Contemplation finds its roots in every moment of life. In a favorite song, for example, or at a Starbucks waiting for a latte. Or, as it happened on the cusp of autumn this year, in a premonition of death.
Jenn and Gina have been friends for what sometimes feels like forever, but can only be traced back six years at most. Still, they have spent half of those six years living together as roommates — first in college, then in northern Virginia in an apartment that has a weekly update in eccentric decoration.
In September, Gina’s mother has a premonition.
“She says I will die this weekend if I stay in Fairfax,” Gina announces on a Friday evening. She has been reading a book where the narrator is murdered and ends up in a heaven of her dreams, the one she created with her own thoughts while still alive. The book hits too close after speaking to her mother.
Gina kind of believes it, that Death is hovering around the corner with his scythe and crooked white finger.
Jenn looks at her askance. She is ever the more practical of the two, sometimes bordering on compulsively so, but this time she decides to be sensitive. “Well,” she says, “I don’t have any plans. Let’s skip town.”
So they do.
They decide to visit Jenn’s boyfriend Thomas in North Carolina, which is far enough away from Fairfax that minds all around will be eased. They decide to surprise him because, well, they like surprises and assume he will appreciate it. They decide to pack each other’s suitcases, too, just for the fun of it.
They stop at the Vienna Starbucks on their way out of town. Gina orders a Chai Tea Latte, grande every time, and mentally thanks Jenn for turning her on to this expensive, nutmeggy addiction.
Jenn thinks as she sips her Cinnamon Spice Mocha that there are things she would and will tell Gina that she couldn’t breathe to anyone on Earth.
They both think the guy who makes their drinks is cute, but he is incidental in the grand scheme of things.
Gina drives, and Jenn brings the necessities: a stack of CDs, a pack of gum, the latest issue of Cosmo. They car dance, tally the truck drivers who check them out, and talk.
They talk the small questions (is it Jenn’s Catholic-schoolgirl-in-trouble plaid skirt or Gina’s hint of cleavage that is so attractive on the road?) and the big questions. Not the big life-and-death, meaning-of-it-all things, but those big to them: Careers, where they would live next year, grad school, being away from family.
Talking with a close female friend, Gina reasons, is like sorting socks after you’ve done laundry. You throw all of them onto your bed: The plain vanilla white, the ones with the holes worn in the heel, the cute pair with ice cream cones. Your friend will match the pairs, putting your thoughts in order.
Jenn adds, “And she’ll tell you what you’ve outgrown and what you should definitely throw away.”
There are actions and thoughts worn bare by guilt or regret, or pain that need to be tossed. Sometimes someone just has to force you to do it.
They talk about the premonition, too.
Jenn believes our minds are so clouded by the subconscious, not to mention whatever thoughts or fears we might currently be experiencing, that it seems ludicrous any portent could be pulled from them. She doesn’t believe in premonitions, but premonitions seem to believe in her.
(Or so Gina thinks, but then she has always been the more optimistic of the two.)
As navigator, Jenn forgoes Mapquest directions in favor of a hunch that 64 west off 295 would lead them to their destination. But two hours later in Virginia Beach, nowhere near North Carolina, they admit defeat and turn back. They call Thomas, playing a rousing game of phone tag with him, but after a few voicemails, when Thomas is It, he suddenly drops off the radar, leaving Jenn and Gina to laugh at themselves and listen to Better Than Ezra — two, three, four times.
“She’s not crazy, knock on wood, just a little misunderstood,” they sing.
They retrace their steps. They continue to talk. It is amazing to both of them that they spend inordinate amounts of time together and still find things to talk about. Even when they’ve listened to every CD twice. Even when they’ve pored over Cosmo (“Are you open-minded or set in your ways?” Jenn reads, and they look at each other and roll their eyes). Even with Fate on their heels.
It’s something they are both thinking, but neither says aloud.
When they reach 95 north, sick of driving, they check into a Super 8 just north of Richmond. As soon as they walk in the room, Jenn throws herself on the bed while Gina heads for the bathroom. The radar bleeps then; Thomas finally calls.
Miracle of tired-of-driving miracles, he is in Richmond, too — his band playing at a private party not 15 minutes away.
They didn’t reach their destination but ended up in the right place.
“Life is weird,” Jenn says. The possibility that Fate might actually exist is strange and unusual to her.
“Yeah,” Gina agrees, and misses that eclectic home that seemed so dangerous in the morning light.
They sit for a moment, enjoying the irony.
This is not a story about Fate or premonitions. It is not about the boyfriend or the maps or the possibility that Death may have been thwarted.
It is about two girls who share more than just rent. It is about friendship: the adventure of simply knowing each other.
Maybe next time they won’t have a destination in mind. Maybe they never do. It is the journey that stays with them as they travel, letting the road guide them to a heaven they cannot predict.