The first thing to grab hold of her was the air. It was the smell of early summer just after a storm, sweet and fresh. The grit and grime from the city had lifted, replaced with a breeze filled with honeysuckle. She was outside; nowhere near the city or Rockwood Stage 2, and it certainly wasn’t Dec 30th.
She refocused her eyes toward the stage or rather where it had been. In its place lay an open field against a long stretch of endless road, like something she’d seen in North by Northwest or an old James Dean movie where the hero heads out of town in search of something bigger. Behind her, it was the same vast openness except for an old weigh station. The screen door was hanging loose off its hinge and banging in the breeze. Its paint was cracked, peeled and brittle like an eggshell. She crossed the gravel and dirt drive that led into the station, stepped through the screen door and headed inside.
The inside of the station was dark and covered with layers of dust, each new layer lying like a piece of silk upon the last, marking another year. The old timber flooring creaked like it hadn’t felt weight on its back in years. Upon the counter near the cash register sat an old tabletop radio. She wiped the dust from the black airplane circular dial and turned the knob. Static at first and then the voice of a singer she’d heard somewhere before but couldn’t place. She stared at the wooden shelves behind the counter. There were cans of coffee with faded labels, an old dusty Coca-Cola bottle that had lost its luster, now looking more like a bottle dipped in fog.
“Hello?” she called. Her voice cut over the sound of the radio, bounced off the walls and reverberated back to her. She called out again.
No one. Where was she? She headed back out to the porch of the station and looked around in all directions. She could hear the song still playing softly in the background; the wind blowing through the field like whispers past her ears. She checked her phone. It was dead. She walked around the back of the station. Nothing. She headed back toward the road.
Just then off to the west she spotted what appeared to be a tiny speck on the road moving toward her. She squinted into the sun to get a better look. It was a car. She fixed her eyes upon it as its shape became clearer and closer. It was an old Chevy from the 40’s or 50’s. Its color was a powder blue like the sky with chrome details slicing through it like a knife.
The car drew closer, pulled up to the station and came to a stop. The driver rolled down the window. It was a woman. She appeared to be in her late teens early 20’s at most. Her brunette hair was done up in a bouffant style and wrapped in a yellow scarf with little pink flowers, the same shade of pink as her lipstick. She removed her sunglasses, turned down the car radio playing that same familiar tune and looked up at Jen.
“The place is abandoned” Jen said.
“No matter, I’m sure there’s another stop up a few miles. Where ya headin for?” the woman asked?
“Well?” Jen paused. “I’m not really sure of much of anything right now, so I couldn’t say.”
“Well I’m heading east if you’d like a lift, hop on in.”
Jen considered it for a moment. She took another look in both directions. Given her present circumstances her choice was pretty clear.
“Sounds like a plan to me.” she said, feeling eager to get back to something familiar. She rounded the front of the car to the passenger side and grasped the chrome handle. She noticed a guitar in the back seat, opened the door and hopped in.
“You a musician?” Jen asked.
“That’s right.” she said. They started moving. “I’ve been playin’ for a few years now and think its time to make a real go of it, so I’m heading to the city. I wanna start playing some REAL venues. Maybe I’ll put a band together and even make it on the radio! Maybe even television!”
The super sweet naivete of the statement instinctively made Jen wince. She obviously didn’t know a thing about how difficult it is get on the radio, or to even get booked for a show. She couldn’t help but smirk to herself.
“Someday they might even be able to send a rocket ship to the moon!” Jen thought sarcastically, but then instantly scolded herself for being so critical.
They drove on further, saying nothing. They passed through a few little mom and pop towns along the open highway, but still nothing looked familiar. It was getting dark. The sky was turning a dusty shade of indigo. After an hour they pulled into a boxcar diner called Del’s. Jen loved boxcar diners. She wondered if they’d have a jukebox.
Sitting inside the booth, Jen was finally able to get a good look at her travel companion. She had a strange look of familiarity about her, like one of the faces from the pink shoebox of photos belonging to her Grandmother. Jen remembered spending hours on her Grandmother’s bed looking through them, wondering who the people were. There were so many nameless faces in black and white and faded color. Her Grandmother had told her once who everyone was, but Jen had long since forgotten.
“So what kind of music did you say you played?” Jen asked.
“I didn’t say” she answered, “but since you’re asking, I’m a singer mostly. That’s why I need a band. But I just love to sing. I’ll sing anything I can get my hands on. That’s why I’m headin’ to the city. They say there’s all kinds of music happening there. The most I’ve gotten back home is listening to the boys play at the county fair.”
“Wait. Who was this girl? The County Fair? Was she serious?” Jen thought.
“Some day I hope to be as good as Peggy Lee. I know I’m not quite as pretty as that but a girl’s gotta try you know?”
“What did you say your name was again? Jen asked. She finally remembered where she’s seen this girl before.
“Virginia” she said, but my friends call me Patsy.
To be continued.
Jenna will be performing with her band at Rockwood Stage 2 Monday Dec 30th at 8pm