View Full Version : Driving Home

June 18th, 2015, 04:18 PM
A fierce scarlet evening sun shone through the windscreen. The girl behind the steering wheel, blinded violently, yelled something about how this friggin‘ thing could bugger off, then slowed down and stopped the vehicle on the hard shoulder.
She turned around to her companion who lay dozing on the back seat. For some moments she watched the lean boy with a tender smile.
„Let‘s have a break sweetheart,“ she said.
Michael peered at her, his eyes ajar.
„I‘m all for it!“ he replied yawning.

They sat on the ground in front of the car smoking a joint.
„I think we should consider sleeping here,“ the girl said. She was in her mid-twenties, smallish and bore an ever-happy face. Her long hair, golden like a lake tinted by approaching sunset, was flying in a warm, stiff breeze. The boy eyed her fondly as he took a drag of the joint.
„Right here by the road?“ he asked.
„I saw a path about two miles behind. Looked pretty unused to me. We could park there,“ the girl replied.
„Count me in. I‘m hungry as hell.“

Michael was pouring canned soup into a pot when he heard a rumbling from inside the car.
„Lena? Is everything allright in there?“ he asked.
„Yup,“ she answered with a muffled voice. „Does your cellphone has any power left?“
„It died days ago. What do you need it for?“
„We really should have gotten one of those car chargers,“ Lena murmured.
„I‘m glad we didn‘t.“
Michael was craning his head, trying to see what his girlfriend was doing.
„If I had a phone with me, I‘d probably be browsing petty images of cats by now. What are you trying to do, jeez?“
Lena came crawling out of the car. „I would like to get in touch with my parents,“ she said, „It‘s been five days.“
„How about we stop at the next town tomorrow? We‘ll see if we can get one of those chargers. Albeit we‘re somewhat low on funds. Even if we can‘t get one we‘ll find some place where we can charge our phones for a few minutes. Besides, I could tolerate a shower anyways.“
„Sounds good,“ the girl said, leaning against the car.
„Dinner is ready!“
Micheal turned off the gas cooker. He poured some of the steaming soup into another, smaller pot and handed it to Lena with a broad smile on his face.

The next day, in the early morning, they reached Hampton, a town of considerable size with not only one but two cinemas, some bars and a well-assorted supermarket. They sat in the car, parking at the market‘s layby, counting their money which consisted of nothing but small coins.
„I don‘t think this will do,“ said Michael. He frowned at his palm on which the coins had been placed. „I‘m going to look for a job here, I think.“
Lena nodded.
„Me too. I saw a nifty restaurant when we drove into town. They had a sign outside which said they are looking for personell. Let‘s hunt for a swimming bath or something. I‘ll shower and go to apply for the job. Have you seen my phone anywhere? I can‘t find ... ah there it is! I ... Ooops!“ She dropped the phone as she crawled out of the car. Directly beneath her feet was a drain into which the phone fell. When it hit ground two seconds later, a smashing noise came up.
„That sounded like a nasty impact,“ Lena said after some moments of silence.
„There are no survivors,“ Michael replied in a funny voice, holding his nose. He drew back from his joking when he saw a tear rolling down his girl‘s face.
„Listen,“ he said, „I‘ll charge mine at the swimming bath. We‘ll call your parents and tell them what happened. See, we‘ve been on our way for seven weeks now and phoned them at least once a week, often three or more times. They know we‘re good. We will tell them what has happened and prepare them for us calling less frequent. They‘ll understand.“
He gingerly put his arm around the girl as more and more teardrops rolled down her cheeks, glittering golden as they were lit by the gentle morning sun.

Twenty minutes later they stood cooped up inside a phone booth of desastrous condition. Lena was about to dial the last digit of her parent‘s calling number after she had inserted virtually all of their remaining cash.
„Hello?“ a distant voice said.
„Hi Mum,“ Lena replied, „How‘s things?“
The voice rejoiced.
„Lena! Oh dear girl it‘s been six days! We tried to call you a thousand times!“
„I know Mum. Our phones died. Well, at least mine did, literally.“
„What?“ Lena‘s mom asked, puzzled.
„I... I dropped it only just. It fell down a drain and ...“ again she was sobbing.
Her mother didn‘t really try to comfort her. Her voice turned almost accusing.
„You are careless as always! What about your sweetheart? Couldn‘t he at least text us? We worried, you know?“
„We couldn‘t charge our phones ...“ Lena said apologetically.

Michael was proven right. Her parents understood. However, this didn‘t mean that they were okay with it. They kept asking questions about what the both of them intended to do now, they even made an offer to send a new phone to the town‘s post office and pay for it. They tried everything to persuade the young people to stay in touch at least once a week but eventually Michael took over and stated that they would do just fine with a single phone and they would call whenever possible. This whole trip was about loosening their bonds, about breaking free from their old habits and monotonous lifes. About cutting themselves off from repressive influences.
Truth be told - and he actually told it to Lena - he was happy about the incident because it was a welcome opportunity to centre upon the voyage without the constant urge in the back of his mind to justify each and every step they made to his future parents-in-law.

Lena applied for the restaurant job. She was a good-looking girl and, accordingly, had the post in an instant. She had negotiated weekly payment with the owner and so, after they had feasted on a meagre diet of dry rice, canned soup and tin bread (which got genuinely revolting after three days) they finally found themselves in Hampton‘s supermarket. Michael had been unlucky with his jobhunting but in the afternoon, when Lena had been working, he seized the moment and gone fishing. He had proudly returned with three poached trout which would serve as long-unknown sumptous supper. Besides restocking their provisions, money was spent on yet another phone call to Lena‘s. They reassured her parents that everything was okay, told them about the job Lena was doing and how they planned to save up some cash for fuel. They had a vague predetermined route and intended to reach the next checkpoint - Woodford - in approximately three weeks. Beforehand, they had decided to inform Lena‘s folks about the fact that the appointed time of their next call would be uncertain. The message was received reluctantly and the conversation concluded by a frigid ‚Okay then. Bye‘.
Lena was furious.
„They don‘t give a damn about my plans! I know they are worried, but ...“ she said, frowning in anger. Despite her concerns about her parents and her - self-imposed, as Michael had pointed out - obligation to let them know all their decisions, she was intrinsically looking for emancipation, too.

Michael and Lena had been a couple for nearly three years but due to Michael‘s critical philosophy regarding ordinary jobs - that is, perpetual quitting and hunting for a new one when money got tight - and Lena‘s possessive, paternalistic parents, they never shacked up with another. It wasn‘t until the night Lena had stood on Michael‘s doormat, sobbing, flooding him with quotations from a conversation she just had had with her parents, that they pondered breakout.
„They want me to break up with you!“ she had cried out in the cold darkness of the hallway.
„My parents! The told me to break up with you! They said you are a looser, a scallywag.“ Her shrill voice reverberated in the staircase eerily, unhuman.
Later that night they sat smoking and drinking on Michael‘s couch, looking up a route for a roadtrip. The idea had occured to Michael suddenly and out of nowhere.
„Do you want to go on a journey with me?“ he asked, „Just a drive across the country, meet new people, enjoy the world and ourselves.“
They converted Lena‘s old Volkswagen Golf, installed a bed and some drawers, got hold of various camping paraphernalia and informed Lena‘s parents not more than five days before their departure about the whole thing, anticipating imminent tantrums. Michael had been free of commitments ever since his parents had broken down all communication due to his ‚hippie attitude‘. These were the words they had used and Michael knew quite well that it had been just another way of saying ‚your blazing and joblessness makes us want to puke.‘

So here they were four weeks after the phone incident, the car fully fueled, provisions restocked, light at heart. They even had managed to wangle some weed off some musician passing through. His name was Frank and while they sat together in a parking lot out-of-town, he related tales of his own voyage and recent witnessing of the Rainbow Gathering.
„The rainbow WHAT?“ Michael had asked, giving Frank a suggestive look.
„A penny for your thoughts,“ the guitarist replied, „No kinky stuff. Altough one has good chances to see some bare skin.“ He sipped his beer, then continued:
„The Rainbow Gathering is annually held by the Rainbow Family which in turn is a loose solidarity of people with a certain philosophy. Well, ‚Certain‘ is not quite the right word. One could write a weighty tome about the whole thing I assume, so I‘ll try to sketch it out for you in the shortest possible way. They are a bunch of what most folks would likely call hippies. It‘s different, though. Nearly all sorts of people are represented. Some of them are doing a bank job the whole year through. Others haven‘t worked a single day in their life. There are clutterers living in ragged trailers lying flush against an ascetic 90-year-old former war veteran. Tramps, vagabonds, trippy gurus. All sorts of people, really. Everyone is welcome as long as he sticks to the rules: No violence, no drugs, everyone must help. They meet at the gathering and live completely off the grid for some weeks. Some of them perennial.“
Lena and Michael were mesmerized straightaway.
„So what is this certain - or not - philosophy?“ Lena asked.
„They are fed up with the rest of society. They want to try something new. As I said before, there are lots of different folks. Some of them are just looking for fun and an oppurtunity to get blazed, of course.“
„Didn‘t you mention a no drugs policy?“ Michael said.
„There are no square retired police officers, you know. They won‘t bother anyone as long as he isn‘t harmful to the community. Consensus is, they believe in love and joy and an unoppressive togetherness. They think people can get along just perfectly if everyone is just doing his best to help. There is no hierarchy, no command structure. There is no command at all.“
Lots of questions were asked, concerning how the Gathering was funded, who was in formal charge and of course where the Rainbow Family was to be found. Frank showed them some photos on his mobile phone and they talked and smoked and drank till late at night. When they eventually dispersed, Michael and Lena were glowing with an intense thrill of anticipation. Mirthfully and completely sloshed and baked they lurched back to their car, arms linked, babbling and blurting out visionary plans for living with the Family.

When the sun ferociously stabbed their eyes with her golden spears in the morning the intoxication was gone but the rush still present. Frank, who now appeared to them to be the messiah that had came to enlighten them, had told that the Gathering was still ongoing. They were so full of verve, so enthusiastic and eager that Lena didn‘t even bother to formally quit her job at the restaurant. They drove out of town at early afternoon and stopped by the first gas station where Michael bought an old-fashioned map. When Lena asked him what he intended to do with the antiquitated thing, pointing out that his phone possessed a navigation feature, he gave her a meaningful look and took out his mobile.
„What are you doing?“ Lena said as Michael began to type furiously on the phone.
„I‘m sending a text to your parents,“ he said absentmindedly.
„What about?“
„About us driving home.“
„Home. For home is where you do belong, where you feel enrooted,“ Micheal replied, tossing the phone out of the window‘s car and fastening his seatbelt.