At five in the morning, Lexi awoke. She was lying under a thin blanket on the fairly uncomfortable couch in Gabe’s living room, and she was swimming in a new kind of madness.
It wasn’t the yammering yowling emptiness that had crashed over her after Ren had died and made it impossible to move, thank goodness. That was gone. The memory of it slowed her down sometimes, but it had lost its power. This was a new madness, and she didn’t know what to do with it. The whole world was spinning inside of her head, and one side of her mind laughed gleefully and knew that she could make it do whatever she wanted. The other half could feel the whole thing on the verge of breaking apart completely, could feel the back end breaking loose and the front tires washing out all at the same time and knew that she had gone too far, too too far, and her best bet was to give up on making this turn, go straight, and hope she didn’t lose the use of her legs in the crash that was sure to follow. Metaphysically speaking, of course. The whole world was spinning inside her head and it was too big to come out, she didn’t have an orifice large enough.
She felt two ways about things and she didn’t know which one was right. It wasn’t just this thing, either, these cars and the Road Associates. It was everything. Lexi had been fighting the new madness down all day, but now she’d slept as much as her body wanted to and there was nothing to do but stare at the ceiling and scratch her right calf with her left foot and listen to the noises in her head, which she couldn’t make stop.
Funny thing was, the waves of cuckoo swashing back and forth didn’t make her nonfunctional. She talked to Gabe for the whole forty-five minute drive from Hamilton across the bridge to Lecroy, and that wasn’t as easy as it could have been under any circumstances, considering that she was sandwiched between them and Dobie was radiating disapproval at this plan. She’d also been jazzed on the success of popping the coil wire and using Coquette’s starter to crank the car into the truck (saving them the noise of actually starting the car and the impossible dream of pushing a 1900-pound car up a twenty-degree ramp with only three people), and had thus forgotten to ask Gabe to stop at a drugstore so she could get a frigging tampon before it was too late.
She talked to Gabe anyway, and learned that he and his family had ended up scrapping both of their cars, which were too old to be registered according to the new regulations, and the government’s compensation for this sacrifice hadn’t arrived yet and wouldn’t be enough to pay for even one replacement car when it did. Gabe had worked out a deal with his boss so he could drive his delivery truck to and from work. Dobie tried to start an argument about how there was public transportation available; Lexi backhanded his shoulder and he gave her a dirty look but stopped talking, and neither of the men noticed the madness bubbling in her.
When they got to the house she unloaded the car, discreetly borrowed a maxipad, helped cook dinner (mmm, baked spaghetti and homemade garlic bread), played loudly with Gabe’s three kids (Cortney, Billy and Vincent, in descending age order) and ignored Dobie some more. After dinner, Gabe took her to a twenty-four hour big-box store where she got sunscreen, a floppy but snug hat, new underwear, road snacks and replacement toiletries. She used money that Dobie stuffed into her hand, and thought about a hat for him, but he had gotten weird and condescending about going to the store, so she didn’t bother. He didn’t like Gabe and Valeria’s house either, but the idea of going out in public apparently scared him more than ten-year old furniture with crayon scars. What she really needed from the store was a muffler for Coquette, but they didn’t have any. Gabe said he’d give a friend a call in the morning and see about getting one–someone had a car they were going to have crushed soon and she might be able to snag the exhaust pipe off of it. That sounded like a good plan, perfectly guerilla, and Lexi felt somewhat in control of the circus.
They got back just before eleven; Lexi tumbled onto the couch, Valeria draped a blanket over her and bid her a fond goodnight. Dobie slept in the easy chair, which he’d chivalrously chosen so Lexi could stretch out on the couch. Somehow even the nice things he did annoyed her, and Lexi almost refused and slept on the floor, but then Dobie talked quietly in the dark how he’d never had the chance to watch a family put together a mutual dinner, and how he’d found himself a little jealous of the closeness he saw in them, and she softened a little. Or maybe she was just falling asleep.
And now she was awake awake awake, and she had to move. She wondered where Glen and Molly were, she hoped Kelly had remembered to feed Malice, and then she sat up. The world shifted as she moved; she couldn’t tell if she was moving it or it was moving her. They had to go, though, they had a long way to go and she didn’t know if the car was going to break down or not, didn’t know what surprises were in store on the road. She didn’t even know where her best friend was, and Dobie’s phone was broken. Using Gabe’s phone would be rude, since it was a long-distance call to the US to reach Molly’s cell.
Lexi tilted her head to the side, swaying with music that was only in her head and that she recognized shortly as Hanzel und Gretyl, noisy messy industrial stuff that made her feel better and wished she could dance. She had to move. Before she’d even thought about it, Lexi had launched herself off of the couch and was making for the front door.
Dobie was awake. “Lexi?” he asked, startling her.
She didn’t stop moving, though. “Ich hab’ acht und dreißig schlagen,” she intoned, her voice a low growl, and bolted outside. She ran down the block, passing early-morning sprinklers and newspapers in little mesh bags on the street and an abandoned Big Wheel. She jumped over this last, skidded to a stop, then crossed the street at a diagonal. Her bare feet slapped on the pavement, and she heard crazy drums in her head, nonsense German lyrics and it was several more houses and a jousting match with a scrawny tree before she realized she was saying “acht und acht und acht und” out loud as she ran. Madness, indeed. But it felt good to indulge it, especially since bottling it up hadn’t helped much. Lexi wanted to be near the car then. She wanted it right now, so she spun in her tracks and started running back toward Gabe’s house and Coquette. The sun was almost fully up and it was time to go anyway, they could get a muffler and then lose themselves in rush hour traffic.
Dobie was running toward her, and met her when she was almost back to the house. He smelled of cologne–had he actually stopped to put some on before he came after her?–and he grabbed her shoulder. “Are you all right? What’s the matter with you?” he asked.
He wasn’t angry, more concerned perhaps, concerned that she was completely out of her gourd, and she might have had a few things to say, perhaps to convince him that she wasn’t, but she didn’t feel like being grabbed. Lexi shook his hand off and shouted at him, “I’mnotyour fuckin fantasy!” without taking a breath, which made perfect sense to her, since the song was in her head anyway, but made Dobie take a step back.
Wait, that was what she wanted anyway. Lexi actually stopped running for a moment, hands up between them. Right and wrong, something was right and wrong at the same time. Then the bouncing started again, in her feet, she couldn’t stay still or she’d burn up, and she stomped the pavement with a nice satisfying smack and ran to the back of Gabe’s house.
Coquette was still in the garage, of course, all dull red Alfa with gray and yellow spots where the paint had flaked off. There was an electrical short to find, and a muffler to install, and then they could feed the car and go again. Lexi smiled, and the CD in her head finally skipped to the next song.