By: Bruce Levine
The road turned abruptly, taking Sydney in what seemed like the opposite direction from her intended route.
She didn’t remember seeing that turn when she’d plotted the trip on the map. And she hadn’t bothered to take the printed copy to verify her memory because it had seemed so direct. All she remembered was that she was to get on the road and follow the almost straight line of highway to her destination.
The turn made no sense. And it didn’t seem either like a new section of highway or a temporary detour which would right itself momentarily or indicate another turn around for whatever reason the detour existed.
Sydney hadn’t wanted to make the trip. She’d felt that going to her high school reunion was ridiculous on many levels. She’d finally buckled under the pressure of the increasing number of phone calls from former classmates urging her to attend.
Somehow she’d known that going would only end in disaster and now she took the turn in the wrong direction as a sign that that disaster was imminent.
She looked ahead at what appeared to be a straight path, so straight that she could imagine teenagers racing their cars as soon as darkness overtook it and they felt that the cops wouldn’t be around.
She looked again at the road and then at her dashboard compass – she was supposed to be going north, but the compass read south. What was worse was there seemed to be no exit and both sides bore no sign of civilization, only pine forests.
Sydney tried to weigh her options: if she continued going ahead she had no idea where she’d end up. If she turned around she’d only retrace her path and, since she was still on the same road, she’d simply go north as far as the turn and then go south again on the original segment of the route.
She looked for a shoulder to pull off to consult the GPS on her cell phone, but there was none and, having gone ten minutes without seeing another car, she decided that simply stopping was probably safe enough and her only alternative.
As she slowed down she felt around the bottom of the huge carry-all she’d brought for her phone. Not being like most of the people she knew, Sydney didn’t always have her phone in her hand; in fact she rarely bothered even carrying it with her. At most it resided at the bottom of whatever she was using that day for all the necessaries of her life as a poet. Her writing notebook and pencil were much more important to her, especially as she wrote everything in long-hand with a pencil before transcribing it into the computer as a Word document for editing and re-writing as necessary.
Unable to find the phone as she slowed the car amid the variety of notebooks, pocket dictionaries and other miscellany Sydney allowed the car to roll to a stop. Now, her head nearly in the bag, she finally found the phone nestled beneath everything, as if purposely hiding.
Sydney turned on the power and waited as it vibrated to life, a life that rapidly extinguished with the brief statement of low battery. So much for a GPS, she thought. The she remembered that she’d forgotten the charger, but that wouldn’t have helped since it required an electrical outlet and she didn’t own the kind that could be used in a car.
At a full stop, in the middle of nowhere and heading in the wrong direction, Sydney again weighed her options. Option one was to simply continue straight ahead and hope that the road would either resolve itself or she’d reach some sort of civilization and get appropriate help and/or directions. Option two was to simply turn around and eventually, she assumed, she’d arrive back home and she’d forget that she’d ever agreed to going to the reunion at all.
What she hadn’t counted on was option number three – tiredness. Now that the car was stopped and the engine turned off Sydney suddenly felt extraordinarily tired. She wasn’t sure why, but her eyes were closing on her and she felt that she had to fight to stay awake.
It was true that she’d remained up until nearly four a.m. working on her new poem, but she often did that. And she hadn’t been driving so long that she should be tired from the trip. Whatever the cause, Sydney decided that the best thing to do was to take a nap and, hopefully, she’d feel better; in the meantime maybe someone would come along who could help her with directions.
Sydney turned on the emergency lights on her car and reclined her seat as her eyes rapidly closed.
“Excuse me, Miss,” the State Trooper said as he knocked on the car window. “Are you alright?”
Sydney abruptly opened her eyes and pulled herself into an upright position as she simultaneously lowered the window.
“Other than being lost and too tired to drive I’m fine,” Sydney answered.
“Where were you headed?”
“That’s sixty miles in the opposite direction.”
“I know. I was headed north and the road abruptly turned and I was suddenly heading south.”
The Trooper looked at Sydney for nearly a minute, appraising the situation. Not drunk and doesn’t appear on drugs, he thought.
“I don’t know what turn you’re talking about, Miss. The road to Wilmington is a straight run. This road doesn’t even connect.”
“The how did I get here?”
“Don’t know, Miss.”
“Can you help me get back to the right road?”
“Sure can. Follow me.”
An hour later and after a circuitous series of turns the Trooper signaled Sydney to go straight onto what seemed like her original route.
Three hours later she pulled into the hotel and looked around. It seemed almost empty.
“I’m sorry, the reunion ended two days ago,” the desk clerk answered.
Sydney looked at him in disbelief. Where had two days gone? What happened?
She thanked the clerk without even commenting because she knew that if she did it would lead to one misunderstanding after another.
She then asked if there was a room available to stay the night so she could take a shower, eat and try to put her thoughts together and figure out what had happened to the missing two days.
As Sydney sat, wrapped in a bath towel and her wet hair in a towel turban, she tried to examine her loss of time.
Had she been abducted by aliens? Obviously not. Was it some sort of Rip Van Winkle amnesia? If yes, that didn’t explain how she ended up where she did on a road that didn’t connect and went in the wrong direction.
The one thing that she knew for certain was that she was hungry and that was something she could deal with as soon as she was dressed.
The other thing she realized was that she now had a story to write, maybe as an epic poem in prose poetry form or, maybe even a novel. Whatever it would be Sydney felt certain it would take her to a new place in her career.
As she got dressed a big smile came on her face and she was suddenly happy that she’d agreed to go to the reunion.
Bruce Levine has spent his life as a writer of fiction and poetry and as a music and theatre professional. A 2019 Pushcart Prize Poetry nominee, a 2021 Spillwords Press Awards winner, the Featured Writer in WestWard Quarterly Summer 2021 and his bio is featured in“Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020.” Bruce has over three hundred works published on over twenty-five on-line journals including Ariel Chart, Spillwords, The Drabble; in nearly seventy print books including Poetry Quarterly, Haiku Journal, Tipton Poetry Journal; Halcyon Days and Founder’s Favourites (on-line and print) and his shows have been produced in New York and around the country. His work is dedicated to the loving memory of his late wife, Lydia Franklin. A native Manhattanite, Bruce now lives and writes in Maine.