Category Archives: Karen

karen // reflections on “fate”

karen // reflections on “fate”

I didn’t want to leave Ryan´s hotel room. For one, it was way off the Strip and would be a hefty cab ride home. For two, something had changed, and I wanted to see what it was.

In any case, I had to get back to the girls, and he had plans, so I’d reluctantly found a cab and started to head back to the hotel.

Vegas looks different in the light of day — less a glittery, sparkly city that begs for high rollers, high heels, and high expectations and more like the aftermath of a drunken, debaucherous party — dirty, pale in the sunlight, and grimy. Like any other city.

Not entirely surprising. Most things look different during the day. Like Ryan.

As the cab makes its way through the city, I remember the light on his body this morning before my phone rang. In the daylight, it was skinner, paler than I remember. His features, too, were almost too sharp to be considered really attractive. Even his dick didn´t look quite as enticing in that light.

But when he woke up to the sound of my ringing phone, I forgot all of my critiques.

“What do you do?” I’d asked him after my phone had died and I´d crawled on top of him.

He smiled. “Can I answer you in about 20 minutes?” I smiled back, nodding as he rolled me over.

Approximately 20 minutes later, he answered. “I work for a non-profit that helps impoverished families buy homes. I work on the design end.”

“Ah, so you´re a Democrat?” I teased. “In bed with a Republican politico? What would your boss say?”

“She’d say, ‘way to infiltrate the enemy camp and plant the idea of affordable housing to families who’ve fallen on hard times,'” he answered without cracking a smile. I raised an eyebrow at him until he gave a small smile of concession. “Look, Karen, the world isn’t just made up of Democrats and Republicans. There are plenty more  viewpoints that fall on either side. You need to stop seeing people like they’re all on different teams. The lines are too fuzzy to define people that way.”

I looked down as he reached to the bedside table for his pack of cigarettes. “That’s not how I see things.”

I waited while he lit, inhaled, passed me the pack. I shook my head.

“Look, I know we don’t talk much. Whatever this is, it’s slightly more carnal than intellectual, but every time we do talk, you’re either bashing on the people you work for, or the people your bosses are fighting against, all the while trying to act like you’re above all of them.”

His words stung a bit, but he said it laughingly, so I laughed with him, and reached for the cigarettes he’d left on the nightstand. “I don’t actually think I’m better than anyone. I just don’t like politics.”

“So why do you work in politics then?”

I sighed. “Because, I couldn’t get another job, and it’s this of pouring coffee or hanging up clothes all day.”

“Are you looking for something else?”

“I don’t have the time.”

He laughed. “If you were as miserable as you say you are and hate it as much as you say you do, you’d find time. I would, anyway.”

I didn’t answer, opting instead to smoke my cigarette and look out the window.

He sighed, took a lighter tone as he smashed out his cigarette. “So what next? What comes after the great Vegas road trip?”

I laughed. “Back to work, I guess.” I finished my cigarette, smashed it out, noting how for the first time since taking up smoking that I didn’t feel like an awkward idiot. “Maybe looking for a new job.”

“Not a terrible idea.” Glancing at the clock, he added, “I hate to do this, but I’ve gotta meet my buddy for lunch in an hour. Think you can find your friends?”

I nodded, took my cue, and got ready to leave. After I’d pulled on my smoky-smelling black dress and stepped into my heels, he pushed me back against the wall and said, “Nice coincidence.” I nodded, putting my arms around his neck while he gave his usual farewell, “Text me when you’re in Portland next.” And when he kissed me, it was different — more intense, a bit more intimate. I felt weak at the knees.

At the thought of that kiss, I smile and look from the cab window to my knees. Usually, when I’d left Ryan’s before, there was always a bit of dismay in the pit of my stomach. But now, it’s not there — there’s something else there.

His concern over my work situation helps to put things in perspective: I’m unhappy. Entirely, totally unhappy. Granted, I’d figured that much out myself, but I never saw that my unhappiness led to the pessimism that seems to have taken over my life. And I couldn’t really see the solution in front of my face — quit. Quit. Never go to another political rally. Never see Jeremiah and his grabby hands again. Never set food in the Capitol building.

Simple enough. Now I just need a plan.

But things will work out, I’m sure of that much. If, after weeks without seeing him, hundreds of miles away from where we normally spend our time together, we can find each other — then surely everything will work out for me.

For this first time in months, I feel hopeful, I think as I step out of the cab, wallet much lighter than it was when I stepped into it.

I’m smiling, oblivious to the ambiance around me, as I waltz into the lobby and onto the elevator.

“Someone got happy last night,” a voice says behind me, a mocking smile in her tone. When I look up, I see Sophie looking at me, a cup of coffee in one hand, a box of donuts in the other. “Looks like you could use a sugar rush. Donut?”

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karen \\ if there’s a rocket tie me to it

I came here to run away. I was refugee, just like the other ninety percent of Las Vegas tourists. I was fleeing the scenes of the crimes I’d committed against myself and those against any sense of decency I’d ever had. I was only looking for peace.

And instead I found him. He texted me this time. The first time he’d ever texted me.

We were drinking in the hotel room, taking whiskey shots. We’d given Sophie some money for a new outfit, and Valencia — Cia, as she liked to be called, was clutching a drink in one hand and her dog in the other. Darcy, of course, played bartender, pouring more than we asked for. “Drink your water, children, it’s good for you!” she kept saying.

My phone vibrated. I ignored it for over an hour, figuring it was only the ex, or the fling, or the boss. Only when I took it out to check the time later did I see his name, Ryan, on the screen.

hey sarah palin, you in portland next weekend?

Terrible nickname aside, I was pleasantly taken aback.

maybe. i’ve taken a detour and ended a bit south of the norm. i’ll let you know?

The words were drunkenly slurred onto the screen. Inside, there was a part of me that was beaming. I tried not to let it show.

By the time Darcy was dancing around the room in her underwear, I’d received another text.

roger that. i’m in vegas for the weekend. a buddy’s bachelor party. let me know your plans. missing that birthmark on your hip.

I laughed out loud. I pretended that I´d just taken a photo of Darcy. The rest of them were so drunk they hardly realized it.

We decided to meet up. There was a club off the strip, I guided the girls there. Inside, the music was blaring, the girls started dancing, and I started looking.

And now I’m here. It’s been well over 27 minutes since we had sex, and he still hasn’t asked me to leave.

Darcy’s phone call this morning wasn’t unexpected. I remembered programming the alarm into her phone, and I remembered telling her that I was leaving. She’d been kissing a large, really attractive black guy, so she’d given me the brush off, “Yeah, yeah, got it. Get it, girl.”

I have my head on his chest. His fingers stroke my hip, right where my birthmark is.

“Your friends?” he asks, sleep in his voice. I look up. His eyes are still closed.

“Yeah.”

“You gotta leave?”

“Sounds that way. Dunno where to meet them, though. Phone died.”

“Better stay a bit then.”

I’m happy to, I think to myself. I push myself up to look at him, smiling through my pieces of hair in my eyes. I kiss him, then pull away.”

“Ryan?” I look at him quizzically.

He opens his eyes, a small smile playing in the corner of his mouth. “Karen?”

“What do you do?”

Darcy // What the hell happens in Vegas.

I awake to the door to our door slamming shut. I jerk forward slightly, my eyes instantly pinched shut to defend against the light of morning.

Lord. God damn mother fucking lord, my brain is exploding out of my skull. I turn to my side, pulling my knees close to my chest. Which is bare. Fantastic.

I open one eye, wait for it to focus. An impossibly dark shoulder is all I see.

Squeezing my eye shut again, I search for some memory of this shoulder, or, better yet, the person to whom it’s likely attached.

Fucking Las Vegas. We were at a club. Me, Karen, Sophia, Val — what the fuck was her name? Valerie? Val — whatever, that’ll come back to me. We were at a club, dancing. Drinking. No shoulders from what I can remember, though.

Maybe seeing more will help. I brace myself. Open both eyes, and push myself up to look at his face. Wow, good looking. Did good for yourself this time, Darcy. But who the fuck is he?

I push myself up to lean against the bed, which is when I realize that this isn’t actually our room. Mystery man’s sporting a bit of morning wood. That’s an understatement, I think, cocking my head to the side. Sure wish I remember that.

Slowly, I lean over the bed, looking for my inevitably discarded dress. I see a hint of the thin, red, slinky cotton dress near the foot of the bed between a spilled bottle of champagne and a broken champagne flute. I slip out of bed, clumsily kicking my phone from the folds of the sheets.

I pull my dress on. It’s sticky with champagne, but the fabric covering my tits feels like a victory for the morning. Sometimes not being naked is a pretty big victory in itself.

I steady myself on the dresser while I pick up my phone. Two missed alarms. Karen, it read.

Oh fuck.

We’d had this thing in college. If I left a party with some guy, I’d program an alarm into her phone. If I wasn’t home by the time it went off, she was supposed to call and make sure I got home alright.

Damn, that had to have been annoying for her, I think now. Seemed reasonable at the time, I suppose.

I see my heels and purse by the door. I’m not out the door fast enough.

I’m on the same floor, at least. I follow the numbers to our room, find the door wide open.

Val’s standing in the door frame, her hand over her mouth.

“What the fuck, V?” I feel like that’s a good enough substitute for her name.

She whirls around, her face filled with shock. “There’s — that guy! And so much blood!”

I raise my eyesbrows at her. “I know you don’t know me very well, V, but practical jokes will get you killed when I’m hungover like this.”

She just steps aside and points. There is definitely a guy in one of the beds. And yes, there is definitely dried blood on the pillow around him.

But he doesn’t exactly look like a stiff or anything. Pinkish skin. His chest is moving up and down lightly. His face is turned in the other direction.

I roll my eyes at V, then saunter into the room and around the bed. The guy is definitely alive. And cute. Tall, dark hair. Pretty sharp features, at least from what I can tell by what’s not covered in blood. Looks like someone got into a fight last night — his nose is swollen and is likely the source of the blood around him.

“He’s fine, V,” I say in a loud, fairly patronizing manner. I meant to make her feel a little silly, but only succeeded in exacerbating my headache. V just exhales in relief, then creeps closer.

“Who is he?” she whispers.

I shrug my shoulders. “Probably belongs to Karen or Sophie. You haven’t seen them, have you?” I poke the guy. He doesn’t respond.

“No, I, uh…” she stammers and blushes. “Well, I kind of slept with you last night. So I just got back in here.”

I look back up at her. “You sure about that?”

She gives a nervous laugh. “Yeah. I mean, I woke up next to you. I was dressed and everything, so it’s not like…you know.”

I poke the guy again, harder this time. He turns his head, utters a little cry of pain. I don’t blame him. On closer examination, his nose looks pretty gnarley.

“Well, that’s cool. I’m assuming you don’t remember where Karen or Sophie ran off to?”

She shakes her head, while bloody guy mutters, “Sophie…”

“Hey, buddy.” I poke him again. “You okay?”

He opens one eye. Sees me, which is no doubt an unpleasant thing to wake up to at the moment. “You know Sophie?”

He nods. “Where the fuck is she?” He tried to sit up, stops quickly as his face scrunches in pain.

“Honestly, we were hoping you could tell us,” I say to him. “V, you wanna get a rag and some ice for his face here?” She nods quickly, grabbing the ice bucket and running into the hall. I get a towel wet and start wiping the blood off of his face.

“So who are you, buddy? What’re you doing in our room?”

“I’m James. I’m a friend of Sophie’s. At least, I thought I was. She brought me here last night. I dunno why she’d leave me here, though.”

“Back!” V held the ice in her hands triumphantly.

“Awesome, you ice James’s busted face here, I’m going to find out what the hell happened to our dear friends last night.”

I leave James in the care of V, pull out my cigarettes and head to the balcony. Sweet view, I think as I pull the door shut behind me. I hardly remember seeing it last night.

I dial Karen. No answer. I dial again. No answer. “Fucking Karen,” I mutter. As I say it I’m struck with how many times she’s said the same thing about me for the exact same reason in college. Except, to be fair, this wasn’t our little college town. This was Vegas.

I dialed one last time.

“Hello?” She sounded strangled and hoarse on the other end.

“Kare bare-ass. Where you at?” I ask in relief as I lean over railing.

“Mmmmm,” she groans. I hear shuffling. “I dunno. With Ryan.”

“Ryan? Like dude-you’re-banging-from-Portland Ryan? How the hell did that happen?”

“Long story.”

I wait for her to elaborate. She doesn’t. “K, well that’s swell. Where can we pick you up? You with Sophie?”

“Mmmm. Sophie. No. I can meet you in an hour. At –”

“Hello? Karen?” I look at my phone. Call’s ended. I dial. Straight to voicemail.

Her phone’s dead. That’s just perfect.

And here we are.

Karen//here we are.

”What the fuck do you want from me?”

I can still see him when I close my eyes. He’d just gotten home from the bar. Home from the bar at four in the afternoon on a Tuesday. His blue eyes were bloodshot and glazed with beer. As he yelled those words, over and over, his face got redder to match his volume.

“I just want you to be a grown up,” I’d said to him. He was pacing around my bedroom while I stayed at the foot of the bed. My arms were crossed close to my chest to stop from crying. “Get a fucking job. Go back to school. Stop getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon, for God’s sake.”

“Who the fuck are you to talk?” He looked me in the eye, laughed. “You put in your four years, and what do you have to show for it? Fucking nothing. Four years and a hundred thousand dollars. Wasted.”

“I have a fucking job, you know that.”

He laughed again. “Right. You start next week. Never mind that you have to move north just to work in fucking politics, something you hate. So, you’re right, Karen, let me revise that statement. Four years and a hundred thousand dollars bought you shitty job in a shit town and tore you away from your friends, your family, and your boyfriend. You remember him, that’s the guy you keep badgering to propose already?”

My arms fell to my side. “I’ve told you a hundred times, it’s not permanent. It’s a temporary sacrifice. But you wouldn;t know anything about that since only adults know about sacrifices and you’re a fucking child.”

His smile faded. He looked at me in the eye. His were filled with venom.

“Fuck you, Karen. Not all of us are willing to put up with shitty jobs just to watch the minutes roll into years. I know you. You’ll get comfortable. And you’ll want to stay. And you’ll spend the rest of your life miserable. It’s not a sacrifice in the name of anything, it’s a slow fucking death. It’s settling for nothing.”

“I…” I looked down. I couldn’t think straight. I didn’t think he would be right. I wanted to believe it would be okay.

“I will be happy,” I said slowly, firmly, “I believe I really can be happy if you’d just…come with me. Please, Eric, just come with me.”

I could feel the desperation in my face, hear it in my voice. There was a pain in my chest. I looked at his face while I searched the floor.

“Not on your life, Karen. You can’t ask me to just leave.”

The pain in my chest exploded. I hung my head to sob, then managed to say,

“But…what…what do you…have here? Nothing!”

He didn’t say anything. Tears were starting to fall down his face, too.

“I just don’t know what you want from me,” he said quietly.

“Yes you do. You just don’t want to give it to me.”

He nodded. “I gotta go meet Kenny at the garage. We’ll talk later.”

“You can’t just leave!” I protested. “We have to talk about this!”

“There’s nothing left to talk about, Kare. Have fun with your cousin tonight. Call me tomorrow.”

And then he was gone. And then I met Ryan. And here I am now, running away in a car with my crazy college roommate, and Sophie, the derelict hitchhiker wearing couture. And I have no idea where to go from here.

Making friends.

Karen//making friends

“Don’t mind my friend Karen here, she’s just going through a minor series of personal crises,” Darcy says from behind the wheel. She’s pouring vodka into a half empty bottle of orange juice. She fills the bottle, then hands it to me. “Nothing my famous screwdrivers can’t fix.”

I take a sip. The vodka burns. A friendly kind of burn.

“You want one?” Darcy looks to the backseat. I steal a look at the girl we’d offered a lift. Not that she’d said where. Not like we’d asked. Her stringy hair is in her eyes, but I see her watching me in the side view mirror. She nods.

I’m trying to figure out what was going through Darcy’s mind when she called out to the girl. She’d crossed the highway as I pulled over, running in heels and an expensive looking dress in tatters. Darcy had looked back at me with that smile I remember from college. It was the smile she gave when a cute guy invited us to a party, when someone offered her blow or x. It’s the smile she gives when she’s presented with a choice most people would turn down. She accepts the choice with that smile.

I locked eyes with her, trying to dissuade her from whatever it was she was planning. My jaw clenched, I shook my head. Darcy’s smile only got wider. She laughed.

“Need a ride?” she’s called out to the stranger. The girl cracked a thin, broken smile. She nodded.

Now she’s sitting in the backseat, taking gulps of Darcy’s drink, watching the darkened landscape. She hasn’t said a word since she got in the car.

That’s okay, though. Darcy’s making sure there are no gaps in conversation.

“Karen always followed the rules, you know, which is what makes this particular series of crises so weird. We were college roommates, and I never once saw her put a fucking toe out of line. She was always the DD. She never cheated on her dick of a boyfriend. She never got too drunk, she never did any drugs.” She laughs, pulls a cigarette from the box on the middle console.

“This one time, she almost killed her best friend,” she says as she lights her cigarette, “but she talked herself out of it by repeating some Zen shit or something. Remember that, Karen?”

“Yeah.” Of course I remember. I smile a little. I catch the girl’s eye in the side view mirror again.

“What happened?” she asks.

“Well,” Darcy takes over, “it was our sophomore year, and we’d just moved in to this totally shithole apartment, and were having a huge party in celebration, of course. Miss Karen here was totally excited, because she’d invited her two best friends from high school, Sheri and Mark.”

Darcy always was a good storyteller. She’s dramatic, moves her hands a lot. Even when she’s driving. I lean back, enjoy the story.

“Well, Sheri, Mark, and Karen go way back. I’m talking like back in diapers way back, they’ve known each other forever, so far as I’ve heard. So, like with any cross-gender friendship group, crushes form and feelings occasionally cross the just friends barrier. In this case, Miss Karen had fallen totally, inescapably in love with Mark. She was totally looking forward to the party because she intended to get him drunk and bang him.”

She nodded at me. “A totally admirable plan, of course.”

“The night of the party arrived, and Karen looked totally smokin’ – in part , of course, because she had yours truly do her hair and make up. Karen and Mark had been talking for weeks, and there was definitely some chemistry happening at the party. Arm touching, hair twirling, goo-goo eyed chemistry. Things were going really good. They were into each other.

“But this whole time while Karen and Mark are being ridiculous and whatnot, Sheri is watching pretty closely. She’s looking over the shoulder of whoever she’s talking to, she’s being supercreep in the corner by herself – just always watching them.

“So then, little miss Sheri invites Karen and Mark to do shots with her. One. After. The. Other. I’m not even kidding here, they must have done seven shots in the course of ten minutes. I can’t even drink like that, I’m total pro status.

“Then, Sheri starts getting sick. She’s all, ‘oh, no, I’m going to throw up, too much too fast! Oh, Mark, where’s the bathroom here?’ You know, as it that isn’t obvious, since this is his first time in that shithole, too. And Karen, who’s naive to the point of blindness, points the two of them to the bathroom waits around. She mingles. Guys are trying to draw her into conversation because she looks so hot. And she’s watching the bathroom, wondering what the hell is taking so long.

“Then, at about the same time the whiskey really hits, so does the reality – they’ve been gone over 15 minutes, and people have been coming in and out of the bathroom for nearly all of them. She pulls me away from this gorgeous guy without any kind of explanation, and pulls me down the hall.

“And she just pushes open the door to her room. It isn’t even closed all the way. She pushes, and who else would be there, on her knees, blowing Mark? That’s right, whorebag Sheri. She’s working it so good that neither of them even realize that we’re standing there, watching.”

The whole time, I’m watching the girl in the rear view mirror. She hardly reacts to any of Darcy’s words, and a part of me even thinks she’s tuning her out. But at that image of tiny Sheri, on her knees, blowing Mark – at that her neutral mouth turned into a deep frown. She shakes her head a little.

“Anyway, it takes a few minutes before cool, collected Karen reacts. And then, shit, does she react. She takes a step into her room, grabs a picture frame from the dresser right by the door, and chucks it at the back of Mark’s head. He thrusts forward, Sheri chokes, and apparently triggers her gag reflex, because she upchucks all over Mark, not to mention neat-freak Karen’s brand new rug. And as they’re standing there, Sheri choking on her own vomit, Mark stunned and in shock, Karen screams, ‘you knew, Sheri, you fucking knew.’ And she picks up the lamp on the dresser, totally poised to hit them, when all of a sudden, she stops.

“And she starts muttering. It sounds like a pseudo-Buddha type chant, but no one can really make out what she’s saying, even me, who’s standing right next to her, with my mouth all open in the shock of it all. Her eyes are closed and she must have chanted for, like, two full minutes. Then she opens her eyes, glares at the two of them — Mark pulling up his jeans, which are covered in Sheri’s chunks, Sheri on her knees looking fucking terrified – and Karen just turns on her heel and leaves. Walks out of her room, out the door, and we don’t see her for two days.”

Darcy erupts in laughter, and even I have to smile. “What were you chanting, anyway?” she asks.

“I honestly couldn’t tell you,” I respond, shaking my head. “I had just started that intro to religions class, so it might have been Buddhist or something. And I was way to hammered to remember what exactly I was saying, I just remember trying to stop myself from clawing her face off.”

“Did it work out?” The girl is looking at us from the backseat. She looks at me, a genuine worry in her wide eyes.

I smile. “You could say that. I met a guy at the bar I went to after I left. Spent the weekend and four years with him. And I never saw the two of them again. They were gone by the time I got back Monday morning.”

She leans back and returns her gaze to the window, looks satisfied. Darcy pulls off the freeway. “Alright kiddies, time for a fill-up.”

I turn in my seat to look at the girl, who’s sipping on her drink and looking out the window again. “What’s your name?”

She looks at back at me. “I’m Sophie.”

Cruising; some common sense.

Karen // Cruising

We opted for east.

My passport was with my parents, thus eliminating north. Driving through Portland wasn’t an option, the point being to run away and all. This eliminated south. There’s not a whole lot of driving West.

So we opted for east.

We’ve been driving six hours now, over the Cascades, through cities, towns, and farms. Our level of excitement and enthusiasm followed the same route, starting by busily telling and retelling stories long forgotten or blurred with time, alcohol, and experience. We calmed, munched on our snacks, Darcy sipped from a water bottle refilled with vodka and OJ.

She’s sleeping now, her platinum head leaning on the window, her knees pulled up to her chest. In the rear view window, the sun is low on the horizon, and I’m driving into the dark through a plateau of wheat fields, golden in the headlights of Darcy’s beat up Honda.

My foot pushes the gas, pumping the needle up over 100. My heart lifts again. I reach for a cigarette from the middle console. Balancing one between my lips, I look around for a lighter. The purple Bic is still held loosely in Darcy’s hand, which rests on her thigh. I gently reach for it, plucking it out so smoothly that she doesn’t even flinch.

I’m still not no good at this whole smoking thing. Steering with my knees, it takes me three tries to get the cigarette lit.

I breathe it in deeply as I roll down my window a couple of inches, the sound of the wind drowning the Flaming Lips playing from Darcy’s speakers.

Darcy shifts in her seat. Doesn’t wake.

The farthest I’ve ever driven was to Eugene, and it was for a Eric’s family reunion. I’ve been pushing him out of my mind for three days, but for just a second, I’ll let myself think about Eric.

Those five hours had been legend between the two of us. Endless games of 20 questions. 90s music sing alongs. Stopping the car on the side of the highway so that we could lay on the hood and talk about the man in the moon over a quickly rolled joint. The way I rolled into him, taking in that smell of his, the fire that sparked so easily and effortlessly that we made love right there, without hesitation, fear, or questions.

It was a good trip.

We talked for years after that, about driving cross country together, seeing everything, going everywhere, and trying every kind of pie we could get our hands on. We mapped out routes, picked out sights to see, and made a budget.

But we never made the trip. We could never get the time off, we could never save up enough money.

It’s always something, I say to myself as I flick the butt out the window.

“So what the fuck is up with you, Karen?” Darcy’s head is up off the glass, but her face is still turned toward the window.

“What do you mean?”

She laughs. “Seriously?” She turns to look at me. She’s amused. She doesn’t look angry, but Darcy doesn’t really get angry. But she looks a little more than amused.

“Karen, you show up at my place out of the blue. You crash for a week. You smoke all my cigarettes. You talk me into taking time off so we can drive through a zillion fucking wheat fields. And you, the one who always made me talk out my shit with you when we were in school, haven’t said a goddamn word to explain any of it.” She pulls a cigarette from the pack, lights it, looks at me expectantly.

“I just…” I trail off. I don’t know where to start. “A lot’s been…well, a lot’s happening.”

“I know you and Eric broke up.” She exhales a cloud of smoke my way. “Is that it? Is that why you’re so fucked up? I told you that you guys weren’t right for each other. There’s was something off about him, the guy drinks more than anyone I’ve met. I knew it was com – “

“I cheated on him, Darcy. The guy I was sleeping with is completely shut off, and yet I still keep seeing him. And Eric, for that matter, making him promises. Then there was Jeremiah. And my job, my stupid fucking shitty job. There’s a lot fucking wrong right now.”

My hands are white on the steering wheel. I’m fighting tears. I don’t want to look at her. She’s silent.

And then she laughs. Softly at first, her chuckles barely audible. They get louder. By the time I’m able to look over, she’s folded over on herself.

“What the fuck is so funny, Darcy? What?” She doesn’t answer, but tries to pull herself together.

“Pull over,” she manages to say.

“You can’t drive, you’ve been drinking.” I accelerate.

“Karen, pull over. I’m fine. And if you’re going to do this running away thing for such banal reasons, you’re going to at least be drunk while doing it. Something to dull the ridiculousness of it.”

“B-banal?”

“Banal, yes, devoid of freshness or originality. Oh don’t look at me with that indignant glare. You broke up with your college boyfriend, who, by the way, was a mean drunk with a serious motivation problem. You rebound with a guy who probably senses you were just out of a relationship and realizes he’s a rebound. You have a hard time permanently saying goodbye to college boyfriend. You miss being in love, so you sleep with both of them. I don’t know who Jeremiah is, but I’d venture to say he’s a one night stand mistake kind of thing. And, on top of that, you’re not happy with your job. Fucking banal, Karen.

“I’ve been through this. Every 20-something I know has been through this, this where am I supposed to be, am I living my life the way I was meant to, kind of deal. So pull the fuck over, drink some vodka, and we’ll get you over it.”

I’ve already slowed to a crawl. I pull the fuck over.

Hiding; running.

Karen//Hiding; running

I’ve been in Seattle for eight days now.

I never particularly liked my college roommate, not in college anyway. Darcy is loud, she’s messy, she drinks too much, she’s kind of a slut. She dabbled in the harder drugs, the tougher men, and sketchy scenes I tended to avoid in college.

But  I am fucking glad I came here.

I’m sitting on her couch, a menthol cigarette held clumsily between my fingers. It’s ten in the morning, Tuesday, and I’m listening to Darcy’s call to her boss. The bitch does PR for some of the hottest bars and venues in Seattle. She’s doing exactly what she went to college to do.

I’ve been here eight days, and I’ve hated her half the time I’ve been here. For my own reasons, of course. She has the life she wanted, and she was irresponsible as shit in college.

And here I am, crashing on her couch as I run from the life I fell into after playing it safe and toeing the line all through school.

Talk about fair.

I take a small drag of the cigarette in my hands. I’ve started bumming Darcy’s cigarettes. I’ve never really been a smoker, save for a few I would bum from Eric when I was wasted in school. But for some reason, when I took a drag from Darcy’s menthol that first night I showed up, it felt so terribly, wonderfully cliché that I fell right beside her with every smoke break she took.

Some of the ash falls to Darcy’s black sweatpants. I rub it in. I’m terrible at this smoking thing.

Finally, Darcy stops pacing and hangs up her phone, then shakes her hips in a victory dance. “Got it off, girl! Now what is it you want to do so badly that little miss ‘No, Darce, we can’t skip intro to Communications at eight in the morning the day before Thanksgiving break,’ has convinced me to play hooky?”

She flops on the couch next to me and picks up her coffee mug. “I mean, you did have a plan for this grand adventure, didn’t you?”

I smile. “Road trip?”

Darcy chokes on her coffee, swallows, then laughs. “A road trip? You can’t be serious.”

“I talked to my boss last night. I can work from the road. He’s not happy about it, but it was that or I quit. So I work from the road. You can work from the road, can’t you?” I take a dramatic drag from the cigarette, fighting the urge to cough. “You in?” I ask as I exhale.

“Karen, I can’t take that much time off. Not for an impulsive little road down to Tijuana or wherever the fuck it is you had in mind. Did you even have something in mind?”

“Not really. I thought we could figure it out.” I’d felt really cool during that dramatic drag, pause, proposition I’d just had. Now my ego is flailing. “You did stupid little trips all the time before.”

“Yeah, in college.” Darcy pushes her platinum blond strands behind her ears and puts a cigarette up to her lips. “I have big kid responsibilities now. I can’t just disappear for a week anymore.”

I don’t say anything, just lean toward the coffee table to smash the cigarette into the ashtray. I watch her as she lights her cigarette with a grace I’d always envied. She’s right. She’s not in college anymore.

I’m crushed as I realize I’m not either.

I try to laugh. “You’re right. It was kind of a stupid idea.” I get up, grab our empty cereal bowls and my coffee cup so that she can’t see the tears forming. I was counting on fucking getting away.

She watches me carefully as I walk to the kitchen, reading me. It’s one of the things I liked about Darcy, she had a tendency to know what people weren’t saying. She paid attention.

As I rinse the dishes in her dirty, tiny sink, I hear her sigh.

“What the hell,” she says loudly. “Why the fuck not?” I hear her bare feet padding toward the kitchen. She stretches against the door frame. “You’ve been a pretty sad sack this past week, and I have been working like a fucking pull-horse.”

She imitates my pithy little drag-pause routine, blows the smoke in my face. “Let’s fucking do it.”

For the first time in weeks, I feel relieved.