This is a short story I wrote for the class I took a couple of summers ago.
“Jenelle, wake up!”
My roommate’s voice yanks me out of sleep and into a groggy semi-awareness. I jump, hitting my head on something hard. I raise my hand to my head and look at the clock: 6:30am.
“Ellie, I’ve only been asleep for an hour! What’s wrong?”
“I don’t know where we are, I need your help.”
I frown and rub my eyes. They feel as though I’ve been scraping sandpaper across them. I open my eyes wider and stare at my roommate, trying to see past the blurriness of sleep. Then I look out through the window of the truck and stare up at the buildings surrounding us.
“What do you mean, you don’t know where we are?”
“Our road ran out, it just ended. I was driving along and our road ran out, and I had to go through a tunnel or over a bridge or something and they charged me six whole dollars. There’s nowhere to park and I don’t know where we are.”
“Calm down,” I am starting to wake up now. I pull out the old, wrinkled atlas that we’ve been using and open it up to the Pennsylvania page.
“Alright, I went to sleep about an hour or so ago and we were just outside of Harrisburg, if you’ve been going about sixty miles per hour since then we can’t be any further than New Jersey. Do you know what street we’re on?”
“No,” Ellie grips the steering wheel tightly with both hands, her eyes wide.
“Ok, we just need to ask someone where we are, and we probably shouldn’t just keep driving. Can you find a place to park? What’s open at this hour?”
We drive past a few more buildings, their windows reflecting the pale red of the sunrise. My tiredness has been replaced by adrenaline, I can hear my heart beating loudly in my ears. I spot a yellow sign that says, “24 hours.”
“There!” I point, “A twenty-four hour McDonald’s, and there’s a parking spot right there on our side of the street, pull over, pull over.”
Ellie follows my orders and parks the truck and we both get out. I stand on the sidewalk clutching the atlas and staring up at the skyscrapers, they are taller than they seemed from inside the truck. Ellie joins me and we walk down the street to the McDonald’s. The air is cold and I shiver, pulling my jacket tighter around my neck. My skin tingles as a gust of wind whips down the street and plays with my already unruly hair. I stomp my feet as we walk, trying to regain some feeling in them. I hate to think what we must look like, how unkempt we appear.
We enter the McDonald’s and an assortment of smells assails my nose. Aromas of sausages and bacon waft from the kitchen, mingled with the floury smell of biscuits. Ellie sniffs appreciatively but I am on a mission. A man behind the counter smiles at us.
“What can I get for you?”
“I need directions,” I hold out the atlas, opening it slightly like a peace offering. “Can you tell me where we are?”
“Sure,” he has an easy smile, bright teeth in his dark face. His earring distracts me for a moment and then I make eye-contact again as he continues. “We’re on the corner of Twenty-Fourth and Fulton.”
I blink, something about his words seems alien. I shake my head, “No, I mean… what state are we in?”
His eyes widen and his grin falters a bit, “Girl, you’re in Manhattan.”