Wind whispers softly around me and a warm chill runs down my spine and through my bare legs. I open my eyes and stars glide slowly past me – am I dreaming? I gaze around still lost in stardust… reality seeps back into the corners of my dreams…. I feel the car, the music, and the strong smell of cigarettes from someone blowing smoke around me… I am here…
“Where are we?” I ask slowly, still half asleep.
“We’re going to be at the border in about half hour” he answers me. He looks over at me and there’s a longing in his eyes that makes me suddenly self conscious. How long have I been out? Is my face clean, my shirt wrinkled? I check myself in the mirror and smile at my sleepy face. A warning bell goes off somewhere in the depths of my awakening…
“Border? What border?” I ask him, my eyes still on my own reflection.
“The US border, we’re going to Mexico, remember?” he says, like he’s surprised I forgot.
I begin to feel panic rising in my chest. My heart picks up pace and my palms feel cold and sweaty. This is why he came! This is why he’s here…
“Mexico! Are you crazy?” I say in shock. My chest is heaving now and I can’t seem to control the panic in my voice. “What are you saying to me? When did you say we were leaving the country? And Mexico… hello…. Make yourself clear to me!” I know I’m passed the point of being angry. There’s a rage building inside me and I know exactly who to aim it at. How could I have been so stupid! I should just put my name on the ‘most stupid person in the world list’ right now – there’s no competition. Shit! How could I have not seen this coming!
I try to gather my breath and stare at him in disbelief. His eyes are stiff and concentrating on the road. He knows this isn’t going to be easy… he’s stalling and he doesn’t want to talk about it.
“Stop the car!” I yell at him.
“What?” he asks without even turning to look at me.
“Stop the car – Now!” I am prepared to lunge at him if he doesn’t stop the car right now.
Nothing. He keeps driving like I haven’t just yelled at him at the top of my lungs. Is he listening? My dream has suddenly become the nightmare I somehow knew would follow.
“I want you to stop the car right now” I say more calmly this time. I begin to slow down my pulse and my anxiety is settling into full blown fear. I can’t go to Mexico, I think to myself, what about my family, my friends, Luke? No, this is crazy, how can I leave… I can’t leave… I have to get out of this car… now.
Nothing. Milo looks out the driver side window, looks ahead… I open my mouth to threaten him with some kind of bodily harm and I feel the car slowly pulling off the highway. Thank God… I sigh in relief and begin thinking… can I take a cab off the highway… I wonder how far the nearest phone booth is…. Would Luke come and get me if he knew where I was… if he knew…. No, I can’t think about this now – one crazy and unhappy boyfriend at a time. Still, he pulled over, I reason with myself… maybe he’ll reconsider; maybe I can convince him… maybe, he’ll take me home.
“I’m going to get out now” I say not looking at him afraid he’s going to see the panic in my eyes. “I don’t want you to follow me… I’m not mad at you,” I say this calmly for both of us, but we both know that I'm lying.
I gather all my strength and for the first time in what seems like days I open the door and step out of the car. The warm air wraps itself around my naked shoulders and I breathe in the fresh smell of wet grass. The moon is full and so close I feel like I could almost touch it. I close the door behind me and stand in the moonlight to catch my heart. What a beautiful night this would be if I was a normal girl, with a normal boyfriend, watching normal movies and laughing on some couch in normal suburbia. But I’m not that girl, not yet, and I don’t have a normal boyfriend, not yet… Mexico, I breathe in wet air, what new madness is this?
He turns the key and the night becomes suddenly quiet around us. No cars drive by… really? No cars on a main highway? Come on! A midnight orchestra of crickets encircles us and I am suddenly aware of how alone we are out here. I pretend not to hear him get out of the car and concentrate on catching my breath. His feet step slowly on the gravel where we’ve parked. He makes his way quietly over to my side of the car. I lean gently backwards and place both of my hands behind me on the hood of his car.
“I’m sorry” he whispers softly. I don’t look up at him. I don’t know what scares me more, that I was almost taken halfway cross the continent, or that I am beginning to sense the temptation to go. He stands in front of me… his hands both tucked into the pockets of his white washed black jeans. I stare at his chest. His black shirt is buttoned almost to the top and you can see the muscles which wrap around his broad clavicles. The long sleeves have been rolled up to his elbows and I smile at the tattoo now visible on his right forearm… the phoenix and the dragon… two uncanny creatures, trapped in the eternal dance of necessity and obsession….how can one be without the other, he had once asked me…
“Stay with me” his voice crackles with emotion. My knees are starting to give in a little and I know the longer I stay here the more my determination is weaning. “Stay with me” he says again, this time stepping closer to me. His breath is on my skin and I can feel the heat coming off his body. “Close your eyes” he says and steps so near me I can feel the outline of his chest with mine. He takes one of his hands out of his pocket, “Give me your hand. Do you feel my heart beating… it is yours.” He taps his other hand hard on his chest, “I am yours.” He clears his throat and I can feel that he’s beginning to doubt his power of persuasion. “You belong with me” he says more firmly this time, “Don’t you feel it?”
I sigh and shrug my shoulders. I don’t know what I feel. I look down at my shoes afraid to look into his eyes. Is this it? Do I feel the same? What does that have to do with Mexico… even if I feel this strongly for this man that doesn’t mean I’m going to runway with him… does it?
He places his hand under my chin and gently lifts my head up. I look into his deep dark eyes and I am suddenly aware that his hand is shacking. “Are you cold?” I say, concern rising in my voice. Am I the only one burning with heat out here?
“No” he whispers with his mouth over mine. Suddenly I am uplifted by steel strong arms and I find myself on the hood of the car. His mouth is pressed up against me and I am engulfed in his embrace. I wrap my arms around his neck and press myself against him as hard as I can. Need surges through me like a blast. His hands grope for the buttons on my shirt and I gasp for air… everywhere, hands, lips, breath. I reach for his shirt and begin unsnapping it fast and desperate, like we’re running out of time; like this is the last time I will feel this alive, this beautiful, this wanted.
The world is melting around us and I reach for the moon. He groans softly and I lose myself under the spell of passion and desire. A warning bell goes off somewhere in my burning thoughts, only this time I can hear the ringing clearly... the ring comes closer, louder….. closer, louder….
“Ahhhh,” he cries out and his left arm drops its mammoth hold on my body. Confusion dazes me and I can’t collect my thoughts fast enough. Suddenly, I’m forced to the floor, his right arm holding me while I fall, his left hand blocking the unavoidable hit between my head and the gravel.
“Stay down” he whispers at me and I am terrified by the panic in his eyes.
“What’s going on?” I shout at him. “Milo, tell me what’s wrong” I cry, but he’s not listening to me. His eyes dart back in forth between me and the threat out there - far enough to not be seen, but close enough to see us.
“What’s going on?” I ask again, this time reaching for his arm. He winces in pain and I pull my hand off of him. I stare at my crimson fingers frozen in shock. “Is this blood?” I say almost without breath. “Is this blood Milo, why are you bleeding, what the hell…” I can’t decide if I am angry of terrified, or both.
At this point I only know two things for sure – one, Milo has been hit or grazed, I can’t tell, by something that can only be a bullet – two, we are alone out here, weaponless and without a phone or a way to run. Why did I get out of the car, I shout inside my head. What was I thinking, how are we going to get out of this? Panic rises again in my thoughts, but this time the urgency has no romantic notions of running away with my rebel lover… this time, the urgency is staying alive.
“Blue!” he shouts, but I am too far away. “Blue!” he shouts again. Hearing my name for the first time tonight shakes me… “You need to stay with me. You need to pull it together. We’re gonna get out of this, I promise” he smiles a little and I wonder who he’s trying to convince, me or himself?
“We need to move” he orders me with surety in his voice. “We need to move quickly”. He puts the car keys in my hand and stares at me with determination. “I need you to slip into the car and start it” he says.
“What?’ I’m still dazed in thought and I hate myself for sounding so stupid. “You want me to do what? How?” I ask - all frightening possibilities running through my plans.
“I need you to open the door” he starts explaining to me like I’m a small and frightened child… I am. “Once you’re in, put the keys in the ignition and turn” he smiles at me like there’s nothing to it. “I’ll go around and jump in the car on the other side” he says and I am suddenly clenched with fear again.
“No - you’re going to get hurt again. There’s no way that they can’t see you. That side is exposed to the street and you’re going to get hurt again” I’m almost crying now and pleading with him. “Don’t leave me; I can’t do this” I implore him but he’s already made up his mind.
“You can do it, and you will” he reassures me. “You just need to stay down and do as I say. We’re going to be fine, we will get out of here and I will explain everything, I promise” he says slowly.
I am abruptly aware that he knew this was going to happen. “Is this why we’re going to Mexico? Did you do something? Is there a HIT out on you? On us?” I am shouting now because fear, shock and anger cannot describe how I feel at this point of desperation.
“I’ll explain everything when we’re safe… when you’re safe… I promise” he pleads with me, “Ok? Now come on, we’ve got to get moving or there will be no need to explain anything”. He lifts me up gently off the gravel and holds on to me while I try to position myself well enough to both open the door of his BMW, and slide myself in it. “What about the indoor lights?” I ask him, suddenly realizing how vulnerable I’ll be once I open the passenger door.
“You know I disconnected those lights” he smiles at me secretively. A brief memory flashes before my eyes of the night when he disconnected those lights and we took full advantage of the moonless night and warm summer wind in the comfort of his pitch black car... “Let’s go” he presses me and I am jolted back into the terror of our present reality.
I am frozen in place. I try to move my body forward… just reach for the door, I tell myself, grab the handle and slide in… no big deal. But my feet are paralyzed and my body denies me the ability to reach out my hands. Don’t think about it, I reason with myself. Our lives are at stake here, you need to do this… reach or the door, get in… everything will be alright….
But I know that everything will not be alright. I know that we now have to do the impossible - first, escape an order, not possible - then, run from a decision which, once made, cannot be unmade… again, not possible.
I stretch out my arm - my hand is shaking uncontrollably and I reach for the door…. I pull on the handle and get ready to jump in…. and then, all hell breaks loose….