Being on the road began to feel natural. Sticking besides the wheel and steering towards south Europe. Southwest, if they wanted to be precise. Feeling endless asphalted road stretching from their country to the next one and then the next, and next one. Matthew never thought of stopping anywhere. He would go without a stop and be there at the finish line by this time – at least that’s what he thought. While he wanted to get to the bottom of Europe, other decided to enjoy the ride, and that is when the stops began to appear. First was the Caroline with her urge for a touch of nature, and now, now it was Mike. Instead, Mike had a different plan. The plan of getting off this reality and drift somewhere in his mind.
Caroline’s eyes began closing from the road going on continuous repentance. Quickly she joined Mike and passed out besides Matthew, on the front seat of the van. Matthew turned his head towards her, then Mike. Understanding that he’s alone again he kept going. ‘Onwards’ his mind would scream. Shut off from thought about them both passed out, and he kept going forward.
Hours had passed and Mikes yawning could be heard from the back. His waking yawn made him sound like a whale whos on hunger strike for weeks. Finally, he rubbed his eyes with his knuckles and peaked at the front of the van.
“Matthew, why the signs are written in polish, and I’m waking up only now? I thought we discussed this between us.”
“Yeah, I changed my mind about the smoking. That is why when Caroline passed out I just kept driving forward.”
“Huh.” Caroline’s eyes opened curiously
“Morning sunshine.” Mike smiled towards her, hiding disappointment behind the smile “This guy didn’t stop before the border, could you believe that?” he complained about it to Caroline, but she didn’t care, she just nodded and smiled.
“What’s the big deal about it, Mike. Are you really that big of a junkie? Can’t you find anything else to feel satisfied?” The argument began raising up.
“Matthew, don’t start it. Remember it’s not me whose glued to the idea of finding what’s might not even be there.”
“Oh right. Because you’re the ‘Mr. I have it figured out’”
“Dudes, dudes. Do you even hear each other?”
Caroline stepped between their argument and began defusing the situation. Mike shrugged, he wouldn’t have it this way. He sat back and began rolling the joint, despite Matthew telling him all the time that they won’t smoke while driving – that was his golden rule. Mike decided to ignore it.
“Mike what the hell are you doing?” Matthew calmly spoke, while looking into Mikes face in the back mirror reflection
“Nothing, just taking an edge off.”
“Do you even listen to what I said about ‘not smoking while we’re driving’?” Matthew’s voice strengthened and he was about to drive off the highway.
“Do you even listen to what I say?” Mike continued with his stubbornness
“I do. I just changed my mind this time. You were sleeping, so in the end, it’s your fault. You can put it like this – I simply forgot to wake you up because I focused on the road.”
Mike still wouldn’t listen to Matthew, he was about to finish rolling. When he began pulling out his lighter, Caroline’s serious face turned at him from the front side seat. She stared into his eyes and started swearing at him. Saying that his lack of respect and careless attitude will get them in trouble. Just like the last time.
“At least the last time you made trouble only for yourself mate,” Caroline stated.
Her words stang his chest and his face turned paler, he began feeling slight empathy for others. For a moment he played with lighters spark while held joint in one hand and lighter in the other. Staring into a vans floor for a couple of minutes, just to realize what he’s doing. Mike put back everything he prepared and lowered into the mattress, muttering ‘sorry guys’ under his nose. They couldn’t hear it under the music which filled the van on their journey. Caroline watched how he lowers into the mattress and smiled, smiled because she convinced him to not do the stupid thing for once. She turned back to Matthew and smiled.
“He’s passing out again.” She grinned.
They drove for half an hour. On the road which made no sense for slowing down, but few cars did that. Changing lines from one to other, overtaking other vehicles on the highway. Matthew van wasn’t built for that. That is why he stood in the right lane and watched how all the other drivers pass by him. Some slowed down in front of him, but he tried to remain cool with it. He felt no urge of speed – not that he could in the first place. Hours into the road without a stop and Matthew desire to stop grew bigger, he was getting hungry.
“I have an idea,” he paused for a while “Mike!” he shouted towards Mike, who raised up in an instance. Caroline looked at Matthew with curiosity what’s about to happen.
“You want to stop and go for a smoke?” Mike winked into the back mirror where Matthew face reflected
“No, but we will take a break. I’ hungry and tired of driving.”
“Ahhh yeah, I was waiting for this.”
“But you were asleep.” Caroline confidently said.
“You really thought I was sleeping, did you. Don’t say that you too Matthew?” he didn’t give Mike the satisfaction for the answer he awaited, he just drove quiet “Fair enough, I’ll take that as a yes. Anyways, I was just staring into the rasta flag which covers the whole ceiling of a van, and it gave me chill. Not like in a cold way or anything; just the chill vibe, you know what I mean. I couldn’t fall asleep, but I wondered. About this, about us all. It’s strange.”
“Mike, did you smoke already?” Matthew looked at him through the back mirror which now served as face to face communication.
“Nou.” He grinned funny.
“Mike, I thought we talked about this.”
“Relax, I didn’t smoke, yet. I’m just fucking with you man. You, on the other hand, could use some. You seem pretty intense.” Mike finished the sentence and lowered back into the mattress, humming some song lyrics under his nose.
They left the highway on to the gas station, which hangs beside the highway. It’s wasn’t the van which asked for it, but Matthew and Mike. One was hungry for food and break, while the other wanted to satisfy he’s junkie urge. Caroline stood quietly as always, she only spoke when there was a need for her voice or a comment. Caroline went to the gas stations toilet right after they stepped out of the van. She was gone and Mike began poking Matthews shoulder with a grin on his face. Matthew evasively dodged the conversation about the Caroline and began digging into the back of a van for food. Founding food was easy but preparing it was a different thing. ‘Guess I’ll eat it raw’ Matthew though to himself. Grabbing few bananas from the bag, with a few bread slices he began satisfying his hunger. Mike stared at him, how he devoured the poor bread and couldn’t help but laugh at it.
“Just like that, release your inner savage Matthew,” he laughed “I’m going for a drag, wanna join?”
“Naa.” With full mouth he refused.
Mike stepped away from the gas station, in the spot which people didn’t overlook. Sat down on the grass and lid up the smoke into the air. It quickly filled the air around him and Matthew’s face turned in his direction, nodding left and right which meant ‘no’. Mike smiled at it, raising his thumb in the air.
When Caroline came back from the gas station Mathew was finished with his so-called ‘victim’ as Mike described it.
“What is he doing there?” she asked.
“Can’t you smell it?” he inhaled through his nostrils as a gesture.
“Yeah, mates crazy. Doesn’t he know that cop could pass by and he’s in the open like that?”
“Does it look like he cares?” they began laughing.
Mike catching them both laughing began walking towards them, tossing the smoked joint into the closest bin on the way. He came close and began encouraging them to get moving or stay there. Part of him cared about this place, other, not so much. He just jumped in his favorite place in the van – the mattress. Mike sarcastically confessed that it’s the only thing in that van which truly supports him, but Matthew didn’t hear that part, he was busy talking with Caroline. Exchanging a few words before departure. Caroline made him smile and he made her smile. Like in those tales about the princess and stable boy, where they fell in love at the end of a story, but this wasn’t that kind of story.
“Should we go mate?” she asked.
“Yeah, let’s go.”
Both got in and began leaving the gas station when they saw a girl with her thumb in the air. She stood at the exit from the gas station. By the looks of her, she came far or just began going far. Matthew could hear Mike saying that they should pick her up, and Caroline stood quietly as always. Matthew stopped beside her with a rolled down the window.
“Where are you going?”
“Forwards, just forward. Destination really doesn’t matter for me.” She smiled
“Okay then, hop in.” Matthew started to roll down the window, Caroline moved to the back to join Mike, saying that Matthew rather gets to know the stranger.
“Name’s Wanda by the way,” she tossed her bag on the floor of a van “what’s yours?”
“Matthew.” He smiled
“Just like from the Bible,” she chuckled “sorry, I’m just very excited you picked me up. I waited for hours here. No one stops at this gas station.”
“No one, except this van.” He laughed, they both did.
Again it was him and the road; except this time he wasn’t alone. Wanda began telling a story as they started to drive away from the gas station. Caroline and Mike began passing out in the back, for them Wanda’s company didn’t change anything.