She wakes up. It’s cold. Dark outside. Rain spatters against the car windows.
Beyond the soft rumble of the engine beneath her she can see empty fields and trees, other headlights cutting swaths through the light fog, a long row of street lamps extending into eternity down the road that never ends, the road soaked now by softly falling rain.
“Dad, are we there yet?”
He doesn’t take his eyes off the road, but his voice is reassuring. “Not yet, go back to sleep.”
She curls up in the corner between seat and door and rests her head on the cold window, wrapping a blanket around herself. And watches the rain.
Watches, as they roll down the street, past a brightly-lit diner that offers a glimpse into the other lives of people at 11 pm. She sees a woman leaning on a man’s shoulder in a booth seat near the window. Warm and full on greasy hamburgers and cold ketchup.
That’s their version of happy, but this is hers– and her father’s (hands on the wheel and eyes on the road), and her mother’s (sleeping in the front passenger seat with her head tilted and a road map splayed open on her lap). In the cold and the rain and the leather smell of the inside of their car. It is oddly comforting. The concept of staying nowhere and thus belonging everywhere. They are headlights on the road, they are stars in the sky.
They drive on through the rain but they cannot escape the moon, which always seems to follow them, like a lamp seeing them through the darkness. Or one half of a warm chicken pot pie. Or a lemon chaser someone has left on a table in an empty bar because they ran outside, hiccuping with laughter, after their friends, scarves trailing reckless and ragged like jet trails in the cold night.
She is drowsy but she cannot sleep. If she closes her eyes now, she feels there will be no tomorrow. No, she has to see the night through its transformation into day, and only then can she be sure of the future.
Lights flicker by, passing her present and fading into the past. Only the moon follows.
An experiment in creating atmosphere. This scene is set to/inspired by the mood of ‘Missisippi’ by Train. Try playing it while reading the piece: http://open.spotify.com/track/1x72hk5EAzkkC0CDZnHJ9M