We don’t recognize any of the cars. The red SUV is unlocked, so I pop the trunk and sniff.
No rank derby smell. No sign of skates. No stickers, buttons, or other derby ephemera.
This can’t be the right house, I say to my teammates Amyn and Cho. There would surely be something derby related on or in the car.
The three of us are lost in a suburb of Biloxi, Mississippi. After an hour of plunking through three nearby neighborhoods in search of promised derby housing, we have arrived at our last resort. The cul-de-sac of some street I have forgotten the name of. The end. The final destination.
She said 918, says Cho. Or maybe it was 981? I can’t remember.
This is 831, Amyn says.
I sigh. Whose house are we looking for again?
We just lost our last game of season two. The sport court felt like wet sand under our wheels. We had one, just one, diligent fan cheering us on from the bleachers, and a sign on our bench that read CAM CAN’T HELP YOU HERE. More than anything, I think the loss was to prepare us for the hurricane of season three that was about to pour all over us.
It’s one of the girls on the Mississippi team, Cho says.
Well, I figured that, Amyn says.
Fuck, I say.
Okay, here’s what we’re going to do, Cho says. Amyn, go try the door. If it’s unlocked, then it must be the right house.
Somebody is gonna shoot at us, Amyn says.
No one is going to shoot us in a suburb, Cho says.
Maybe we should check the mailbox, I say.
Good idea, Cho says.
What’s her name? Amyn asks.
Ivana Bruiser, Cho replies. I’m pretty sure that’s whose house we’re looking for.
Yes, let’s search for letters addressed to Ivana Bruiser, Amyn says. That is really going to help us out. I’m sure Ivana Bruiser gets a lot of mail.
I redo my ponytail. My hair is still soaked from my helmet. My elbows smell like dirty dead fish. I want to take a shower and flop my pounding head on a cool pillow. I can’t believe I spent most of the afterparty sharing a can of Coke with a random girl who was trying to steal money from her brother to hit the Beau Rivage. I’m tired of standing in this cul-de-sac. Cho’s car is still running. The headlights of her little red standard light the path from the driveway to the door.
I’m just going to try it, I announce.
The mail? Cho asks.
No, I say with determination. The door.
You should. You’re the snoop, Cho says.
The house is as dark as our last few jams. With my hand on the knob, I rethink my decision. What if I roll into this house and it belongs to a family with little kids who will smack my head with a t-ball bat? What if these people have a frothy German shepherd who loves attacking strangers? What if homeowners in the suburbs of Biloxi really do own guns? What will I do then? Cam won’t be able to help me here, either.
The knob turns without a creak. Too easily, almost. I step inside the home and take inventory. Clean carpet. At least three couches. Framed artwork on the walls. No alcohol in sight.
I step back outside. Cho and Amyn look at me like bedraggled, lost puppies. I shut the door behind me.
No, I say. This can’t be it.
But Cho and Amyn need proof. This time, all three of us creep inside the home. Cho opens up kitchen drawers, hoping to find a USARS membership card. Amyn searches the corners for invisible guard dogs. I decide to use the bathroom, regardless of whom it may belong to.
I don’t flush the toilet. I’m still not certain we’re in the right house. I don’t want to make any unnecessary noise.
When I exit the bathroom, Cho jumps around the corner. I nearly scream. I don’t know how she has any energy left.
I found some blankets and pillows on one of the couches, she tries to whisper. I think that means we’re in the right place. If you all would have just let me gamble, then maybe we could have afforded a hotel.
But at this point, it doesn’t matter. We’ve made up our minds: we’re sleeping here. We’re sleeping in some suburb of Biloxi after we lost our last bout of season two. We’re sleeping the entire night and heading back to Burn City in the morning. We’re sleeping on someone’s couches, even if we have never met her. Some unsuspecting accountant, teacher, or attorney who may find three mildewed roller skaters on her couch Sunday morning. Someone who probably eats plain oatmeal everyday and watches American Idol on a regular basis. Someone who surely will not freak out and kill the strangers asleep on the couches.
We may wake up to screams of horror. We may not wake up at all.
After we create our makeshift beds, Cho uses the light from her phone to read a book about people who can’t recognize faces. I think of raiding the refrigerator for orange juice. Amyn makes a few final glances around the spacious living room, still certain that she smells a dog.
In the morning, Cho, Amyn, and I tiptoe out of the suburbs before anyone else wakes up. The adventures of our second season come to a slow end on that long stretch of interstate from Biloxi to Auburn, where the horizon looks like it could belong to just about anyone.