Roll Me Away
We took to the road. The expanse of blacktop stretched out before us into the sparkling effervescence that we dared to think was the night sky back-lit with stars but was really a sideways look at a glass of Alka-Seltzer on the nightstand before we had to drag ourselves up and out through one more day of it, all the fun we were having. We took to the road. My heart in my pocket because it had taken too much of a beating on my sleeve and I didn’t want anyone to know how much I really cared, deep down in my soul, the way you’re not supposed to.
We sat in the diner while Jimmy slept in the back seat. Jimmy sleeps in the back seat because he’s having more fun than anyone can shake a stick at. We passed the houses of suburbia in the slipstream of dawn, some of their lights coming on in cold kitchens still suffering linoleum and ugly bathrobes. I look down into them and think, they’re waking up and they’re all still so asleep. I’m so smart, so blessed, so lucky. I know of these other worlds and wants and dreams and visions and places that are the same place on the map, “You can’t get there from here.” Still I know about them, those places. So I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… They’re going to have bbq’s later and drink too much beer, get in fights before they go to bed. Some of the lucky ones will have sex instead.
Cigarettes taste like cigarettes again so I don’t smoke and when I try to pretend to, that taste is still there. If it wasn’t for everyone’s paranoia about everything, they could just go ahead and make cigarettes really taste like a rum cherry-coke, have the smoke smell like roses when it stays in your clothes. I could get into that. Don’t tell me that they can’t do it. They’re crossbreeding animals that would never get near one another in the wild, don’t tell me they can’t make a cigarette that kids would really want to smoke. Oh wait…yeah, but that’s all still mostly illegal and what that it wasn’t? Jimmy might not be quite so paranoid about what’s really in that extra pack of Marlboro’s he keeps in his sock, or about always having socks with good elastic.
Last night Jimmy told me, “You’re just no fun anymore.”
So I drank more. I was the only one still awake in the morning, watching those cold rays peak over the horizon. I laid down to look through the glass of Alka-Seltzer he put on the nightstand, just in case. Alka-Seltzer, I never touch the stuff. My black glitter shirt balled-up on the nightstand, looking like the night sky through the tiny bubbles and I just wanted to not feel like that right then. I have pills for that. I wanted it to not all be so grim because to even say this much is depressing.
We took to the road. I put on a red blouse and a pair of ripped jeans, my favorite sandals. I tried to practice smiling, because I didn’t want to be the girl who wasn’t any fun anymore. Do you know how many times I’ve been her? And how much that hurts? You’ve just got to get over it, for everyone else. You’re wallowing. You’re dwelling. You’re bringing us down.
We sat in the diner, the five of us. I watched the breakfast patrons syrup up their carbohydrates, sugar up their caffeine, vodka up their tomato juice. I didn’t say anything. I watched Jimmy roll out of the back seat and stumble to the back of the car and heave over while everyone laughed shaking their heads at him because that was typical. That was so Jimmy. Amy started talking about doing a dine and dash. Amy was always talking about doing a dine and dash. I could quote the conversation about to take place as they all used too much sugar and cream and thought they were being clever, that the waitress never heard any of it before. “I’m sorry.” I said to her, kind of under my breath. She smiled and nodded. She didn’t care. She had to be there anyway.
He was sitting at the end of the counter. There was a motorcycle in the parking lot and two really cool cars. I figured one of the three belonged to him. He had that look about him, loner guy, like he would understand and all those things I read in books about loner guy. But then I thought, what would we do, me and loner guy? We’d get drunk or stoned and we’d have sex until he figured out that I was just no fun anymore. Or maybe he was one of those healthy loner guys. Maybe he would get me to exercise, quit drinking, get clean, and change my life. We’d do tai-chi on the beach at sunrise each day, then go for a jog with our dogs. We’d sit on the deck with our friends in the evening drinking mineral water with lemon wedges or cucumber slices in it, somehow be wealthy instead of me watching Derrick fish around in his pocket for the money that wasn’t in his wallet. Amy thought it would be funny to leave a Monopoly money tip again, play-doh.
“He’s no different from any of us.” Derrick snorted, nodding in the direction of loner guy. “I don’t know why you sit there and do that to yourself. That grass ain’t no greener.” He shook his head at me.
We’d broken up a long time ago. Derrick was going through his “none of it matters so be here now” phase, and was perpetually irritated with all the things that I knew better about and could thus no longer fully enjoy. He once he said he’d like to kill the fucker that ruined cigarettes for me. I think he hoped I’d get over it all and just do what I wanted but I had all that knowledge rolling around in my head. He was a proponent of “ignorance is bliss” and we’d had that argument enough times to stay away from it.
Ignorance isn’t bliss. It was like they didn’t understand the pain and it isn’t like I thought my pain was special but maybe just some understanding, you know? Like loner guy was going to wrap his hand around mine and instead of all this bullshit about doing these things in the name of having “a good time,” loner guy would get that, nah, we’re just trying to kill the pain for a while. In that maybe I could feel safe somehow, or loved, or like I wasn’t the freak girl who just wasn’t any fun anymore. Like loner guy would look out on the world with me and say, “You want to go self-medicate for a while?” Maybe then it would be okay and I wouldn’t want to anymore. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like I had to, to make everyone else happy or comfortable or feel like it was okay that they were, or whatever it was and that all the things that I knew about the world, that loner guy knew them too, and understood the same way that I did.
“She thinks she’s better than us. That’s her problem.” Amy had taken to drinking her coffee black but with enough sugar in it to literally make the spoon stand up. She never ate anything. I swear to you she never touched food and I have no idea what was keeping her alive but that’s how it is when you’re young, you don’t realize until you’re older that if you’d taken care of your body when you were young, you really might could live to be well over a hundred. Amy knew how to have fun. Amy didn’t give a shit, except that she did. She cared. She was in love with Derrick and they’d had some understanding behind my back that I couldn’t understand because I’m just no fun. She was in love with Jimmy too. Jimmy was the closest thing to anyone who understood it all at all and that made me want to save him. Sometimes I think that was why I was still around.
One of these days I was going to talk to loner guy, or he was going to talk to me. He’d say something cool like, “You want to go?” and I would just go with him. Or he wouldn’t say anything at all, he’d just hold out his hand to me and I’d put my hand in his and go with him and it would all be okay.
Jimmy stumbled in, sat down across from me, took Amy’s coffee and drank all of it. He lit a cigarette, looked at loner guy and then back at me, smiled through his swirling cigarette smoke. “See that van out there with no back windows? That’s what Studly Muffins there was getting out of when we pulled up.”
Everyone started laughing. I laughed too, nodding my head.
“You’re an asshole, Jimmy.” I said, still smiling.
“Yep. You’re our no fun girl, deal with it.” Jimmy drank my coffee too. It didn’t look like the waitress was coming back.
We left a five-hundred-dollar tip.