I have taken another writing challenge from Kellie Elmore at:
You have just woken up in the backseat of a car and you look up to see palm tree’s through the back glass. The sun is setting and you realize you are far from home…
I knew immediately upon waking that I was not in my accustomed environment. A moment of confusion and mild panic as I figured out who and where I was, and what I was doing there. Waking up in the backseat of a moving vehicle has a way of doing that to a person. As the sunshine slowly cleared the fog from my brain, I focused through eyes still blurry with sleep. Palm trees paraded along with power lines out the back window, silhouetted in shades of scarlet as the evening sun set fire to the heavens. I lay there with my head on my pack thinking it was a wonderful way to wake up- Even with the neck cramp.
The sweet tang of the sea came blowing in through the open windows and although the sound of the motor drowned out it’s whispering, I could sense it’s nearness like the heartbeat in my chest. The layers meant to warm me in the chill of winter were now saturated with the sweat of tropical weather, but I did not mind this either. After fighting the fickle, frozen weather of January in the Cascades, it was amusing to think that a T-shirt would make me feel over dressed. I removed my boots and peeled my socks off. My sandals were in my bag, but I would worry about those later. Wiggling my toes in the breeze was like a sensual experience and I stretched out, laying a print on the opposite window with my big toe, just because I could. A grin began to creep onto my lips and stayed there.
A slight bump as the tires left the pavement behind and I see a cloud of red volcanic dust that rises in the wake of our passing, settling swiftly in the damp air of the sea. I see a cliff face rising to one side of the car with the blur of green from the passing foliage that I had yet to get a good look at. I thought about sitting up to admire the scenery but I would have plenty of time to do that later, I decided. This was an island after all, I would surely be passing this way again. Besides, sitting up would surely alert Jessie to the fact that I had awoken and although I traveled across an ocean to see her, this was a moment I wanted for myself.
My favorite childhood memories were of laying in the back of the flat bed truck, atop all the firewood gathered in the hills, watching the passing skyline as my father drove at break neck speed down the coiling switchbacks. Interesting how life will take you in circles. Here I was with 2,000 miles of salt water and 20 years between me and that memory, on yet another dirt road. It was a very good feeling.
Against insurmountable odds I had made it to the sands of Kauai. After the hard won callouses, the sweat and effort, it was the most wonderful feeling in the world just to lay here watching the aerial scenery pass by. Tomorrow I would have to buckle down, pull a few rabbits from my hat and an ace from my sleeve, dive in among the sharks and get a job. I decided to figure out later how to accomplish these things, for now it was enough to simply exist, carried along on some unknown road through paradise.
The blur of passing color, the hum of the motor, and the lassitude of heat that my body was unaccustomed to, all contributed to a slow sinking back down into the seat. A foggy sensation took hold of me. Unsure and uncaring whether it was jet lag, sleep deprivation or the humidity, I floated on the surface of it with contentment.
Jessie chose that opportune moment to turn on the radio, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t a Jack Johnson tune. My grin grew fit to split my face, cheeks tingling, I danced on the glass with dirty toes that looked forward to discovering a few tar balls. A feeling grew in my chest that I could not identify, causing my hair stand on end and making me want to sing. It took me a moment to recognize it as happiness. Filling my lungs with the warm island breeze, the smell of pine and cedar on my skin being replaced by… Whatever that wonderful smell was.
No longer able to contain my exuberance, a full throated laugh burst spontaneously from my lips for no apparent reason. I sat up and gave Jessie a hug, car seat and all, and a big kiss on the cheek. She complained about my cooties as I slid into the passenger seat. “I was wondering when you were going to emerge from your little happy place, don’t think I didn’t see you back there grinning like a fool and putting your dirty feet all over my window.You snore, you know” That was Jessie, always saying something nice in a sarcastic way. I had missed her good natured ribbing.
“I told you I was tired. I haven’t slept for two days, and all that drama on the mainland…” I had abruptly lost all interest in conversation. Around a bend the view had opened up before me to reveal horizon. A few feet from the right hand tires the roadside was a sheer drop of 50 feet or more to the surface of the ocean. Moderate white caps from the incoming tide made small by my vantage point, were lit with a soft orange slow from the sun now sinking into the sea. I was breathless and awestruck. I could have written poetry for years on the liquid movement of color, a novel on the gentle way the waves stroked the stony shore, but for the life of me could not summon a simple ‘wow’ to my lips.
I watched this glory of simplicity until the bend in the road brought us back into the folds of the mountain, etching it deeply into the pages of memory where I could hold it close forever. Turning slowly toward Jessie, I see her grinning at me between glances at the road. “You should see your face right now.” She told me.
“Am I going to be driving past that every day?” I ask her. “Oh yeah,” She replied, “Wait until you see the falls.” Anticipation, excitement for the unknown, I turn my eyes to the road unfurling before us, wondering what new sort of wonders await me around the next corner of my life… This is going to be an adventure I will never forget, and I can’t wait to get started.