Highway Chapter 7
I don’t quite understand what happened. We had sat down at the table, and I had begun to tell her about The Way. It seemed strange, for the entire time she had been staring at the coke bottle sitting in front of her. I could tell that she had been purposely avoiding looking at me. I wondered if she found it hard to look at my eyes, simply because I had felt a lot of the things she had, and that showed.
At one point, when asked her name, she replied lightly with hers. Veronica, she said. A beautiful name, and it certainly suit her well. She didn’t ask for mine, but that was alright for I would have none to give her. She seemed spacey, so I called her name to bring here attention back to me. She did, but her eyes were fixed on a point just over my shoulder. A common trick used by to be drifters, for they didn’t feel as welcome as they should have been, and don’t look people directly in the eye. Subtle, but detectable if you know what you’re looking for.
She snarked out a reply to my call, which made me pause, but I kept talking. This girl’s barriers were like a fortress. To bring them down, it would require a large amount of effort and an extended period of time. Hopefully, if all went well, I would have the time needed to help her adjust to a world that isn’t nearly as harsh. I could only imagine what kind of life she had in the past to bring out such an attitude. Everything I did here was crucial, with one misstep being fatal.
I kept an even stare, but it wasn’t intense or scrutinizing. Voice soothing, hands folded respectfully, and an easy demeanor were all important in this equation.
I was telling her about how it had been so important for me, and then the moment came.
“What the hell are you talking about? Have you lost your mind?” she barked at me, her lips curling back in a fierce animal-like snarl.
Then, she was silent. She was waiting for a reaction, I knew, and I wasn’t going to give it to her. For one, I didn’t want her to think that such a reaction was the only way to get things done. Secondly, with all that this girl had gone through, she thought that all someone could be is angry. I wanted to show her that not everyone in the world had to be so angry and violent. The room was silent now, the only sounds being our breaths. She was panting, confused and angry, while my breaths were long and calm.
This was the most important time, I knew. For this was the time where she would decide if she wanted to come with me, to embark on this unexplainable journey. I had to take some action, and that action had to be perfect in every way. I knew that with a girl like her, I would have to get up close and personal, to make her see me, but I couldn’t be threatening. I wanted to show her I was her friend, but that I knew more about the world. I wanted to make her see that I was here, and real, and that I could teach her.
With lightning quick reflexes, I leaped out of the chair next to me, mildly startling her. She only reached my shoulder when i was standing a full height, and I knew I could use this to my advantage. With planned and deliberate slowness, I leaned over to her, until my face hovered just above hers. I didn’t want to scare her, and it seemed that I had chosen wisely for now I had all of her attention. She seemed lost once she had made direct eye contact, and my suspicions had proven to be true.
I then told her how she could know that I was telling the truth. Talking of the way can seem, at first, a little bit crazy. But then, if you speak of that feeling that we have known all too well, they stare at you in amazement. Most likely, they have never spoken of this, but it is such a prominent part of their lives they cant believe that you understand. I also knew, from experience with other drifters and my own experiences that the feeling increased dramatically when in the presence of a full fledged drifter. It has never been explained why, but it has always proved true. It’s as if the body understands and wants what they have and in turn tells the receiver of its desire. With a voice of authority and reason I told her of the feeling, and I told her of the pain that I could see buried deep inside her eyes. Usually when you speak of this, they become intrigued and want to know how you can tell. But this girl, she had an unusual reaction. She had become very angry.
“I don’t know what you mean. I’m getting out of here, you crazed and delusional man! I don’t even know why I stuck around in the first place. No you get out of this town and don’t ever talk to me again. You’re a lunatic!” she shrieked in fury.
She was absolutely livid. I didn’t react in any way, as with last time. But in truth I was stunned I was stunned, for the first time in a very long while. And because of this, I allowed that emotion to come into my eyes.
Veronica’s words had been harsh and cold. I had not expected her to be so angry. The girl had become so interesting to me, and I felt for her, and now she was violently exclaiming at me. It made me a little bit sad on a personal level. But I had become mostly sad for I knew that these words meant she was slipping away. I thought she would have been happier on the road, but I knew she had thrown up another wall, and this time I was on the other side of it. I only wanted her to not have to feel that pain anymore, to let the road fill her with everything she could've ever imagined.
When I saw her peculiar expression, I put that emotion aside, for it would only make things worse. I didn’t expect what came next, for she started to cry.
Softly at first, but then the tears began to roll off of her face. They streaked across her cheeks as her anguish could be heard, amplified by the walls of the bar. This girl was full of surprises, even to me. I wasn’t sure what to do about the situation, so I attempted to reach out to comfort her. Why was she so sad? Was it because I was sad? Or was she thinking of her past? This poor girl was so confused and pained, but I knew that beneath that tough exterior she was a gentle person. It was the only explanation. But as I reached for her sleeve, she sprang away from me. She ran into the door with painful force and ran out of it. Rushing to follow her, I could see her outline.
“Veronica! Wait!” I shouted to her, my voice filled with worry.
I had blown it, and now she was gone. Still, I wasn’t sure she wouldn’t still be ready to go. I took off after her, my legs hardened from long years on the road taking bounding leaps. I passed a few shocked people, and almost stopped to ask if they had seen her go by, but figured I didn’t have time. She was an extraordinarily fast runner, and I couldn’t afford the lost time. I must have attempted to follow her for at least half an hour, but I had lost the trail. For being such a small town, the streets were surprisingly tricky to navigate. I cursed. I would never find her now, which meant I wouldn’t have the opportunity to talk to her and calm her down. While I could feel drifters from a mile away, if they hadn’t connected to nature yet, the range I could detect them became less than 10 feet. Even if I searched all day, I probably would still never find her. Running my hands through my hair in frustration, I sighed and let my hands fall to my sides.
Maybe I could come back another day, for she was obviously not ready today. I headed back to the bar, still empty. I looked at her mostly untouched coke, abandoned on the table. It seemed like a metaphor for her life now, left alone, cold and unwanted. I felt the loss heavily. I thought I could save her from her sadness by helping her find the truth. Had I made some error? Was I too aggressive? Should I not have spoken of her pain? Stupid, I told myself. I could have just cost that girl her freedom. I knew that I was being hard on myself, but I had felt just how much she needed it. She was so close. Was she not ready at all? I had been sure, it seemed. She seemed more ready than people on the path have been before. She was so interesting, this Veronica, even by drifter standards. I wished I could have found her, for I think she might have gone had we had another conversation.
With no other choice, I packed up my stuff, and headed to leave. The sun had risen in the sky, and I guessed from its position it was around two in the afternoon. I lingered for about another two hours, stocking up on supplies and spending an unnecessary amount of time trying to get a man to draw me a map of the area. It was not absolutely vital, but it was nice to know if I would have another chance to gather supplies and look for others in the next few days.
It had been close to three hours since I had last seen Veronica, and I resigned myself to the fact she was not coming back. With another long sigh, I made my way to the front gates.
All was still as the people watched me leave, and for a moment the world was on mute. Footsteps shattered the silence.