Silence settles over the small car as she cuts the engine, more than complying with the bright red sign staring down at her.
She’s been driving for what feels like several hours, though her watch indicates it has only been a half hour at most, occasionally veering close to breaking road rules.
It isn’t the first day that she’s done this: gone driving in a bid to forget. Every time she puts her foot to the pedal she can feel the distance widening, the path clearing behind her. She can taste it in the various cafes she haunts, the cheap ones with a limited menu; can smell it in the gas stations with the petrol pump cold in her fingers.
Outrunning her memories was never going to be easy, but she didn’t expect it to be this difficult.
It’s been nine cities and four towns, six names and countless cafes. The car, never a fast one to begin with, is slowed under the weight of her bags. In the eleventh motel she culls a few books, a handful of clothes she doesn’t remember packing.
Dropping the items into a charity bin feels like throwing out the memories.
And so she keeps going, keeps trying to escape the reminders that remain in the corners of her memory. Days and nights become indistinguishable and it becomes too easy to lose track of time.
The world narrows down to the four walls of a cheap motel and the impersonal, functional décor of yet another lunchroom. People stay away, as if sensing the need to be alone, and the solitude is both welcomed and loathsome. It becomes tedious, and now there are new memories to flee from – so she drives further still. Her fingers cramp on the steering wheel, the road lines blur and she takes corners with little regard for where she will end up.
One such day, she’s driving on autopilot and pauses, spying a bright red stop sign. Unthinking, she pulls over, cuts the engine, stares blankly at the sign. Right now it feels like less of a road rule and more of an instruction, a direction: