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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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!”
“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”.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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!”
“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”.
“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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.