This is the third installment, you may need to catch up HERE
The nice thing about sitting in silence, even in a moving car, is that it gives you plenty of time to think or reflect or plan. Travis wasn't doing too much of the latter since he didn't quite know where he was to end up, but he was doing plenty of reflecting. Travis let his mind drift and daydream. Different moments of his life would pop into his mind like pictures in a slide show or like a viewfinder that kids play with. A memory would float into view, and the story would unfold like an out-of-control dream. He mainly thought about his college years, since up to this point, college was the singular biggest accomplishment of his life.
He graduated with decent grades. Of course they could have been better if Travis had applied himself more and focused on academics instead of attending college bars or hanging out with the guys. He thought of a typical random night out with the guys which usually ended up in a predawn return home to his apartment. He wondered, "How did I even get home?"
Travis recalled the beginning of an atypical night; drinking some beers at happy hour with his buddies and some live music playing just a little too loud in the background. Sometime, a little later into the night, someone would pull out a joint. They would take a walk out back, smoke it then return to the bar to listen to the music. They would see some cute girls and one of them would go over and break the ice. They would intermingle and all start talking to each other. About one in the morning, someone would have told someone about a party at someone's house or apartment. They would head over there. Sometimes by this point, they would walk and smoke another joint or drive and smoke. There would always be instruments at the party. The musicians in the group would start strumming a guitar and playing a drum. The drunken budding singers would sing along, and they would think that they sounded pretty good till a neighbor knocked on the door to ask them to keep it down. They would say, "Okay," but eventually the noise would steadily increase till there was a police officer knocking telling them that the neighbors called in a noise complaint and that they would have to quiet down or break up the party. At that point, the loud people would usually leave, or as the beer dwindled, people left. If they had a car, someone might drive to the closest breakfast place. Someone usually passed out on the sofa. That person, sometimes Travis, would just crash at the party while everyone else made their way home without trying to rouse the passed out person. If they had left a car at the bar, no one worried, or even cared. In the morning, when the drunken pot haze lifted, someone would remember where they left the car, and the owner would go fetch it.
Travis guessed that he made it to class more often then not. One day, he was stopped on campus by one of his professors, a psychology professor. Travis had missed class that day due to a late night out. The professor approached Travis and asked why he wasn't in class. Travis’ pores oozed the scent of alcohol and marijuana. Travis made up a lie that he was called in to work. The professor said, "You need to decide when you are going to get serious about your life and about the choices you make. You need to decide what you want." The professor shocked Travis who wished he could say that the professor had helped him see the light. The professor didn't assist Travis in maturing, but he did shock him and pissed him off. He pissed off Travis enough that Travis felt challenged and finished with a B+ in the class.
His grades were good enough to appease his parents who were paying the bill. He knew that he could have done better, and he knew that he couldn't change the past. He felt crappy about it. He allowed himself to get locked down in the morose memory instead of the good time. He didn't hurt anybody along the way, but he felt guilt and shame from putting substances into his body and cheating himself out of a better education. Then Travis flipped his emotions feeling righteous that he earned his degree and not worrying about GPA because he knew that it was never checked by a potential employer. Someone once told him, "The A students end up as professors. The C students end up going into business for themselves, and the B students end up working for the C students." As a B student, he refused to resign himself to his potential fate. He wondered what category Karen fell into.
Karen exited the Walterborough exit in South Carolina. When she spoke, her voice cracked from not being used. She coughed a little to clear her throat.
"Do you want out here? I'm going on to the ocean." Travis hadn't been to the beach since his parents made him attend a family reunion right before he went into college. Since he had no cousins his own age, he had wanted to stay home and spend the time with his high school friends who were all going to different schools. He moped the entire week while his aunts tried to cheer him up and his uncles made fun of him. The idea of going to the beach now thrilled him, but he remained calm.
"No, the beach sounds good. As long as there's camping, I can hang out there for a while." he responded.
"Alright then," she said as she focused on the road. A car cut in front of her causing her to tap her brakes. "Asshole."
She continued, "The beach is still a ways on. I'm pretty sure that this is the last big town to get a quick bite to eat. Even if it isn't, I mean, there's probably other food on the way, but it's not worth chancing. Besides, I need to pee and look at the map. Unless you have special dietary requests, I'm going to stop at the most convenient place I see. I refuse to stop at a fast food place, though. I'm sure we'll pass a local deli or something." Her refusal took him by surprise.
"Really, anything is okay with me," he responded.
"Okay. Keep your eyes peeled for something good while I maneuver this traffic."
They made it to the outskirts of town and a local BBQ joint loomed.
"How about there?" Travis asked.
"Looks fine to me," she said.
Travis hadn't realized how hungry he was till he stepped inside and the delicious aroma of BBQ and fried hush puppies wafted towards him. Karen went towards the bathroom mouthing, "Get it to go." He ordered a pulled pork sandwich Carolina style with the slaw on the burger, pinto beans, the world famous hush puppies and a large sweet tea to drink. When Karen came out, he asked, "Would you like anything?"
"No. I'm not hungry. I'll just get a lemonade, but thanks." After she filled her cup, she said over her shoulder, "I'll be in the car reading the map."
TO BE CONTINUED...