Big Jerk and I sped down the road to Vegas with blue skies above and heat shimmering off the asphalt. The day burned hot, and as the sun rose higher, my teeny Hyundai shuddered and shook from trying to process the 100-degree air outside. I kept a wary eye on the temperature gauge as Big Jerk and I discussed what life together would hold. By Baker, it became increasingly clear he had little intention of being either truthful or jerk-less, and as the conversation escalated, the temperature kept pace. By Barstow, both the car and I were close to exploding.
I pulled off the road and limped my car into town. By this time, I understood that Jerk and I probably weren’t going to work out. He continued to feed me stories and make promises, but I poked holes in every one. Most distressing? He had a girlfriend waiting for him in Chicago, which confused me because I was his girlfriend sitting next to him in a car right that minute. Of course in his words, the gal in the Midwest? Was just a “friend” who was a “girl.” Who took showers with him. Friendly, indeed!
“Look at that!” I shouted to him. “100 miles into our cross-country drive and you have a girlfriend! What am I going to discover in the next 1,994 miles?”
So under this balmy stink cloud of heartbreak (again) and subterfuge, we checked into a motel to sweat out the afternoon. We’d opted to wait out the day’s high temps and drive by night when it was cooler. As I sweltered on the polyester plaid bedspread, I listened (again) while he explained himself. He loved me! he said. I was the one! he claimed. He will make it up to me! he promised.
God bless me and my sweating brain, my stupid, stupid 20-something-year-old heart chose to believe him (again). And so instead of running away screaming into the muggy day of doom, I thought: What strong muscles he has! What white, even teeth! What a cheating, black tarry-hearted soul! But what a babe!
Someone please send me back in time so I can talk my dopey self into running away from 1993 Barstow.
This is about the time we decide to head back to the road. It was roughly 6PM, cooler, early evening, and less likely that my car would shatter into a million hot pieces. That lame assumption lasted another 20 minutes or so. On the desert road linking Barstow to Vegas, my car gave up its tenuous will to transport us. By then, Jerk and I were pretty much in the middle of sand shanty town and hesitant to pull over, so as the car died, we coasted down a truck ramp barely making it to a gas station that looked least likely to employ murderous hill people.
The grizzled, yellow-bearded, rot-toothed gas station attendant filled up a gallon of water, poured it into my radiator and advised us to try to make it to Vegas, where the car could get serviced. We took his advice, loaded several water containers into the car, and went on down the dusty road. We stopped every five minutes to cool the innards of the car’s radiator, but finally we exited to Las Vegas Blvd., where the only thing steamier than my Hyundai was everything.
Somehow we found a Motel 6 off the beaten path and stumbled into the room smelling of soot and defeat. I believe that was the last time I thought things would be OK.
That belief proved itself true in spades. Jerk and I were waylaid in Vegas for several days as questionable service station guys replaced the radiator, taking nearly half of the $1,000 I’d allocated for the trip. And for my first month in Chicago. And anything else I’d need to buy, such as food, until I found a job. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, but Jerk brought T-minus-zero dollars for the trip.
So I paid up, packed up and bucked up after much lost time, and Jerk and I headed for Salt Lake City, the next stop on our itinerary to hell. We spent a good portion of those hundreds of miles not speaking, as I realized I was dumb for taking him back, his muscles weren’t that big, and his teeth a little uneven; and he realized his jive talkin’ wasn’t working anymore. I went through the motions for old time’s sake, but truth be known, I was done. Doner than my car’s radiator in shanty town.
And in Wyoming? We broke up. Right after he told he told me he couldn’t commit because his girlfriend wouldn’t like it, but could he buy me a Big Mac?
The rest of the drive to Chicago? Wonderful.
Five months later, we reunited.
But that? A whole other story.