Chasing Atalanta (Chapter 2)


The digital dashboard clock showed 2.16 pm when I decided to drive out of US 23 to a city called Sylvania. If it were a woman, I bet she’s a hot one based on the name and she was presumably arty and cultural. She was probably a poet or a novelist, just like Plath. God, I started uttering nonsense.

Nine-hour nonstop drive from New York to Ohio burned me out. It was before dawn when I left New York City, and I spent nine hours by only sitting and screaming Ty Segall’s songs at the top of my lungs. But, I swore to God it was really exhausting and it creeped me out because I realized that I was not young anymore. It was as if New York had drained my youth and spirit these past years.

“Turn right to exit 234,” said Sandra loudly, the name that I gave to my car GPS when I was still in high school. It was a lame name, I knew, but it was kind of stuck there like a super-adhesive glue. My car’s name, though, was niftier. It was Strummer. But, I had to admit that I got the name from a Buzzfeed quiz that I did because I got no sense in naming car whatsoever.

“Yeah, yeah. I am not illiterate.” I murmured. This nine-hour drive would be more fun if there was Jennifer by my side. She would not only try to find the correct direction, but she would also try to find the correct way to my mouth, trying to steal a kiss, while I tried my hardest to drive and not to kill both of us. She would giggle really hard and that came off as a music to my ear. Man, I could kill just to hear her voice. But, instead of getting the sound of her giggles, I had to be satisfied with Sandra’s monotone voice that failed to titillate me, unlike Theodore Twombly. It was also not Jennifer that sat on the passenger side beside me, but boxes containing my clothes. The same ugly boxes containing boxes and my other stuffs towered on the backseat as well.

The exit number 234 was crowded and I needed a few minutes before I could discern a street sign depicting some fast food restaurants. It commanded me to go straight and turn right on the second crossroad.

I stopped by a traffic light before turning my wheel right and decided to go to Tim Hortons. I only drank plain water during my drive. I needed my sucrose intake, and I could use some Tim Hortons’ doughnuts.

A dental care clinic stood by the end of the street when I turned right before being followed by a row of fast food restaurants and a long shopping center. I could make out Taco Bell’s purple bell, McDonald’s golden arches, and Tim Hortons’ sign afar. It seemed ironic, though, because it felt like they intentionally put the dental clinic close to these restaurants. So, when a customer ate too many Tim Hortons’ Boston cream doughnuts and his tooth ached, they could say, “Having a toothache because of our doughnuts? Don’t worry, there’s a dental clinic by the end of this street. Convenient, right?”

After parking Strummer on Tim Hortons’ empty parking lot, I stepped out and felt the warm breeze of Ohio in June. Strummer is a 2006 Ford Mustang that I inherited from Dad in my sophomore year of high school. It looked more like shit, compared to other parked cars. The oldest car (other than mine) here likely came out in 2010, an Accord that parked by the southwest end of the parking lot even though I could also see an old 70’s Chrysler at the opposite of the car. I could imagine an old woman sitting behind that car’s wheel.

“Damn middle class,” I grumbled.

I jogged to the awning of Tim Hortons and was greeted by a young guy—he was still in his teen, I guess—with ‘James’ written on his nametag from behind the cashier. His cheeks were as rosy as bride’s. 

“Welcome to Tim Hortons, Sir. How can I help you?”

Could you give me a job that was not from my mother was the appropriate answer that I was supposed to give, but I opted to stay silence and just ordered a grilled panini with bacon and cheese, a medium-sized coffee, and a half dozen of Canadian maple doughnuts for takeaway.

“Anything else?” asked James again. His fingers flitted mercurially on the cashier machine, making me wonder how long he had been on this job. At least it’s stable, I quoted Mom. I scoffed
.
“Nah.” I gave him three five-dollar bills.

“That will be $13.51.” As fast as coyote, he took my bills and gave me change. “Thank you, Sir. Hope you have a good day.”

I was dubious that today will be a good day, especially because I would meet my beloved mother in less than six hours. While I slid to the food counter, James inserted my doughnuts to a paper bag hastily.

This restaurant was not too crowded and strangely tranquil, except for Taylor Swift’s Blank Space that blasted out of the speaker. A middle-aged man lay quiescently at the corner of the room, like there was nothing to worry about in this world. I had a feeling that he was the one who rode the old Chrysler in the parking lot. A pair of adolescent girls sat by the opposite corner, giggling like lunatic, enjoying the beginning of summer.

“Here’s your meal, Sir!” James startled me. He smiled, flashing his pearly white teeth that made me ponder if he was one of the customers of the dental clinic in the end of this street. “Thank you very much.”

I nodded and brought my tray to the middle-aged man’s table, far far away from the teenage girls that seemed obnoxious. They glanced me, whispered something, and laughed hard. Yeah, I knew I was unemployed. No need to whisper, girls. And suddenly I felt jolt of lividity and slammed the tray to the table. The old man didn’t even budge an inch like a sloth. If Mom were here, she would judge the old man for not being more spirited and cheerful. As if her husband was spirited and cheerful as well.

Before I could put my ass to the chair, my cellphone rang. Speak of the devil. Mom called.

“Hi, Mom,” I answered reluctantly. 

“Hi, Patrick! Where are you now?” asked Mom.

“In Sylviana, Ohio.” I replied while stirring my coffee and sipping it a little. “Having some lunch.”

“Oh, great! Hey, Patrick. do you think you could make it here before dinner?” Mom asked expectantly. “I want to make special dinner for your coming, do you think you could make it before seven? No need to rush, though. I have invited some other people, though, but I can cancel it if necessary.”

“Awesome!” I exclaimed sarcastically, but I believed Mom couldn’t sense it. I couldn’t wait for this awkward dinner where other people would humiliate me why I came back to Rosefield. I looked at my watch. I still got around four hours. “Yeah, I guess I could make it.”

“Okay, great. So, see you tonight, Patrick! Please be careful. ” Mom hung up the call.

I exhaled and contemplated if the decision to go back to Rosefield is a good one. A few days ago, out of curiosity I looked up a forum for people who went back to their parents’ house. Surprisingly there were millions other people in the States that had similar experience with me, millions were worse. Reading their experiences somehow made me feel that I was not the biggest dud in the world. There were tons of people out there who were dudder than me, so I didn’t need to overthink.

After devouring my lunch, I stepped out of Tim Hortons and went back to my car. I squinted to block the scorching and bright sunlight of June, and when I arrived to Strummer and groped in my pocket for car keys, my fingers felt a warm waft. Fuck. Where did I drop the keys?

I put the doughnuts at the hood of Strummer and retraced my steps to find the dropped keys. Luckily, the metal part of the keys reflected the sunlight, so I could easily snatched them from the ground near the awning of Tim Hortons.

Unluckily, when I went back to my car, those damn maple doughnuts melted even if I just left for less than ten minutes. The maple syrup melted and stuck in Strummer’s hood and bits of paper sprinkled on the doughnuts.

“Off to a great start,” I muttered. I was probably not blessed to come home. I grabbed the paper bag and the polluted doughnuts—which I pray to God were still edible—entered the car, and drove back to US 23. Rosefield, here I come. 
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