In the car, Blake has the heater on. The heat feels extreme against my thighs and legs because I’m so cold and grimy. Blake looks over at me and only shakes his head. I’m unsure if he’s shaking his head at how disgusting I look or at the fact that he caught me out in the rain acting like a bruised-up dork.
This could be a long ride or this could be a short ride, but either way, I don’t feel like sitting silent throughout the route. So for the sake of him and my own sanity, I decide it well to speak up first.
“Blake,” my voice trembles, lost and distant. “they gave me the test. We left school to get it done I suppose.”
“What else they do?”
Appalled and stuck, I think back to those horrid moments where Valerie was punching me in my stomach. Barbara was holding me but shaking, and Antonio looked as if he wanted to knock Valerie out himself.
Blake cuts me from my thoughts as he makes a sharp left turn down a narrow street.
“I’m pretty sure Valerie was the only one who whooped yo ass. I know Barbara and Antonio wouldn’t touch you.”
“B-But why? How?”
“What you mean?”
His smooth, brown hands grip the steering hard when he has to make another left turn. I have no idea where this lunatic is taking me.
“I-I mean, that, how come they didn’t touch me? And how did they get recruited i-if they had to get beat up?”
“Circumstances were a little different back then man. And for the first part, I don’t know. Barbara and Antonio are kind of the soft ones when it comes down to this shit.”
He stops to think. I watch his lips pout as he roughly shakes his head and back tracks.
“Nah, I take that shit back. Barbara way more soft than Antonio. In fact, I think if you’d been another guy, he would’ve joined Valerie in beating you.”
“So why didn’t he then?”
“You got tons of questions that I don’t feel like answering. I don’t know bruh, that’s just my personal interpretation.”
I know I’m not fully “in my head” right now, but I typically feel when someone is keeping something from me. What exactly, I don’t know. Blake seems full of secrets.
Secrets I’m not sure I want to hear right now.
It finally occurs to me after some deep, spaced out moments that we’re on the freeway. Interstate fifty-five to be exact, (which used to be the iconic highway 66) where we can literally drive to three major metropolitan cities in a timespan of about two hours or so.
“Blake,” I start, caution in my tone. “why are we on the freeway?”
“We going somewhere. Somewhere to clear our heads and get a better grip on things,”
“But...we’re skipping school! I don’t know Blake, can’t we just...”
He cuts me off by obnoxiously laughing. Cars zoom across the highway and everything looks blurry. Sadly, I’m in the mist of it all.
“Ron. If you don’t shut the fuck up...right now...I’m going to throw you out of this car myself.”
I guess he didn’t take my quizzically challenged look seriously, because he glanced over at me once more and tipped his head towards my window, features hard and pressed.
“And I’m not playing.”
As we continue to travel through the different intersections and layouts of Illinois, the only thing really pressuring my mind is the thought of skipping school and having my parents find out. It’s bad enough that I’ve been beaten to the point of desperate medical attention (medical attention that I’m not going to seek) and it’s bad enough that my parents are nine times out of ten going to receive a call stating that I’ve fled the campus, and on top of it all, I don’t feel like explaining myself to them. Exhausted and bruised, I only want to hide in my cage of troubled loneliness.
Lonely. Sometimes, I feel like I’m always lonely. In my room, disguised as the perfect decoy of femininity, but all around, everything bad taunts me. All the times I’ve felt like ending it and all the times I tried to be stronger.
It takes Blake to tell me that there are tears coming out of my eyes. He doesn’t know that I’m broken. He doesn’t know that I’m demolished on the inside. All he can see is a skinny, desperate white kid trying to find his value in this world; from anything. Maybe, if only one person could see, really see, then I wouldn’t be such a misfit in a battlefield crying for help.
It takes Blake’s hand that’s caressing my face for me to realize that maybe, in the tiniest way, that I’ve found that one person already.
“Stop crying Ron. You gone kill the fun out of this quick vacation.”
“Q-Quick vacation?” I stammer, wiping my eyes dry.
Blake smirks, his mouth upturned like those crazily drawn villians in comic books. He squeezes my hand, and I squeeze it back. It feels like a confirmation. It feels like he has my back.
“Cheer up bruh. I’m taking us away from Springfield for awhile.”
“Blake...” my voice is suspicious.
“You’ll like it, cuz we going to ‘The Windy City’.”