this one time they were sitting in the hookah bar (closed now) taking turns passing the mouthpiece to each other, breathing in deeply and trying not to cough, as if they'd done this a hundred thousand times and when they weren’t listening to the glowing hot coal crackling on the tinfoil they were talking about driving up I-81 and not coming back, but then again maybe it was just him thinking about it that way and she wasn't really thinking about the not-coming-back part at all and yeah, maybe it was just about being in the car with her for a while and he said to her maybe i’ll be a truck driver and she said why would you want to be a truck driver and he said i’d like to be on the road by myself or with someone else sleeping in the back of the cab so they’d be ready to take over the wheel when the sun started to rise again but she didn’t hear what he was trying to say and instead said wouldn’t you have to be away from your family a lot and he said yeah i guess so but think about how much of the country you could see and you also would get paid for it although not very much and he breathed in the vapor again deeply and blew it in no particular direction, letting it pour out of his mouth and out of his nostrils and handed the mouthpiece back to her.
that october when the leaves were changing they did finally drive up 81 like they wanted to and even though they were going because she wanted to see her boyfriend at penn state he still got to see her asleep in the passenger seat when the sun went down and he kept driving kept listening kept hoping something would be different by the time they got there and why the hell did he agree to that trip in the first place, she basically said drive me up to pennsylvania while they were sitting together in the big dining hall huddled on the small two person table with the crowds swirling around them as they were drinking the mediocre coffee and eating the mediocre breakfast food and he said yeah ok that sounds fun and she said what are you gonna do while i’m hanging out with my boyfriend and he said i dunno do some hiking probably and on the long road north she still thought he was just going hiking and that she was just catching a ride but when they got to pennsylvania in the middle of the night he said have fun and she said i’ll text you and he did stay in a hotel just nearby (just in case) and paid way too much for a room with two beds because nothing else was available and he thought well okay maybe this will come in handy later but it never did and so the next morning he packed up his things and ate the continential breakfast he earned and made sure to check his phone for any messages but since there were none he got back in his pickup truck with the smooth although cracked leather seats and drove up through the rolling mountains and every so often he would check his phone or glance over at the empty seat next to him and a couple times he got out by the side of the road so he could take pictures of the truck next to the beautiful vistas against the even richer-colored leaves and he still doesn’t know why he took pictures of the truck against those vistas and not himself but it seemed like the natural thing to do at the time so he kept driving around aimlessly turning down highways when a road sign had an arrow with an interesting town name in that direction and sometimes there’d be a cute town and sometimes just some old structures that looked like houses or maybe barns and some of them were so covered in ivy or so collapsed in on themselves it was hard to tell what they were at all and he wasn’t afraid of getting lost at all since he had his phone and a road atlas which was kinda out of date but the interstates never really change which were the important ones anyway and when he got bored of seeing the same beautiful countryside and taking pictures of the same beautiful vistas (each one an excuse to check his phone) he decided to go see the highest point in new jersey because it was close by (kinda) and which admittedly isn’t all that high but there is a big obelisk up at the top and he laughed when he first saw it because wow were these new jerseyans so self conscious about their flatass state that they went and put up this grandiose tower at the one hill that happened to be just a little taller than the other ones but he would admit it did look pretty cool as he crested the hill in the truck and he did still get a picture of himself at the bottom of the tower and so yeah, he guess he did end up doing some hiking since he had to walk up from the parking lot to the base of the tower which was like 100 yards but it was a little rocky and mostly uphill and when he was driving back through that flatass state he went to go get gas since he was just about on empty and was confused at first when a guy came up and started doing it for him but apparently it’s illegal to pump your own gas in new jersey and the guy asked him what kind of gas do you want and he said uhh regular please since he kind of forgot that there were different kinds of gas and he said ok and then he handed him his credit card when the gas stopped flowing and he put it in the machine and put the gas cap back on and then gave the card back to him wrapped in its receipt and he waved as he drove off towards pennsylvania again and when she finally texted him that she’d probably be ready to leave in a few hours he slid down behind the wheel in the smooth leather seat because he was already in the parking lot, waiting, and he thought he guess he should liea down in the back seat or something but he didn’t at first because he didn’t want to get out of the car in case she was standing at the window of her boyfriend’s apartment staring at the truck and he thought that’s ridiculous she’s not looking at my car right now so he got out and stretched a little bit and then got into the back seat and kind of just scrolled through facebook or something on his phone and also maybe slept a little since it had been a long weekend and then after it had been a couple of hours he texted her and said ok im here and she said ok so he got out of the backseat to go walk up to the apartment but when he was halfway to the building she came out and so he kind of just stopped and waited for her to get to him and then they walked back to the truck together and they got in and he put the car into drive and since the “hiking” was done and the weekend was over they drove back down the way they came and he thought to myself wow i’ll have been in 6 states by the time we get back to virginia tonight and he was gonna tell her but then didn’t say anything and they actually didn’t say very much at all on the way back and when they finally got home she got out and he said see you later and she said thanks again and he said of course and he watched her walk back to her dorm building and go inside.
I’m at the part where when my eyes get to the end of a line, there’s a little bit of delay as they race down and over to start reading the next one. There’s a little bit of delay. I have to wait for my eyes to catch up to the beginning of the next line. I’m at the part where I gotta pee but I don’t really want to give up this table and if I got up I’d probably want to take my bag with me or at least put my computer in my backpack. I’m at the part where she comes down the stairs and walks up to my table and says why are are you doing your homework in a bar and I’d say where else am I supposed to fucking do it since we both know I can’t do it at home and also the radio station is still too damn hot since the AC went out again I just gotta find somewhere to sit. I also need to pee. She’s at the part where she walks over to get another drink and in the time that she’s standing at the bar, flirting with the cute bartender with the long blonde hair, I’m thinking okay if I just close my computer really fast grab my backpack and then sprint to the door I can be out of here before she even knows I’ve gotten up but now she’s turning around and we’re smiling at each other as she’s sitting back down. I imagine a bead of sweat rolling down my forehead. She’s watching the salsa dancers learn how to salsa dance. I get up and say to her I gotta go use the restroom.