Part 5: Life Is A Highway
I took the ground floor bedroom as I had said I would. It lay at the front of the house. One step out of the room and you would be out in the hallway. Another step and you’d be out the front door. A staircase descended to meet the ground floor here in the hallway. Following the hallway in the opposite direction, you would wind around a corner into the living room. From there, it was just another right into the dining room and kitchen. It may have seemed something of a maze in this farmhouse, but it was perfect in making one feel that they weren’t sharing it with someone else. I could hear Summer upstairs, opening dresser doors and closets it sounded like. I set about putting my things up as well.
I set my luggage up on the bed and looked around the room.. While it was designed to look like home, it certainly didn’t look like any home I had ever lived in. The room was done up in blue. The bedspread was blue and white roses, and everything seemed to match it. On the bed, the pillowcases were light blue. A lamp of the same color sat on a nightstand. Fake blue flowers sat on a dresser and were reflected in the mirror behind them. The valances above the windows were done in blue patchwork, and hanging on the wall was a framed reprint of ‘The Blue Boy’, the famous oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough. I thought it appropriate that I had set out on this road trip because of my blues, and now here I was in a room done completely in blue.
I opened my suitcases and went about putting my clothes away in the dresser. Might as well make it like home since I had paid for a week. I was happy to see a small desk in one corner, with a blue stone paperweight on its top, keeping in theme with the rest of the room. The desk looked perfect for writing on, and so I unpacked all my writing gear into its empty drawers. Paper, pencils, pens, erasers, an electronic dictionary and thesaurus, as well as all my various notebooks filled with half finished writing on an array of subjects, all of which I had lost interest in. Also on this desk I set a framed photo of two people in happy times. They were standing outside a movie theater, its neon marquee declaring “FOX” in big capital letters. The man in the picture looked a lot like me, though his smile was beaming much prouder than mine these days. On his arm was a beautiful woman, and she had her head leaning on his shoulder, so in love and happy to be standing there in front of The Fabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta. I remembered the picture well. It captured a moment in time that I would always associate with my idea of the perfect couple. I had been just a boy in those days, but as I stood there taking their picture with a camera nearly as big as my face, I knew I wanted to grow up to be just as happy in love as my parents.
A knock on the door frame brought me out of my reverie. I turned to see Summer leaning against the doorjamb. She had changed clothes. Now instead of brown kneed jeans she had switched to more comfortable capris, yet her t-shirt still declared her love of nerds. She also had switched from shoes to open toed sandals. A small denim purse was draped over her shoulder and she had pinned her hair back in a ponytail, much like I used to wear my hair when I had a head full of it.
“I think I’m going to Bedford for a food run. There’s nothing in the frig here. You want to come?”
In my current reflective mood I really just wanted to be alone. I didn’t want to be reminded of what it was like to go shopping with a companion, or even riding side by side down the road. I didn’t want to be reminded of all the little domestic things couples do. And even though Summer and I were never going to be a couple, I still didn’t want a feeling that such a thing were even possible. With anyone.
“Sure, why not,“ I replied.
“Great!” she said. “Meet you at the car.” I heard her skip happily around the corner and I shook my head, hoping she wouldn’t skip like that through the local Wal-Mart.
Summer’s car seemed to be nearly as old as she was. It was remarkably well taken care of and she informed me it was the only decent thing that came from an ex. I didn’t ask if she meant boyfriend or husband. None of my business. It was a nice car, though. Pontiac Sunbird, complete with sunroof. Not the automatic kind of sunroof, but the ones where you had to slide it open by hand. It made me think of a little heard song from the early 90’s. ‘Power Windows’ by Billy Falcon. I nearly interviewed him once when I was a young intern for Southern Sound magazine. One of the many near interviews I had when I was training to be a failed music critic.
When I got in the car the music comparison changed. Summer wasn’t ‘Power Windows’. No, she was more ‘Life Is A Highway.’ As she started the car and the old rock song came blaring from both speakers, I knew this was going to be one fast ride to Bedford.
“Love this song,” she said as if to rationalize turning up the radio until the speakers started to vibrate and rumble. “but it can’t be the Rascal Flatts one. It’s got to be the original. I hate covers.”
“Tom Cochrane,” I informed her. “Canadian. Used to be in the band Red Rider. “
She raised an eyebrow and pointed to her shirt. “Nerd, “ she grinned, but I wasn’t sure if she meant him or me. She seemed to know my thoughts. “I’m talking about you,” she said, and turned the volume up another notch as we spun out onto the gravel road.
We sped past the store, windows down, and neither of us thought to stop and complain about renting the house out to both of us. As if to send this point home, she let out a whooping rebel yell out her side as we passed the Latino men working in the fields. In the city, they might have looked at her as if she was crazy, but here they just answered right back as we sped off down the road.
When we left the gravel for pavement, she turned it up again. “Last notch,” she said as if to be proud of blowing out her speakers. My thought at this was to wish she would turn it down a little; that it was much too high. But then I laughed. I was sounding like my parents when I blared out Kiss or Led Zeppelin down in the basement when I was a teenager.
“Too loud?” she shouted.
“Nope,” I yelled back, and in a long suppressed act of rebellion, hung my head out the window and screamed Turn it up!”
By the time we reached the Wal-Mart in Bedford my voice was hoarse from our shouting duet out the car window, finally ending with a mad yelling version of the 70’s radio rock classic “I’m on Fire” by the Dwight Twilley band. I had that record back in ’75 when I was a kid, and it was very appropriate now, because on this whole ride I had felt just like that again. Wild, free, and definitely on fire.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.