There was nothing refreshing about the air filtering in through the open window. My hair whipped around and batted me in the face, plastering itself to my forehead. I had my head propped up on my fist, and my body turned towards the rushing wind. My eyes were closed and the hum of the tires streaking across the grooved pavement was like a lullaby.
Ana and I hadn't talked for miles. She was doing that thing where she tapped out a rhythm, her thumbs slapping against the steering wheel. When I looked over, she didn't acknowledge me. When I said "What?" she replied with, "Hmm?" If she wanted my attention, it was on her bizarre terms; a game where I didn't know the rules. So I stopped looking and let my knuckles dig into my chin. My eyes slid shut and the high July sun caressed my fatigue.
My skin was salty and clammy as I climbed out of Ana's Ford Taurus. The crooked gas station mirror alerted me to my flushed, lobster pink hue. I waited outside, in the shade of a towering soda machine, while Ana paid for gas.
She sauntered out with a bag of Cheetos clamped in her teeth. Her oversized sunglasses and unrestrained locks obscured most of her face, but the bright foil packing gleamed in the sunlight. "I'm really glad you decided to come," she said, slipping into the driver's seat. She checked her lipstick in the rearview mirror. It was a cartoon red. It reminded me of the tubes we would steal from drugstores in junior high. After fluffing her hair and pulling open her snack sized bag of chips, she backed out of the parking lot. We merged back onto the highway and my eyes were closed before the first Cheeto touched her tongue.
"So what do you want to do?" she asked between crunches, rousing me from my half-hearted slumber.
I peeled one eye open. "I hadn't really thought about it," I replied. And it was true, I hadn't.
"Well, we can get dinner obviously. They have all those cute restaurants with the outdoor seating. We could have margaritas and gossip."
I looked over at Ana and nodded. I just wanted her to decide. In the end we'd default to her plans, her version of fun, anyway. I felt heavy in the sunken seat and opted to keep things concise. "Sounds good."
"OK, well there's one thing!" She giggled and it sounded affected. "We could go to a bar after that. I mean, I wouldn't get totally wasted or anything. So we can drive back."
I knew she was lying.
"Don't you want to do anything?" she asked again, steering with the heels of her hands. Her fingertips were coated in electric orange powder.
"I don't really like San Antonio," I answered. It made Ana visibly irritated. I immediately felt the need to back pedal, explain myself. "We used to go all the time when I was a kid. It was a family thing." Her body seemed to release some tension when I mumbled, "It was never any fun." I trailed off and she patted my knee with her wrist. I was grateful for being spared her cheesy digits.
"We can make it fun!" she squealed.
I smiled and nodded, letting some of the dread collecting in my joints drain away. "I'm glad I agreed to come, too," I offered. I didn't real mean it; it was said to pacify.
She sucked her index finger into her mouth and it made a loud smacking sound upon release. Her nails were painted dark purple. I hadn't noticed until I saw her tongue wrapped around one. The shade matched her high-waisted shorts. I felt a pang of guilt when I realized she'd dressed up for this—looked forward to it. I was suddenly self conscious of my own appearance. My washed out denim shorts and over-sized t shirt spoke volumes. I was a reluctant participant.
The scenery slipped by, and my eyelids felt like lead. My mind drifted and I woke with a start, brushing the unconsciously collected cobwebs away from face. I glanced at the digital dashboard clock. We'd been back on the road for less than half an hour. Biting the tip of my fingernail, I attempted the casual request.