Loves Arby

by on February 2nd, 2011
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“Meet me at the Loves Arby” she whispered… “You know…the Loves Arby…5am.”

The phone went dead. Was I dreaming? 3.47 am. The clock seemed real, the digital numbers bright in the darkness. I pulled myself from that place where dreams are made, struggled to make sense of what was going on. The problem being, it made no sense. It could be a dream.

But I had the phone receiver in my hand. I could hear the buzzing line, the voice that had been there now replaced by humming. Electronic protestation! Even the phone line sounded like it was struggling with this new twist.

I knew that voice so well, even though it had been so long. A year, maybe three, possibly ten. How long does a heart take to heal? How long does a mended heart take to unravel? I’m sure I had imagined her calling in the dead of night a thousand times. More. I’m sure I had dreamt it too.

Not this time. As sleep rushed away and my relaxed nerves started to bunch into a knot of fresh anxiety, I knew this time it was real. That husky smoker’s drawl – an accent not quite definable, as if she came from nowhere, or everywhere, somewhere cooler than you. It was an accent that was hard to dream, hard to conjure. It needed real air, real exasperation, real smoke.

The Loves Arby? It rang a bell, could I be forgetting things about her? About us?

A memory was slowly surfacing, a memory that needed some trigger in order to fully bloom. Even in the darkness my eyes were twitching around the room. Looking for something, something, something. I could see an image perched on the side of my subconscious. I fumbled in the books beside my bed. I stumbled up and across the room. Searching through the shelves, my eyes two steps ahead of clumsy hands. There. Tucked inside the cover of my beaten up road almanac. There it was.

A photo she had taken. I had discovered it months later when I finally remembered to get the film processed. I believe it was the only photo she had taken. As we crossed the desert she laughed at the signs flitting past. The crazy images of consumerisms in the middle of nothingness. She had taken the photo and then wondered at whether the signs where side by side on purpose? Were they linked in some big corporate conspiracy?

“Next time you see an Arbys will you think of love?” she asked.

“No,” I had said. “I will think of you.”

“Maybe they are the same,” she whispered through her cigarette smoke.

“Maybe,” I whispered back.

Where was that sign? Where had we been travelling to, or from? I tried to pull other memories. Sunshine, windows down. Music was there music or was it her singing? What was on the floor of the car, what had she been wearing? It was all a blur. A road trip filled with images and places and warmth, car snacks and smokes. Stories and shared confessions. A month we had travelled together – through ravines, over mountains and along highways. It had seemed endless, the heat and the beauty.

My four day journey had lasted four weeks, and changed everything. I had picked her up by the side of lonely road in California. Thanks for stopping she had said. I need to get away from my life. She had smiled. Unnerved me. I had a plan. When I picked her up I knew my plan had changed. Just like that.

And then she was gone, just like that. I was doing laundry. I came back. A note on the car said “thanks for helping me get away” that’s all. Nothing else. I waited for two days. Didn’t move the car just in case. Left notes for her. Letters, declarations, pleadings. She didn’t come back.

It was out of town, about an hour away. 5 am was also about an hour away. How did she know I could make it? Did I ever tell her my destination? Did I give her a phone number? No. But wait. A note I left on the car had said please call me. A number. I had left a number. She had come back. She had come back to the car and seen my number. And now she had called.

Loves Arby. 5am.

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