"Don't you just love that noise?"
Amanda had been thinking this for a long time, driving down a road she'd driven down, and been driven down, a hundred times or more. Knowing that this time would most likely be the last time, unless she had a good enough reason to come back, which she didn't, because she'd just gone to the funeral of the last person tying her to that town.
She was driving alone, but she wasn't alone. Not that day. Or any to follow. She had some really great ghosts on her side now.
"Some small town roads sound like gravel roads no matter what," she said out loud to the empty car.
Stopped at a stop light in front of the Church of Nazarene, she watched a young pregnant woman crossing the street, smoking a cigarette, and pushing another baby in a carriage. She looked pissed at the world.
Amanda rolled down her window, lit a cigarette of her own, and hoped that the woman would look over so she could make some sort of face at her. She didn't know what kind of face just yet, and figured it would happen naturally, in the moment. But the lady never looked over.
The light turned green, but Amanda wanted to make sure the woman got her carriage up over the curb safely before she drove away. The car behind her honked for her to move, but she waited. Having everyone in your family die makes you feel both spectral , and invincible at the same time. Assholes and traffic lights. It can all wait. That's pretty much all life is, you come to find out. Waiting. Waiting for something to happen. Waiting for something to finish. Waiting for a better time. Waiting for the perfect time. And then there is no more time. The whole thing is ridiculous. And that guy behind her can honk himself straight into his next heart attack for all she cared.
"Remember when I told you that I was bi-sexual? This was when I was in high school, and too nervous to say the truth, which was that I was gay as a bunny in a row of soybeans." Amanda said, curving around the church, headed for the onramp to I-57. "I'll never forget what you said. You told me that a person calling themselves bi-sexual, was like a person saying they were half pregnant. You used to be so funny. I wish I'd encouraged you more to preserve that part of yourself."
She stopped talking out loud and focused on the silence, and the noise of the town around her, coming in through her open window as she ripped through it for the last time. She half expected to hear some parting message from her dad. Some little smart ass retort, or maybe even an apology. Nothing came to her. Just the smell of gasoline and hot dogs blowing in from the town's one dwindling hospitality lane.
Merging onto the highway, she beeped her horn three times. Once for her mom. Once for her dad. And once for her Gramma. And then she put a CD into the deck of her rented car and turned up the volume to distract from the heat building up behind her eyes.
"Bye, Bourbonnais. What the hell kind of name is that for a town anyway?"
She drove fast, wanting to get past the scenic parts with the corn and the farms. Little did she know that those would pretty much be scenic triggers, one way tickets to cry town, for the rest of her life. Flash forward to when she's 87, if she lives that long, and she still won't be able to smell a crisp, farmy, hay smelling breeze without getting an emotional squeeze right to the throat.
In a little over an hour, she was home, putting her key in the lock of her two-bedroom Chicago apartment. Spring in Chicago is wonderful. No where near hot, and with just a little bit of ice stuck in the air. Enough to make for cozy nights in jeans and a hoodie, drinking wine on her, or someone else's patio. Will definitely be her patio tonight. She needed a night, probably more, alone after being with her peripheral family members. Having just thought that, she felt her phone vibrate in her bag. It was Kate, although her title in her phone was "Crazy Kate." Her best friend in all of the city, though she didn't treat her as such. She'd never been very good at maintaining relationships, or giving people the attention and affection they deserved. Why do that when she can funnel everything into people who treated her like shit.
"Are you back? How was it?"
"Hard. Easy. I can't tell yet. I just got back and am about to take a shower and then get into the wine. I'll know more then."
"Want me to come over?"
"I do. But I also kind wanna be alone."
"You should really get a shirt made that says that. Or make a note to have it put on your gravestone ... shit."
"Hahaha. It's okay," Amanda laughs, letting her off the hook for her untimely choice of words. "He wasn't buried anyway. He was cremated."
"I'm so sorry."
"It's okay. Anyway, thanks for reminding me. He's still in my purse."
"He's ... what? You have his ashes in your purse?"
"Only some of them. Most of them are in an urn in a wall back in Bourbonnais. I asked if I could keep some though, and the funeral home put some in a little white cube for me. I have to figure out where I want to put him so that the cats don't mess with it."
"You should put him in the refrigerator. He'll see you the most often that way."
"You know, that's why you're my favorite, Kate. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Talk to you later?"
"Yeah, maybe I'll call you in a couple hours, see what you're up to then."
"No you won't."
"Yeah, probably not."
Amanda put the phone down on the counter and unzipped her purse, looking at the top of the plastic cube for awhile before pulling it out and holding it in her two hands in front of her, like a prize.
There were no words to say.
She carried her dad into the kitchen and sat him down on the counter as she opened a bottle of wine and poured herself a huge glass, and then she carried him with her outside to the patio. They sat there for a nice long while, smoking, and drinking, and looking out at the city.