The effects of this quarantine are going undervalued. Whether or not you believe in it, whatever your point of view is, I don’t care. This pandemic has taken its toll on all of us. Obviously some more than others. But before we compare dick sizes on who has had it worse, can we just remember that we are all fucking human, we all suck, everyone is an asshole, and everyone has there own shit they have to shift through to find gold. That’s what I’ve been doing, I turned 18 right when the pandemic first started and they closed everything down. I graduated and this was supposed to be the last summer vacation before I went to college full time, the last summer before I started working a full time job trying to scrape together enough money to pay for the unreachable bar that California has set that we call the living wage. It was supposed to be the last summer before my life was over.
I packed the joint as tightly as I could. It was the end of September, when the weather was too cold in the morning and too hot in the afternoon. I rolled the end of it right as I heard the screen door slam in the camper across from me. I leaned back, my head softly hitting the wall behind me. That’s never a good sign. A few seconds later my girlfriend stormed in. I opened my eyes to look at her, her face confirmed what I already knew. I took a deep breath, I couldn’t smell anything but dust, her family was in the middle of a big move. They bought a property outright, in the middle of nowhere completely off the grid. And now they were moving everything they had into three separate campers in the middle of the woods. One for the parents, one for her and one for her sister. I could tell that the move had been rough on her more than anyone else. She was living off her dad’s dream, to be living in the middle of nowhere, everything the light touched belonged to him here. To her father, this was the most freedom a human could achieve.
I looked into her eyes, I could see the same feeling I had felt years ago. She felt trapped. Unlike her father she had made many more connections. Through school, to neighborhood friends, work, the list goes on. Now all of that was being ripped away from her, yet she still managed to keep her eyes on the silver lining, at least on the surface. They were months into the move. This isn’t just something that happens overnight. The first plans to move here started a year ago. We were both still in highschool, even back then we knew the clock had started ticking. Both of us are overthinkers. We started asking the big questions, how are you going to go to work, how are you going to get any schoolwork done, should you just move out, will this be the end of our relationship… ? A year later and we still didn’t have any solid answers.
She sat down at the table across from me. Everytime I drove up here it felt like it was always something. Whenever she got “home” we couldn’t sit still. “Go fill up on propane and water for next week.” “We need to hook up the batteries to the generator.” Things like going grocery shopping became a second priority. We had been home for maybe 3 hours, it was almost 9:00pm and we were trying to get things set up so we could at least share a conversation over some hot apple cider and a joint. It felt like we hadn’t stopped moving yet and already her dad was telling us the plans for tomorrow. We had to unload the chicken coop from the trailer early in the morning, then we would go from there. And somehow, at the same time, we were supposed to also make breakfast and coffee, then actually have time to consume our breakfast before driving an hour to her work at 10:00am.
The tears started to build up. I exhaled the dust from my lungs, “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know… I just want to get away.”
“Do you want to go for a walk or a drive?” I twisted the end of the joint.
“No like, I want to get away. From here. I want to get away. I just can’t-I need to get away.” She rubbed her eyes.
“Where do you want to go?” I pulled my head off the wall, I started to try and wake myself up.
“I don’t know, I can’t make any decisions right now. I just need a minute,” She stared at the linoleum flooring of her trailer.
“We could go to a hotel room. Maybe rent out a motel…”
“Is this a bad idea? I need you to be honest with me. Am I just being dramatic?”
I took another deep breath and searched for the right answer. We heard screaming, She jumped up and scrambled for the door unlocking it and swinging it open, “Mom!?”
I didn’t even have any time to react yet, I could hear her mom storming out of her trailer yelling about how it is so stressful to be here and everyone is always arguing and she couldn’t take it anymore. I felt it too, I was exhausted, I was tired, and all I wanted now was to sleep this all off like it was a bad dream. I’m sure everyone did, or everyone would eventually once the tension faded. But for now, it was still here, and I had to make a decision.
She slowly closed the door and made her way back to the table, after some silence had passed she asked me again, “Is this a bad idea?”
I thought about my answer again, I still hadn’t moved, “Usually I’d yes. But-” I sighed, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?”
I could see her start to tear up again, “I don’t know, I just want-I need to get away right now.”
“Okay then, where will we go?”
“I don’t know baby, I just need-” She was trying desperately not to break down.
“Hey,” I got up from my side of the table and moved over to where she was. I leaned down to hug here, “It’s okay, it’s okay… it’s okay,” I repeated the words to her, but it honestly felt like I was telling myself those words too.
We pulled ourselves together long enough to load up my car. I moved slowly the whole time, I felt like my entire body and mind was aching. We closed the trunk of my car and got in. I handed her the keys, she drove us out the back way because that night her father suddenly got into the habit of closing and locking the front gate. The car rolled up the bumpy dirt roads, I didn’t really know what to say, I let her do the talking. Usually I wouldn’t make my girlfriend drive while she wasn’t in the best state of mind, but at least unlike me, she was still in a sober state of mind. We pulled up to the main road, I opened her phone and pressed send. A text apologizing to her mom that we were leaving and that we would be back tomorrow to help with the chicken coop. I kept my eyes on the yellow and white lines on the road as she talked to me.
“I can’t stand it anymore, it’s like ever since I got a mind of my own that’s when we started arguing, just because I don’t want to do things his way, he has to micromanage everything I do… The second I’m not there to help everyone is mad at me… everyone in my family is passive aggressive so I never know when they are mad at me… I know they don’t mean to be but they are manipulative, both my mom and my dad. That’s why they are so perfect for each other… They act like they don’t love me just because I do all the work but when I’m not there to do all the work they are mad at me… And I try to set boundaries but when I do they act like I am the unreasonable one for setting those boundaries… It’s because we are on this new property, if this were to happen at home I would just go to my room and lock the door so they would leave me alone, but he acts like everything there is his, so I have nowhere to go that I can relax when I don’t want to do any work.”
After a while she pulled over. We were on the edge of town, close to where she had to go to work the next day. I could tell she felt horrible for leaving, like she was guilty. But I knew that feeling of guilt weighing on her shoulders wasn’t self inflicted. She put it there because her family told her to. “I need you to be honest with me. How do you feel about this. If you are mad, say you are mad at me. I need you to be honest with how you feel because my family doesn’t tell me when they are, and I really can’t deal with that right now.”
“I am fine.”
“No tell me how you are feeling.”
I took a deep breath, “I am fine, I am, I just-I just wanted to hangout with you this weekend. And I don’t mind helping your family out on the property, but, I came up here to see you. And I feel like I haven’t gotten to hang out with you yet.”
She grabbed her phone and began to unlock it, “No, it’s not okay for my dad to just use you like that. It’s not fair!” She began texting her dad a long paragraph that I couldn’t read. After a moment of silence she pressed send the sighed heavily. She put her phone back down and got us back onto the road. We drove in silence till we pulled into a dark parking lot, we were a few minutes away from where she had to work and about an hour away from the property. We pulled our phones out and started looking for a place to spend the night. My eyes were getting heavy, and the time between each yawn grew shorter and shorter. I yawned so hard my eyes started to tear up. I rubbed my eyes and started to think about what sleeping in a car for the first time would be like. I put my phone down, ready to do just that. I looked at her face, illuminated by her screen. She didn’t say anything, eventually she started to go down the list, she called the first place. Only the honeymoon sweet was open and they weren’t going to haggle down the price. The second place was completely booked. The third and fourth place told us the same story. Finally on the fifth call we got lucky, “Yes we have seven rooms available.”
“Thank you, bye-bye,” She hung up, the good news didn’t change her expression, I could still see the hurt in her face. The motel was close to where we already were, after a three minute drive we started to check in. I had to circle back to grab my mask. With everything that happened it felt weird to remember that we were in the middle of a pandemic and half the world was on fire. But I soon dismissed this knowledge from my brain, I was too exhausted to begin remembering about the world, I barely had the energy to worry about us.
We walked in and the man behind the desk asked me for my I.D. we had to use mine because my girlfriend was still 17. I pulled out my I.D. and thought about how it wasn’t too long ago that I had just turned 18. And I remembered that we were still kids, overpaying for a night in a shitty motel room. I paid just over a hundred dollars for the night. Plus a forty-dollar deposit just in case we managed to wreck the place overnight. No guests, no pets, no smoking. We were lucky that they let us stay with our rights.
We dragged our feet back to the car and started to unpack and slowly climb our way up the stairs to the door. I stood still as she walked in with the disinfectant wipes, she started to wipe down door knobs, counters, anything she could think of. She grabbed the hand towel and used it to inspect the bed we would be sleeping in. Holding the rag to remove the covers like you would a bag to clean up dog shit. I just wanted to collapse on the bed and sleep. But we had both had a long day and were overdue on a shower.
I got out first and dried myself off and started to get dressed again. I made sure the car was locked and we had everything done so when we were ready we could go to bed. She got out not long after me. We both tried our best not to argue, I knew we were not mad at each other, and it was just a terrible situation. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Only the rock was made of shit, and the hard place was actually soft because it was covered in shit, and it was all happening in a world full of shit.
We headed out into the night. Not knowing where we were going or how far we were from the motel. We turned left and right and backtracked and got lost. But we just kept walking. Until finally we entered a small court with no foot traffic, we sat down and rested our backs against a cement wall. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the joint I rolled when this all started. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a lighter. I lit it and took the first hit. I let the smoke out slowly and held the joint down next to my feet, she waved her hand back and forth dispersing the smoke as a cop car drove past us. We followed it with our eyes till it was out of sight then looked at each other. For the first time that night she smiled at me, and I felt the pain in my chest lighten. I took another hit then passed it to her. She took a long drag and let out a thick white cloud, passing it back to me. We sat there in the court, she started a playlist of sad songs that we both listened to. We just passed the joint back and forth, neither of us saying a word. Slowly the pain faded, then the street signs, then the cars, then the court, then the music, till it was just us and silence. Then I closed my eyes, as we both faded faster than the Sacramento summer. None of our big questions had been answered yet, if anything we had even more now. But we realized that it no longer mattered. She was there next to me, and I was there next to her. And we would keep doing the same thing we always had done, shifting through the shit, trying to find moments of gold like this one.
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