One Sunday morning they had to cross Sweden from East to West, carrying most of the stuff with them. Some of them took literally everything; some left something behind them and thought they would come back for it. They had to set off in the early morning, right after the sunrise. The roads were empty and wide, without a soul. They were not prepared for this journey; they discovered they will have to go on the road just a few days ago. It didn’t bother them.
The journey was about to begin and the last people were still rushing in and out of the house because they kept forgetting things. When they finally got all the things they thought are theirs and all the ones they needed, they were finally ready to set off, with John by the wheel of their green trusty “lemon”. When they were about to leave, the Russian proposed a toast back there in the back seat, where he sat with Christopher.
“Let’s drink at the beginning of this journey so it will feel a little shorter. For safe passage through Sweden and its curvy roads ahead of us.”
He poured two shot glasses with vodka for people who sat in the back seat. Everyone in the car was laughing and the sun was shining in their eyes, except for John who wore sunglasses every time he had to drive a car on a sunny day.
But the laugh was fading away as the car was about to pull on the highway. John – the driver – decided to fill empty car spaces with indie music to strengthen the positive vibe. Rafael, who was sitting next to John in front of the car, sank in his own thoughts in the exact moment when he put on his headphones and started listening to his own music, loud enough for others to hear it slightly. When they pulled on the highway, Russian’s voice rose up once more.
“Now we’ll drink for this car to reach a hundred kilometers per hour!” Right after the first shot was gone, Christopher continued.
“And another one for it to speedometer to go higher that one hundred. Let’s say one hundred and ten.”
“Yes, let’s drink to that also.”
The smell of vodka was filling the car slowly, shot after shot. Rafael opened the vent of the car above their heads. With anticipation what will happen when the car will reach hundred and ten, he pushed gas pedal a little more. Seeing his reaction Russian knew what he has to do, as he slowly started pouring another shot.
“This is probably the last one we drink, after this the bottle is gone,” Christopher continued.
“Then let’s drink this for ten kilometers more.”
John couldn’t believe it. The fact that the bottle was empty after just a few attempts, even though it was half full at the beginning, left him speechless – after all, they were on the highway for only half an hour. While checking the map for directions and listening to some drunk conversation in the back seat, John tried to shift his mind on the road and music he put on some time before. Navigation was showing turn after turn, that’s how John knew they were still in the city, slowly getting out of the concrete jungle. Out of a sudden navigation showed turn at two hundred kilometers distance. He knew that the straight road was ahead, and the idea of pushing a car to hundred and twenty popped up in John’s mind. Downhill was ahead, a perfect opportunity to use scientific knowledge. He slightly pushed the gas pedal and the car started to go at a desirable speed. With happy emotions, he called out to the guys sitting in the back seat, who were drifting somewhere in their minds, looking through the window.
“Dudes, do you see this, hundred and twenty!”
“It’s because we drank for it,” Christopher added, as John noticed the car trembling weirdly. It was either because of an uneven road or pushing it so far wasn’t a good idea.
He slowly lifted his feet from the gas pedal. Driving with number two hundred in his mind, thinking it will probably soon be the half of the trip, the end of his steering for today as Rafael will take his place on the driver’s seat. Russian’s head popped through the two front seats with one question coming John’s way.
“When are we stopping?”
“After two hundred, is there anything you need?”
“Two hundred, I can’t take that long. I need to take a leak, is there any place closer, it just can’t be two hundred for the closest stop?”
“Okay, okay, I’ll stop at the closest gas station.”
Few minutes passed and the car was steering of the highway, in search of the gas station. Suddenly, the road felt complicated, as if it wouldn’t be a highway anymore. Free parking space was all that John wanted, despite the Russian telling him that he can stop at any kind of bushes right next to the road.
When they finally got to the gas station, both Russian and Christopher went inside, leaving both John and Rafael in the car. Rafael continued to listen to music on his headphones. A little stop didn’t bother him, he had no needs. After a few minutes, Christopher came out of the gas station. Both John and Rafael started to imagine scenarios about what happened to the Russian since they both went inside together and should therefore also come out together. Rafael had to ask.
“Where’s the Russian, Christopher?”
“I don’t know, I thought he already went out here. It seemed stupid to wait for him.”
“It seems like there was something more than a simple leak,” and all three of them started laughing uncontrollably. Once the Russian walked out of the gas station and saw them all laughing, he asked them what’s so funny that they all are laughing, but they all said that it’s nothing to worry about. Russian was drunk enough, drunk until the stage when he got kind and bought a pack of popcorn for the front seat and bag of chips for the backseat. There was no time to waste, quickly steering out of the parking lot they drove on the highway and continued their way more to the West.
Trees were aligning all together as the road was dividing the forest into two lines. John was focusing on the path and ignored the conversation that was going on in the back. The drunk discussions were led by both individuals, leaving Rafael drifting in thoughts of his own. He joined their conversations from time to time. Strolling down a half hour from their last stop at the gas station, already getting comfortable again with the road, John was positive he could go like this for an hour. Suddenly, the Russian spoke from the back.
“Can you look for another stop? I need to take another leak.”
“Are you serious, we just stopped half an hour ago. Did you even went to the toilet after all?” John felt like one of those bus drivers, taking school kids on the field trip.
“It’s the beer, I promise it’s the first one and the last one.”
“Okay, I’ll stop at the next possible option.”
Before John could finish his sentence, exit from the highway was already on the right side of the road. It was the place with only a few chairs with tables underneath the roofs, made for people who traveled far distances and decided to catch a breath over some meal. People were walking with dogs, as they needed the satisfaction of their basic needs as well. Signs were pointing to the rain in near future, few clouds appeared and everyone could feel few raindrops hitting their faces. As everyone went outside of the car, some for smoke and some for the toilet, an idea popped into John’s head. Within every stop, it would be a good opportunity for the leg stretch. The exhausting feeling was lifted after a few stretches while he was waiting for Russian, who tried to be as quick as possible, knowing that everyone is waiting on him.
Turned his head around saying “Ready?”, getting only a simple nod with the meaning of yes, John turned the car key in the ignition and set off to the highway. Coming closer to the west, almost done with the two hundred kilometers shown before, John was feeling slightly tired. He was trying to find someplace to steer off from the highway, knowing he can go further, maybe even until the end. After seeing accidents, shown on the internet, and hearing all the stories about people who passed out driving, a slight worry struck his head.
All the passengers in the car were sleeping or drifting in some parallel universe of their own making, some imagining themselves as kings or victors. The only person paying attention to the road was John, who was quite tired. Rafael was still there, somewhere between reality and someplace else. Skipping stop after stop, thinking he can make it until the end of the trip, John kept repeating the same line in his mind: “Just one third left and I did it”.
A sudden hunger strike led John to hear his own bell. It sounded much like a scream of a whale who got washed on the shore five hours earlier; that was the wake-up call for switching seats with Rafael.
The light in the distance, the gas station, a place where change could happen. Rest and food were the only things on John’s mind. For others, like Christopher, it was the smoke, the cigarette, a slight satisfaction of an addiction for the next hour.
Rest, food, a slight recognition of how little is needed for a man’s satisfaction after hours of driving with two drunks on the backseat. They were about to leave the gas station, yet another stop before reaching their goal, and as always they were waiting for the Russian, who had another hunger strike. Everyone sat in their seats, looking through the windows and figuring out where is the guy.
“Where is he, the exit is just right there. Did any of you saw him coming out?”
“I don’t think so, do you think he might still be shopping for something?”
“Shopping for food, for the last five minutes. It is a small shop, a simple gas station with high prices for a guy like him. Think he is being extra picky there?”
“No guys, there he is.”
Coming out from behind another car who was parked right next to them, a stealthy sneak up made them think he did that on purpose.
“Didn’t expect this, huh. I had a feeling I’ll surprise you three.”
None of the other’s tongues moved after the statement he made about him sneaking up. The only sound coming among the four of them was the sound of an engine. Rafael was one of the guys who liked to push cars to their fullest potential, leaving John with a slight feeling it wasn’t the right time to let him drive.
After opening the lunchbox he prepared at home, the feeling that something is wrong finally disappeared. Leaving the gas station they started to notice raindrops on the car’s windshield, which raised a slight discontent to everyone except John; he was focusing only on stuffing his belly. Clouds were closing in, covering sunbeams as they drove closer to their destination. They were beginning to appear in dark blue colors. That meant only one thing, they were driving in a storm.
The four travelers were about to face the last test. As the two-thirds were sunny and easy, the last, third part of the trip, promised a difficult road. John felt happy, not because of satisfying the hunger, but because of the choice, he made before the gas station. A choice which seemed like it was made just in time.
It only took minutes before little raindrops began turning into a shower, covering all the car in a wet coat of water, giving it a slight mirror effect. The windshield was now completely covered with water, which made Rafael turn on the wipers. They were totally broken, John was sure about that, and the rest of the car also. They were making a scratching sound every time they wiped the water from the window. The rain was getting heavier and the roads were getting flooded. Rafael dropped speed significantly with all the other cars in front of theirs; a sudden change in weather made the highway from the high-speed road to regular city speed.
Guys in the backseat were halfway passed out; the rain had put them in good sleep. John was sitting next to Rafael in a lotus position with a notebook. He had an idea of a good story to come and wanted to start on it right away. Rain helped him writing a script, but music wich Rafael put on the speaker was knocking his thoughts off. Ideas of chapters were sitting somewhere in the middle of it all, somewhere between the calm sound of raindrops, which slid down the side windows, and the sound of a body moving party music which was in the language none of them understood, except Rafael and Christopher. Music made everyone want to do something, for some it was speaking, for Rafael it was speeding up constantly, leaving John to wonder how this kind of music can drive such a dose of adrenaline in people.
Two sounds, the peace with calm and aggression with adrenaline, left everyone chose the preferable to focus the mind on. Soon there were no cars in front of them, as the last car left away in the left direction and Rafael stepped on the gas pedal harder. That left some of them to pay more attention to the road, a third of it was covered in water, which increased the chance of an accident. John felt minor feeling how crazy he is on extreme weathers like this one. Refocusing his eyes on the script, forgetting about the road in front of them, without paying attention to any source of sound except for rain, as it remained the same, no matter how heavy it got. Dark clouds were fading and reappearing in the sky like designated traffic lane, coming right after the another, some bigger than the last ones. An hour had passed since the sky started dropping raindrops on their trusty ‘lemon’. After a few minutes, like a sight for hope, skies were getting clearer. A sign they were waiting for, the west coast was near, they could feel it.
As some of them rose up from naps they took a while ago, Rafael briefed them up on how much they still have to drive further. The last hour of the drive was here. Their friends were waiting for them on the other side of Sweden. Perhaps that was the reason Rafael was speeding so much. Others were waiting for the destination, but not John; he was amazed by Sweden’s changing nature, from flat land to mountains. He was trying to look for changes which occurred in the last half of the year. When curved roads with turn after turn changed in ups and downs, the rollercoaster as John referred to it, it was certain they arrived on the West coast. Familiar places looked the same way as the last year, giving a memory of it to them. All four travelers started to discuss their plans for that Sunday’s evening. Some decided to drink, some just wanted to have peace and to feel safe with both feet on the ground instead of inside the car, no matter how trustworthy it is. The last city before their home was half an hour drive away and they didn’t feel this close to their destination at any point on the way. They felt like they were already home. Home, west coast was their home.