Chris couldn’t wait for this trip to end. She tapped the screen on her phone and her Snapchat wasn’t sending and this was like her last freaking chance to get a message out before her battery died. Why wouldn’t it just send? She wanted to show her friend Vivia a picture of the drawing she made in the dirt of a cat eating a dog. She tapped send. It said sending. It said message not sent. She threw the phone on the ground and walked away. Where to? There was nowhere to go. There was a cliff that dropped a thousand feet or more to the bottom of the canyon, and way in the distance there was another canyon with a river at the bottom, and the sun was gushing all these colors everywhere, but it was kind of pathetic? Not the canyons—those were beautiful, basically—but the fact that there was a parking lot and viewing spot so losers like this sweaty dad with a phone holster, white NB shoes, and three tubby kids could stand around and say, “See how big it is? This is God’s way of showing us how big he is,” then pile back into a car and rattle across the scenery, ruining everything. Plus, Kaleb had his arms wrapped around Jen and they were sucking face in front of the sunset. Barf.
Chris retrieved her phone, got in the car, and thought honk honk; bang the car horn causing Jen and Kaleb to jump or slip and fall off the cliff or Jen turns around and yells, Kaleb acting like it’s fine; but that would be obnoxious. She propped her elbow up and leaned her face against her knuckles. No point in rushing, anyways. She wasn’t going to be able to do anything fun when they got to Grandma and Grampa’s mobile home in Harlingen. If she was lucky the internet would be working and she’d spend the whole time playing Diablo 3 on her laptop. Her sister Jen would probably go to the beach every day, or go shopping or whatever.
Her phone still had no signal. The sunlight faded and the shadows across the canyons changed to purple. Jen and Kaleb walked to the car, holding hands.
“That was awesome,” said Kaleb.
“So gorgeous,” said Jen. Chris’s phone battery died and she made a big sigh.
“What’d you think, Chris?” said Kaleb. Chris didn’t answer.
Jen looked back at Chris and said to Kaleb, “She’s being emo right now.”
Emo? Did she really just say that? It was amazing Jen was related to her. Jen was such a two-face. Like, she acted like an adventurous, out-there person around Kaleb but at home she’d sit on her bed for hours watching Netflix and eating Greek yogurt by the quart. Besides, being fifteen didn’t mean you were emo all the time—or ever. It just meant you had no actual privacy or privileges and people treated you like a non-feeling, non-thinking animal.
“She’s tired,” said Kaleb. “I’m thinking we drive a couple hours and take a rest stop.”
“Can’t we stay in a motel?” They’d stayed in the car last night and it was too cold to get any sleep.
“Nope. Tonight we’re sleeping in the car,” said Kaleb.
“Why?” said Chris. She wanted a shower, an outlet to charge her phone, and an actual bed to sleep on.
“Because we said so,” said Jen.
“Because we said so,” mocked Chris. Jen turned around.
“You really want to do this right now?”
“Do what? What are we doing?” said Chris.
“Listen,” said Kaleb.
“I don’t appreciate your attitude.”
“I don’t appreciate your face.”
“Listen,” said Kaleb, putting his hand on Jen’s arm. “Jen. Jen. Let’s chill out for a sec. I’m the driver and I’m saying we’re skipping the motel. No more fighting, understood? That goes for both of you—you hear me back there, Chris?”
Chris shook her head and looked away. Sure Kaleb, mister boss, mister Daddy. She was a hostage anyways, so what did it matter? Jen smiled. They were quiet for the next fifteen miles.
Jen stretched her arms, yawned, and said, “Babe, let’s do this every summer. Will you do that? Oh! Let’s go to California next! No, Florida. Can we go to Florida?”
“Yeah, Babe,” said Kaleb, taking her hand and kissing it. “Let’s do it.”
Chris put on headphones to block the sound and sprawled out on the back seat. She tapped her foot to an imaginary beat. In the film version of Howl’s Moving Castle, the wizard Howl had the ability to transform into a man-sized bird, but each transformation reduced his ability to change back into a human. She thought it would be worth it, to be able to lift into the sky and get away from family and people and society. You could escape the computerized program that says Go to school, study, be a slave, get a job, suck it up, grow up, be more positive, be a lady, be polite, be yourself, and all the heaps and heaps of bull shit. Sad thing was, even if she could fly, there was no place to fly to because society was everywhere. It was all the same pointless struggle. People said she’d understand the world when she was older, but it made a lot of sense to her right now. Exactly, precisely now, she could see that people were afraid of beauty—like real beauty—and they were in pain and crying for help, for recognition, for a different past and a different self. Then, when people were finally sick of living, they’d crawl into a cave of their own deep, fathomless boredom. She didn’t want to be like that. She was one girl, her name was Chris, and there was a car on a highway surrounded by canyons, and she was in it; the night was super dark and crap, the music stopped playing in her head, and she didn’t want to grow up to be this dead slug who ate all the bull shit and said Yum.