“Just text him, we’re almost there”
Joy grabbed my phone and closed her passenger side window. The phone screen buzzed, 2:43 PM. Only five hours late, Queen of Egyptian timing. Everyone else from church is probably in Florida by now, an hour or two away from the retreat center. I should text one of them to save us three dinners; I’m hungry. Thank God I threw snacks into the car last night, I wouldn’t have remembered today.
My car pulls into my usual spot at Starbucks. Shoot, my headlights are still on. The front of my car scrapes against the concrete block as I shift to park. Anthony squints back at me through the tall window, taking out his ear buds and closing tabs. Two empty coffee cups sit beside him. I wonder how long he’s been here waiting. He’s already up by the time I make it to the door, tripping over his Mac charger on the way over to me. Do his eyebrows always crease in the middle like that?
“Are you okay?”
The lady at the counter looks up as Anthony hugs me and out of the corner of my eye I see Joy darting into the bathroom with a bundle of clothes in her arms. Really? I’m the one who’s gonna be driving. I should have gotten first dibs for the bathroom. I just want to get out of these clothes. Put something, anything, other than black on.
“Yeah, I just need to get out of these clothes. Then we’ll go. Can you order my usual?”
“Okay. But listen, I’m driving”
A week’s worth of arguing disappears as he finally lets me out of his hug and rubs my arm up and down. My goose bumps scratch at his hands. I’m cold?
“Fine. Wait, get it hot, not iced.”
I shuffle through my pile of clothes until they fall out, announcing that they have reached the tiled floors through a series of clattering sounds and stares from people behind screens. God why do they all have to be here. I just want to leave. He bends down to pick them up, kissing my forehead as he turns towards the car. A piece of my hair follows his lips. Winter always makes it staticky. As I gather it into some kind of ponytail, the bathroom door swings open. Joy comes out, transformed. Black isn’t really her color, it clashes with the brightness of her eyes. The yellow and gray sweats are a much better fit, and she snickers my way before meeting Anthony at the car.
“Dude. Mirror. You look like death”
She holds the door open for me as I gather my sweater into my arms and enter the bathroom, ready for a change of mood. Great move, Christine, wear make up to a funeral. Genius. The dampened toilet paper leaves crumbs around my eyes as I violently scrub away any evidence that I had cried. I shouldn’t have. Not for her. I mean, she’s the one that left us.
Someone knocks at the door.
“Ugh, someone’s in here”
“Yeah I know, I forgot my pants in there can you grab them?”
Only my sister could forget her pants in a Starbucks bathroom. I grab them and leave, looking down at the bright red sweater with Georgia printed boldly across it. Much better, and comfortable enough for a road trip.
“Hey, should I move…this…or?”
Anthony is standing by the open trunk, pointing at something. Shoot, I almost forgot about that thing. I don’t care what you do with it just don’t make me see it again. I never want to see it again.
“I don’t care. I just don’t want to see it.”
I turn the corner of the car. Creepy, I could swear the portrait sized funeral picture is laughing at me, almost saying Oh; you thought I couldn’t ruin anything more for you. You thought your mind could leave my memories behind. Watch me. I break eye contact with it long enough to finally see the picture I avoided looking at all morning. Huh, she left her hair the same all these years? Were there any new wrinkles that my childhood hadn’t memorized? No. This picture must be from before she left.
We bought a house just for her to move in with us after Grandpa passed, spending way outside our budget. She left her own daughter, my mother, to move in with an uncle who ended up dumping her into a nursing home. Why? Why. The question played on repeat in my mind for years until I answered it myself at the age of fourten, while other kids’ minds were on innocent crushes. I decided that the answer was simply “the world just does not make sense”. A simple epiphany, one I still think every day. One day she was there and the next she was packing her bags because her son “needed” her in New York. I need her here. He was always her favorite, and while my mom cared for three of us and worked daily, he gambled his family away. We cared for her; I remember her stories about the nuns at the schools she attended in Egypt. How she filed her nails every day, the scent of mink coats hung up in mothball filled closets. Our family was so estranged now that I couldn’t even let people know that the funeral today. If people came, they would have met my uncle, and my Mom didn’t want his crazy to affect my reputation. It’s over now; I never have to see him or her ever again. Couldn’t she have waited until after this retreat to…
My stream of consciousness ends as Joy nudges me over and grabs the picture, throwing it face down and plopping Anthony’s bags over it. She is barely gentle enough to spare the stand that prods out the back. I wipe a single tear from the corner of my eye. The world just does not make sense.
Anthony doesn’t open my door. Ever. We both decided years ago that it was a waste of time and I’m at least strong enough to open a door. I guess the toilet paper make up wipes didn’t work as well as I thought they did.
Today, he opens my door.
“You will arrive at your destination at 10:53 PM. Fastest Route available.”
The GPS lady provides a much needed distraction from my own thoughts. We miss one lecture, dinner, and some icebreakers at the retreat. I hope no one there asks why I’m late. Please don’t ask. Please don’t. Not today.
“I’ll play your music, no worries”
Thank God. I’m not exactly in a Bon Jovi kind of mood.
“Shoot, my coffee”
“Oh man, I completely forgot. Want me to run back in?”
I see Joy in the rear view mirror. She is fumbling with something in the trunk as I feel my car take a slight jump. Anthony’s bag is now next to her, destined to become her pillow for the next 8 hours. I hear nails on glass and the frame scratch against my trunk bed; I can see the outline of the gray hair. She drops the picture after a moment and looks back towards the front; her eyes glisten as they lock with mine. Yeah, Joy. I miss her too. I turn slowly towards Anthony, who has been watching Joy struggle. He doesn’t say anything about his bag.
“No, let’s just leave.”
Christine Adamamy is a fourth year student at UGA. She hopes to be an Elementary school teacher and loves writing on the side whenever she can. Her hobbies include reading, Netflix binging, and all things dog related.