Jamie sped down Route 66 East through Arizona following the signs for New Mexico, painfully aware of her tight grip on the steering wheel. Earlier in Los Angeles at sunrise, with a kind of conviction that took root four days ago, Jamie packed one suitcase, her camping gear, a pair of fifty pound dumbbells, and three boxes filled with books: the sum of her possessions. Got to keep going, she repeated to herself, reciting the words like a prayer she had to memorize. She looked at the gas gauge. There was no telling how much longer she would be able to drive with a nearly empty tank. Further on, a cat had been run over; the distorted carcass lay to the side, its belly swollen, its matted fur damp with blood. It wasn’t that she was anxious to get anywhere as much as she wanted to put distance between herself and the life that only this morning she had left behind.
Shortly after Jamie crossed over into New Mexico, a yellow blade of light sliced through the vast thick cloud that rolled down and formed a ceiling over the mesas. She glanced at the gas gauge again and felt a knot form at the pit of her stomach. She knew she had to stop soon, and slowed the car, hoping to conserve some gas. Suddenly, the storm roared in, sending cracks of thunder from the early summer sky. The rain drummed the car. It fell heavily on the arid ground, flooding the road. Jamie slowed the car, leaning forward over the steering wheel to peer into the blinding downpour. Her face tight with concentration, she looked for the white line on the road.
She glanced at her watch. Ten minutes had gone by. Where is a gas station? She could feel knots of tension in her neck, her eyes burned with fatigue, and her stomach growled. A truck flew past her in the left lane, throwing up streams of water onto her windshield. No matter how tempting it was to speed up, she resisted the urge. Jamie glanced at the dashboard again. The needle on the gas gauge was buried in the red. She cursed herself for not checking the gauge earlier. She maneuvered her car to the side of the road, turned off the engine and sat motionless, her hands limp and useless over the steering wheel. The changes in her life that had come about in the last year were jarring to her senses and an affront to her memories of happier times. But now she tried hard to focus her attention on a future that promised something and not of a past that seemed to her less tolerable than the loneliness she risked when she left.
She tried not to think of the fight with Sofie’s parents at the restaurant, but it kept repeating itself in her mind.
“You young people,” the tone of Sofie’s father was harsh. “You think life is a joke. What do you have to show for it? Children? Family? This is not normal. No respect for ideals and tradition. You think that tradition is something left only for old people.”
His words matched the specter of Sofie’s parents, their dark clothes smelling of moth balls and their accusing eyes, her mother’s wig, her father’s yarmulke.
“Tradition?” Jamie felt the heat rise in her face. “This is the seventies. Tradition is dead.”
Sofie’s father widened his eyes at Jamie. “You know what your problem is?”
Sofie’s mother grunted.
“Problem?” Jamie said.
Sofie picked up a napkin and began shredding it.
“You have no morality.”
“And you hide behind religion to justify your prejudice…”
Sofie’s father clutched the side of the table, leaned over and spat in Jamie’s face.
In the stony silence that followed, Jamie looked over to where Sofie was sitting, eyes downcast. She seemed to be getting farther and farther away. Jamie hated her. She'd never hated her before. Jamie wiped her face with the back of her hand. Before she knew what she was doing, she got up from the table, moved away from Sofie and her parents.
Sofie rose quickly and stood in front of Jamie. “Wait. Where are you going?”
Jamie had no answer for her. Ignoring the stared of the other diners, Jamie shoved her out of the way and ran for the door. The tires on the Trans Am smoked on the asphalt as she pulled out of the lot and onto the main street.
“He was upset,” Sofie said later.
“Upset enough to spit in my face? And you just sat there?”
“He acted without thinking.”
“No need to apologize for your father,” Jamie told Sofie. “The fact remains that you were silent.”
"How many times do you want me to apologize?"
"I never asked you to."
"What can I do to make it right? I don’t want for this to die."
She searched Sofie’s face, then. There was no false promise of anything there, no future. Her parents’ beliefs seemed to live in Sofie too, even love could not erase.
“C’mon Sofie, you know we’ve reached a dead end.” Jamie knew what Sofie saw in her eyes: disappointment and disillusionment.
“Where will you be?” Sofie asked when Jamie told her she would be moving out.
“I’m not sure really. My parents’ I guess. Just until I figure out what I want to do.”
“I sent in my resignation already.”