Every once in awhile, you meet someone who sucks all the words from your body and leaves them dying at your feet like a twitching, gasping goldfish.

They're not trying to make you uncomfortable, they just do for whatever reason. They're the kind of person you desperately want to be yourself around and therefore can't. You are unsmooth.

And yet you apparently make some kind of impression, because something's there where there wasn't a damn thing before. You don't know what to call it, exactly, but it's nice. Not comfortable (far, far from comfortable) but...yeah. Nice.

You talk too much. More often than not, you blow it. You blow it so spectacularly that you wonder how you managed to corral the friends you have into, you know, liking you, if you're even remotely like this, ever.

after all that, after spending hours or days or however long feeling totally drained and empty (worthless and wordless), then they ask you to tell them a story. And you try, you really try, and it just doesn't come out right.

This is me fixing that.

- - -

There's a place in New Jersey called Washington Rock. You turn north off of Route 22 in Green Brook and drive up a steep mountain road, trees on either side, until you can't go any higher, until you plateau. The trees fall away and suddenly there's this view. Miles and miles of bright twinkling lights arranged in a vaguely grid-like pattern. On the very edge of that grid and just barely visible on the horizon is a dome of hazy light - that dome is New York City. That abomination of light is home to eight million people and you'd only know it's there at night; it's like a sunken city, brought to the surface by a peculiar sort of incantation.

One night many, many years ago, I was standing on this outcrop of rock, freezing my ass off and trying to get a clear look at the sky - there was a meteor shower scheduled for the night and we were looking for a clear, dark vantage point to see it. It was supposed to be a quick trip, somewhere to hang out and smoke a cigarette or two and watch the fireworks before going to our respective homes or (like me) crashing on our respective couches.

I had been in Jersey for three days. It was supposed to be a one-night trip, but I couldn't bring myself to leave it just yet. New York was home, sort of, but Jersey was comfortable in a way I didn't quite understand. There were tons of nights like this when I was first in college, driving around on a free weekend back home, smoking and drinking coffee, cranking the windows down and the radio up. I was happy here, probably because I could avoid everything I was screwing up at home. Didn't have to think about it here, so I didn't.

It could also be because Green Brook was the first town I hung out in with any degree of regularity that wasn't my hometown. There wasn't anything here, just diners and empty fields and high-tension power lines and this one rock on the top of a mountain, but it was exciting for being different. It was comfortable.

It might've been comfortable, but we couldn't see a damn thing with that light looming over the horizon. We ended up lying on the hood of my friend's car quite a few miles away, decidedly uncomfortable, staring up at the sky as grains of dust bounced and skidded across the atmosphere. We stayed there, barely moving, until three in the morning. We might not have been able to see everything, no view of New York in this valley, but we saw enough.

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