"This," the Muse mumbled around a mouthful of custard, "is the best thing I've ever eaten. I think I'm going to have an orgasm right here in the parking lot."
"Can you at least wait until we get back to the car?" I asked. "I don't think I'm quite up for some When Harry Met Sally moment today, thanks."
"I don't know," Mali said, running her tongue over her own spoon, licking a streak of chocolate from it. "I wouldn't mind seeing that."
I propped my elbows on the picnic table. "Why don't you two just get a room and get it over with? I can wait, you know. I don't have to be anywhere until tomorrow."
"I wish," the Muse said, idly stirring her custard. "Somebody ought to get laid on this trip, or it isn't going to be very enlightening for anyone."
"I didn't realize that getting laid was integral to enlightenment. Why didn't the Dalai Lama tell me any of this?"
She shrugged. "Different paths to the same truths."
"You're such the wise one, Muse," I said, then took another mouthful of custard.
The Muse put her cup down on the table and brushed her hands together. "Is there a restroom in this joint?" she asked Mali. "It's been a long car ride."
Mali nodded around her spoon, then pulled it out of her mouth and shoved it back into her cup. "Around the other side of the building. I'll show you. I need to go, too."
The Muse stood. "You think you'll be okay out here by yourself?" she said to me. "Don't talk to any strangers."
"Think I'm old enough not to be an after school special," I said. "Besides, Laura Dern is nowhere to be seen."
"Just checking," she said. "You're such a big baby sometimes, I didn't want to freak you out." She took Mali by the hand. "Let's go, before he changes his mind and has to come with us."
"Don't worry about me," I said. "I'll watch your custard for you."
"Don't eat any of it," the Muse said. "I don't want to have to beat you over the head when I get back. Well, not much, anyway." She smiled an evil little smile and headed off around the building, towing Mali behind her.
I had a hard time believing it was only Sunday. We'd been out of Buffalo for less than two days, and it already felt like a week. Not in a bad way, though, not at all. For all the driving and lack of sleep, I felt surprisingly rested. Refreshed. Recharged. The change of scenery and pace obviously was working some magic on me. I was having one of those perfect vacation moments where all one wants to do is keep going, keep moving, and never go back home.
Keep moving: tomorrow we would be in Orlando, the middle destination in our planned five-city tour, and the farthest south I had ever been. I ate my custard slowly, looking off across the parking lot, and thinking of the distance we had already put behind us. With each mile gone, I felt lighter, my mind more clear. It was a very nice change of being.
I'd finished my custard before the Muse and Mali slipped back around the corner of the building, and theirs had both melted into a wet chocolaty mess in their cups. "Jeez, you two get lost?" I asked them as they sat back down across the table from me.
"No," the Muse said. "Not really."
I raised an eyebrow and fixed my gaze on her. "What did I just hear? I know that tone of voice."
"What?" she asked. She put her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her palms.
"That's your bad Muse voice. The very bad Muse voice, actually."
"I have no idea what you mean," she said. She fluttered her eyelashes at me, and Mali blushed and shoveled a big spoonful of custard into her mouth.
I nodded at Mali and said, "You know your shirt is on inside-out, right?"
More blushing, another spoonful of custard.
"Now, c'mon," I said. "You two weren't fooling around in the bathroom, were you?"
"I told you," the Muse said. "Someone had to get laid on this trip. And I'm happy to say that Mali is now one very enlightened lady."
Mali's spoon was a blur from her cup to her mouth.
"Slow down," I said. "The brain freeze is going to kill you if you keep that up."
"She's very good with the lotus position," the Muse said, grinning. "As a matter of fact, she's very good with quite a few positions."
Mali stood up and grabbed her cup, tossing the spoon inside it with a rattle. "All done! Time to get moving." She turned on her heel and headed toward the trash can, face red as a cherry. She tossed her cup in and continued on to stand against the car.
I leaned to across the table and said, "The bathroom, Muse? What are you, seventeen?"
"It was clean," she said."Besides, enlightenment comes when it's ready." She giggled. "And sometimes it just comes and comes and keeps coming..."
I held up my hand. "Enough. No more, seriously. I don't want to know, I don't want to hear another word." I stood and grabbed my empty cup.
"Well, you don't have to get all snippy about it," she said.
"It's my vision quest, and you're trying to fuck your way across the eastern half of the country. Allow me a little bit of snip, okay?"
"I didn't see you putting the moves on her."
I tossed my cup into the trash. "That's because not everyone I know is a target, Muse. I don't want to screw everything that moves, okay?"
"Maybe you should try just a little," she said. "You might not be so uptight."
"Piss off," I said, and stormed off toward the car.
"Very mature!" the Muse shouted back at me. "Very fucking mature!"
Mali looked a little shell-shocked when I reached her. "I'm sorry," she said. "I hope I didn't start something."
I shook my head. "I hope I didn't finish it."