde asked. “The plough, see it looks like an upside down plough, that’s what it’s called in England” I explained.
“Doesn’t look like any tractor I’ve ever seen!” Alaska laughed. “No, like ploughs used in olden days!” I tried. “They still farm by hand in England, no wonder you’re not a super power anymore!” he joked. “No! Whatever! shut up! Can we go now!” I defended, swatting another mosquito on my leg. “I’m getting eaten alive here, I’m getting in the car!” I was beginning to get a little scared on the dark lane we’d parked in just off the highway, afraid any old nutcase could appear out of the dark, turning us into the next midwest horror story.
“Fine, we can go!” they moaned climbing into the car, a sequence of doors slamming shut. A rabbit darted across the road as I pulled the car away with the crunch of gravel under the tyres, a spark of light flashed across the sky in my wing mirror ‘please let us make this work‘ I silently wished.
Star wishing
“And that’s another thing! You always take the car!” I was on a roll. “Huh?” Blonde met my eyes confused. “You do! Like every day! Twice a day! You take it in the morning to go get your coffee. And then again at night, to coffee shops to call your mum, or to the supermarket. But you never even say, you just go! You don’t even ask if anyone else wants to go or would need to use the car, you just take it! I’d like to go for a drive to a supermarket some evenings but I never get a chance!” I spat, trying to hold on to some softness so not to sound too aggressive.
“I don’t need to use the car” Geo interrupted, coming to the defense of Blonde. I shot him a warning look, telling him to keep the hell out of it, a wave of guilt filling me as he clamped his mouth shut and looked away sheepishly.
“I don’t take the car that often…” Blonde started. “Yeah you do! All the time!” Alaska jumped in, coming to my defense.
“Oh. Well, I didn’t realise, I’ll try to make sure I let you all know in future and check no one else needs it from now on….if you still want to continue that is?” she lifted her head and looked through her lashes. I looked down, toying with a loose thread on my dress.
runaway
I awoke no more rested than when I’d gone to sleep in the motel room, between Geo’s snoring, Blonde’s trips to the bathroom and Alaska’s insistence of hugging me whilst he slept, I’d been battered against the shores of sleep never quite managing to dock. That morning the boys and I laid across the two double beds clicking through web pages on our computers passing the time. Blonde emerged from the bathroom, took one look at us, grabbed the car keys and was out the door before anyone could say a word. “Where’s she going?!” I spoke to the room. “Errr, don’t know. I got up early and got her a coffee already” Geo replied.
An hour later we were on our way to another national park “I went to the tourist information. You were all on your laptops” Blonde answered our demands to where she’d disappeared to. “Because we were waiting for you! We were ready to go!” I snarled. “Oh, I thought you were all busy and I didn’t want to wait around so went out” she replied. “We were waiting for you so we could leave! You took the car again without saying anything!” I was shaking my head in disbelief. “Well I…” she began.
“We literally had this conversation two days ago!! We said how annoying it is when you do that! Where you’re going, when you’ll be back. It’s not fair! We’re late leaving today because you decided to go for a drive! Ugghhh what was the point in even having that whole conversation if you’re just going to ignore everything we talked about!” I was furious, our peace treaty had lasted less than a day.
sulking
There was nowhere to look in the living room that didn’t have eyes, I still didn’t know if I wanted to continue to trip with everyone. Alaska had been increasing the pressure that he and I take off on some romantic cross-country adventure together, leaving the other two in the dust.
Part of me wanted to go alone, finish how I’d started when I first left for Australia but something deep inside knew that would be a mistake, the fear of being alone again gawing at my bones. I wanted to talk it out but it seemed such an inconsequential thing to be debating in the grand scheme of life’s problems. For me there was no home, job or family waiting back home for me, that car, that road, it was the only existence I had at the time, the others had somewhere to return to and I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
It was just a road-trip, just a decision to stay with the travel partners or choose a different exit, but for me, it was the only world I had. Sadness again crept upon me from the corners, the others had no idea how important or how hard it all felt, they were on holiday, I was trying to survive.
 running away from home
“You see, the thing is, I know you all think I’m just being a moody cow most of the time, and I hate that! I wish you could see the happy go-lucky person I usually am. Or sometimes am, or used to be I think. I swear I’m not this awful all the time! I don’t like coming across that way, or that you have this impression of me. It’s just…” I stopped.
“What?” Blonde pushed “you have to say everything or we won’t know”….
hole in the earth
“Shall we stop here to refill the water?” Blonde suggested as we entered Canyonlands national park. Whilst Alaska and Geo refilled, Blonde and I crossed the road to observe the view. A deep quarry dropped beneath us, ridges circling rings into the ground. We watched a car become a toy as it navigated the tight road down. “Oohh we should drive down there!” Alaska announced appearing at our side. Blonde and I shared a glance “shall we keep driving into the park?”. “Yeah, yeah let’s do that!”.
Separating ourselves from the tour groups gathering at the main look-out point we perched on the edge of the world and ate sandwiches. Rivers of canyons spread like veins for as far as the eye could see. We sat like eagles above it all, no sign of humanity’s footprint in existence, just an apocalypse of nature.
Each of us clambered down to get closer to the void, toying with death as a wind lifted the hair off our faces and made us feel alive. I stood as close as I dared to the edge, the copper  world so far beneath my feet. That was the moment, when your hairs stand on edge and every fibre feels electrified, like you’re lost between being so small and inconsequential and yet you’re standing on the shoulders of giants preparing to rule, it’s a place where nothing is impossible.
Had I been alone and not in fear of the coach parties or my friends hearing me, I might have screamed into the nothingness ‘CAN YOU HEAR ME! RAWWAAAWWWWWWWWWWW’ letting anything and everything out of me. For fear of being carted away by men in white coats I simply turned back to the others “terrific view, rather spiffing don’t you think”.
edge of the world
Unaware of the great outdoors waiting for me I tried to explain the emotions locked up in my head still in the living room. Blonde waited eagerly, the boys pretended not to be interested but I noticed how Alaska had placed down his phone and Geo was leaning forward, ears pricked.
“I don’t really know how to explain it, it’s, it’s the grief thing” I felt like a broken record, fully aware if you hadn’t experienced a loss that shook your world then, like I used to, you couldn’t possibly understand and presume the person should be over it by now.
No one spoke so I continued “you see, in the past, if I ever found something upsetting or wasn’t sure how to handle a situation I’d call my mum. Even if I just needed a sounding board, just to get the words out, you know? I thought that was how everyone handled their problems, talking about them with someone who was patient enough to listen and not judge? I didn’t know there were other ways, I never learnt how else people do it!” no one commented, I began to feel embarrassed, playing with that thread again.
screwed up
“I thought I’d got through the grief thing, when I left Australia I thought I was, well cured. I mean I’d done all those stages you read about, The anger, denial etc stuff. And I’d been depressed and the whole getting drunk and hooking up with surfer dude stage – which is totally a stage by the way!” I smiled, more to myself than my small audience.
“But I was pretty happy after New Zealand, I thought I was over it, and this trip would just be about having fun and being happy and well, being who I used to be again” I lump grew in my throat, ‘what if I never feel happy again or whole. What is no one ever loves me and I spend the rest of my days unloved and alone?’ the question floated into my mind as I spoke.
“Only this trip has been so hard. I don’t know how to communicate when I’m hurt or frustrated or irritated by something. And it always seems like silly, petty stuff, things not worth mentioning. So I don’t say anything. But everything builds up and then I sort of bubble over and you all think I’m being overly sensitive or difficult. And I get annoyed because you don’t understand. Then I feel horribly guilty, worried I’m ruining it for everyone which makes me sad, so I try to work-out how I’ve dealt with similar things in the past….and I called my mum. And I can’t do that anymore. And I don’t know what to do. Which all makes me sad and then I miss her. And I go through this cycle over and over again every time someone slams the car door or snaps back or gets annoyed if I roll my eyes. And I want to talk to my mum and ask what to do because I don’t know how to adult. And I’m scared. And I miss her” I was waffling. I stopped, worried if I said another word my eyes might spill over.
Sad face
I’d been talking to the floor, afraid if I met their eyes I might get scared and not finish my point, or worse, crumble and need their support! Slowly I lifted my eyes, Blonde and Alaska had their head cocked in sympathy, I hated it. I caught Geo in the corner of my eye, his face looked both surprised and uncomfortable with the honesty.
“So, errr, yeah. The road-trip then. Well, I guess I do want us all to continue together, just maybe we could all organise stuff, and say if we need the car and…yeah? We could go as far as Vegas and then reevaluate if we want to go any further? What do you think?” I offered cheerfully, trying to cover any vulnerability I’d shown.”Ummmm. Is there anything you wanted to say from your side of things?” I suggested to Blonde.
The four of us sat together, our feet dangling over the ravine, Alaska’s hand resting on my knee, Geo’s arm around Blonde’s shoulders, we’d agreed to stick it out but old wounds are easily opened…
End of the road