In a perfect world we’d still be racing down the highway. We’d be wandering down the aisles of a gas station picking out snacks. I’d get peach gummies. Eric would try to talk himself out of a bag of regular potato chips. We’d be blasting tunes and arguing about who gets to pick the next playlist.
Here, we didn’t have any music. Eric’s guitar lay shattered somewhere back in the city. I missed the sound of his voice and the peace that filled him as he strummed away.
“The car’s out of gas,” his voice says desperately.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about this.
“Do you know if any gas stations are left near here?” he asks more to himself than to me.
“Nah. Even if there were…”
His voice trails off and he looks at his feet. The right foot reaches out and stomps on a stray dandelion. The stem bends a third of the way down. The flower spreads out becoming a flat yellow pancake.
“Yeah, we can’t afford it and we promised we’d stop stealing,” I reply after a while.
“It’s gonna catch up with us. We’ve already pushed it too far,” he says uncomfortably. He looked around for more dandelions but couldn’t find any.
We both looked over at the car. It was an old forest green Traveler. I’d named it Mordecai. In the back seat was a pile of clothing, food wrappers, a quilt and some pillows.
I’d always found it funny that SUVs have names that sound like nature or adventure. Things like Hunter, Ghost, Aurora Borealis, Torchbearer and Daytrip. Even the colour of our Traveller suggests trees and nature. Most of the bad boys never made it out of the city. The mostly aptly named is the Exurbia.
Then there’s also that domineering feel. Humanity conquering nature. Adventure but from the comfort of a chair with a motor pushing you forward. And oh the gas mileage.
Mordecai offered the benefit of four-wheel drive. As the roads got worse we could handle it. When they didn’t meet our needs we cut across fields.
“I guess it’s the end of the road,” I said.
Eric knew exactly what I meant by this but didn’t say anything. He didn’t want to leave Mordecai abandoned to rust away with an empty tank. He shook his head as though he could stubbornly will things to change.
I thought about how long it would take for nature to overtake the car. How long would the paint last? How long before the metal decayed? How long did it take for plastic to beak down?
“How much can we carry?” Eric asked reluctantly.
We had a couple of backpacks with us. They were ones we had from school not the type that people bought when they backpacked across Europe or got into hiking. I would’ve killed for a nice big backpack right about now.
I grabbed a couple of changes of clothes, a jacket, a couple of books, some food and a sleeping bag. Eric did the same.
We closed the doors and walked away.
“Should we lock it?” Eric asked me.
The key was still snugly in my left jean pocket. I ran my hand over its contours, that familiar shape.
“Naw,” I answered before tossing the key into the bushes.