Placerville Nights

Posted on November 18, 2009


I squeal around a corner in the wrong lane, one hand trying to find a good station on the radio, the other trying to balance the almost-empty gas can on the floor of my minivan, the speedometer bouncing erratically between fifty and fifty-five, my eyes straining to see a few feet farther than the path the high-beams slice through the dark, as it could mean life or death for some poor deer. It occurs to me that I have driven the tiny roads of this tiny town more often in the wee hours of the morning than I have in daylight.  I’ve driven home countless times after some thrilling adventure, the kind that make me oh-so aware of my youth fading, like a shooting star that disappears in a second of brilliance and leaves behind nothing but a dull gray trail and happy memories of the times that were. The passenger-side window is open, both because the driver-side window won’t, and I want to escape the ever-stronger smell of gasoline fumes effervescing their way around the cab. I can smell the landscape speeding past me, and strong snippets of past events reach my nose. Someone sprayed that orchard with pesticides today. Someone mowed their lawn a few hours ago. The apples in that passing tree are about a month from being ripe.  Judging by the scent, that skunk is about three days dead.  I wonder if this skill will come in handy or win me friends at my new home. I wonder if I’ll find a place to cry in privacy over trivialities, alone in the dark hunched over my glowing computer screen, like I’m about to go home and do. Even as I drive my eyes start to sting a little, thinking about that moment in the sewer when Angel tells Buffy that he’s leaving Sunnydale forever, and my hand turns the dial on the radio and I turn the music up louder, to drown out my own horrid singing voice, and distract me from my fictional heartbreak. I wonder if tonight, rushing out to rescue my boyfriend who is too cheap to put gas in his car, will mark the beginning of many good times, times that will make spending an entire night at Denny’s or setting off the alarms at the school at 3in the morning look like kiddie high-school stuff, or if my shooting star is already fading, leaving me with stories and memories of the good times that are over and will never come again. I’m not taking my beat-up excuse of a minivan to college with me. I’m leaving behind it and all the memories it contains: stolen traffic cones, leftover In-N-Out bags, innumerable pairs of broken aviators, a Gamecube system, a pair of cheap shoes covered in fake blood, mementos of the adventures. I leave this place, this tiny little town, these winding little roads, this decaying little van, in search of bigger and better adventures, another shooting star. I just hope the meteor shower isn’t over so soon.

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