Set the Pace
© 2016 by Kim Karr
Control is an absolute necessity when driving fast on the road, and there is no other car that applies force to the pavement as directly as the Storm. Whether turning the wheel, accelerating the gas, or stepping on the brake, I am always in contact with the road, and therefore I always have control.
Too bad I can’t say the same for my life, which right now seems to be spinning out of control.
Driving through the streets of the old Cass Corridor, I manage to suppress the bad memories of my childhood from surfacing. Sure, the area’s history is a sad cocktail of drugs, prostitution, and crippling poverty. And even though this section of midtown is a shadow of its former self, I can still see the neglect in the thoughtless demolition. However, as I come to a stop in front of Charlotte’s building, I can also spot change and hope for the future.
Then again, her building isn’t the grimy brick front with a dark lobby lit only by streaks of light through cracked windowpanes that I grew up in. Her stairs aren’t rotting, her hallway isn’t a putrid shade of green, the carpet isn’t worn, nor does it smell like piss, and there isn’t the yelling going on that makes me want to cover my ears.
This isn’t the same place where I grew up.
Slowly, I glance around. She’s right—her building isn’t that bad. As I take the stairs and look out the window, I think I might have been a bit harder on her than I needed to be.
Walking down the hallway, I can’t suppress the smile on my face when I see that her bike is just outside the door. This means she’s planning on coming with me. After my confession last night, I wasn’t exactly sure she would.
Way too soon, I’m standing in front of her apartment.
Not quite ready for this, I give myself the pep talk. This is not a date.
You’re looking for answers.
You don’t need to be thinking of her in any other way than as someone you used to know. You look only at her face. You definitely don’t watch the way she moves. You don’t need to feel guilty because you f*cked her co-worker. You don’t even remember much about it anyway. And for fuck’s sake, you don’t need to be thinking about how good this girl would feel wrapped around you.
With that out of the way, I’m feeling clear-headed and focused. Before that changes, I hurry up and knock.
No one answers.
I knock again.
Maybe she changed her mind and she isn’t going to come with me after all.
Feeling impatient, I knock one more time.
“Just a minute,” I hear from inside.
The sound of her voice makes me feel desperate to see her. That’s not a good thing. I should leave. I really should. I seriously consider it for about a hot minute. Nothing but bad can come out of this. But my feet seem cemented in place and when I hear the click-clack of a lock and it begins to turn, it’s too late.
Slowly the door opens and she comes into view. As soon as she does, the wind is knocked right out of my lungs. She looks a little disheveled but all the more beautiful because of it. Feeling like I’ve been zapped, I’m overwhelmed by the energy between us and it holds me in place. Everything about her is like it used to be—just the sexier, hotter, grown-up version. Her hair is pulled back, but even so, it still looks wild and untamed. She always said her hair was a bother and she just wanted it out of the way. Because I used to really like her hair, it always made me laugh.
I still like her hair, and the fact that she pulled it back because it might be a bother makes me want to laugh now. That, along with the toothpaste on her lip, is just too much. I try to hold back my laughter but fail miserably.
“What?” she asks with mild curiosity.
“Nothing,” I say with a shake of my head. “It’s just I wasn’t sure you’d come with me today.”
She looks at me as if considering her words, and I use this time to study her further. She’s not wearing any makeup and everything about her face screams how gorgeous she is. For no reason at all, my chest tightens.
It doesn’t mean anything.
So what if it took less than 1.4 seconds for that hurricane within me to start batting around.
It means nothing.
But then that fucking myriad of conflicting emotions starts to mess with my mind and yeah, I realize, it means something. Just like that, it’s as if my pep talk never took place. Still, I can handle this. Find out what she knows. Drop her off. And say goodbye—forever.
How hard can it be?