Fessi saw my reaction and began to laugh. He slapped his hand on the bar hard enough to rumble the other patrons’ drinks. His smile widened and eyes became little more than slits now as he began to tease me like we were in middle school all over again.
“Ahhhhhh, Lucy,” he said. “So th’ name still brings shivers, eh?”
But I was beyond listening to more bullshit. I grabbed him by the coat collar and pulled Fessi close, despite his smell. His eyes widened a bit, revealing bloodshot streaks smeared over a jaundiced tint that came with years of unhealthy living.
“You can’t seriously be fucking with me on this,” I said with a timbre that straightened his lackadaisical stance. I was shocked at my reaction, and could only imagine what my childhood friend thought, but those four letters were a thorn buried deep beneath my skin. Any attempt to remove it was just as painful as the thorn itself. My only hopes were that time and age would deteriorate suffering, but to this point they had failed.
Realizing the sudden urgency, he raised both hands and pulled my grip from the jacket collar. Shit was now serious, and sobriety began to lurk around the corner. Fessi wanted nothing to do with it and gave me all the information I asked for: Lucy’s address, where he’d seen her, how he’d come across her. I grabbed Fessi again; this time, I hugged him for all it was worth. I dashed out of the Brown Jug, leaving its low esteem to those who remained.
I could hear Fessi shouting after me, inaudible rationalities I gave no thought to considering. In fact, I didn’t think of anything else for about three blocks until I had to stop. My lungs couldn’t fill with air fast enough and a stabbing pain that felt like an elephant tusk ripping vertically up my right side doubled me over. Years of unfit living had brought me to this, a shell of the former athlete I remember being.
While catching my breath, I paused to consider, for the first time, what to do. Since hearing her name, I’d lost all my senses; memories flooded my bones with longing. I realized, now, why I was here. That calling, the voice that had been drawing me west all these years—it was Lucy.
What if I was all wrong? It’s been years and an infinite number of variables could be in play…
None of that mattered now. It was clear what I needed to do. As soon as I saw her face again, I knew I’d have all the answers I needed.
How should I make this trek? Obviously, I can’t dash at three-block intervals. I left both Mongo and Fessi on a whim, so best to let those fires simmer for a while.
Trains and buses seemed the logical next steps but I was juiced on logic’s arch nemesis: emotion. Besides, it was after 1 a.m. and I’d have to wait ‘til morning for the next scheduled runs to arrive. By then rational thought could have overtaken emotion, and only good things happen when pure adrenalized human emotions are involved.
Hell, if all works out, I could even be holding Lucy by the time the sun rises…
I scoured the streets in a grid format from Eddy on down, looking for anything that stood out and not sure of what to do if I found it. I had an idea forming from bits and pieces of memory, mostly from the summer when I was 14.
We were horrible vandals!
That summer Fessi, my brother and I learned one trick: hotwiring scooters.
If the inner workings haven’t changed all that much I may be able to jump one of those babies and be bolting up the highway in no time.
While searching through dimly lit alleyways, a cloud of paranoia began forming, agitating—but a bit funny in a way. I’d run from my job—no going back to that. If I got caught now, how would I explain a felony of jacking a scooter to chase down a lost love to my next potential employer?
Explaining bolting on a bunch of scared sixth graders is one thing…
My thoughts were getting me no closer to what I needed. I finally caught sight of a scooter parked underneath a strobing street light and deep between two SUVs that had the collective appearance of automotive bodyguards. It rested comfortably on its kickstand, challenging me to do what I knew I needed to.
Not here. No, not here.
I wheeled the scooter several blocks away before trying my old hand at it. Low and behold, the first time I hit the wires together, the machine fired up. I throttled the engine while checking over both shoulders to make sure I was the most suspicious thing around, then hopped on and took off, feeling a western breeze glide over the slick of my scalp, a refreshing wind that spat in the face of a tired traveler.
What the hell was next?
As I cruised along the California highway, heading north to Portland and an unknown future at nearly 1:30 in the morning, what I intended to find was happiness. I’d traveled here lost and confused, beaten by society and ideas of what I should be. By luck, I’d managed to get in touch with one old friend, and circumstance brought me to another.
Is it coincidence that brought Lucy into play? Does Mother Earth build a storm cloud of situations, much like a summer’s afternoon in Carolina, full of threat and potential, only to fail to deliver the much needed rain to a dying land?
No matter. I shuddered at the thought and focused on my plane-ride companion Matthew’s words: At least you know what you don’t want; that’s a start.
For the first time, perhaps ever, I finally knew what I wanted to do.