The highway was bare of virtually all life. It had the same forbidden ambiance of a school after hours, the one that follows whenever one is so accustomed to seeing a setting in the daylight, full of life as people hurry about their own, and is suddenly confronted with the same setting yet void of all expected action. Jenn was the only one on the highway tonight, it seemed, which was more than fitting for she'd no desire greater than to be away from people; nothing more than a worldwide cast of actors and actresses performing in the world's greatest façade that no one even seemed to be aware was taking place. Not until somebody stumbled over a line, their mask of kindness slipping a few inches off of their faces, revealing a glance of their true intentions. Sometimes this threw the entire show off and other times only it only became evident for but a moment, often either being considered an illusion created by the memory or simply part of the show. But then other times, people knew how to hide in the shadows of the stage, sinking into the folds of the curtain or fading into the background by being disguised as a part no bigger than the third tree to the left, biding their time until the cue came and they jumped to center stage, dragging along some unsuspecting audience member in order to steal the show.
Jenn hadn't even remembered volunteering.
She shook her head a tad to shake such thoughts from her mind. If she didn't think about the party, if she pretended that Noah had never even existed, then they wouldn't have to exist. If she placed them in a little box in the back of her mind and locked it away forever, then she'd never have to face it. Eventually time would eat away at the memory until it could be as though it had never happened, which was the way Jenn wanted it. She wanted to erase this entire night from her mind, to go home and fall into bed so she could wake up as a brand new person. Or rather, she wanted to wake up as the same person that she'd been happy living as before the show started to fall apart around her, revealing truths that she'd never asked to see. Perhaps she had it all wrong. Perhaps she wasn't an audience member, but rather a part of the play herself. She'd always been part of the play, even if unknowingly, had always worn the costume that projected to the world what she wanted it to. And if she were to return to ignorance after having accidentally found the edge of the stage and pretend that she'd never seen a thing, then wouldn't she been acting? Wouldn't she be quietly slipping back into her costume and fading into the folds of comforting superficiality? But hiding within ignorance was nothing in comparison to laying traps conceived in lies.
Jenn realized that her mind was drifting again and tried to focus on her driving. There was nobody on the road, however, no exits to take for ages. The only sound that accompanied her was the low hum that vibrated the torn fabric seat, now draped with slipcovers beneath her. As they passed under a halo of empty orange light, it illuminated everything in a ghostly fashion, from protruding plastic knobs of choice that weren't in use now, to the sullied console between the two front seats marked with rings, each one revealing a silent story of some all-nighter shadowed by the sweet salvation of needed caffeine. She lifted up the lid of the console in search of a good tape to play, but naturally it bore no fruit greater than a collection of dust along the edges. The car then slipped back into the shadow's wake, the only light emanating from the split speedometer and enervated headlights, neither of which's feeble attempts could cut through the bleak strain of the night. It felt as though she were the only thing alive; just her and her car traveling down a lifeless highway, passing by a dead town, driving in the wake of the ghost of a moon. There was nothing to distract her from the flashes of the night in her mind; the cool air passing over her stomach as pressure was relieved with each release of a pearly button, the goose bumps that ran over her lifeless arms at the satiny feel of her blouse sliding off of her shoulders. She could practically feel his weight on her legs, feel the scraping of denim upon denim, feel his hot breath laden with alcohol washing over her stomach with each grunt he made as he fumbled with the metal button-
With sudden compulsion she bit down on her tongue, a white light of pain exploding in front of her eyes as a hot coppery rush of blood came. She closed her eyes and clenched her teeth, holding in a scream of agony, and she swerved towards the divider. Her eyes opened and she jerked the wheel to the right, overcorrecting. Pulling the wheel to the left, she just barely avoiding plunging the car nose first down the steep embankment. She steadied the car, taking her foot almost completely off of the gas. She was hit with a wave of light-headedness, her stomach churning with nausea. Blinking orange taillights came to life as the car pulled to the side of the road, hinges half-eaten by rust squealing painfully in protest, the door shuddering madly as it budged. She leaned over the side of the car, one hand steadying herself by the door handle and the other clutching her hair, holding it away from the bitter stream she released. Her stomach clenched, her entire body heaving as though purging the poison from her stomach could purge the poison from less accessible parts of her body. Jenn finished quickly enough, her entire body shaking, cold sweat beaded on her forehead. She pulled the door shut, making a hollow metal thwonk accompanied by a sharp crunching sound of something fraturing. Paying no attention to it, however, she leaned her head against the door as she tried to calm her shallow, terrified pants. Cracked separations of age bore deep ravines through the archaic mock leather, stretched across the inside of the door. She finally let go of the handle, its already discolored surface marred by a deep grey stain, a scar of years' sweat from many hands. She took a few deep breaths to steady herself, each one becoming slower, more collected, and eventually took hold of the wheel again with hands that wore only small traces of their previous severe trembling. When she pulled back onto the road, she felt glad to have finally begun moving once more. She suddenly wanted nothing more than to get home, home where everything would be normal, where her parents would be sleeping, ignorant of everything, and her warm, safe bed would be waiting for her. She couldn't bear to even think about tonight's events anymore. She couldn't handle it.
But by not saying anything, she'd be hiding something that oughtn't be hid, be covering up for someone who'd done nothing but deceive her and lure her and…and… She began to get light-headed again and rolled down the window, mullioned to a faint tan with an obstinate blemish of grime, an inch so she could get some fresh air, having a bit of struggle due to the rubber squeegees hardened by time that enclosed the base of the window. She had no idea how she planned on making it home in one piece. All she knew was that for her sanity's sake, if nothing else, she'd have to just take it one step at a time.
After a time she started over the bridge. She wasn't too far now, and she noticed a rather restless tension building within her. She wanted to go home and slip inside silently, as unnoticed as she'd be when she'd slip back into her role as a normal seventeen-year-old. Just Jenn, obedient daughter, determined student, reliable friend. Nothing whatsoever about Jenn, snuck out of the house, went to a party with a college student she'd only hooked up with a few times, got utterly drunk with the wrong person. No, that Jenn wouldn't even exist. She'd wipe the alcohol and Noah and the entire stupid party from her mind as though it had never taken place, and take shelter within the shallow of her home, the shallow of her life. She could see now why everybody acted. What was there to lose if you did? You could screw up all you wanted, get hurt all you wanted, but in the end, it would never be you. It would always just be a character that was affected, a role that could be manipulated to meet the needs of every situation. She knew it was wrong… She knew as clearly as anything that hiding in a role didn't give you license to do whatever you so please to someone else who is acting as well. She knew she should do something, say something in order to break apart the cycle of performing and bring forth the reality in them all…she was exhausted, however. She'd worry about it tomorrow.
She pulled into her drive with the headlights off, making her way through the house and to her room stealthily. As soon as she closed her bedroom door behind her, fatigue immediately wracked her body. She didn't even bother putting on pajamas, simply collapsing onto her bed and kicking her shoes off. She briefly wondered what she was going to do about the night, but her limbs were like lead and her mind like fog, so she decided she'd sleep on it…although she knew that she really wouldn't speak. She knew that when the morning came, she'd simply fade back into the world, hiding within the painted walls constructed by the lies and ignorance of everyone who had ever acted, who had ever not known or pretended not to. Because it was all still deception.