When we drive, I feel dizzy.
He’s turning corners at breakneck speed, rushing past stop signs and traffic lights until suburbia melts into the rural area outside our town. We cruise past endless stretches of abandoned farmer’s land, all beige wheat and liquor bottles left over from bush parties.
His hand hangs out lazily from the window of his father’s car, moving along to the beat from the radio. Sometimes we listen to my music, but you can only tolerate shitty pop for so long, so he’s playing his mixed CD with the word ‘indie’ smeared across it in black Sharpie.
He’s a focused driver for the most part, but sometimes he sneaks a glance over at me and laughs as though something’s funny. The noise he makes is the giggle of a schoolboy, dreamy and dizzying. The radio is on full blast, this track he’d sent me a million times.
Sometimes I wish I could turn it down.
“Let’s drive to the city,” he says, and I nod.
He stares through the rear-view and I stare through the side mirror. Everything behind me is dry, even the wind pushing my hair in every direction can’t hide the hundred-degree heat.
He reaches for his plastic water bottle, spilling some down his chin and onto his Buddy Holly shirt. When the clouds open up across our stretch of highway I can see the constellation of freckles across his cheekbones, I remember looking forward to them every summer.
Our speed is disorienting, he insists after one-twenty it all feels the same.
Forty minutes past the large green sign with our town and population written across it he asks me what I’m thinking. I don’t tell him about the two of us staring up to the tops of skyscrapers or unpacking coffee mugs in studio apartments or getting lost together or that rush of air in the subway station as a train departs.
“I’m just glad we got out today.”
He rubs his hand against my arm; his skin is cool against the rural heat.
To our amazing luck, we pass city limits right as the last song on his mixtape ends.
The flat and favourless landscape of wheat fields has been replaced by a horizon line of skyscrapers and power lines. We’re in no-man’s-land, not yet the city but ripe with the promise of it.
He finally slows as he prepares to take the next exit, but I’d adjusted to his speeding ages ago, the dizziness is gone.
We arrive downtown in good time, everything is steely and tinted blue. We’re wedged between a couple grainy yellow cabs for a bit- interestingly, there’s something unnerving about the stillness.
He finds cheap parking and I have to help him figure out the metre. He giggles in a kind of effeminate embarrassment. There’s a breeze by the lakeshore, the pavement is wet as though it’s just rained.
We walk around aimlessly, sifting through shops that are too expensive for our budgets and checking the menus of diners too dodgy for our taste.
We find ourselves waiting in line for something- a concert or a gallery of some sort. Whatever it is, the line is long and packed with kids with interesting piercings and purple in their hair so we assume it’s cool. We sit on the curb, staring up at skyscrapers. Their height feels disorienting, dizzying, like they feel ready to tip at any time. The buildings themselves are dull and grey, the sunlight bouncing off all the many windows makes my eyes hurt.
We decide the line isn’t worth waiting for.
We find an entrance to the subway station, and as we head down the stairs he tells me we’re gonna buy day passes and ride the trains along every route, stopping and exploring the first and last stop of each.
It sounds like a wonderfully calculated adventure to me.
When we get up to the window, he realizes he has no change on him, the guy at the window says he doesn’t accept debit. With a distraught look on his face he says he’s going to look for an ATM, I tell him not to bother. The day’s disappeared before our eyes; I say that my mom had just texted a minute ago to tell me I needed to be home for dinner. He doesn’t question how I got cell service underground.
He suggests we at least take a subway back to the parking lot, I tell him there’s no point, we’ve already gotten ourselves lost. I can tell by the look in his eyes that he’s taken this to mean something else entirely.
He kisses me then, in the subway station, where we’re lost together but not lost together. His lips taste exactly like the charcoal they made me drink that night I’d ended up in the ER because I’d taken too many pills: nothing at all.
I can hear the rush of air from a train leaving the station; I’m just a few feet too far to feel it.
I don’t think he even knows who Buddy Holly is.
We ask an old man how to get to the street where we’d parked, he glared at us through suspicious, steely blue eyes and gave us delightfully detailed instructions. It turned out in all our wandering we’d made it just minutes from our starting point.
When we’re back in the car I ask if we can listen to my radio station and he crinkles his nose and giggles annoyingly. You can only listen to that stuff for so long, he tells me, and we play his mixtape from the top.
We approach city limits, the grey scale horizon behind us and the towering power lines in front of us. We don’t talk and his hand swings carelessly from the window of his borrowed car, gesturing to his music. Once he hits one-twenty it all feels the same. I avoid catching the city’s reflection from the side mirror, and instead stare outwards until I see the stretch of golden wheat fields, stop signs, home.
Megan Hunt is a Canadian writer, editor and undergraduate student at Concordia University in Montreal. Her non-fiction work has been published in a number of small publications, including Affinity Magazine, where she has served as a contributing editor since the summer of 2016. When she isn’t writing somewhere in downtown Montreal, she spends her summers in her hometown outside Toronto, working in the non-profit sector and hanging out with Alfie, the greatest dog in the world.