November 6, 1960
The sound of the shower shutting off woke Brian. A few moments later Della came out of the bathroom, naked except for a big towel with which she was drying her hair. Brian looked at her sweet, slender body, recalled the joy of last night’s love making and briefly considered spending another night with her, or a week or a year or a life time. But he also became painfully aware that his bowels were about to burst with last night’s beer. So he threw off the covers, went into the bathroom and pissed a bucketful.
At the sound of the flushing toilet Della opened the door, handed him a towel and said “Shower, sir?”
When Brian came out of the shower Della was on the phone chatting away about nothing in particular. Brian got dressed while she watched and chatted. When he was dressed she said “Gotta go….okay….love you….bye.” She hung up. “That was my Mom. I call her every Sunday morning. Let’s go get breakfast.”
When they got to the cafeteria they found Chuck and Tasha. They enjoyed some eggs, ham, toast and coffee. Soon Claire joined them. Nobody asked Brian if he slept, how he slept or where he slept. He guessed it was probably a known.
When they finished breakfast Chuck said “Well, Brian, are you ready to hit the road?”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
“I’ll take you out to a good place to find a ride.”
On the way out to the motorcycle Della took Brian’s arm and asked “Brian? What’s your last name?”
“Sims. What’s yours?”
“Oh, you’ll find out. Some day.”
They got to the bike, Chuck got on, Brian sat behind him, looked at the three girls watching them and said “There ought to be a bottle of champagne.”
Chuck laughed, stomped down on the starter and off they went down the ramp and away from the campus,
As the bike flew along a back road, the wind gently whipped Brian’s still damp hair. He felt that it was also flowing through his mind, cleaning out the events of the last few days, bringing an end to one section of Brian’s life and preparing him for a clean beginning. Once he stepped off the motorcycle he would be completely on his own, with no Chuck to call the moves. Brian felt a little aprehensive but mostly excited. In two and a half months he would be 25, two and a half decades, a quarter of a century old. It was a good time for a new beginning. California, a place he’s never been before. That was a goal that was so firm in his thoughts he didn’t even consider the thousands of mile he still had to go to get there. In his mind he was already there.
Chuck pulled to a stop at the start of an entrance ramp to a wider road. “Here we are. This’ll take you into Cleveland. I’ll be back in Boston on Tuesday. Keep in touch with Bob. Let us know where you are and how you’re doing.”
“I will. And thank you for everything, Chuck. I had a good time here.”
“You’re welcome. Good luck.”
Chuck and his motorcycle disappeared back the way they had come. Brian wondered if he would ever see him again.
Brian walked down the entrance to the road and saw a sign indicating that he was on the way to Cleveland. The excitement of being off by himself on his journey was too great for him to stand still, so he started walking. When he heard a vehicle approaching he turned and stuck his thumb out. The first few cars passed him by. He kept walking and, on the side of the road, he saw a wooden sign on which someone had scrawled “L A” with a sharp object. The sign had been casually tossed aside as if a car had picked up the hitchhiker and taken him all the way to Los Angeles. Brian picked up the sign and held it in front of him hoping he would be just as lucky. But then he felt silly holding it so he threw it aside. Then he thought maybe that’s how the first person discarded it. This wasn’t a major highway, after all, how likely would it be that someone would be driving down it on their way to California?
So there had been another hitchhiker along this road, going west. Brian now felt he was part of an invisible wagon train. He wondered if he should be leaving signs every now and then: Brian Sims passed this way, November, 1960.
Soon a car stopped for him. The driver asked him how far he was going. When he said California the driver chuckled and said he could only take him a few miles before he had to turn off. With three notable and memorable exceptions, that is the way it would be for the most part in the next couple of weeks.
One of the cars that stopped for him went into a gas station to fill up and let the driver use the rest room, so Brian went into the office and got an Ohio state roadmap. That driver took him all the way to the edge of the city. Brian thanked him, got out and walked into town. It was still afternoon so he thought to find a way going south out of the city
It was early November dark when he got into a busy part of Cleveland. He had to stand under a street lamp to read the map. While he was doing that, suddenly and unexpectedly someone spoke his name.
Brian looked up and gasped as he saw Margie King walking toward him with a big smile on her face. Margie was a counselor at the summer camp where Brian had taught swimming last summer.
“Margie! What a surprise.”
“I looked. I said ‘that looks like Brian Sims, but it can’t be.’ I looked again and it is. What are you doing here?”
“I’m hitchhiking to California.”
“I was just looking for the best way out of town. What are you doing here?”
“I got a job with the Camber of Commerce. Mary Lou, you remember her, is teaching. Public school.”
Margie and Mary Lou were lovers and soul mates. They were both full of fun; Brian remembered that any time spent with them was a time of laughter, jokes and stories.
”I do remember. You both doing well?”
“Great. Listen Brian, instead of leaving town come and have dinner with us. We’ll put you up and you can head out tomorrow. Mary Lou would love to see you. Say ‘yes’,“
“Okay.” Brian was anxious to get going, but he knew it would be a pleasant stop along the way. And so it was.
They took him to a Chinese restaurant called Hung Fat where Brian filled up the tank on Bean Curd Soup, Egg Roll, Kung Po Chicken, Green Beans in Oyster Sauce, Pork Fried Rice, Tea and a Fortune Cookie. When he broke open his cookie it read “Friends are good signs along the road.” He felt encouraged by that.
When they finally stood up Brian felt so bloated with food that he could hardly walk. But the few blocks walk back to their apartment loosened him up. Once they got there Mary Lou opened a bottle of wine and they sat around telling funny stories about where they had been and what they had been doing until it was bed time. It would be Monday morning and the girls had to be up and out early for their jobs.
“Are you sure it’s no trouble putting me up?” asked Brian.
Mary Lou smacked the sofa she was sitting on. “Nope, this is a pull out. My brother sleeps here sometimes.” She stood up and they pulled out the sofa to reveal a bed all made with sheets and a blanket. Margie went into the other room and came back with a pillow which she tossed on the bed.
“Thank you. I appreciate this.”
“No problem” said Margie. “We’ll meet you in the morning for a fast coffee and bagel.”
To be continued.