Thumb protruding out into the highway, I
can feel the eyes of people in their cars coming to rest on me. Little me? I
paste on my most charming smile, hopeful, and look as pathetic as I can - too
thin and dwarfed by clothing three sizes too big. All in black, blond hair
turned to near white today with hazel eyes, I know I look bleached, colorless,
especially lit only by the pale glow of car headlights. Change of smile to
disappointed sigh, eyes dropping to trace the curve of my thumb (perfect thumb
for hitchhiking), as no one seems to want to stop. Hardly worth it, is it, to
stand out here for an hour in the cold, in these light, worn jeans, and soft
shirt - especially when no one comes to help?
There's a skid of tires on the barely dried road as a station wagon draws to a
halt before me, and I life my gaze up to the passenger window, the glass slowly
lowering to give me a clear view of the elderly couple there. Both eyebrows
raised in hope, I listen as they murmur about how much I look like their child
at my age, first going off to college. My mother used to tell me that I looked
quite a bit like my father did, when he was younger. She'd laugh, and tell me
she'd find me a picture to show me, to prove it to me so that I'd stop scowling
at her, but she never really got around to it. I get the feeling, from the warm
smiles of this couple as they ask where I'm going, that they would have made
"Anywhere but here would be nice."
Another flash of that pretty grin, glimmer of teeth between cracked lips to show
them it's a joke. They laugh quietly, and exchange a look that must have some
meaning between them, before she smiles gently back at me, and tells me they
could manage that. I scramble enthusiastically into the back-seat, with a
thanks. It smells funny in here, the way strange cars always seem to, until you
get used to them. This one smells like cigars, and cheap perfume, and the musky
smell of wet dog. I curl up on the seat, careful not to put wet boots on the
leather covers, and turn my attention to the closed window. It's cold enough
that, when I breathe on the glass, it forms into a light fog that I can trace
shapes into with one finger. A lilac, a snowdrop, a lily, her name...
I swipe my hand across, clearing my doodles - if only it was that easy to make a
clear slate for myself. My eyes are locked on the window, the image of my own
face reflected back at me (white and thin), and dark, ghostlike figures of
skeleton trees, and trees that have shed most of their vividly colored leaves
fly past in such a blur that I can't make out one from the other. Or perhaps
that's just tears, stinging my eyes; tears that I brush away as the elderly man
asks me a question.
"What are you running from, child?"
Slowly, I blink the remaining saltine water from my eyes to trickle down my
cheeks, one shoulder pulling upward in a slight shrug. I'm not quite sure if I
do know what I'm running from, and even then I don't think I'd want to tell this
couple about it. The flicker and change of trees is begininng to give me a
headache, so I turn, hazel eyes fixing on the man, who's staring at me, both
bushy eyebrows pulled together with concern. I let a touch of a genuine - though
meloncholy - smile tinge my lips.
"I'm not sure...I'm just running."