Jack and I left at quarter to six. The party was about fifteen minutes from our house, and none of our geezer friends is ever fashionably late. As we bounced down the nameless road that connects us with the rest of Puriscal, I asked, “Do we know where we’re going?” On previous visits, we’d followed friends, then a map, but we would soon lose the light and then it would be like driving on Tau Ceti for all the illumination we’d find.
Jack said yes. He’d looked at the map, and knew where to go. But when we got to the fork he took a hard right. It was a dirt road, like many around here, with one lane, and not a single place to turn our behemoth around. “This is the road to nowhere,” I said, trying to keep the alarm out of my voice.
“We’re going in the right direction,” said Jack. “There are the lights of the Central Valley.” But then we were in the dark again, and clearly on the wrong road.
I was trying to be nice, but the ugly me pops up when I’m lost. “We have to go back to that three-way fork and try one of the other choices,” I said. We chose the middle option, which took us down another one-lane dirt road, past a row of houses I knew shouldn’t be there. “This isn’t it,” I said. “There’s only one more choice. That must be the one- wouldn’t you know.” I started feeling grateful there was a bottle of wine in the car, and an opener.
The third and last possible choice felt right to me, though it was clearly the road on the left of the fork. I kept saying, “This feels right.”
We drove past a sign that looked familiar, to what I was sure was the right gateway, except the road beyond looked like another single-lane dirt road.
In my mind, I’d seen a well-lighted, paved road. No lights here. “Do we want to chance getting stuck down there?”
Meanwhile, the smell of my wholewheat pizza permeated the car. “Holy shit!” I said. “Do you know what time it is? We’ve been driving around for an hour. Those people will eat all the food if we don’t get there soon.”
“There might have been a right turn we missed,” said Jack. “Let’s retrace our steps.” We found a few possible rights, drove down a few impassable roads. Pizza and wine in the car suddenly seemed like an acceptable alternative to driving around the world to the right.
I noticed our road was starting to look like a river bed. “This is bad!” I screeched.
“This is NOT bad,” said Jack. I got out into the dirt with a flashlight, grateful I don’t wear high heels. Jack backed up, but we were getting discouraged. I was barely refraining from whimpering. We headed in the direction we’d come from until I said, “We’re back where we started. Look, there are the two speed bumps.”
“Let’s try it again,” said Jack, but I was too busy grinding my rear teeth to stumps to reply. “We’ll go this way,” he said, when we got back to the terrible three-way turn.
“We already went that way,” I cried. I mean I yelled. “I remember this sign. We went this way, I’m sure.” I saw a few people partying outside a house on the road. “Pull over,” I said, “we’re going to this party.” Just kidding. I told them we were lost, but they said we were going the right way.
Though he didn’t believe them, Jack continued down the road until we were facing the very same fancy gate we’d already rejected. What the hell, we decided. There’s no place left to go. I was ready to jump out of the car and do the backing up routine again, but we’d arrived, and though it was already 7:15, there was still food left.