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Issue 24 - Run Baby RunEdit
“What’s the deal? Why you heading to Portola?” Nina asks. She pockets the plastic wrapping of the granola bar she has just finished on her backpack.
Julius continues to look at the piece of paper, minding the intricate lines and words displayed on it. A large square seemed to be right in the middle of it, the word “Heading” displayed vertically, and “Denver” horizontally.
“Well, it’s a long story, but…” He flaps the wallet open and lets Nina look at it, revealing the stored photo of its owner. “That’s my girlfriend. We got separated a while ago. She must’ve left it back as a clue. This piece of a map explains everything.” Nina continues to examine the photo of the woman; she could only see the side of her face, with her long, brown hair untied.
“She seems pretty…” she says; she couldn’t really say anything more since it was only the side of her face. Julius brings back the wallet to him and continues to gaze at it.
He examines her driver’s license, which was stored to the right side. He looks at all its details, for old time’s sake.
Alicia Isis Chalthoum. He’s forgotten how complex her real name was; he only calls her Alice.
Blue/Yellow eyes. Her rare birth defect wasn’t a defect at all; it just made looking at her mesmerizing.
December 8th. Her Birthday. He remembers getting her a last-minute gift in their first year. He would learn to get her a better one the second. They weren’t together on the third and final year.
He calmly sighs, and places back her license. He still feels he shouldn’t be fiddling with her wallet. He folds it back into its place, and pockets it.
“So… how soon are we going to reach it?” he asks. Nina seemed to be distracted, probably out of boredom. She turns to look at him, her expression curious.
“Oh, uh, um… can I see the map?” Julius takes the wallet back out and pulls the piece of paper off the top of it.
“Okay…” Nina examines it for a second. “I... don’t know this place… but…” She quiets down for another second as she continues to look at it. “It might be in this one area I have in mind. We might have to look through it before finding this particular building…” She pauses, curiously looking at him for a second. “Mind if I hold on to this?”
Julius nods. “Yeah, yeah, sure. Just make sure not to lose it.” She folds the paper and stuffs it on the bag to her side. “You… you’re not really in a hurry, are you?”
Julius slightly curves his eyebrows. “Uh… well…” She might be in that building, hopelessly waiting for him. That, or she might’ve just wanted to visit that building, as one of their destinations…
His realization that she might actually be dead returned. What if this map was taken when before she died? He looks back at the day they were packing, trying to recall what exactly she did that day. “Folding clothes… digging through that closet…” Maybe this was from before everything went to hell? Maybe this was a secret location for a party…? He was suddenly so lost in his thoughts, that he almost forgot why he was such in a hurry.
“I don’t… I don’t know.”
Nina turns away, looking to her front instead. “Well…” She stands up from the curb, strapping her bag. “It’s already gonna take days going there on foot. We can get a car, but…”
He recalls that he still doesn’t know how to hotwire. Keys are few and far in between.
“Look. I’ll take you there, but we gotta make a few stops. If not, then… you can just walk away right now, and it’ll all be up to you, and…” Nina looks at him patiently, her right hand reaching across to touch the single strap of her bag.
He slowly stands up, looking away to think about it. He always hears about Portola, but has never been there. He could probably just look for a map, match it with the freeway names, get there as soon as he can…
But he’d be giving up the only other help he has now. It’s rare to come across people nowadays; having a person approach you is a godsend. She could probably help in scavenging, too.
This might just be a place she wanted to visit. She might be gone from this place by now, or she’s really dead… The hope he found this afternoon seemed to be dwindling.
He looks at Nina, who was still waiting for an answer. “Alright,” he says to her.
“Great,” she replies, a faint smile on her face.
Finally. An extra person to accompany her. Now it’ll be easier to run her self-errands, now that there’s one other person in her group. “Too bad it’s gonna be a short trip…” she thought. Portola was only across town after all.
“Great. Well then…” She looks to the direction of the orange sun, and squints looking at it. “We’re wasting daylight. Let’s go.”
Nina was speedily walking ahead of Julius, leading him out of the urban areas, and into one of the other districts. They were quiet for the ten minutes they walked.
It was becoming a familiar sight for Julius; to his left was the view of the ocean, slightly obstructed by the land and greenery before it. He wasn’t completely sure where they were going.
The view starts to subside as more buildings block it. There were lesser trees present in this area.
As they passed by a few more buildings, Julius was coming to a realization; was this really the place? The place he swore off he’ll never visit until after college?
“We’re really in the Sunset District, are we?” he suddenly says. Nina, who was walking ahead of him, turns around and starts walking backwards. She nods her head. “Yep.” She looks to each of her sides. “Highway entrance at the end of it.”
The Sunset District. Where the surfers and philanthropists come to visit. It was like their little slice of Los Angeles; Surf and skate shops, diners… the place was an all-season vacation spot. Julius wanted to live in this place when he was in elementary school; his dream became less serious when he grew up, but he still thought about it.
Nina’s walking starts to slow down, as she sets her eyes at a door to her left. “You like music, right?” she asks Julius. He catches up to her, seeing the building to her left. “Yeah, yeah I do,” he replies.
“Great. I mean, who doesn’t?” Nina grabs the door’s handle, and pulls it.
It was a music shop; the sign “Mel’s Notes” was displayed right above the door in medium red letters.
They were greeted by racks of CD’s and tapes, a vinyl player on the side of the entrance, and numerous guitars strewn up on the walls. Everything about this place speaks of music.
“Welcome to the best music shop in the world,” Nina says, as she glances Julius once and goes off to vanish into a rack of CD’s. Julius could already smell CD’s and vinyl records coexisting together. He examines the racks nearest to him; most, if not all of the CD’s were used, judging from how scratched their cases were. Names like Dishwalla, The Cardigans, Soundgarden, Matchbox Twenty, and others were all together, regardless of the alphabet. These were the bands he remembered listening to when he was young.
He scans around the store for Nina, who seems to be nowhere in sight.
She thought she was going to look all over the place for it; the way its handler was so enigmatic, though in a teasing way…
She was in the back of the store, in the “staff lounge.” Meredith Lovelace was sitting on the counter, slightly dusty, with a striped towel resting right next to her. Her beautiful best friend was back to its former glory.
Meredith is an acoustic guitar, one Nina held onto dearly since she was five, or six. It was smaller and less bulky than an average guitar, ideal for carrying around. Melchior was such a dear for restoring her.
She nearly lost Meredith after a string of accidents; once the D chord snapped, the fingerboard nearly broke in half. It was an unforgivable accident that nearly made Nina lost all hope, even more so than the world ending.
She blows off the dust, and picks it up by the neck. She examines it for a few seconds, in awe. She excitedly straps it onto her shoulder and brandishes it, then strums all of the strings, for the moment of truth.
“You sound the same, old friend,” she mutters, a bright smile on her face. This was, and always will be, her closest friend.
It was music that got her through much of her school life. She found it extremely hard to make friends, as she was always searching for the person that could relate to her the most. Nobody could ever match her imagination; they were much too fixated on “making friends” and sharing the commonest of interests.
Meredith, as she came to name her, was there to accompany her. Thanks to her, guitar-playing came so naturally. Before she knew it, they were both playing songs to begin the day, and end the night.
“Nina?” a muffled voice calls, from the other side of the door. She nearly forgot about Julian. “Hah… Julianne Hough,” she whispers, out of excitement.
He slowly creaks the door open and sees her. “Ah, there you are. Thought you vanished,” he says, looking at the guitar on her hands.
“Look. I’ve found my guitar. Isn’t she beautiful?” she replies, pushing the guitar up for him to see it better.
Their surroundings became even more orange in color, as the sun drowned down. Nina kept the guitar strapped on her shoulder, as if she was ready to play it. “C’mon. I’m waiting.” She has just asked Julius a song she could play. Any song, from before this decade. He seems to be having trouble.
“Wait… um… uh… y’know, I just…” Nina rolls her eyes. “Alright, alright. You can’t think of anything. I’m not surprised.” She smirks at him and looks to her guitar, scanning side by side. She then tinkers with its tuning pins and strums the strings to check for the sound.
“Let’s show him how it’s done, eh Love?” she says, her hands on both the board and the strings itself.
She starts to strum, playing various notes. “Wait, wait a sec…” she says, examining the notes again. She does this for a few more seconds, until she finally starts to strum for real. She starts to form a simple rhythm of notes.
“I think you’ll love this,” she says to him, clearly focused on the guitar. The simple notes continue to play. Julius still had no idea what this girl was talking about.
“Love can be so strange…. Don’t it amaze you?”
Her voice was somewhat melodic, though she sounded like a seasoned singer.
“Every-time you give yourself away… it comes back to haunt you.”
Maybe it was the song she was singing.
“Love’s an elusive charm. And it can be painful…”
“To understand this crazy world. But you’re not gonna crack…”
The way the buildings were lit by the sun’s bright orange made him feel melancholic, then inspired, then…
“No, you’re never gonna crack.”
Her voice seemed to accompany the view of the Sunset District. It was like he was living, and breathing the namesake of this place at this moment.
“Run my baby, run, my baby run…”
“Run from the noise of the street, and the loaded gun…”
“Too late for solutions to solve, in the setting sun…”
“So run my baby, run, my baby run…”
For some apparent reason, he loved Alice more than ever. He remembers wanting moving in with her in one of the apartments in this place. Visiting the beach every day, ice cream by the night…
Why didn’t he just grab her and continue running?
Thanks to Julius’s positive response to her singing, Nina continued to play. He somehow finally found the right songs to request, much to her surprise. She continued to sing these various songs, not even minding her noise level; there haven’t been any responders, after all. Maybe she just sang that well.
They stopped at an empty clothing store, once there was nothing but darkness outside. There were lit light posts here and there, but they were usually rare. One of the reasons why they stopped in this building was because of a lit lamp post.
“Any other song?” Nina could keep going; she hasn’t been able to play this much music in a while. She was sure Meredith was loving every minute of it.
Julius was looking around for the bed he’ll be sleeping on. “You know, I think…. I’m out,” he replies. Nina looks at him with one brow up, then smiles. “Really? You’re really out? Just a few minutes ago you were wanting me to play Alice’s whole playlist!”
Julius stops at the word “Alice.” Did he really mention her just now, or when during the songs were playing? “I did?” he asks, out of curiosity.
“Psh. Yeah!” Nina replies. “Three songs I sang were her ‘favorites’, you said.” Julius pauses to think about it. Maybe he was just so lost into the music that he nearly forgot about it. He hasn’t heard any for the longest time, after all…
“You really love her, don’t you?”
Julius shoots his head up to look at her. “Alice. You seem so happy when you heard those songs.” He felt a bit embarrassed.
“Y-yeah. I guess… I just miss her that much.”
“That’s adorable.” They both pause, looking away into their own thoughts.
“I’ll get us a car.”
Julius looks at her. “A… car?”
“Yeah. I’ll look for one and I’ll drive you there. So we can get to her sooner.”