“Again.” I waited for his response, anticipating a sigh.
“Again?” John checked his mirrors and signaled his emergency lights, but no sigh. There’s a plus.
“Oh, yes, again. Pull over,” I muttered, reaching for the paper towels. As I looked away, I felt his stare penetrating me. Too commanding, too bossy, too everything, once again. I knew.
“Please,” I added, with a small, but meek smile, trying to encourage any ounce of patience left in him.
“Wait, now?” He checked his mirrors for the fifth time.
“Absolutely not. I was hoping we could wait until we were watching the sunrise and then I could do this. It’s your car, and my vomit. From the way tonight’s going, I’d say you have about fifteen seconds.”
The car came to a halt quicker than I had expected. The shoulder of the road had enough rocks to make me despise erosion itself. I centered all of my thoughts on people personal vendettas against smooth road surfaces. I’m sure it was them who put these rocks in a certain perfectly calculated order on the shoulder of the road, insuring that my stomach would have no other choice but to reach its peak of nausea. Whatever got me to stop thinking about the nausea itself would suffice, I figured, regardless of how insane my thoughts exponentially became.
I slammed the car door behind me, clutched the convenient roll of paper towels, put my hands on my knees, and waited for the worst. Cars whizzed by, headlights going as quickly as they came. What I expected to be a much more drawn out “throwing-up session” turned out to be just water I drank earlier, coming back with a twisted vengeance.
“How’s it going, buddy?” John lit a cigarette as he hung his arm out of the window of the car. He either ignored the fact that the smell of smoke would make me feel more nauseous or genuinely enjoyed watching me vomit.
“Great, can’t wait to do this all over again in twenty minutes,” I tried shouting over the roar of cars. I took a deep breath after wiping my mouth, keeping my hands on my knees. I was going through about five seconds of relief, and by God I was planning on enjoying it.
“Are you planning on vomiting tomorrow?”
My mouth twisted into a smirk as I slowly turned my head to face him, as I’m sure he anticipated the worst. “Per chance, do you have an extra chromosome? Is that something that you always meant to tell me, but could never find the right way to do it? Please end the suspense, kiddo.”
“I genuinely hope you want a ride home. Keep in mind that I’m getting nauseous just by just from dealing with you. On top of it, it’s getting late enough for us to unintentionally watch the sunrise.”
I turned back to face the dirt to avoid his face, but mainly to avoid the smoke escaping his lips.
“As enticing as the idea of a romantic sunrise with you may be, I know if I walk I won’t have to deal with you taking thirty minutes to pull over onto the shoulder. If I go with you, I could pretend that I may vomit in your precious baby at any unpredictable moment. This could be one of those times I’m going to choose being obnoxious over feeling comfortable.”
He smiled briefly as he tossed out his cigarette. “And when your body turns up dead in the morning, I’m sure it’ll still have that crappy, crappy smirk on it, and I’ll still consider you very, very stupid. Let’s go.” He flipped his headlights back on and put the car in gear as I stood up to take a deep breath.
I sat back down into the car and lowered the window, hoping the breeze would help some of the sweat on my forehead evaporate. Before long his hand found its usual place above mine, trying to rub warmth back into them. We took off, back onto the highway, and I started my regular countdown to when I would feel nauseous enough to have to say the dreaded words - “Pull over again.”
“How long until we get home?” I asked, praying he would say something along the lines of four seconds.
“Two or three hours, but at the rate we’re moving, I’d say six.”
“As soon as you stop throwing up,” he retorted.
“Not my fault. I’m ill. Pity me.” I wasn’t sure what I was trying to aim for at this point.
“You’re as deranged as you will be hung over tomorrow,” he mumbled before refocusing his attention on driving.
“You have an extra chromosome.” I could have done better than that, even in my current state.
“Can we get off that subject? Can you think of something more creative for the sake of giving me proper insults that I’d like to think I deserve?”
“And to think that you call me deranged. You’re a fascinating individual.” I kept my laughter to a minimum, which meant that a small chuckle would suffice and save me from further nausea that I was aiming to avoid. My stomach was finally somewhat at ease, and I needed it to stay that way for as long as possible.
I pushed myself further down in the car seat, turned my head towards John, and watched the streetlights shine over his face; one by one, faster and faster. With each second, I could another glimpse of his olive skin, then his dark stern eyes, and then his tense face coated with (what I liked to believe was) concern for me.
The heaviest thing in the world are your eyelids. This, my last passing thought of the evening, was confirmed as I gave into the temptation of sleep, releasing any ounce of guilt I felt for John, who had a four-hour drive ahead of him, with someone who without a doubt smelled like vomit. Poor guy.
Actually, no. Not at all. Women are faced with menstruation and pregnancy. Lucky son of a bitch is what he is.
What felt like four minutes was actually two hours that had passed, leading to an inevitable disturbance. Whether it’s an alarm clock, birds chirping, your boyfriend farting, or God taking a piss on you as a friendly reminder of the crappy day to come, there always seems to be something.
I heard John. Then I ignored him.
There it is again. I’ll be damned if I’m not in a coma.
I could feel him nudging me. Now I’ll be damned if I’m not dead.
“You wake up at the sound of someone sneezing in China, so if you plan on faking your own death right now, so help me God I will raise the volume on this radio so high that the bass itself will shatter the bones in your body,” he said, nudging me for the second time.
“You’re drooling on yourself. This is getting disturbing. Get up for a second.”
I began to rub my eyes as the sickly feeling in my stomach greeted me once again.
“Why. Just tell me why,” I muttered, looking at him for a second before turned back to my window.
I sat up as fast the words seemed to leave his lips, looking around the outside of the car as if the trees and stretch of highway would help me figure out where we were.
“How lost is very lost, John?” My voice was laced with a hefty combination of confusion, paranoia, and anger.
“Lost like Maryland lost.”
I put both of my hands to my face, as if to prevent myself from letting out a massive scream.
“We live in New Jersey. We’re coming from a show in Philly. Right now, we’re in Maryland. Forgive me if I’m wrong because geography isn’t exactly my forte, but at what point did you feel compelled to head south?” My voice trembled with frustration, which ironically seemed to guide towards a calmer mental state.
That’s probably not an answer. No, because an answer usually comes with a reasonable response that involves a solution. Almost a two for one deal! No answer here. If he wasn’t going to propose a solution, then I was.
“We need to get to a gas station, John.”
“We need to stop going to shows in Philly.”
“My middle finger tells me that an argument’s about to start. Dare me, my bundle of navigational-impairment? And what stopped you from waking me up earlier? Like three-hours-ago-earlier?”
“I tried! You were comatose. Do you understand that for a while I was debating whether or not you overdosed on Pepto-Bismol?”
I shrugged. He had been driving. I had been sick, and an argument in the middle of Maryland wasn’t going to get us anywhere. Literally. We drove on for a few miles in silence, listening to each other breathe, and praying that a rest area was waiting on the arrival of two disgruntled, tired, and upset individuals determined to eventually get home.
“How do you feel?”
I looked at him, almost straining my hearing to make sure that was really the question I just heard him ask.
“Fantastic. I have no more bile in my system.”
That won me at least ten more minutes of silence with him, which he was very, very willing to give. However, it wasn’t long before his voice broke the silence yet again.
“You want to laugh?”
“I’m dying to.” I crossed my arms over my chest as his pointed towards the left end of the windshield.
“You see that?” He smiled, trying to make light of the situation.
“A town filled with people who are probably equipped with GPS?”
“No. That almost romantic sunrise.” His smiled evolved into a broad grin itching with sarcasm, and I could tell that he was replaying the night’s horrific events over in his head, but in a funnier sequence.
I hated him, and then I failed to resist a smile, probably in that order.
Stephanie Picinic graduated from Rutgers University with her B.A. in journalism and media studies. Ironically enough, she's a big fan of Victory's Golden Monkey IPA.