The Way Back Around: Chapter 8
The morning started later than days previous. To no surprise, both of us had managed to sleep in through my alarm set on my phone. By the time we went out to get the complimentary breakfast, the server was already beginning to put it away. I pumped at the coffee dispenser, allowing it to cough out a half cup of luke-warm brew.
Hanna joined me shortly after with a bowl of dry cereal. “Don’t worry,” I said with a sigh. “There’ll be plenty of places to stop along the way to eat. This time you’ll treat me, though, seeing as how you’ve suddenly got a debit card on you.”
Hanna giggled and crunched on a spoonful of the colorful rings. “I guess…”
Some way up I-81, we had stopped for lunch at a diner along one of the various towns that seemed to exist no farther than one single stretch of highway. Shortly after our departure, I began to see the tale-tell signs of the big cities of the northeast. One that continued to catch my attention was that of Washington D.C.
“Hanna.” I spoke up.
She sat up in her seat and glanced out the windows. “Where are we at now?”
“I was just thinking… you ever been to Washington?”
“Uh…” Hanna shrugged. “I think next year at school we take a trip there. I dunno.”
“I almost got to go…” I began to reminisce. “Back when we had real field trips.”
“Real field trips?”
“I mean, where they take you on a plane and you get to fly somewhere with your entire class.”
“Sounds like a drag.”
I nodded in agreement. “I would assume, but at the time I found it unfortunate that I didn’t get to go.”
Hanna sat up and stared at me with great attention. “Did you get sick or something?”
“Well, not quite.” I said playfully. “We had to write a paper on a president before going.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen those.”
“We did ours before we had the Internet to research on.”
“What? How, even?”
“The library. Hitting the books.” I waived my finger in a way similar to how I remember a past teacher doing. “The only thing was, I copied down stuff about two completely different presidents- James Garfield and Grover Cleveland. I ended up with a paper about ‘Grover Garfield’.”
“Hah.” Hanna held her hands to her mouth.
“They thought I was taking the whole thing as a joke, and they forced me to stay at school in detention while everyone else spent a week over here.”
“Aww, so you never went?”
“Nope, though it would have been cool, I imagine. Everyone was talking about it for weeks after they got back.” I focused on the road and the green signs draped across the highway, studying the text upon them as they flew by. “Well, I don’t want to keep you on the road for longer than we need to.”
“No, let’s go!” Hanna shuffled in her seat excitedly. “We can see all the things you should have seen! How far is it?”
I glanced at the route on my phone, guiding us toward the destination we had been heading toward for the past week. With a swipe of my finger, with one eye still on the road, I found the general outline of the capital city. Hanna leaned forward and tapped out a new destination with her finger.
Route calculating the voice on my phone called out. Two hours and fifteen minutes to destination. Continue straight on I-81 for forty-five minutes. “Two hours, it sounds like.” I repeated unnecessarily.
“Hmm.” Hanna hummed in thought.
“You could be home tonight, if we just skipped it,” I said with a joking tone.
Hanna sat back and folded her arms across her chest. “Well, it’s dangerous to try and mess with your phone while driving. Just keep headed that way.”
The mess of highways and overpasses and underpasses took us through the traffic and into the capital. Hanna pressed her face up against the glass of the side window, peering out at the passing blocks. “Hey, what do you suppose that is?” She asked.
I glanced out the window as the traffic forced us to a slow creep forward. “That tower? The Washington Monument!”
“Oh, so you know, even though you haven’t been here before?”
“Everyone knows what the Washington Monument is.”
“Even people from France?”
“Maybe not all of them…”
“Can we see it up close?” Hanna asked, turning back.
I flipped on my blinker to try and force a spot into the next lane over, hopefully taking us in the direction of the various attractions DC was known for.
About twenty minutes and four blocks later, we arrived on a street labeled Constitution Ave, looking out upon the grassy expanse of the park, anchored by the Lincoln Memorial on one side, and the Obelisk at the other. Along the road was a never ending stream of cars and people. “Wow…” Hanna managed to utter.
“I don’t think there’s a parking lot anywhere nearby…”
“I kind of… I don’t know… expected more.” Hanna glanced back at me, her face twisting up back and forth. She turned back to the window and rolled it down with a flip of the switch, and stuck her head out. A rush of humid, smoky air rushed into the cab of the car, forcing her back in almost immediately. “Oh, what the hell!” She cried as she put the window back into place.
I let out a loud laugh, almost releasing the brake enough to roll into the car ahead of us.
“Serves us right for coming here in the middle of summer without the slightest bit of a plan!” I joked, holding my stomach.
“I’m sorry,” Hanna sighed, slumping down in her chair. “This place just sucks.”
“Well, we can continue on out of here, I guess.” I sighed, scratching my head. “At the very least, though, let’s stop and get a bite to eat at least somewhere interesting.”
Hanna’s eyes wandered about in a disheartened daze, before focusing on something down the road a bit. “No way! Look!” He finger flew up.
“A Lycée Pita!”
“A-” I began to ask, hearing the nonsense word. “-No kidding?” To be sure, there was the name of the restaurants I had heard before,on a big oval billboard hovering above the post-modern looking building. “Well, after you’ve hyped it up so much, I can’t turn down eating there with you.”
After ten minutes to find parking, and a short walk back to our destination, we arrived at the fantastically European sounding food joint. “Bienvenu!” Came the call as we walked through the doors.
The place was certainly not as busy as the streets and sidewalks outside. “Uh, hello!” I said back with tepid enthusiasm. Hanna tugged on my sleeve to have us jump in behind the others.
The assembly line started with a tower of the restaurant’s namesake bread, and a grill behind the counter flared with cuts of meat, partnered with a vertical spit of more carnivorous delight, being shaved at with a long blade. “What can I get you today?” The employee asked Hanna with a smile.
“I’ll take a whole wheat-pita with greek chicken and greens with tzatziki and cucumber salad on the side.”
I stared at the tray of greens and the fresh meat. “And for you?” The employee continue on to me. “Well, uh, just the same, I suppose.”
“Sounds good.” The young man said, handing us a hand-written receipt. “For you. That’ll be out in a bit!”
The line pushed forward as people continued on to pay for their meals. I reached for my wallet, but before I could retrieve it, Hanna pushed my arm down. “I’ll pay for it, my treat this time. Remember?”
I sighed and handed the paper slip to her. “No complaints here.”
Hanna happily paid with a shiny silver visa, and we grabbed our pair of empty glasses to bring to the table. Hanna folded up the receipt paper and shoved it in her pocket. She stared me down with a hidden smile. “Didn’t think you were gonna go for something with so much vegetation on it.”
I rolled my eyes and sat back in the chair. “Well, after so many diner meals on the road, something green sounded good for once.” I joked. “Besides, I think I’m almost out of antacids.”
“Oof.” Hanna said as the busser stepped forward with our food. “Oh boy.”
Just as the plates hit the table, Hanna’s phone began to buzz in a way I hadn’t heard before. She pulled it out and gazed at the screen, her eyes widening. “A call? Who might that be?”
Hanna tapped ‘answer’ and a familiar voice came through the speaker. “Hanna? My assistant told me she just got a notification from the bank that you card was used in Washington D.C.? What the hell are you doing? Where are you?”
Her face turned to white as she looked up at me, mouthing ‘Mom.”