“Matthew. Matthew, wake up. We have to go.”
Matthews eyes slowly opened from Caroline’s voice, who was standing beside his left ear and shouting in it. Lifting his head and barely watching through half squeezed eyes he noticed how far is the sun from rising above their heads. With sore eyes, he watched how sun slowly was rose above the horizon; how it began shinning in his face the moment it got passed the horizon of the road ahead. Matthew blindly looked for the sunglasses in the glove box because shine from the sun felt unbearable for his eyes. Halfway woke up he got out of the van to take a piss. Midway through his business he heard Mike voice coming from the inside of the van, it was barely hearable, but Mike made himself noticed that he woke up as well. A second passed and Mikes face was already through the driver’s window, staring at Matthew.
“Matthew. Ready for morning joint?” Mike raised his eyebrows with enthusiasm – up and down
“I think I’ll pass. Besides, I have to get to the Amsterdam and don’t want something like yesterday evening, happen again.” Matthew zipped his pants and got to the window of the van, where Mikes’ head was peaking out “Shall we go?”
“Sure grumpy pants,” Mike moved to the back of a van and on the way there continued talking “I’ll be in the back rolling filters for the joints. Boy, we’re gonna have fun in Amsterdam.”
“Sure you will,” Caroline added with sarcastic voice
Matthew acted like a dead fish and decided to ignore both of them until he gets to the closest gas station for coffee. From the mornings he had, this one was the worst. Besides sleeping for a couple of hours there was withdraw from last evening smoking, which felt like a floating mess in his head. He couldn’t get his thoughts straight. Mingling through the cloudy mind, trying to pick on the thought how he’s gonna contact Ruth once he’s in the Amsterdam. The only clue he had was the address of a place that Ruth gave him through the last conversation. Matthew didn’t have much to go on, but he had a place where to start and for him, it felt like something rather than nothing.
Determined to get to the Amsterdam before afternoon he turned his car keys in the ignition. Once the old engine jumped up and filled the quiet morning with its revving, Matthew noticed a few lights turned on on the panel behind the steering wheel. He noticed that there was another reason for him to stop at the gas station – fuel. Apparently, all of them were driving without a stop through the whole country and forgot to check the fuel level in the van. Luckily for Matthew, it turned on only now, but he had no idea where was the gas station and maps on the phone showed only ones that are off their route. They would have to make a small circle in order to get the fuel and once again Matthew had a choice, to go for a safe solution or go with the one that will get him faster to Amsterdam. Not knowing which one to decide, he turned his head to Caroline and Mike.
“Guys, what do you think. Should we get the fuel now, which is a slight detour or continue our way to Amsterdam and get the fuel on the way?”
“We can make a detour, I don’t mind.” Caroline gave him a simple answer, while Mike was shouting the opposite from the back.
“Dude, why should we take the detour? Let me see,” Mike jumped to the front and took a peek into the fuel meter “Man, we can go on the highway and eventually we’ll see a gas station. We don’t have to make a detour for such a thing because you’re probably gonna make it.”
Caroline didn’t even bother to correct Mike because Matthew wouldn’t listen if she’d tried. After the last night, Matthew barely spoke to Caroline and Mike became his best friend again. There was no point for reasoning with Mikes logic, and Matthew followed it without a second guess.
With a decision to go on the highway and look for the closest gas station, they began moving forward to Amsterdam. Sun was almost up above the horizon and last part of it was still mingling somewhere behind it. Fresh air was blowing inside the van from the front window. Mathew put the indie music on the stereo and all the worries disappeared, while memories of Nicole surfaced. He drove on the highway and remembered how he, with Nicole, drove from one’s country to other; how they shared the night in there, without a worry for tomorrow. The memory of Nicole and him made Matthew forget about Caroline and Mike for a brief moment, but he couldn’t drift away for a longer time. Matthew wanted to stay in that memory forever, but Caroline’s words were snapping him out of it. She was singing along to a song that was playing in the stereo – apparently, she knew most of them. Matthew checked on Mike from time to time. Looking through the back mirror, to see what he’s up to, but besides rolling paper in his fingers or sleeping there wasn’t anything that would catch Matthews attention for more than a few seconds. Matthew forgot how it was when he drove in complete silence with them because now there wasn’t anything that would make them sit in quiet.
Countless kilometers passed away and Matthew began to get worried about the fuel and how long it will take to reach a gas station. Regret for agreeing to Mikes risky decision started raising doubt in Matthews’ head. He was about to say something to him until Caroline pushed him off that though.
“Look,” she pointed out to the sign “gas station, finally. You can get your coffee and the fuel.”
She smiled, and optimism could be seen all over her face. Matthew didn’t understand why she’s so happy. Despite yesterday’s argument, she was looking fine. Caroline smiled with a lovely grin more often than Matthew would expect and out of curiosity he asked her.
“Caroline, why you’re so joyful this morning?”
“It’s simple Matty. Day drinking.”
She lifted a bottle of vodka they bought some time ago. Vodka was almost empty, only last few drops of it remained in the bottle and clarity came over Matthew. He realized that Caroline probably felt depressed because of the last night’s argument. For a moment Matthew felt slight pity about her, but he couldn’t believe that she started drinking in the early morning. Not that she was acting out of her character; fact that she was starting to smell like booze got Matthew slightly disappointed in her.
They didn’t spend much time in the gas station – the quick run for fuel and coffee. Matthew didn’t want to spend more time than necessary and move on to the next country, which was a few kilometers after the gas station. Before coming to the border, Matthew started to get slightly nervous. Not because something could go wrong, but because knowing that Ruth is in the same country he’s driving in. When the border came, he was surprised – only a few cars stood there, waiting in line. Thinking that he’ll probably have to show papers, he prepared them in advance and drove slowly with the whole line. When it come to the ID checking booth he was surprised because none of the guards cared for him, they just swang their palm sideways. Handwave like that meant only one thing – he’s free to pass. Without showing papers or anything, Matthew thought that they probably already checked him through the database, after all, everything is connected these days. The moment they passed the border and drove a small distance into the Netherlands, Mike began shouting through the whole van.
“AMSTERDAM! AMSTERDAM! AMSTERDAM!”
Matthew looked int the back mirror and smiled at him. Their eyes met each other and Mike thought it was an invitation to the front of a van.
“I see you’re super excited to be in this country Mike.” Caroline said
“Of course, why wouldn’t I be. I and Matthew were planning to go here for a year, or two.”
“A year.” Matthew corrected Mikes sentence
“Yeah, yeah, a year. God, I can’t wait when we’re gonna get to the capital. Probably Ruth can’t wait for you either. If she’s still there.”
“Ya. If she’s still there.” Matthew said in quiet voice, which sounded slightly depressed.
“No worries, she’s there. I can feel it.” Caroline tried to cheer up Matthew, but she didn’t know if it was working. Lately, she wasn’t sure if anything that is said to Matthew works.
Matthew wasn’t sure if Ruth is still in the capital, but he knew that he has to get there. Thinking that perhaps she left some kind of a clue there. Another note or message for him to follow up. He wasn’t sure, but something in his heart was telling him that in the Amsterdam he’ll find the answer he’s looking all along. Matthew felt like his search is finally coming to the end, but he wasn’t sure if it isn’t one of his thoughts once again.