By chris
Date: 2009 Jun 26
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You in the Rearview: A Novel

Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish—a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow—to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested . . . Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.

Hunter S. Thompson

Chapter 1

So on the first date it was probably her face that he noticed first. He was honest enough to admit to being superficial on certain occasions. It was at a Starbucks somewhere on the over-caffeinated, overpaid, underworked part of town: Clothes with unpronounceable labels on them. High-end luxury cars whose owners had to daily weigh their fears of driving them in actual traffic with their desire to be seen by others. A surplus of big, glassy buildings around there that provided services no one really understood to people no one ever saw.

But he saw her. Oh, he saw her very clearly on that day.

So yes, it must have been her face - big, widely-spaced brown eyes you could (and he soon would) get lost in, eyebrows that were fine but no so fine as to suggest too much time spent in front of a makeup mirror, high cheekbones and caramel-brown skin, lips that could have belonged to Angelina Jolie if Angelina Jolie had been (a) Hispanic and (b) beautiful.

Everything else was a blur.

He didn't notice her body until later on in the parking lot - the curves and not-so-subtle (but just right) suggestions of what lay underneath. Had he noticed them he would have turned to tapioca pudding on the floor far earlier than he actually did.

They sat outdoors on the open patio. He was freezing; she looked warm enough. He also imagined her holding a clipboard on that day, on which she checked things off as she spoke (when, in actual fact, she did not). She asked the first question; he tried his best to answer:

"Well, I really didn't prepare for this date. I mean, you know, I came right here from my job. As you can see, my job doesn't really require me to dress up. This is pretty much me every day. I'm a casual person. And like I always say, 'If a company won't let me wear my Hi-Tecs, who needs them anyway?'"

"And you were still late!" She smiled broadly but never did actually laugh at his attempt at humor.

"Yeah, sorry... (As a general rule she used about 1/3 of the words he did - to say the exact same thing. He liked that.)

"It's OK. I don't even dress up for these things anymore. Now I'm like, 'What the hell!'" This time she did laugh. "So what do you like to do?"

"Um… Hiking? But that's just one thing. I could go on - "

"Is that right? All you white guys hike!"

[nervous laughter…followed by a quick recovery] “I also really love to travel. I'd have to say it's one of my passions.”

“Is that right? So do I. But I mean, really, who doesn’t? I think everyone does if they have the money for it.”

“I guess – ”

“Oh yeah. I just got back from LA. Marina del Rey, actually. Met some old friends. You couldn’t actually call them exes, but I guess you couldn’t really call them friends friends either. Well, we’re not gonna go there, right?”

“Right…” He poured more no-cal sweetener into his already-too-sweet raspberry iced tea.

But looking back on it later, all of this recollection was strictly what might be seen through a rearview mirror - like those fleeting (but beautiful) images of cactus and heat-shimmer you see on a desert highway as you beat it out of town... In reality she might have been more or less gracious than he remembered; she might have laughed at more of his jokes. And in reality, they never did get together again after that until much later.

But he did not forget her. He carried those hastily-processed pictures of her in his head off to Rhode Island, where he spent Christmas with his family. He carried her memory down haunted country roads where the pine trees choked out what little sunshine there was. He sat on rocky New England beaches and tried to remember what her voice sounded like. He fell asleep to the white noise of the pounding surf and realized that it made no sense for him to be so preoccupied with someone he didn't really know - and might never get to know.

After all, he reasoned, she could be a real…bitch! But even as he thought it, the idea felt somehow ridiculous. “Couldn’t she? Couldn’t she?” He looked around the room foolishly as though he’d just dared to declare that that the Earth was in fact flat.

Later, he looked out the window at the lighthouse a couple of miles up the coast. Its light stretched out over the waves, through the cold, saturated, salty air, and he thought -

Is she thinking of me too at this very moment?

The answer came quickly, and it actually caused him to smile a little.

Probably not.