This week, my Indie Ink Writing Challenge, "Bringing It All Back Home", goes out to Alisha, while mine, "If I were 21 again", comes at me from Angela.
This may be off a little bit on the timing of it- I may be going back to 19 or so. I am also borrowing heavily from a Hollywood film I've never seen, and heaping it with gobs of poetic license. This never happened. In the end, I'm probably better off that it didn't.
This is called "Modern Day Cowboy"
When you were driving, it didn't seem so cold. Everything looked shiny from a distance, made new by the ice and snow. It was only when you got close that you saw the imperfections, the dripping water, the black snowl kicked up from the car tires, the dirty, messy ugly side of it all. I drove through the night, Jeff Keith's rasp keeping me company on my car stereo. We sang along together about being cowboys of the modern day.
I was on a fool's errand. I knew that when I left, but I also had a feeling that if I didn't try this, I was going to spend the rest of my life wondering why I hadn't. She had hung up the phone in tears, almost wailing that I shouldn't make it any harder than it was. I said flatly, with a calm I did not feel, "I'm coming over. Look out your window," hanging up before she could protest.
Her parents had decided that I had become too much of a distraction for her, and she would be unable to see me for the forseeable future. Her phone call to me, late on a Saturday night as the snow began to fall, was supposed to be the termination point, the graceful exit where she could move on with her life, and I with mine. I rebelled against the whole notion of it, but she maintained there was no point in continuing if we couldn't even exchange phone calls.
I got up and left, not explaining, and the act was enough unlike me that I was in the car headed down the hill before anyone had the time to react. I knew there would be a blizzard of questions when I returned- where did I go, why in the middle of a storm, what could possibly be so important. They would be difficult to answer, but I knew I had to go. Sometimes you have to make your stand, even if it's not on ground you would have chosen.
Her street was close enough to the main drag that it got attention from the plows, so it was relatively easy to make my way to her house. I drove past it, turned around, and came back in front, parking by their mailbox. When I shut the engine off, and the cold began to creep in immediately, the imperfections of my plan were apparent. What if she didn't come out? What if they didn't let her? Was I prepared to stay here all night? What did I think this was going to accomplish?
I got out, shutting the door firmly with a slam that echoed up the street. I decided the pose was to stand against the side of the car, facing the house, which was set on a tiny hill maybe 10 feet higher than the street. There weren't many lights on, but I could tell her bedroom light was on, and someone was watching TV in the family room. I couldn't tell precisely what it was, but there was a lot of black stage with human forms moving around, so it might be ballet or opera on PBS.
It was snowing steadily, the sky a steady, gunmetal gray, spitting relentless waves at you. I couldn't see anyone moving inside, so I decided to just lean against the side of my car and wait. I wished I smoked, so I would at least have something to do with my hands. I looked up into the sky, watching the snow fall. I thought about that famous scene where John Cusack stood outside the girl's window playing Peter Gabriel. I was pretty sure that scene didn't happen in the dead of winter, plus John Cusack is considerably better looking than me. In any case, I had a pretty short window before the roads got fairly difficult, and it was awfully cold, so I hoped she consented to see me soon.
I noticed a few glances- glasses frames peeking over the top of the couch in disbelief, then her unmistakable silouette framed by the light from the TV. I could see the emotion in the way she moved her arms, up and back, shrugging, as if she was asking someone, "What do you want me to do? I didn't tell him to do this." I saw her disappear, and then their front door opened.
Her face was red and wet from crying, her long brown hair stuck to it in places. She had a blue coat on, zippered up over gray sweatpants and plastic little girl boots that had a black and white checkerboard pattern. I remembered a rainy summer day where she wore them and we laughed a whole evening away because they squeaked every time she put her right foot down. She crunched her way across the hard packed snow, finally stopping about a foot in front of me. She was looking down.
"Hi," I ventured.
"You know I'm going to get in trouble for this."
"Well, I guess. But you're already in trouble, right?"
She half smiled and looked at me. Her eyes were red. She was at my eye level because of the slope of the hill. "That's not funny."
"No, it's not."
"What are you doing here? We're supposed to get 10-12 tonight!"
"So why did you come here? You know I can't go anywhere."
"So what is it, then? Why did you drive all this way?"
"A couple of reasons. I wanted to see you, one. Sometimes you have to do things even if they don't make a lot of sense, two. And three, I want to change your mind."
She looked towards the center of town. The lights from the Sunoco looked gauzy and unreal with the snow that was lining our eyelashes.
"You can't change my mind. This is the best way. You can't be someone's girlfriend if they can never see you or call you on the phone. You deserve someone better. Someone who's available. You can't be in a relationship if I can never speak to you."
Her voice seemed to catch on the last sentence. She swallowed, which is what she did when she was nervous.
"I understand what you're saying," I began. "But I don't want anyone else. I'm willing to wait a month, three months, 6 months, I don't care. I'll write you letters-"
"They'll open them-"
"I'll write them in code, then. Or I'll mail them to Shari, and she can give them to you in school. I'll send you telegrams, Morse Code, smoke signals, whatever. I don't care. I just want to be with you."
"You're a lunatic," she said, chuckling, tears still rolling out of her eyes.
"Probably," I said. "It's a cowboy thing," I added lamely. "We're persistent."
We were silent. I motioned for her to step closer.
"They're watching," she whispered.
"I know," I said.
"I can't do this. It's too much."
"I think we can make it work," I said. "I want to. I can take not seeing you for as long as it takes. I just can't stand the thought of being without you. I'll make it. I think it can work."
"I know you think so. But I don't. And this has to be a mutual thing. You can't love me enough for both of us."
She took a step back.
"So this is it?," I asked, my mouth tasting bitter and dry.
"Yeah," she said. "It is. This is too much. You're too much. Even if they weren't grounding me, I...I can't do this. I just can't. I'm sorry you drove all this way. I'm...just...I'm sorry."
She took another step back. Her boot squeaked, then she turned and walked back into her house. As if to dismiss me, their front light went out. I got back into the car and started for home, wipers parting the snow as I went. As the heat burned off the chill and the ice melted away on my windows, Jeff Keith told me I'd find love again. I didn't believe him.