I couldn’t sleep last night.
The words left my mouth in a half-yawn, half-pout, incessantly repeated in a state of tedium. A second coffee of the day sat un-kissed and full in the cupholder; a swatch of lipstick still tattooed on the empty, parfait-gradient mug our friends had so generously lent us.
L and I were in the car before the sun had reached the crest of the sky. It was impenetrably porpoise, but the atmosphere grew lighter with each minuscule breeze. The desert’s topography was an accurate simulation of desolate Mars: vacant, vast, and daunting.
Certain sunrises in the fog reminded me of my childhood, when I would be the first to arrive to school (my father hated being late to anything, so I was invariably at least thirty minutes early). I experienced the same hint of motion sickness I’d felt when I sensed the imminent summer season. No plans or purpose for the neurotic and tireless child, and this sentiment remained beneath my made-up exterior. My purpose, I tried to convince myself, is to survive. I remembered my father’s workaholic tendencies, and knew he was awake as well – likely making his first phone calls of the day.
How many times have I traveled down this highway in the entirety of my life? My memory had rusted with the passage of time, and each recollection was polluted with adult amnesia.
Switch the CD. L refrained from taking his eyes off the road.
I dug through his glovebox, where I would hide albums I had enjoyed but neglected to put back into their crystal cases – Instead, my fingertips grazed the edges of our photo booth capture from two days prior. We somehow always appeared younger than we actually were in photographs – L was ageless, and in person, I was somewhere between seventeen and thirty-two. I continued to dig.
The music that had scored our relationship was immortalized on CD and vinyl, and it was one of the many things that laid the foundation for our otherwise inexplicable love. Choosing music was ritualistic, and no music usually meant that we had fought or were in bad spirits.
By design, the glass had been half empty when we met – I knew we would never be like anyone else, and the years I had left in comparison to his would be the ones that would define the rest of my life. His, however, had already passed, before I even managed to utter my first words.
I touched his skin, as soft and pink as damask roses; eyes reflecting the silvery hues of a monsoon spell sweeping beneath the silk sad moon tide – each minute dissipating in wait of day’s birth – And he smiled, mouthing, I love you.
The streets became familiar again, after dawn finally broke – the last free town in America, I melodramatically murmured; the ghost town of periwinkle skies and unnamed vintage shops, overtaken by modern “pioneers” who had desired a pre-war, industrial America, sans media madness and built on necessity.
The denseness of the heat was going to be unbearable today. I began to sweat as his black interior molded to the contours of my body.
The solemness of the city, L had decided, was too much for him. He needed this escape, as his time in Hollywood had come to a close. I promised to follow.
His only maladies were his artistic spirit and commitment to freedom; his disdain for authority and his cool chameleon nature – while I habitually refused change, he embraced the ephemeral essence of each moment. All I had desired was to be surrounded by him, and our things, and the records and novels I had purchased in his presence – grasping for hidden cigarettes on the shelves I could not reach; ripping a coiled shock of his blonde hair stuck haphazardly to the sink drain from the broken strands of mine – my presence eternal in his home, and his in my heart.
I could not find a suitable CD, and we were nearing our irrefutable destination. I creased our photo in my hands, imagining wine in the hairline cracks of my teeth – I was never as perfect as I wanted to be for him.
We passed the drive-ins, then the numerous fast food franchises. The sole organic café was filled with the others who had long left the city. The old gas station had been turned into a nostalgic store run by prop designers, and the church an art gallery. A woman in a diaphanous blouse sauntered across the road, led by two German Shepherds.
Up the roads that go straight to heaven, I whispered, as we ascended a grade I could no longer see over.