Her view had become a blur of row after row of pine trees so dense not a ray of light broke through their wall. Every few seconds, she’d pass a dead tree- a lone, sad, brown reminder of the passage of time, the inevitability of death. What was on the other side? More trees? More road? Likely. What was within? She imagined the inner workings writhing with life, just beyond view.
As the adrenaline abated, she arrived at the conclusion that this was, without doubt, a completely irrational and irresponsible move. But she persisted, a force in motion.
She wondered how long it had taken for her absence to be noted and with what degree of annoyance, surprise, fear, sadness. All or none of these seemed equally likely. She drove on, passing a sea of white SUVs, each more white and more SUV than the one that came before it. Something akin to panic had begun to materialize in the peropheral of her mind, but she chugged her coffee and pushed on, muttering prayers.
Each rest stop felt like a defeat. Where was she going? How would she know when she had arrived? She had limited resources at her disposal- a small cache of savings left over from her parents’ estate- but should that really be set ablaze for a third-life crisis? A sour taste overwhelmed her as she realized she hadn’t told a soul of her plans. What if something tragic were to befall her? What if some drifter were to spirit her away to murder her and make love to her corpse? Dark. How would anyone know where to look for her? Or would they assume she had decided to live out her terminal mediocrity in the hospice found at the bottom of a bottle?
She remained on the road for the better part of eight hours.
The comforts of a cheap motel- a place apart from time, with no designs on bettering itself- had alleviated a modicum of her stress and smoothed some of the crazy out of her appearance but she felt little improved. There was a restlessness waging war within the walls of her mind, her body.
Prior to entering the small, oddly shaped motel, Denver had done her best to not appear a battered woman on the run or a homeless vagrant who had lucked out and found someone’s credit card. But she needn’t have worried.
The receptionist barely looked up from her cellphone to take her payment and provide her with a room key. Perhaps she was reading The Sun Also Rises on her kindle app and couldn’t break from its grip. Two beta fish- one a deep red, the other a royal blue- flanked the woman’s computer, in orange-sized bowls. Denver wondered how the betas felt- assuming they had the depth of ability to feel– being on display in tiny glass prisons. Their only job was to be beautiful. To be worthy of being stared at. Did they derive any pleasure from knowing that their looks were a subject of fascination? Did they worry what would become of them if their vibrant colors should fade like the dull, rust-colored females of the species? Had they anything at all to say on the matter?
After no more than an hour, her unremarkable white room had felt akin to a cage, so she paced the blue-green carpeted halls of the motel before this too felt too tight a space, causing her to begin laps around the building’s muted gray exterior. The heavy, dated silence was suddenly replaced with rapturous catcalls and the crass laughter of youth. A group of frat boys, by the looks and sounds of it, on the beginnings of a night they didn’t intend to remember.
Though she was the only other human in sight, it took Denver by surprise that she appeared to be the intended audience for their cacophony. She considered herself relatively attractive, but in the most understated of ways. She had tried, to no avail, to figure out makeup, hair, but couldn’t seem to summon forth the mental energy and patience to learn and refused to part with the money required to pay someone else to do it for her. She liked to think that her natural pecan-colored waves and bare tawny face conveyed to the world that she was an intellectual above such aesthetic trivialities.
As the group of testosterone personified marched ever closer, Denver found herself lacing her keys- keys to doors she may never unlock again- over and through her fingers, an impromptu set of brass knuckles. She could pretend she needed to go the other way and retreat, but why? If she were being propelled by God and/or the universe to some destiny greater than the sum of her feeble understanding, what would it say if she were to turn and run from a group of sophomoric boys?And so she proceeded, making eye contact with as many of them as possible. Show no fear, no weakness.
She could almost see the waves of arrogance and glee coming off of them, like stink lines in a cartoon. There were five of them, dressed in similar form-fitting shirts and jeans- same athletic build, varying skin tones. Perhaps they were a third of a college basketball team. Each easily cleared six feet in height. She found them all somewhat handsome, though they seemed dumb and a bit feral. She should retreat to her room. Like she should have all those years ago. But they started this. And Denver was here to finish it.
As they crossed paths, two of the five guys averted their eyes, two muttered some “Hey, girl” half-hearted pick-up lines, and the last- the tallest of the pack- remained silent but held her deadpan stare. To the surprise of the both of them, she grabbed his hand and squeezed it as tightly as she could, walking off without waiting for a reaction.