Lace always gets bitch seat. She doesn’t mind it’s kind of cozy and that way she can keep her eyes on the road because she doesn’t always trust the person driving the car. It’s not great when the seatbelt is missing or broken which happens a lot because she can’t stop thinking about the car crashing and her head going through the windshield.
The bass ricochets through her eardrums and she doesn’t care much for the music but moves her head to the beat anyway. It’s the middle of July and the air is wet and sticky, unlike yesterday dry as a bone, and that’s typical for a New England summer. The Driver’s air conditioner is broken in his ’99 Civic so the windows are down and she wishes she could put her arm out but it probably wouldn’t make a difference.
The Passenger hands the roll back and Jenna grabs it. She inhales and exhales and passes it to Lace and Lace passes it to Emily because she doesn’t know how to inhale without coughing up a lung and she’d rather not. Lace is looking through the windshield and The Driver is speeding up because they are on Westboro Road by Tufts Campus and it’s really long and really straight and drivers like to go fast here. Lace hates when the drivers do this because she doesn’t think it’s cool to get into an accident and die over something small like this and that’s all she can think about as the speedometer hits sixty in a thirty.
Jenna asks The Driver to slow down and he does.
At night this town dies and life happens inside of cars and basements and parking lots. In fifteen minutes they are on the other side of town and The Passenger passes back a second one and Jenna grabs it and this time Lace takes one hit and she coughs for five minutes straight. She asks if they can stop at Cumbie’s for some water. They pass the high school on the way and in the parking lot they see Joey Silva’s Mazda and later find out that Sara Strindberg was with him and left her ring at home. They pass the Stop and Shop on Pleasant Street and see all of the F-150s decorated with Confederate flags and the kids who drive them sit in the truck beds and have no idea what any of it means.
“We can go to Paul’s,” The Passenger says.
“Do you guys want to go to Paul’s?” The Driver asks.
“Sure,” the girls say.
They pull into the Cumbie’s parking lot and Lace sees the Black Acura. She looks at Jenna and Jenna is looking at her and Emily says, “do you want to leave?”
Lace gets out of the car and walks into the convenience store and sees him by the slushy machine.
“Hey,” she says.
“Where have you been?”
“I’ve been calling you.”
“I miss you.”
“I miss you, too.”
“I don’t get it.”
“You know how it is.”
His eyes are bloodshot and it looks like he might be looking at her but he’s really looking just past her. He’ll never remember this conversation and it will live inside of her head for weeks.
She waits for him to ask her to come with but he doesn’t and when she walks out she sees Her in his front seat and it hurts. She starts to cry but only a little bit, no one notices, as she crawls into the back middle seat and waits to leave.
They head to Paul’s and they sit at the Millbury Street stoplight for what feels like hours and for some reason The Driver didn’t put the music back on and it is very peaceful. The crickets sing songs in the tall grass in the open fields and in the distance there are tires screeching and an engine revving and Lace likes this music better.
Paul lives in the south part of town and his mom is never home and his dad lives in Florida so there are always kids in his basement drinking Sparks or Red Bull vodkas or both. They walk in and it smells like dirty laundry. Paul looks up from his water pipe and smiles.
“What you guys do tonight?” Paul asks The Driver.
The Driver sits down and grabs the pipe. As he exhales he says, “Nothing. Just drove around.”