This is a work of fiction. This is a short story about the kind of road rage onlookers can’t witness. If this is not your thing, please move along. Otherwise, you are welcome to ride along.
Stella has been in great need to go on an escape. There’s a lot of mush in her mind, and it needs de-cluttering. It’s been advised by her closest friends that she take a road trip. “Go anywhere,” one friend said. “Go and clear your head. It will do you some good.”
Her car is about four years old, with only about 35,000 miles. It is a prevailing vehicular device that is up to the challenge of any elected destination, she just knows she needs to go somewhere….anywhere.
Life is too much right now. Her recent break-up with her boyfriend of four years was a lot harder on her emotions than she ever imagined. Her career as an Administrative Assistant was going backward, not forward. This became evident when her supervisor claimed he was trying to “save” her job when he offered a receptionist position. In her mind, it was a demeaning downgrade of her current role as Legal Administrative Assistant. Though the pay would have stayed the same, she opted out of the downgrade and left the company. The definitive downfall of the nerves occurred with the demise her cat, Bree Wee, age 20, who Stella had since Bree Wee was newly weened at six weeks old. With all these events occurring in a short matter of time, it became conspicuous she needed to go on a trip of this ilk. She needed to be alone and cry with the tears to be taken away along with the autumn breeze.
She packs a small suitcase of overnight items. A thorough and prepared woman, she hinges on the what-ifs. After all, she has no definite destination, what if her car breaks down somewhere along the way? What if she needs to stay overnight somewhere? What if something so brazen occurred where a change of clothes is necessary? All the common worries of travel invaded her mind, so a better way to evade them is preparation.
Stella is already feeling relaxed while packing her suitcase, as she didn’t have to worry about choosing the perfect outfit. She wasn’t worried about colors clashing, patterns conflicting, or even worry about smell. It was just going to be Stella and the car. Stella found great comfort in this rumination alone. It was going to be a weekend of impressing no one.
She packs the necessities: a pair of dark blue skinny jeans, a cotton pink graphic tee, a black tank top with spaghetti straps (to wear in lieu of a bra since she was flat chested); two pairs of undergarments and socks, and ankle boots. She peruses various playlists on her iPhone to subconsciously select the winning playlist, making sure the list was no less than an hour in length. Unspoken congratulations were in order, as she was about to embark on a journey that would conquer both the road and her spiritual dynamic.
Stella places the suitcase near the front door as a reminder of her healing expedition. She retreats to the kitchen to prepare a consoling cup of chamomile tea. She grabs the tea and a book on her way to the bedroom, where she would become lost in another person’s chronicle. Mildly irked by the eyelids stubbornness to remain light in weight, she reads a few sentences over, and again, so her mind can stay in pace with the story. Finally, she gave in to the bolshie demeanor of the eyelids, and fell asleep losing her place in page.
Stella wakes up with the closed book on her lap. The dimly lit indigo sky denotes that it must be early in the morning, so she uses this time to make herself coffee without bothering to look at the clock. One sip of strong and bold-flavored coffee is enough to set her on her way. She concocts a “to-go” cup of the caffeine, grabs the suitcase, and heads for the door as if she has settled on a destination.
Stella is two hours into her journey, and a long line of grey cement and assemblage of vibrant and lush foliage greets her. By now, the indigo sky she woke up to is now placated with lightened hues of blues and greys. The scenery greets her like an old friend, along with the pre-selected playlist of soothing piano music. Scarlett’s Walk by Tori Amos was deemed one of the winners. Clouds started to emerge to its melodies, and they seem to drift along its majestic delights. Stella was always intrigued with the chords of piano, as it encompasses both melancholy and idyllic attributes. While Stella’s focus remained on the road, she couldn’t help but be caught in a momentary period of serene enchantment. When it comes to auditory rapture, she favors the piano, because it can be interpreted different ways, even without lyrics.
The road to nowhere continued, and so did Stella’s thoughts. The most noticeable color is red, and her mind transcends toward the realm of obscurities.
That time she dyed her hair. She went from dark brown to strawberry red, and her boyfriend didn’t approve. A big fight ensued, all because he was lost in a delusional state and insisted she was a different person. Stella assumed most men like that sort of change, but he turned out to be the exception. He became irate over a change in hair color. Red. Red flag. Stella should have known then that moment was a red flag, but she stayed in the relationship unconvinced there was no other match for her.
Red. The color of blood when exposed to air. Stella wondered about blood as her mother suffered from internal bleeding. Flashbacks of her mother lying on the floor when she came home from school one day. The expression on her father’s face the moment he saw his spiritual better half on the floor is etched in Stella’s mind forever. Recollections of a dreary hospital setting and “Code Red” blaring on the loudspeakers was mindfully on repeat, and visions of doctors and nurses that rushed to her mother’s hospital room because the patient went under cardiac arrest. She was pronounced dead.
Red. The red lipstick the mortician applied on her mother. She really did look like she was sleeping. The mortician did a good enough job; lips were full, the hair tightly curled with a bit of silver, and the skin looked smooth like the texture of cold cream. Stella wanted to hold her hand and feel a squeeze in return. That never happened, because she is gone. Red and dead.
Orange. Orange is also amok. Orange, as in the “Orange One,” a moniker that is responsible for the brutal schisms happening everywhere in the social media realm. The “Orange One,” a tireless and mundane precept used by comedians everywhere as if it will propel them to instant fame. The comedians she favored emitted jokes that morphed into a potpourri of picayune cackles, and no longer found them funny. The divide that took over the social newsfeed was not informative in the slightest, but saw them as signs of a rancor way of thinking. Rows of posts surfaced with photoshopped memes to advance the message of the perpetuator. Stella finds herself in disbelief that she associates with people like this, and a mass purging of the friend list soon followed.
Orange. That horrible acidic fruit with the intrusive odor. She can smell them just by thinking about it, and the very thought has made her queasy. She pulls over to do a mass purge of her own.
Green, the dominant color. Also, the color of money, and that she has none of it. Large portions of money have already been designated to pay back student loans. A constant worry since graduating from college, the recent job loss makes the payback more challenging. She shakes her head in disbelief, and the eyes become blurry with dejected fluidity.
Disappointment looms toward her confidantes for suggesting such things like a car run as the recollections of hard times and bad memories came to sudden fruition. She wondered how could this be possibly therapeutic if she is under constant attack by ugly ruminations. She sustained a mental road age, as if the mind wanted to focus on nothing except for the long line of cement and surrounding tinges of melancholy. The hues were the assailants in every direction, reminding her of memories she had deeply stored away. A bit of color was enough to accuse her of wrongdoing; to serve as a reminder of an invented persona of superiority; to shatter her mind with memories of her dead mother, a horrible fight with her ex-boyfriend, and an alarming collective of sheepish demeanors on her social media feed. The weapon of choice lay within the pigment of the slumbering leaves.
After the bodily purge, Stella walks around to the back of the car and reaches for her suitcase. She finds a washcloth and bottled water, which she uses to clean off any remnants. She takes in a deep inhale and discharges any toxins she might have incurred.
Stella thought it would be best not to antagonize the mental road rage further, so she decides to return home. She selects another playlist, this time something techno with some heavy bass. Skrillex. That’s about as good as it’s going to get, as any song played by this artist is the best depiction of her brain right now: loud, noisy, and confusing.
An hour and a half into the drive, and not too far from home, Stella settles on a break. The clouds gently glide along the sun, and she takes advantage of the sporadic warmth and parks her car on the shoulder. Beyond the shoulder is a huge lake catching the sparkles of the sun. Her plan is to stay for just a few minutes, just long enough to stretch her limbs and enamor the small talk of the cool, intermittent breeze.
After ten minutes, she returns to the car, and on her way, she notices a fluttering leaf dancing along with the breeze. She takes notice of the leaf as it inches closer, and is immersed in a sentimental gaze. It finally lands on a small rock situated with a family of nature’s stonework and tall vegetation. Stella initiates a descend toward the earth to take a closer look, and sees two long black threads protruding from the front. It was a Monarch butterfly, the police to her mental road rage.
She whispers, as to not startle the tiny creature, “Hey, little one. You must be on your way to Mexico.”
The whisper was enough to startle the creature, and it flew away far off into the grey blue skies toward the sun.
Stella saw this as a spiritual sign to denote things have a way of working out in the end. She thanks the butterfly in silence for policing her own road rage, and says a brief and silent prayer that the butterfly reaches its warm housing for the winter.
When Stella arrived home, she was greeted by Connie, a neighbor who were among those who suggested the trip. She was surprised by Stella’s quick return.
“Back so soon? That was quick! I hope everything is okay?” Connie asks with a bit of concern.
“Hello Connie. Yes, everything is fine. I decided against going on the road trip of my dreams.” Stella replies with an innuendo of humor. “The drive allowed me to clear out my mind, but not in the way I expected. I thought about my ex-boyfriend. And my mom.”
“Oh, I’m sorry hon. Your mom is always with you, no matter where you are.”
That night, as Stella was settling for the night, she had thought about the butterfly. It’s been said that butterflies are the beloved souls of the deceased. If that’s true, her mom made an appearance earlier that day. Stella was comforted by the very thought her mom was in disguise and came to her in a troublesome moment. Each tiny flutter relayed these ponderings: Don’t be afraid of the beauty that surrounds you. Don’t turn the good into bad. Don’t succumb to the dangers of this road rage, for it is a waste in time and energy. There are no winners, you gain nothing but sorrow. With these notes of contentment, Stella’s eyelids fluttered in the way of the butterfly, and fell asleep.