Town & Country Ch. 10: Love on a Highway that goes on for Days
In his hydro-electric, Danny drove the way to Sarah’s. As usual, he was late. Days after her visit to his home, he took the initiative to call her and invite her to rendezvous for dinner. She agreed. She had tried to seem apprehensive, but she could think of no reason why she ought to be so, and neither could Danny; what, not after her visit and all. Palm trees and cameras lined the cracked concrete on the way to El Segundo, where she lived.
He had decided to take her far south, to Rosarita, Baja California, where they could wash carne asada soft tacos down with hard tequila. It was a lucid sky that reflected the deep blues of the sea on this day, tempting Danny to spend the day at one of Los Angles’ famed beaches; but, he had convinced himself to rather spoil her with a four-and-a-half hour car ride. And so it was to be. He pulled into her drive, took the keys from the ignition, and walked hurriedly to her front door, paused so as to slow down his body language, and knocked. She answered.
“Hey,” Danny greeted, drawing out his e to convey his excitement. “How are you?”
“Good. I have a couple of things to do and then I am ready!” He had expected this, so there was no problem. “So, where are we going?” She asked.
“It’s a surprise,” Danny carefully sidestepped that conversation, for he knew that would only extend the packing time Sarah wanted (or needed, she would insist). Worse yet, she might refuse his invitation altogether. “You brought what I told you to bring, right?”
She vanished into the thin hinterland of her apartment, leaving Danny at the door to assume an invite inside. He stood his ground in the kitchen, bent over in an attempt to win over Sarah’s dog, a German-shepherd-chow mix. As most were, this pooch was putty in his hands. Sarah returned with a bag, decorated with parrots, hanging from her shoulder. “Had someone alerted her of their plans?” Danny thought paranoid. But the thought did not make enough sense for him to dwell.
“Perfect,” he said.
“Ready?” she asked.
“Yep!” Danny exclaimed and headed for the door.
“Oh wait,” Sarah rustled through the things in her bag. “I totally almost forgot my phone,” she said, darting back into no-man’s land.
“She could have at least invited me back,” Danny thought to himself.
She returned and kissed the dog, telling it she would be back in no time and to be a good boy. Danny walked outside and she locked the door behind. They drove off, and eventually, once on the Interstate 5, Danny felt it safe to divulge the plan. He enlightened her to the awaiting adventure:
“I figured we’d go to Rosarita, spend the day there, drive back across the border, and stay the night at the Hotel Del…”
“Coronado?” she finished his sentence.
“Jesus Danny. Who you trying to impress?”
Danny took his eyes off the road, grinned and said: “Oh, Sarah, that’s a foolish question, as you’re the one in the car, aren’t you?”
“Oh my God, you’re such a terrible player,” she said grinning. “Watch the road. The last thing we need is to get hit by a real car in this thing.”
“A real car!?” he was only slightly offended. He added, “I’m an automatic player, by the way, like a player piano.” Real smooth, she facetiously thought to herself.
As far as he could tell, all she had done was give an innocent smile.
So, only the drive stood between them and their getaway now; a drive through the monolith of southern California, with its break in the center, that of a military base. In the meantime, the palimpsest phantasmagoria of Los Angeles succumbed to industrial elements, weighed down by the supersonic financing thereof. Colory frenzies faded slowly, while holding on for a better tomorrow. In the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods declarations of “si se puede” were spray painted unto walls, and south and out of LA, a sterile and stratified Irvine seemed as infecund as the moon, rendering the roaring ten-lane Interstate august, as were it the expansive Montana skyline. Buildings harbored the booming digital technologies of today and tomorrow and tall apartment buildings lined the Interstate, as well as malls with parking lot moats laid around.
Orange County below was a contradiction looked upon as, like, the epicenter of speech intended to buy time with ‘likes’ and ‘ums.’ The landscape of mesas, vistas and coastline of surfable beaches damn-near negated the boring Levitz-towns, which, when compared to other American metropolises and suburbs, had no true major city by which to center their suburban personalities. “So, are you surprised I took you back?” Danny asked in an effort to be cute.
“Surprised?” Sarah said. “If anyone should be surprised, it’s you. You should be surprised I even came back.”
“Oh, whatever,” he said, rolling his eyes but not taking them for too long off the autobahn. “I don’t even know why we split up in the first place.”
“Because, Danny, you act like a child. That day when you came into my classroom—without a campus pass, I might add—and motioned like you were smacking my ass over and over again in front of my students; that, that was just too much. I needed to be an adult and be straight-laced for awhile.”
“How did that go for you?”
“Danny, not everybody has the comfortable life you have, because you were basically willed your great grandfathers’ business.”
“I put in a lot of work to get where I am today!” Danny protested. “Just because in the last five years I haven’t had to do shit, doesn’t mean I didn’t once.” “You know I know that.”
“Plus, I’ve told you, you didn’t need to worry about money. I had it all for you—everything totally taken care of. You could be young and innocent forever. The ball is still in your court, you know. I know you know.”
“I know, Danny—but our constantly snide comments—back and forth, all day, everyday—it gets to be a bit grating on me.”
“That didn’t start until months into our relationship”
“And our relationship lasted for four years,” she said in terse tone.
“Let’s not bicker, then.”
“That didn’t work last time,” Sarah said. “Why should we expect the peace between us to last this time, huh?” She was practically begging him to give her a reason valid enough to content her. “We just have to convince ourselves to believe in it again,” Danny reasoned. Sarah did not respond, the passing scenery compassing her thoughts. “And then keep believing, even when it becomes difficult,” he added.
“You think we could that?” Sarah asked. “You really think we could maintain our composure, maintain our cool?”
“Let’s learn how to feel together, babe—for the first time. It’s not our fault nobody ever taught us.”
Through Camp Pendleton—the second largest military base in the country—they were treated to a free air show, as apache and cobra helicopters touched down onto the scorched brown soil. Just south of the base, farmland was put to use. Here, among the fields and vines, the juxtaposition of copters and agriculture brought to mind a scene that might fit better once upon a time in Vietnam. South thereof, the North County of San Diego was a balkanized lineup of well-urbanized southern California beach towns. One town after another united into a downtown practically abutting the southern border of the United States. To be sure, Tijuana and San Diego shared the same patch of concrete, albeit different languages, socio-economics, and alcohols. They remained tightly knit, however, for patches of concrete might bound humans together more definitely than outward cultures. At the border, the two waited for a time, until the Mexican military personnel granted them entry. The busy streets of Tijuana were filled with aging cars and street side entrepreneurs devoid of the promise of prosperity. Expert stray dogs navigated between cars and acquired the rations needed to keep on trekking.
Amongst each other in the car, whenever one spoke, the perfect answer was only a thought away, they convinced themselves. In the give-and-take of this love, malleability was a well-worn mattress, and the arms of each other were slowly beginning to be, once more, the sheets on a chilly Sunday morning. They were careful not to forget that, the first love affair between them saw the thrill and comfort quickly fade away: like nerves yanking a hand away from open flame before the mind could translate the pain, they had abdicated from one another fearful of forever. It was an irrational sensibility that, after years of knowing each other, graduated stubbornly onto custom, and with each passing day to reverse its porcelain fate grew harder and harder. Nevertheless, here and now and in the car, a recommencement of openly shared feelings colored their moods. In the recent past, a stark bitterness stunted them from each other like how an unconfident student lacks the aplomb to solve a math problem. Now, their mild moods alerted them to something new and different, but ancient just the like. Maybe it was to be, after all, each silently thought. Sarah was never far from Danny’s mind, to be sure, and Danny never far from Sarah’s, for, within each, the other had made an impression so deep that, after this life, should the stuff of them persist in somewhere, they would persist intimately tangled up like fireflies and campfires. To separate them in the cosmic unfolding would be like to separate chewed bubble gum from hair. In the movement of eternity, they would eventually return to the inner space of earth, where the true aliens masqueraded as citizen lovers, only to find themselves nothing more than together again for the first time.
Despite the ease and the fit, in their human imperfectness they had always shied away from opening themselves entirely, like how a triple bypass patient trustingly allows a doctor to slice and separate the damp tissues of the heart. No hope they had to put their finger on just why they couldn’t roll with it and take it for what it was and is and could be, for insecurity was paralysis. In their defense their subconscious stood its ground, suggesting they couldn’t be so sure that it ever was. Once beyond the unease of the border city, Tijuana, the two had a small, but open road that led to Rosarito. They arrived there at 1:00 p.m. and immediately stopped for carne asada soft tacos and Dos Equis at a restaurant overlooking the spacious Pacific. “It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Sarah said. “Despite everything thrown at them, everything but the kitchen sink, they all still have gleaming eyes. The children still play, while the adults still admiringly look after them. At home, we’ve never had a care in the world, but we’re disgruntled and atomized. We parade around supersonically and gain, well, niceties, but they are—once all is said and done—of nothing. We’re literally hurried through life, overwhelmed. I guess someone up top doesn’t want us to recognize the beauty for what it is.”
“It is beautiful, like us. And what’s more, the food is good. I like all of the small shops, with all of the handmade goods,” Danny said with a mouth full of tortilla and meat. “Maybe I’ll buy a guitar today.”
“I know! Is that what you want to do after we eat, is shop?”
“Let’s do it. I’ll buy you a little something even.” Sarah looked down and away. She was flattered, certainly, at all the great things Danny had showered her with, but she still felt an apprehension somewhere inside.
“All these gifts, so sudden,” she thought, before saying: “You don’t have to buy me something, I have money. Plus, you’ve got to pay for the meal,” she played a bit.
“O.K., well then, we’ll see.”
“Yes, we’ll see.”
Danny ordered a second beer from the short, slender waiter and looked to Sarah. She nodded, anticipating the question now peering out from his eyes. He ordered two. They sat and drank as the piquant afternoon sun flirted with the sea. Once their drinks had arrived, they toasted.
“To random adventures,” he said.
“To random adventures,” she said.
They finished their lunch and then shopped. After Danny found a guitar he wanted, they walked along the rows of shops abutting the edge of a cliff in such a way, that you could walk to the backs of them and be suspended almost helpless above the Pacific. They came upon a fruit stand that had juice.
“I want a juice,” he said to Ana, and turned towards the small stand.
Once at the stand, he asked in a Spanish-like accent…“Jugo de naranja, sin preservativos, por favor.” The lady behind the counter snickered, and so did Sarah.
“What was that, Danny?” Sarah asked.
“Jugo de naranja, sin preservativos, por favor,” he repeated; still confident despite of himself. A number of natives stood around him, hanging on every last word of his.
“I think you just asked for an orange juice without condoms,” Sarah alerted him. Correct she was. She smiled at the woman and ordered the orange juice:
“Jugo de naranja, sin aditivos, por favor,” she said. The orange juice came in due time, without preservatives or condoms.
At around 4:00 p.m. they decided they best leave, if they expected to see the sunset in Coronado. The wait at the border was unusually quick. They arrived on Coronado—a small island in the San Diego Bay—at about 6:00 p.m. The two checked into their room in the marble and wood laced lobby, dropped their bags off and headed towards the sand. Not, however, before picking up a couple of drinks. Barefoot, the sand nudged itself between their toes. In the evening coolness, the sand assumed a strangely fluffy sort of coarseness, a soothing sort of sharp. “The weather is always so beautiful when I am here,” she said.
“The sunsets are best in the winter, but in the summer they stretch out across the spacious sky as if bracing for a yawn,” Danny poetically added.
Children chased each other while their parents enjoyed their temporary escape. In the background, away from the sea and off the beach, restaurant-goers ate and drank on a large hotel patio. The sun, naturally, made its rounds like the bartenders. The ocean at dusk shined like silver just polished. Periodically, fish jumped near the shoreline, but were overridden in the lines of sights of those on the beach by the walloping tides, which ripped the crystals of stillness apart like a hurricane against paper airplanes. Unsettled, a plotline unfolding, the arrogant ocean basked in its slow motion ignorance.
The domino-effect of personality led Danny and Sarah to this place, to this beach, together; and to a future they chose for themselves, for each other, maybe just for tonight. Dolphins swam by playing in the waves, by nature curious and devious, they inspected swimmers and kayakers, who were out past wave break. Were they conspiratorial dolphins? Of course, for without conspiracy there would be no progeny, no guide to lead them on their way. But, these were benign dolphins, as they usually are—their covert action playful and, at base, innocent. The sun crept nearer to the ocean, tiptoeing like a child to the cookie jar, so as to acclimate the eastern world slowly to a dawn approaching. Serenity overcame the palaver of haste, but the hackneyed yakking of beachgoers persisted yet like a paranoid pooch locked in its backyard, barking and barking and barking at nothing. The eclipse of a blushing sky ochered the by-and-by and the effulgence emitted azure as though unconfined, a belvedere refuging in its mist. Swords of crimson, apricot, periwinkle and robin’s egg were marooned across the identified hereafter, artificially arrested by a move-less change. The tenebrous, unbordered and sky-wide flickering came informing the tide of caliginosity. It washed over a vault of earth; the day, merely water down the drain, a goner, and night, night. The crowd cheered.
“I had fun today, Danny, thanks for inviting me,” Sarah said.
“Oh, no problem, Sarah, my pleasure—I enjoyed your visit the other week.”
“Yeah, I know. I wasn’t exactly expecting for you to invite me on a few hundred dollar trip overnight to Mexico and back, but I guess you take what you can get.”
“Oh Sarah,” Danny exhaled. “Don’t think I will chase you too far.”
“Oh, I know Danny—I know.”
After having sipped on a few drinks each during the sun’s extra-terrestrial show, they retired to their room. Danny slid the keycard into the door, opened the door, and let Sarah in ahead of him. Immediately, he walked over to the remote, his back to Sarah, who sat down in a chair near a window, and turned on the television. He let his face sag, bottom lip drop, and stared drone-like at the Pentagon-designed flicker and cathode rays. With the television, he laughed and learned, cried and was vindicated. Sarah looked at him un-amused.
“You’re not that funny,” she said. No response, though only at first, for Danny could only withhold from her so long.
“Huh? What was that darling?” Trying to cover his weakness from her, he tried to firmly speak. She just stared, and he just smiled. The television he turned off. Only then, did something clever come to his mind:
“You want all of my attention, don’t you?” He asked innocently.
“Yesss,” Sarah dragged out her affirmation, undoubtedly knowing just how full of it he truly was. “I do want all of your attention, for tonight at least.”
“For tonight at least,” he nodded. “I’ll take it, I’ll take it, and I’ll take it.”
He walked over to the bed on which she kneeled and bent his back to slowly begin kissing her. Moisture on their lips, they entered into a dimension without sound and sight. In this fleeting land they were made cozy by the shade and substance of each other—their dreams and ideas centered, for now, only on another. He moved his fingertips to behind her ear, and then let his forehead rest against hers. She looked up, their noses touching, with a smile upon her face. She took a deep breath and shook her head yes, if just for good measure. He then put his entire mouth around her right ear, and then the sensuality of the prior movements and moments evacuated the room.
“What are you doing,” she asked, eyes wide open. “I can hear the ocean, like with a shell.”
He unwrapped his mouth from around her ear. She gave him a dirty look. He kissed her, his hand wrapped around her thigh. They both stood up, together attracted, and he backed her deeper into the middle of the bed. Her knees collapsed under his. He fell onto the bed, and into her. Their bodies were vessels bobbing with the current of the springs, as if at the edge of a storm. His upper body stressed, he held himself over her with his arms. He kissed her cheek and then her neck. She rubbed her fingertips across his neck, pausing once to kiss his shoulder-blade. This he took as a signal to take off his shirt, and she took off hers. Pressed up against each other, warmth swelled and in its pocket they dwelled, his legs wrapped around hers. They covered themselves in the sheets and engulfed each other. Soon they were lying side-by-side silently.
“The peak of morality is to watch out for yourself, ensure that you’re at the peak of your own well-being,” Sarah suddenly said. “My own happiness is what is most important. Not only to me, but to others as well.”
“You’re random,” Danny responded.
“Maybe I am random! But, it’s important we take initiative for our own interests.”
“But not while disregarding others, I say,” he said.
“No, not while disregarding others. It’s still important to get what you want, though. ”
“Well, then, what is want?”
“Want is whim blowing in the wind, fluttering about, able to exist devoid of perspective.”
“You seem to enjoy yourself just fine, and your life seems built around giving. You are, at the end of the day, a high school teacher for Christ’s sake,” Danny said, partially offended at the mood Sarah had set. She sometimes did such things, he remembered.
“Was a high school teacher,” she corrected.
“Yeah, yeah—anyway, just because we are all made of the same stuff, doesn’t mean we are all in need of the same things. Maybe this means simply that we are able to emphasize with the lots and preferences of others,” Danny cemented his argument. Sarah did not reply. She was tired, as was he. The two drifted from this waking life into their separate and dark dreamscapes.”