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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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!‘.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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…