[Original Novella] The Lonely Road, Part 3
Like we’re all little tyrants of the small kingdoms that are our lives, resenting anybody who rules over us, even though we’re every bit as uncompromising. At least I have a nice car. That’s something, surely?
A nice car, a good job and lots of savings. A house too, until I sold it. Oh, and you’ve got to be over six feet. If you’re not, none of those other things count for shit. It’s funny how many boxes you can tick, but still not make the grade.
I stay in decent shape by running, and have the good fortune to be a naturally tall, broad shouldered man. Though I don’t often appreciate it while driving as the top of my head just barely brushes the ceiling. But I’m broke now. Part of me scorned the materialism of anybody who would turn me away because of that.
But in their shoes, would I want to date somebody in poor financial shape? Doubtful. Not because of classism, or the desire to benefit from somebody else’s wealth, but because nobody wants to date someone with no future. Someone they have to pay for whenever they eat out, whose idea of a good date is whatever’s free.
There’s got to be some formula they use, where each factor is weighted differently, starting with height. Height, minus weight, multiplied by the sticker price of your car, divided by the model year, plus the square footage of your house, multiplied by the area code it’s in, minus the number of mortgage payments remaining, that sort of thing.
It’s hard to stay mad about that stuff for long without feeling like a hypocrite. After all, how many attractive single mothers have I swiped left on? How many fat women and transexuals have I summarily rejected without reading word one of their profiles? The greatest truth of humanity is that we’re all as bad as each other.
Some in different ways than the rest. Some hide it more effectively, but we can hardly protest our individual worth being brutally judged on an open market by employers or prospective lovers when in private, we discriminate just as ruthlessly.
I suppose I could lie. Tell her I’m some kind of bigshot. Put off revealing where I go home to after each date in the hopes she’ll find me so charming that she won’t care, when at last my disappointing secret is discovered. But then I’d be a hypocrite for complaining if, a dozen dates in, she pulls the ‘ol Pickle Surprise on me.
Had I been better rested and not so lost in thought, I might’ve noticed the abrupt curve in the road rushing towards me. Now I understand why driving while exhausted is punished nearly as harshly as driving drunk. It really is treacherously similar.
I swerved, hoping perhaps I could drift around it or something. Not in this absolute boat of an automobile. I slammed on the brakes, but that only made it worse. Now fully hydroplaning, I crashed through the steel guard rail at the edge of the road.
What followed was a terrifying blur, punctuated by painful blows to my head, limbs and ribcage as the car tumbled around me. I must’ve passed out when it impacted a tree thick enough to stop it, at last arresting it’s violent somersault down the densely forested hill.
When I next awoke, it was drizzling lightly. As I slowly regained my senses, I worried some of the rain might be leaking into the car because of a wet sensation on my face. But when I touched it and examined my fingers, I found it was blood.
I glanced at the clock. Four in the morning. The first of many surprises. Was I really only out for a few minutes? I felt as if waking up from a ten year coma. Every joint in my body ached as though I’d never used it.
The car at least looked to be mostly upright, at only a slight angle. Propped up on one side by the tree which stopped it. Because I wasn’t thinking clearly, the first thing I did was give it some gas. I guess hoping I might somehow climb the embankment, back onto the highway.
The engine was still running, and the wheels spun mightily...but to no avail. Even when I floored it, the car didn’t budge by even an inch. I’d really wedged it tightly between the tree and the earthen incline.
Glancing out the side window gave me reason to second guess the wisdom of trying to dislodge my ride. The steep embankment continued down far enough that fog concealed the point where it levels off. I let off the gas, sighed, and removed the key. Next I popped open the glove compartment. A small avalanche of Taco Bell hot sauce packets fell out.
Why I keep saving them, I don’t know. Maybe hot sauce packets will be the new currency after the bombs drop? Behind them I found some napkins, which I used to wipe my face. When I folded down the visor and examined myself in the mirror, I discovered all the napkins really accomplished was to smear the blood around.
The wound was mercifully less serious than feared. Just a small gash about a centimeter long at my hairline. No idea what I got cut on, the interior of this thing doesn’t have any sharp edges that I know of. Next I felt around my body for broken bones, sprains or bruises.
Nothing broken, but I felt plenty of sore spots I knew would be a dark shade of purple the next morning. Physically I felt fine, but I recalled reading somewhere that adrenaline conceals pain and the extent of your injuries from you after an accident.
So I took my sweet time making sure every part of me was still where I remembered before searching for my phone. I’d left it in one of the armrest cupholders, the contents of which had spilled everywhere when the car flipped over on it’s way down the embankment.
By turning off the dome light, I eventually spotted the subtle green glow of the phone’s power indicator LED shining out from beneath the front passenger seat. I strained myself fishing it out from it’s hiding place.
No service. Of course. Why did I think there would be? Leave it to me to crash this thing on one of the rare stretches of highway with no cell coverage. Not even 2G was showing up. Foolish as it was under those circumstances, I took a moment to mourn my car.
So much for having a nice car. Now I’ll be broke, living with my parents, and riding public transit. Truly the hallmarks of a panty drenching heart throb. The sort of trivial shit you fuss over when you’re still in shock and don’t yet realize it.
Eventually the gravity of the situation set in. No cell reception meant no Onstar. Which meant nobody knew where I was, and I couldn’t summon either a tow truck or any sort of rescue crew. I’m ashamed to admit I’d already ruled out calling an ambulance on account of the cost.
I recalled telling Mom and Dad the trip should take no more than three days. I could therefore expect them to realize something has gone wrong by day four, perhaps even the end of day three. Mom’s a championship level worrywart.
But then what? With no indication of what point along the 1,330 mile route I’d gone missing, how would they know where to focus a search and rescue effort? Wait, no. I texted them back at the gas station, didn’t I? Before heading up into the mountains.
That should narrow the scope of the search from the first five hundred miles of highway to somewhere in the ballpark of a hundred. That’s something, isn’t it? Some small scrap of hope to cling to.
I tried the radio, only to find that it wouldn’t receive any channels. I really fucked myself this time, wrecking up here in the fucking mountains. I sat there for a time, fiddling with the radio while waiting for the rain to subside before thinking better of it.
Probably not a good idea to run down the battery, I figured. Might need it to recharge my phone later. I’d packed all of my belongings into the car before setting off for Colorado, so I didn’t lack for clothing, and there’s a rucksack full of camping gear wedged back there someplace.
It could be worse. Not much worse, but I’m still breathing. Somebody once said that any landing you can walk away from is a good one, but I’m pretty sure he was talking about airplanes. The rain seemed to have mostly petered out, so after fishing my bag out of the back seat, I cracked open the door.
The air smelled wet. It’s hard to pin down, but you can smell it. The scent of rain drenched pine needles and mud...the invigorating musk of the deep woods. I wasn’t in the mood to appreciate it, my uncountable bruises aching with even small movements of my body.
Stay Tuned for Part 4!