Winking at the windshield, Matt tried to push through the night drive home. A yawn escaped his lips, pushing his jaw out popping it to the left. Conventions always tired him out as an introvert forced to be an extrovert, although driving in mid-west America with nothing more than flat land and endless fields provided little stimulation.
The smell of the leftover pizza had begun to fill the small space of his Chevy sonic, a car his friends relentlessly ragged on him about due to it’s size, but with a job that made him spend 70% of his time in his car, gas prices were a bigger concern to him than status among his gun loving pickup truck driving friends from college.
In an urge to push through the tiredness as he was approaching the end of his drive, he turned off his electronic music that easily fades into the background for what seems to be a recently lost marketing medium- talk radio. He remembers his dad always turning it on during Sunday drives to church, and the smell of his mom’s vanilla perfume chocking him more than the necktie that he was forced to wear.
“Thanks for tuning in tonight to the Evening Experience. Welcome to the loneliest mile with your host, Jay Jones. Know how the world is going to end, think your spouse is cheating on you, you were probed by aliens? Great, give me a ring, and let’s discuss how we’re all going to end up in that pine box 6 feet under the surface anyway.”
Rolling his eyes, Matt wiggled in his seat listening to the next few callers discuss their intimate details with who was probably just an overweight balding white man sitting behind a microphone with a large McDonald’s coke resting in front of him while he watched the clock like the rest of the working class.
Although he chuckled to himself, Matt felt an irresistible urge to call in himself. He couldn’t tell if it was Jay’s smooth voice, or how the longer he listened, the more relate-able the at first tall tale stories of others became.
He held his phone in his lap, and thought about his life while staring out through the windshield; water droplets smearing his vision, and the headlights of others journeying to their destinations causing him to squint a little harder every few minutes.
“It’s been a good long night in the wilderness, and aren’t we all just animals? I know you’re out there, driving along a long dark road, the headlights illuminating your life path. Give me a call, I will listen.”
“Good evening my fellow human, don’t tell me your name, but tell me your most intimate problems and we will help return your sanity given by the night sky.”
What a nut job, Matt thought. It may have been the rain, his exhaustion, or the rhythmic sound of the slapping windshield wipers, but Matt began to pour out thoughts he hadn’t told anyone before.
“I remember my mom, and all the men in her life, yet I was never enough to be one of them. She couldn’t be alone, and yet never seemed to have the time to be alone with me. She was more of an acquaintance rather than a mother.”
“Ah, my dear dear friend, sometimes the ones we call our parents in our life weren’t ready for that title. We must remember that they choose their priorities, and sometimes their children aren’t one of them.”
Vanilla aroma filled the car overtaking the pizza in the back. His name was Steve, he was a dump truck driver, and he was a sarcastic man that towered over others with his personality and appearance. They moved in with him about a year after the divorce, his father taking main care of him and his brother until that time to ensure things “went smoothly.”
Even through the multiple counseling sessions through school, he still didn’t really understand the extent of what had happened. He just knew that although he was sad, this was his life now, and there wasn’t enough coping books and talks that could change that.
At first, everything seemed fine. Alternating weekends at his Mom’s just became a routine, and he made friends with the neighbors, something he never had at the country house with his dad. There was a barn that had a loft that he was able to transform into his own clubhouse, and a sleigh bed that his mom had gotten him in attempts to cheer him up about his now second home, not just house.
She was now working nights at the gas station up the road, her hair now blonde and her jeans fitting a little looser than the years before when they would be riding in the blue suburban to piano lessons forced upon him. Playing in his room adjacent to his mom’s and Steve’s, Steve calls him in.
“Come rub my back would ya?”
“Yep right here, on my lower back. It just get’s so tense from the truck. Do you like it here Matt?”
“Good, I’m glad you and your brother are here with us, I really love your Mother. Now work it a little deeper would ya?”
A bright headlight brings him back to the road, his phone still up to his ear, and he wasn’t sure how much he actually relived to Jay.
“That brings us to the end of our loneliest mile ladies and gents. Join me on the opposite side of the world tomorrow night. This is Jay Jones with the Evening Experience.”
Pulling up to his drive way, Matt turned off the engine and lingered in his car. The vanilla smell beginning to fade, he couldn’t help but feel that sadness and confusion that had overtaken him at age 7 again. A shiver moved down his spine, and he sat up a little straighter. Gathering his things, he begun his way into his apartment to sleep off the trip.