Published: November 2, 2007
Once Pins hand was gone from his shoulder, his eyes turned to the small woman beside him, Grooves hands shook, just once, on the wheel.
The middle-aged woman beside him smelled strongly of cigarettes and too many strong drinks, and her eyes seemed to be intently trained on him, for whatever reason. Uniq often smelled of cigarettes; but where the nicotine fragrance seemed as much part of Uniq as her fingers and toes, the same odour coming off this woman made Groove more nervous and ill at ease than he would ever admit to his brother.
A green light somewhere ahead of him in the darkness suddenly shifted to yellow, and Groove eased the worn Saturn to a soft stop right on the white line before the traffic light.
Do you like driving? the woman to his right suddenly burst out; her voice just a little bit too steady compared to the smaller woman in the back seat. Groove reluctantly faced away from the red light to look in her face. There were lines dancing across her skin, outlining bags and wrinkles that suggested that the face they were etched into had never really been beautiful.
I can tell. You drive very well; your movements are smooth and not at all quirky, like my sons. When he drives he keeps jerking the wheel so hard that Im terrified he might swerve off into another car. Do you drive often?
Yeah, every day to and from school. Groove kept his answers curt if not impolite, and before the entire sentence was finished he was once again facing the red light above him. He hoped that this gesture would be enough to discourage the strange woman beside him. She seemed to understand the gesture, or maybe she simply had no more to say on the subject, because she merely reached a hand tipped with perfectly manicured nails into her mousy, long hair and scratched her scalp absently while continuing to observe her young chauffer.
From the backseat came a drunken request to turn up the sound on the stereo, and Groove reluctantly complied, letting the heavy beat fill up the empty silence inside the car, and inside his head. Somewhere I Belong smoothly transitioned into Lying From You, and the backseat rocked with the sympathetic trembles of a small lady doing a poor job of playing an air guitar. In between beats she nudged Pin sharply with her stout fingers, and giggled when he politely declined to sing along to her playing.
Grooves left leg started to tap irrationally, and in his mind the words Green, green, turn green, come on
repeated themselves like a mantra.
The night was cut with a sharp, green light, and Groove wasted no time speeding off toward the next green light. Getting home as soon as possible was his only focus tonight. He could worry about everything else once the two women in the car were safely in bed at home; working up their respective hangovers in the comfort of their own beds.
At least the small woman in the back didnt seem to be on the verge of throwing herself out of the car on a whim
At least she was safely wedged in between Pin and Tenn
At least Tenn was keeping quiet about the whole situation
Are you drunk?
Fuck. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck Tenn Im going to kill you.
Another giggle. No, silly! Im just trying to cheer you two up
Youre so boring! Another poke, some more air guitar.
Grooves knuckles went white as his grip on the steering wheel tightened. He was vaguely aware of the woman to his right still watching him, could see her eyes run him up and down in his peripheral vision. He kept his eyes trained firmly on the road, knocking the blinkers sharply as he turned into their neighborhood. Not that there was much use for signals; the roads were all but deserted at this time of night.
Groove jerked involuntarily at the sudden outburst, and shot the never-quite-beautiful woman a quick half-glance. When she kept staring at him expectantly, he tentatively removed a hand from the wheel and turn down the music blearing out of the speakers. A disgruntled noise was made from the back seat, but Groove ignored it and waited for the woman in front to speak again.
My seat is hot, she stated bluntly.
Groove took a moment to take a deep breath before answering; sucking recycled air in through clenched teeth. It tasted like cigarette smoke.
Sorry. I turned on the seat warmer before. It was cold. Ill turn it off for you. And he did. The woman grunted in satisfaction and didnt say another word for the rest of the ride.
In the back, Tenn was crudely writing DRUNK ON BOARD across the condensation of the dirty window by his seat.
The garage was staring out at the white Saturn, empty and cold; but Groove stopped the car a few feet away from the garage opening, turning slightly to address all the occupants of the car.
Itll get crowded if were all to get out inside the garage. Do you guys wanna just get out here and head on in?
Lady Cigarette made a noise that could have been an affirmative, or possibly just a noise, and stepped much too gracefully onto the driveway. Tenn mumbled something about it being below freezing outside, but opened his door and stepped out into the cold night air. Pin followed suit; sliding out on the other side of the car and holding out his hand for the small woman to take. She, however, had stopped playing the air guitar and was now sitting hunched over with her head resting heavily in her hands right in the middle back seat.
Groove turned around completely to look at the woman properly. She seemed older and frailer than she should, even hiding her face. Groove received a blow of mixed worry, sympathy, and guilt to his gut when he looked at her. He asked if she was going to get out, but she shook her head slightly; stating that she was going to ride in all the way.
By the time Groove had managed to wedge the rickety car into the narrow garage, everyone who had already exited was standing around the back doors, gesturing for the woman to come out so that they could help her in. Groove quickly put the car in Park, tugging at the emergency break and turning off the headlights in one fluid motion. Before he twisted and retrieved his key, he turned back to the woman. She remained in the same hunched-over position, seemingly not aware of anything going on around her.
Wanna head inside? She finally looked up at this question; blinking a few times as if trying to get Groove into focus. Her expression was confused and fuzzy, but not sad. Then she smiled giddily and started looking for her purse in a hyper state.
No, She said happily. I just wanted to stay in here and sleep. You know how it is? When you just want to sleep? I dont want to go inside and have to go all the way to my bed. I wanted to sleep here. Finally seeming to get a grip on her purse, she turned her body to the right, fumbling for the door handle.
Groove smiled tiredly and pulled the key out of its socket; exiting the car with care as soon as all the doors clicked into unlocked positions. He glanced over the car as Pin supported the lady, only reaching his shoulder in her slumped state, through the small garage and into the house. Tenn took one last look at the woman and put on a skeptic face.
Youre really drunk, he said accusingly, before disappearing up the stairs without another word.
The slightly taller woman tenderly put a packet of cigarettes down on the kitchen table, before turning back to help Pin remove the intoxicated womans heels. Groove (who had been closing the garage door behind them) was quick to grab her awkwardly around the waist when she teetered dangerously to the side, and together they finally got her away from her boots, jacket, and purse.
Pin shot Groove an apologetic look as he and the other woman supported the smaller woman up the narrow stairs, but Groove just shrugged back. He was safe, Pin was safe, and both the women were safe. Nothing had happened. The night had progressed without major incident. Just like all the other nights had.
When Groove realized that he was still holding the short womans overfull purse in one hand, her warm coat draped clumsily over the other, he put them both down carefully on a kitchen chair beside the pack of cigarettes. Then he followed the party upstairs and spied warily from around the corner as his mother crawled onto her bed fully clothed while Pin draped the beds comforter over her body, already heaving with heavy snores.
The other woman passed Groove on her way out as Groove made to shuffle off to his room. She didnt smell as strongly of cigarettes as she had in the car, but the blurry undertone of alcohol seemed stronger.
As she opened her mouth to speak, Groove thought for a second that she was going to insult him for not helping his mother enough. Instead she said a simple Thank you for the ride and shuffled on downstairs to her waiting pack of cigarettes.
Groove grunted what could have been a youre welcome, and could possibly just have been a grunt, and shot one last look at his mothers form heaving in the dark before making for his room. He wondered absentmindedly whether the cigarette smell would ever leave his clothes while closing the door to his room quietly behind him. Only then did he allow his hands to start shaking.
October 27, 2007