Highway Chapter 8
It hurts. It hurts so much. I am filled with pain, and it hurts more than can be imagined. My lungs are burning from the run, screaming while I drag in quick labored breaths. Bits of glass and dirt are still embedded in my knees from when I lay on the ground, but I didn’t bother to brush them off. The physical pain was nothing compared to what was happening in my very soul. I couldn’t see through the tears that still filled up my eyes. It was as if I had a well inside of them, one that always refilled, no matter how many times it was emptied. I couldn’t hear anything except the shrill keening that came from my own mouth. Shut up! I shouted at myself. But to no avail, for I could not stop. The air was laced with sorrow and laden with anguish. I now lay on my bed, writhing in my despair and hopelessness. Why had I become this way? What had I done in life to deserve such pain all the time, a constant burden of painful melancholy? The world was toying with me, and I didn’t know if I could take it anymore.
It leaves me without a family, in this godforsaken town full of monsters in disguise. Then it ruins my childhood and makes me cry at nights long and hard. Then, just when I think I am safe and have toughened up, it does this to me. It gives me hope for a friend, and then crushes my dreams. Of course the first person to be nice to me in a long time if ever at all had to be crazy. It had been so cruel to me. The thoughts passed through my head in a never ending stream. I didn’t have any sensation but the pain. My incoherent cries and whimpers became words. Words I repeated over and over again.
Why me? Why me? Why me? It isn’t fair. I had begun to yell, to scream, and to shout the words. My voice was a growl, a battle cry. I howled at the world, bellowing out my complaints and those words, over and over again, until I could scream no more.
I lay silent now, only the sounds of my breathing keeping me company, reminding me I was alive. My head swam from the voice exertion and I had spots in my vision. My throat had since begun to ache and feel dry. There was a lump forming there, and I tried to swallow it, but I had no water.
What was I doing with my life here? Life wasn’t fair, and I should know that more than anyone. It had never been fair, and it never will be. So what? I thought I had learned that lesson long ago. This was the reason I had grown thicker skin. Life hadn’t been fair, so I had adapted to it, evolving to a new species. I was the prime example of survival of the fittest. Had I now reverted back to a child? I knew that I was being ridiculous.
What the hell is wrong with you? I told myself. Why question the world being unfair? You have to take what it gives you. And thinking back now, I had truly ruined the only good thing life had given me.
The man in the bar had been truly special. He had known the secrets about me and seemed to have all the answers. He was an interesting man, one whose name I didn’t even know, but who knew mine. He was the first person to seem to care, and he was definitely the first one to “get” me, you could say. When he had seen me at the bar, he could tell there was something different than others. But for the first time, his reaction hadn’t been one of disdain or fear, instead one of interest and happiness. He had looked at me with those beautiful eyes, and seen something no human has ever seen before. I was at last a friend, a person to care about, and more importantly, an equal. Although it was clear he had more knowledge on things I cannot understand, he did not treat me as a child who is entirely ignorant and blissful. He knew I was rough, and edgy, but he also knew I was pained, and not some delinquent child. He was the only man to not greet my attitude with some aggressive remark, sometimes even embarking on violence. And even though it made me kind of mad I could not get a rise out of him, it also made me greatly relieved and was very calming. I had insulted him in that bar, several times, and yet he was still willing to talk to me.
I was childish, immature, and selfish. I let my emotions get the best of me, and ruined the only gift I had ever been given. Instead of asking why me? I should have been asking Why not me? Bring it on. I didn’t have anything to live for in this town anyway. I know that not a single resident would be sad to see me go, for they would have a celebration. What would have been the harm in going with him? But now he was gone. What had I done? I didn’t know what to do. Had my opportunity been lost? There was no way he could still be here. It had been at least two and a half hours since I ran off. He would have left by now. Right? Something was there, in the back of my mind, urging me to not give up. There was still hope he was still here. Maybe if I hurried, I could catch him on the way out. I really doubted it, but it wouldn’t harm me to try. I would do everything I could to salvage this chance, and I would not let it slip away without a fight. Something had brought us together, and I was putting all my hope into that something keeping him here.
But I can’t just run after him. What if he is outside of the town? He doesn’t have enough supplies to maintain two people. What had he said about the journey? We would be on the road a lot, camping with nature. That’s all I could remember. I cursed and berated myself for not listening better. I would just have to get general outdoor supplies. Bare minimum, for he could be heading out the gates right now. I could only catch him if I could still see him, and the road outside was not very long before it branched off.
I jumped out of bed, leaping through the air like a gazelle. I sprinted across my room and searched frantically until I found the duffel bag I was looking for. Large but light, it would be essential. Extra pairs of tennis shoes and converse, clothes that were light for the days of scorching sun and a few longer sleeved ones for chilly nights. What else? I was becoming frustrated. Food? Water? Radio? What do I need? I threw in my water bottle and some sunscreen. God knows I would burn to death out there. No need for blistering skin on a journey. I hesitated in the bathroom, then grabbed my brush and a stack of hair ties. I grabbed the money I had been saving forever, “gifts” from the mayor as an incentive to not stalk the neighborhood. It wasn’t much, but I might need it. I stuck two walky talkies in my pack and started to run for the door, before realizing I didn’t have anything to sleep on. Frustrated, I raced back to my room and grabbed the sleeping bag in the closet and my pillow and with a hurried frenzy, struck them in the back, filling every nook and cranny.
Then I spied the very small box on my drawer. It held the only things important to me in life. Could I really leave it behind? I decided I could take the time to shove it in the very last bit of space. With no more thought to anything else, I took off through the door, not even stopping to lock it.
I was leaving my life behind, and everything that went with it. I could only pray that he was still here, or this would have all been for nothing.
As I ran down the street as fast as humanely possible, I kept thinking the same thing. “Please be here, please be here, please be here, ”I pleaded to the universe. “I’m sorry I messed up, please don’t take this away from me.” I raced down the alleyways taking every shortcut I knew, scanning the town as I sped past. He wasn’t anywhere normal, so they only place he could be if he was here would be the gates. My legs were on fire and my breaths were ragged. But I didn’t care. I would run until my legs buckled under me and I collapsed.
I rounded a corner too harshly, and skidded into the wall. I hardly missed a beat. I was going to find him. I WAS going to find him. I wouldn’t accept any other option. I rounded the bend to the gate and found myself faced with the longest stretch of road in the town. There, at the far end of it, was the man. He was walking to the gate, prepared to leave. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“This is really happening.” I exclaimed in disbelief.
I could tell it was him for he still wore that jacket, towering over most of the people that had gathered to see him leave. His hair was reflecting the sun, so much I could see it even at the end of the street. I dashed down the passage, feeling my muscles burn at a whole new level. I could feel my saliva start to pool in my mouth, for I was breathing so hard I had no time to swallow in between the forced hyperventilated gasps. I wanted to shout to him, so he would know I was here, but I couldn’t make any noise while I was running. I was closing the space between us faster than I would have thought possible. The crowd was quiet, but that might have been because all I could hear was the blood rushing through my ears and my heartbeat thumping sporadically. He stopped, as if something had called his attention. An then, sooner than I had anticipated, I had reached the crowd.
I had misjudged the distance between myself and them, so I did not decelerate enough before I was upon them. I crashed into a girl from my school, a cheerleader. We tumbled to the ground, where I unceremoniously landed on her. My bag went flying across the spectators only to land, sprawled out on the side of the road. The girl shrieked in indignation, but I had no time to apologize, nor would I have anyway.
I forced my way through the nearest people, and the rest parted like a sea. Just as I reached the end to come out to the other side, I tripped on something. I threw out my hands to catch myself, and collided with the dirt below, hard. My hands stung with pain, and blood came away when I pulled my hand back. I heard someone behind me snicker, and I realized that one of the jocks also from my high school had stuck his foot out.
As I got ready to retaliate, I heard footsteps and a figure arrived before me. With the sun shining in my eyes, I couldn’t really see, but I knew who it was.
There was the man I had been hoping for, standing right before my very eyes. I had not been too late.
I must have looked a mess, bloody, messy hair, eyes puffy from crying, gasping on the ground like a madman. But as he bent down, I saw the most amazing thing. He was looking right at me, with those gorgeous eyes. And on his face, shining like a sun, was the brightest and most beautiful smile.