Xavier swears they’re looking for us. I tell him we’re at a border and checking passports is what they do at borders.
His eyes fixed upon the line of cars ahead, he gulps water from a plastic bottle, forcing it down his gullet in three noisy swallows. Fifty vehicles, even more, stretch in front of us, along the straight road which leads out of Croatia and into Bosnia, stationary, except for when we all creep forward a few measly metres every minute or so. Behind us too. Turning back isn’t an option.
“Two lots of them,” he says, through a gurgling burp. He puts his hand in front of his mouth. “I don’t like this.”
In the distance I see the Croatian police in their navy blue uniforms, and beyond them the Bosnians in bright blue and yellow. They’re just standing around. “We’ll be all right.”
“I really don’t like this,” he says a second time.
“It’ll be worth it. Bosnia. Outside the EU. We won’t have to run anymore. We can start to think about our future.” I put my hand on his thigh. “I love you,” I say for the umpteenth time that day.
Making cloth Christmas ornaments was one of Amy’s saner ideas. It didn’t require her to get into a bikini and then in bathtub of Cool-Whip-like substance like that modeling job she auditioned for, thinking it would be grist for her short story mill—at seventeen she was determined to get a head start on success. “Look sexy, they told me. Sure, if you can keep from itching your cooch and slipping around like a goldfish trying to escape its bowl,” she said when I caught her trying to see the extent of the rash the cream-like chemicals gave her by holding a mirror between her legs. I’d brought her a pint of chocolate brownie ice-cream because she’d broken her ankle climbing out of the tub.
Only shaving her head for her “taste of life” idea had led to more dire consequences. The day after she found out using a No-Mo Hair Removal might leave her permanently bald, she got an invitation to her cousin’s wedding. The wig-maker laughed at her. So did I.
But the SDSU lesbians who hung out at the Starbuck’s on Thursday afternoons thought she was gorgeous and sent over complimentary lattes and croissants with their phone numbers. I talked her out of going out with a butch named Aileeen (she really did have three ‘e”s in her name) by reminding her people could get testy when they discover they’ve been used.
Anyway, to make the holiday ornaments–and allegedly our fortune as entrepreneurs—we went shopping for fabric. Amy said we should go to a discontinued dye lot wholesaler. I hated driving in the Gaslight District, or in downtown San Diego anywhere, because of all the one-way streets and that damned-stupid trolley, but I said okay if we could get a Margarita at the Bay Cafe afterwards.
The next time Don's really, truly awake again, it's in the early hours of the next morning. He must have been out for the whole day.
He supposes he'd walked back to the hotel, but he doesn't remember. He can sketchily recall, though, stepping into the lobby and being hit by a sudden crippling wave of exhaustion despite the few hours of sleep he'd gotten, stumbling into the lift while the television buzzed loudly with the report of a gang shoot-out on the bayou
He pops out into the dark and silent corridor and buys a few packets from the closest vending machine. His first thought, when he enters his room again and looks over the small amount of luggage that has somehow managed to fling itself everywhere, is that there's no reason to stay anymore.
It takes a long time to pack. It doesn't have to, but Don finds himself putting things in then taking them out again, refolding and rearranging. It almost feels like reluctance.
He wonders if it's all another dream. If what he heard and saw was nothing more than one last flashing nightly vision. If everything will go back to normal once the daylight comes again.
He makes it to the bayou in less than half an hour. The run is done on rote.
There's not even a moment of doubt before he spies the glow on the waterfront, a few hundred yards from where the St John's University back gates open out. He twists his arm to see his watch, and subtracts the hour he's still yet to set.
In the distance, he hears the first beat of a drum. It's deep, resonating, pounding in a steady rhythm that matches the rush of blood in his ears. But it's not loud, not very. It probably can't be, in an urban area like this. A chant starts up, sibilant and undulating, though he can't make out the words.