Direction Chapter Two
“It’s so nice out” Jeff thought, “like something you’d see in a movie. The camera would follow the car, you’d see the reflection of the buildings in the windshield as it drove, then the conversation would turn to something about favorite road trip music or some bullshit like that.”
Just then Chris clicked on the radio and plugged his phone into the auxiliary jack. “Burning Down the House” by The Talking Heads poured inside of the car. “I love The Talking Heads on a day like this, they’re my go-to soundtrack for road trips” he said as he slid the phone into the cupholder between the front seats like a gun in a holster.
“That was weird” Jeff thought, as he pressed his finger against the shoulder of the little dancing hula girl on Chris’ dashboard. She began frantically swaying, ignoring the new wave sounds of the Talking Heads, following her own chaotic rhythm. “I’m more of a Creedence man myself” he replied to Chris. “The tempo is perfect, I feel like I’m in the movie Easy Rider every time I go anywhere. I should probably buy a bandana, start wearing more leather.”
“Well, to each his own” Chris chuckled.
Jeff looked out the passenger window. The lush green scenery of the suburbs was slowly changing to the grays and browns of the city’s concrete, where Riley resided, and where they’d be meeting her for lunch. Well, almost dinner now. “Lincher?” he thought. “No, that’s stupid, and kind of sounds racist.”
“Do you know where this place is?” Chris asked.
“I have no idea” Jeff replied, “I hate the city, I never go there.” Jeff rustled his phone out of his pocket and began typing the café name into it. “Olde Kingsley Café, 22 minutes. You just have to keep on this road pretty much the whole way.”
Jeff backed out of the map application and went into his photos, he was sure to angle his phone away from Chris as he sunk down into his seat. He searched for the last time he saw Riley. Chris and he had a party at their place, Jeff only got one picture of Riley throughout the entire night, which he scrolled right to almost automatically. There was her smiling face, beaming out of his phone, her green eyes almost unbearable to look at, partially covered by her long auburn hair.
Jeff couldn’t help but be overcome by a thin layer of joy covering his usual air of depressing sarcasm. Just as quickly though his mood turned sour as he recalled the events of the party like he had a thousand times before. This was the night he was going to tell Riley how he felt, tell her that there was no one else on this Earth more perfect, before guzzling a fifth of tequila and having Chris and her carry his vomit covered body to bed. “How romantic” he thought. Yet another time Chris got to be the hero, be the one to shine. Jeff could almost hear their voices through the months of impaired memory and alcohol. “There he goes again, he just can’t control himself. I’m starting to really worry about him.”
“In .2 miles, turn left, your destination will be on the right” interrupted the phone’s navigation.
Chris’ car was now nestled within the large buildings of the city, Jeff finally began to take in his surroundings. Just 35 quick minutes away from his apartment there was what seemed like an endless amount of people, one of everything. Though Jeff hated the city, he did at least get some peace of mind in that regard. He despised people, but being in a place where he knew no one meant he never had to talk to anyone. That gave Jeff comfort. He could go whole days without saying a single word out loud. He smiled slightly at this, then realized he was doing it and quickly looked out the side window, hoping Chris hadn’t noticed.
They we’re turning left on Spruce Street now, Jeff could see the café. There was a wooden sign above the door with a trotting white horse on it, and small white tables and chairs out front. It only took him an instance to spot her. Riley sat at one of the tables reading a small multi-colored looking book. He couldn’t really make out what it was. Her auburn hair was down over her shoulders. She had the same old Beatles shirt on she was always wearing with some tight, worn bluejeans, and bright red flats.
“BEEP” Chris’ car blasted. Startled, Riley looked up, smiled instantly and waved. Jeff could feel the blood making its’ way to his face, followed by that warm sensation it causes on the back of his neck. Then she was out of site.
Chris turned down the next block and found a spot right near the corner. “Like a mother fucking pro” he said.
“Goddamn, that never happens” Jeff replied. It was a sincere reaction.
They walked up to the front of Olde Kingsley Café, Riley was already on her feet with her arms stretched out, fingers spread as far apart as her petite hands would allow.
“It’s so good to see you guys!” Riley squealed enthusiastically.
Chris walked up and hugged her for a moment, then put his hands on her shoulders and stepped back until she was arm’s length away. He looked her in the face and smiled.
“Likewise, Ry!” Chris replied.
Jeff was immediately annoyed. “Ry” was Chris’ nickname for Riley, every time he heard him call her it he could feel the acid churn in the pit of his stomach. Then just like that the feeling was replaced with rapture as he felt Riley’s arms wrap around him. She was so short he could tilt his head and rest it on hers. He closed his eyes and filled his lungs with her aroma, it was one of Jeff’s favorite things. It was like dumping cold crystal clear water onto a dying plant. He could feel it soaking up into his roots, making him stronger.
Finally they were in the café placing their orders. “Small black coffee with sugar” Jeff mumbled, as he handed the barista a wrinkled five dollar bill.
“Cream with that?” replied the barista.
“No, black with sugar, just that is fine” Jeff said, a little more sharply than he intended. He’s usually pretty good at internalizing his dislike for dealing with people. “If I wanted fucking cream I would have asked for it, I literally just told you exactly what I wanted one second ago” he thought.
Jeff grabbed his change and walked down to the end of the counter where Chris was still waiting for his chai tea. He leaned against the counter that housed all the coffee condiments and turned toward the large front window, so he could stare out at Riley. The camera slowly tracked through the long café. Every sip, spoon sliding across porcelain, conversation, and computer click combined into the perfect orchestra of café atmosphere. Out the window where Riley sat, the light was hitting off her hair the way the last embers glow from a dying fire. It was a perfect array of deep reds.
“Chris, Jeff!” yelled the barista. They grabbed their drinks and headed out front to join Riley at the little white table.
As they walked out Riley sat her book down on the table, Jeff could clearly see it now. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson. His eyes then went from the book, traveled across the grated top of the white table, up her fingers, past her orange hair tie on her wrist and up her slender pale arm until finally arriving at her big green eyes. Just then she looked up at him, and he immediately looked down at the black plastic lid of his coffee and swallowed hard. “How are you?” he managed to croak out, then took a long sip.
“I’m fantastic man, how have you guys been?” Riley replied, almost matter-of-factly. “I haven’t seen you guys since Jeff decided to drink a bottle of tequila in reverse.”
"Ha" Chris replied, "I think he’s still nursing a hangover from that night."
Jeff’s face burned red, then he looked over at his reflection in the café window. “Fuck you Chris, always have to be so fucking clever” he thought.
Jeff was leaning against the coffee condiment counter. He wrenched his eyes shut, then open again. "What in the fuck?" he thought. He looked over at Chris who was standing there absentmindedly watching the barista make his chai tea.
"Did I just imagine that whole conversation?" Jeff thought.
"Chris, Jeff!" yelled the barista.
Chris grabbed the drinks and turned to hand Jeff his coffee. "Yo shit bird, your coffee" he said jokingly.
Jeff slowly grabbed his coffee from Chris and they walked out front to where Riley was sitting. As they made their way out the door Jeff could see Riley look back smiling and put her book down on the table. Jeff stared down at the book. The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson, just like he imagined. Or was he imagining? How could he have possibly known that? “What the fuck is happening?” he thought, then he looked at Riley and she was staring up at him.
There was a long pause, filled with the busy sounds of the city, while Jeff gathered himself. He could hear the ticking of his watch as he brought his coffee to his mouth and took a sip. “How…how are you?” he asked Riley, still confused.
“I’m fantastic man, how have you guys been?” Riley replied. “I haven’t seen you guys since Jeff decided to drink a bottle of tequila in reverse.”
“I think I’m still nursing a hangover from that night” Jeff quickly replied.
Riley laughed out loud. “I wouldn’t be surprised!” she giggled.
Jeff then glanced over at Chris, who was now looking back at him strangely. “Yea, fuck you Chris” he thought.