I was almost at the city at a half passed 1am. When you’re driving towards any large city on the prairies you can see its lights reflected in overcast winter clouds even when you’re hours away. It’s a terrific tease. You can’t help but think you’re almost there, but instead you’ve got at least an hour more of intensely boring flat land to traverse. The most exciting part is watching out for wildlife, specifically deer. During the winter many highways are salted to keep ice to a minimum and the deer enjoy walking up to the edge highway to lick the salt off the soft shoulder. This was a fun fact that I had recently become reacquainted with.

Driving alone in itself is a strange business. You sing to music, even if you don’t know the lyrics or have the vocal range of a howler monkey. You may even talk to yourself in half muttered sentences. About three hours into the trip I was having a full on conversation with two sides of my brain. It was surreal, hilarious, and a little worrisome. Of course I had a lot to think about and sometimes, at least for me, verbalizing it helped. What would I do when I saw my estranged family? Would they recognize me? Would they ask about my divorce, or do they even know about it? Would I tell them? I still hadn’t figured out what to say for the eulogy and I was facing the impending doom of having to make it up on the spot.

I felt myself craving your surprisingly comforting presence. Ordinarily I felt quite able to go it alone, but this was different. I felt vulnerable and uneasy. Having you there, someone that I could connect to, someone I could talk to would have been preferable. I laughed at my weakness. “What were you going to do?” I ask myself aloud, “Hey I know we only just met, but do you want to come with me to a very personal private funeral? It’ll be fun! We can hang out and talk…I’m pretty sure there will be snacks. You like cupcakes right? There’s sure to be cupcakes there.” Still, there was a piece of me that wished I had asked, despite the awkwardness.

The distant city lights rapidly became closer and brighter. I had finally reached it, and in one piece, despite the best efforts of a number of deer and a wayward skunk. It had been years since I’d been home, or at least the place I had once called home. The streets were familiar and yet foreign. Coming in this late at night the city seemed deserted. There were only a handful of vehicles on the road. It seemed quiet. Like I was driving through a static picture. The built up snow muffled the sound of the car on the road and I turned the radio off so I could enjoy the serene silence of a city at rest. After a little driving I was able to find the hotel I had originally booked. It was a modest little place the type of hotel you wouldn’t take a date to, but not so low down the food chain that they charged by the hour.

“Oh….umm….it says ….you were supposed to be here on Friday?” the front desk attendant said with not a whisp of confidence. She smiled and rattled on the keyboard a few moments longer, “Yaaaaaah,” she continued, “You were supposed to be here on Friday…sooooooo…” She let the word hang as if I was supposed to finish her sentence for her.

“Yes, well I was in an accident on Friday and nearly died. Sooooo….” I retorted, not in the mood to sugar coat my annoyance.

“Oh shit for reals?” the girl replied, showing sincere sympathy, which came as a bit of a surprise. For a moment I felt guilty about replying in such an uncouth manner, until I realized she had no clue I was mocking her manner of speaking. “Oh damn, that’s just…wow…ok…like…I’m not supposed to do this…but…like…..I’m gonna say that you rescheduled your reservation to today…..ok?” I tilted my head to the side and furrowed my brow in confusion. She wagged her own head from side to side and explained, “They’ll charge a day for the room if you don’t cancel….but that’s totally not fair right? So…like…don’t saying thing but I’m just gonna fix it like this…..kay?” she finished with a bright eyed smirk that struck me as adorable. The way a puppy is adorable when it learns how to sit on command for the first time.

“That’s very kind of you. I appreciate it.” I replied, finding my manners finally.

“Oh, it’s no biggie…my uncle runs the place. He’s not going to fire me for this. It’s just good business right?” she smile again, tilting her chin up with pride. I resisted the urge to reach over and pat her head.

Of course I was being a dick. Internally I chastised myself for thinking such arrogant thoughts. I had been in her position before. Young. Unaware of the world. Unaware of how my actions were perceived by others. Here I was trying to tell myself that I was more evolved, that I had grown up, I had matured, and yet I was mocking the very thing I used to be. I smiled instead, “That’s right. You’re very sweet for taking care of that for me.”

She beamed and stood with a sudden elegant posture that pushed her shoulders back thrusting her surprising large breasts tight against the fabric of her company approved blouse. I caught myself staring, but if for a moment, and immediately felt sheepish for doing so. I looked back up into her eyes and smirked. She smiled giving me a knowing look, but not the least bit irritated at my accidental ogling. “Kay….I’m going to show you to your room now.”

“Oh that’s not really necessary.” I replied quickly without thinking. “I’m sure I’ll be able to find the room.”

“Oh ya…it’s not that…” she explained with a chuckle, “…these stupid key cards have been giving me problems all day.” She held up the card she just programmed for me and waved it about. “I just want to make sure it works so you don’t have to come all the way back down again.”

“Well you surprise me once more,” I look at her name tag, which is difficult to read from its location atop the aforementioned bosom. “…Tracy. Let me park and get my bags then.

“Okie…see you in a bit then.” she bubbled and I turned to get my suitcases from the trunk.

A few minutes later I had returned and she was standing in front of the desk waiting for me. Her obscenely short skirt visible now that she was no longer hidden behind the desk. I looked her up and down and smiled. She rolled her eyes seemingly knowing exactly what I was thinking and then motioned with her head to follow her down the hall.

After a short jaunt we turned into the waiting elevator and she pressed the button for the third floor. I stood there in silence next to the young woman and could feel her wanting to strike up a conversation. “So were you actually in an accident then?” She asked innocently, flicking her hair to the side and looking at me from the corner of her big green eyes.

“Yep.” I reply nonchalantly.

She turned to me now, and we stood face to face, “…and you almost died?” She asked incredulously.

“That’s what I was told.” I shrug not completely in the mood to talk. It was elevators. I just couldn’t stand elevator small talk.

“Wow…so like you went to the hospital and everything then? That’s kinda cool.” She looked me up and down as if to be checking for marks or some other proof of the accident. I couldn’t help but notice the way she looked though. It was more of a primal attraction then one of simple curiosity.

“No I didn’t go to the hospital.” I clarified. The doors opening loudly as we reached the third floor. Tracy motioned to the left and I turned to the left and started walking. “I had crashed into a ditch as a blizzard was approaching.” I explained. “But I guess I underestimated how far away closest house was and over estimated how warm I would be.” I turned to Tracy and she looked at me with a goofy grin plastered across her face.

“So you what? You got found by some farmers wife?” She giggled as she said it.

“Not exactly. Farmer’s daughter.”

“Nooooo….”

I nodded.

“Shut up! Serious?!” She shook her head and swiped the key card into the door. “You’re a decently looking guy but no way am I opening the door for a stranger in the middle of nowhere. That’s how like a hella of alota scary movies start out. You know?”

“I know. I guess I was lucky she wasn’t scared.”

“She’s either pretty tough or pretty stupid.” Tracy mused opening the door and walking into the room. She allowed me to pass and then stood in the doorway key card in hand. “But if you were supposed to be here on Friday….what’ve you been doing since the accident?” She stopped for a moment and waited for my response.

I placed the suitcases on the floor next to the bed and turned to her without saying a thing.

“Noooooo you didn’t” Tracy laughed. “Oh my god that’s awesome.” She shook her head and giggled. It was clear from her reaction that she assumed that something a little less scary and a lot more fun had erupted between you and I after my accident. Of course as silly and bubble headed as she seemed she was able to astutely figure out we did more than just hang out. “I was gonna say….meeting during a blizzard….dark and stormy night…..there’s only two types of stories that start out like that.” She paused, as if waiting for me to finish her thought. “Thriller, and romance….and clearly this wasn’t the thriller type.” she giggled again, closing her eyes and clenching her fists while wiggling back and forth. “Oh my god that’s so romantic. So she like…saved you and everything?”

Tracy was clearly the hopeless romantic type. The ones that can find subtle romantic meaning in the flap of a bee’s wings. She swooned and giggled like we were two girlfriends at a slumber party telling stories of first kisses and how many bases we got to. But despite my intention of not talking to her about what happened I felt compelled to answer her. I’m not sure if it was the excitement in her eyes or the cheeriness of her voice. “Yes, actually she did.”

“Oh my god that’s so awesome. So…..so….like…what happened?! Tell meeeeeee” She dragged out the last word like a child pleading for a toy they desperately wanted.

I took a big breath and sighed. Then I looked at her again. Her eyes were wide with excitement as she was biting her lip in anticipation. Her fists were clenched and her body was wiggling about with pent up energy. “I had decided that I should walk to the closest farm house to get help. It turned out that she…”

“What’s her name?” Tracy interjected quickly shooting her hands out towards me with her fingers spread and her mouth open anticipating my answer.

“Alcina.” I stated dryly.

Tracy nodded as if she knew it already and then mouthed your name whispering it to herself a few times before responding, “Alcina…….I like it….cool name. Ok sorry so what happened then?”

For the next hour I explained what happened as we sat on the bed. Tracy would excitedly bounce up and down with each new titillating morsel of information. More than once she closed her eyes and hugged herself as she swayed back and forth. “So romantic.” she muttered mostly to herself. “You two…..you were meant to be….” she sighed. Before standing and looking into my eyes, “You better go back and see her….or the universe will be so pissed at you.” she tapped me on the shoulder and nodded her head as if what she was saying was a certain truth. “Thanks for tell me your story though,” she continued giving me an unexpected hug, “it made my day….or…night….well whatever this is.” she finished with another giggle. “Goodnight.” and she walked out the door, her hair swishing quickly from side to side as she seemed to have an extra bounce in her step.

I dragged myself out of my clothes, tossing them into a pile next to the bed, then wandered into the bathroom and went through the process of getting ready for bed. After a long hot shower I emerged from the bathroom into the cooler empty hotel room. I shook my head and laughed at my predicament. “Alcina,” I said quietly talking to the room, “Why do I miss you already?” As expected, no answer returned to me. So I slipped back the tightly cornered bed coverings and eased myself into the lonely hotel bed. My eyes immediately felt droopy and my eyelids heavy. A few moments later they were closed and I was nearly asleep. I whispered to myself as I started to drift off. “Fuck the eulogy.” and fell into a comfortable peaceful sleep.

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