Passed out, on the overpass, Sunday best and broken glass. Broken down from the bikes and bars, suspended like spirits over spinning cars. You and me were kings, over the parkway tonight. And tonight will go on forever... while we walk around this town like we own the streets, and stay awake through summer like we own the heat, singing everybody wake up (wake up) it’s time to get down (everybody wake up it’s time to get down)... and when I pass the bottle back to Pete on the overpass tonight, I bet we laugh.
"Anyone want to go for a ride?" So it starts, another night bored to death. We pile in that red minivan, and pull out of the parking lot with a crunch of gravel.
A few minutes later we’re cruising the back roads, a place that feels more like home to me now than the place I sleep. My black-gloved hands grip the steering wheel as we take a turn at twenty miles over the limit. The Offspring blare from the pathetic speaker system. Tatiana is beside me, Drew and Cameron in the backseat.
I turn the music down, and start bitching about him, like I do every night. If you had told be then what he’d do, and that I’d forgive him everything almost two years later, I’d have laughed in you face. At this time and place, everything is wrong about him.
The topics turn, and we shoot the shit about class and professors and homework. Me and Drew laugh at the latest craziness of our shared Seminar professor. Tatiana chimes in, amusingly. She doesn’t care about classes, she’s dropping out. I don’t even know if she bothers to show up for any of them anymore.
I slurp Mountain Dew, as I do constantly. The caffeine buzz makes up for the missed hours of sleep. The power of being behind the wheel, determining my destiny, makes up for the helplessness I feel back on campus.
Another randomly picked road leads us back into familiar territory. All roads lead to Great Barrington, I quip, my new favorite line. It’s not like I really want to get lost, but somehow we always end up back here without trying.
Now onto the highway, where it’s even legal to go the speeds I do. We once did 90 on this stretch here, but not tonight. I remember him saying, You can’t escape pain, but sometimes if you go fast enough, you can outrun it for a while. The thought is dismissed instantly. I know that bastard can’t be right about anything.
We pull into the rest stop parking lot and I kill the lights and we get out and walk to the river in the dark. Freed from the car, Cameron lights up cigarette with the Chairman Mao lighter. (What kind of fuel does Chairman Mao take? I would imagine some kind of Communist fuel.)
Our eyes adjust, and we watch the river flow past, and listen to it. Then we break the silence. We talk of deeper subjects, this and that. Tatiana tells us she used to talk on AIM with one of the Columbine killers, back before they made headlines. We shiver, only half because of the breeze.
We pile back in the van, and too soon pull back into the parking lot. We say our goodbyes and head in our separate directions. Drew to his neatnick roommate, Camereon to his slob, Tatiana to hers, always absent. And me, me to mine.
I walk into the room. He’s typing at his computer. I walk over to mine, and check my email for the twentieth time that day. No that there’s anything there I want to see.
I put my away message up and go over and undress. I climb into my top bunk, which I got stuck with because at this time, I’m a spineless coward. Of course, at that time, I was too stupid to see it was partly my own problem. I just tally it up, another offense on his list.
We live in the same room. We walk past each other a hundred times a day. His friends come and visit, I go and visit my friends. At this point, we haven’t talked for months.
I’m gonna stay eighteen forever, so we can stay like this forever, and we’ll never miss a party, ‘cause we keep them going constantly. And we’ll never have to listen, to anyone, ‘bout anything, ‘cause it’s all been done, and it’s all been said, we’re the coolest kids, and we take what we can get...
Another night. We sit on benches by the bridge. Cam’s chain-smoking like always, and Tatiana has a cig tonight too. She sits beside me and holds my right hand with her left. If only I could go back, knowing what I know now, I’d let her know how much her love meant to me, though I was too blind to see it at the time.
A revolving crew fills out the other spots on the benches. Some I know, some I don’t. I trade hellos with some of the former, but mostly just sit and brood through the midnight hours. ...stay awake through summer like we own the heat. When I hear that line, six months later, after it’s all gone to hell and back, my thoughts travel to these people, these nights. The smell of tobacco smoke, the soft voices of my friends in the night, faces made harsh by the orange glow of silicone lights.
...the hell out of this town, find some conversation. The low fuel light’s been on for days, it doesn’t mean anything. I got another five hundred, ‘nother five hundred miles before we shut this engine down (shut it down)
Another drive, early evening, alone. I cursed him, and I got in his face, and then I left. Now I drive, escaping, yet staying there, reliving every moment. I drive slowly now, emotionally drained. Little do I know, this was the last time I’d talk to him in person. Soon, my problems with him would be resolved, though not in the manner I thought they’d be.
You’re just jealous ‘cause we’re young and in love. Your stomach’s filled up but you’re starved for conversation, and you’re spending all your nights home alone in your bed. And you’re tearing up your photos ‘cause you wanna forget...
So it ended. I found myself two hundred miles away, wishing the best of luck to my friends on their finals. Tatiana disappeared. Cameron dropped out. Drew stayed in the funk I knew too well. I spent my nights, home alone indeed. The summer came, and I was alone. Autumn came around, and brought memories of the beginning, a year previous. Winter passed, the dark and cold almost destroyed me. Spring came again, and I remembered those nights.
This song touched me when I first heard it, and still does. It remains one of most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Slow and soft; layered, meaningful lyrics. The scenes it described never happened in my life. They’re not even very close. But the spirit of the words, friendship and loneliness, joy and pain. Being "old at being young, young at being old."
The words don’t match my life, but it makes me think of it all the same. And through all the misery I felt then, and despite how much better off I am now, I still look back and think, Those were the best days of my life. As Dickens said so well, "the best of times, and the worst of times." The events are so emotionally charged I find it difficult to think clearly about them, even now. This song, helped me to heal, in some ways. It takes me back to a place and time I can never return to, and reminds of the good things I can treasure and the bad things I can learn from. It takes me on a journey to a place I can never really revisit, now that...
... it’s over.
Soco Amaretto Lime by Brand New
Alternative Girlfriend by Barenaked Ladies
Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens