A cigarette trembled between my fingers as I paced idly along the sidewalk, taking in another brisk night in tepid Sussex County, New Jersey. A checklist flashed through my mind as I attempted to recall what I'd packed in my brown suitcase just minutes before, if I had enough supplies to last me for the long journey ahead. There was a Russian dance playing over and over on a scratchy record player in my skull, every beat of cossacks' boots on parquet rattling my brain and jolting my senses. I realized that the trip that was about to unfold would be a daunting one, an opportunity to assess the gritty, everyday realities of the American college student and begin acclimating to the next several years of my life, but I was still wary of the long drive and the medicine bag I was carrying with me. If this was to be a serious journey, it would require a good portion of strong intoxicants and a means to record my every move, something to remind me of the weary truths I would uncover in my anticipated stupor.
As the razor accordions and pounding footfalls in my ears built to a raucous crescendo, a pair of ghostly blue headlights topped the hill in front of me and my companions rolled into sight. Though I couldn't see through the heavily tinted windows, our transportation was an immediate concern upon its arrival.We would take the savage journey from New Jersey to Boston in a small, blue Subaru, a monument to caution and economy, the wheels that typically belong to aging soccer moms and forty-something desk clerks. This machine was not one meant for the week's ominous assignment, but it would have to do. With the touch of a button, the compact's windows rolled down and a haze of cigarette smoke drifted from inside, slowly revealing the faces of my fellow adventurers, an unlikely duo who seemed to be more twisted on various substances than even I was.
Arturo grinned at me from the driver's seat, a cheap gas station cigar dangling from his mouth as he shouted "get in!" over the blaring sounds of The Who coming from the dashboard. He was a lanky, portugese mulatto, the kind of fellow you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley after the bars were all closed. Thick rimmed, coke-bottle glasses sat low on the bridge of his nose, doing nothing to obscure his bloodshot eyes, nearly all pupils from whatever the bastard had consumed before getting behind the wheel of his cheap sedan. Next to him was a fellow I'd known for quite some time, most of my teenage life, but never really came to fully understand.
Henry was a stocky kid, savagely built by years of self discipline. While the rest of us partied at the house of whoever's parents were out of town, he sat alone in dark gyms, taking in the smell of stale sweat and excess testosterone that stained the walls, the floor and the air. Tonight, though, he absolutely reeked of marijuana and Pabst Blue Ribbon, his asthmatic cough ever present as he sucked down cigarette after cigarette in the car. Henry didn't say much, as he was stricken with a debilitating stutter that rendered him quite difficult to understand. He preferred to hang at the back of the group, his imposing presence speaking for itself as he comtemplatively took in whatever insidious scene we happened to be a part of. He grinned and handed me a freshly rolled spliff as I stowed my leaden suitcase in the tiny trunk and rolled into the backseat, both ecstatic and terrified at the endless prospects of the journey ahead.
Three hours later we were screaming down a Connecticut parkway at an alarming pace, topping speeds never meant for the tiny metal coffin we'd sealed ourselves into. We'd stopped earlier at a local wal-mart and braved the crowds of inbred rednecks for a supply run. Bad vibrations set in as I sequestered myself in the public men's room, blowing two crushed up adderalls straight into my skull off of a fold-down changing table. There was a rustling behind me, the creaking sound of a heavy door opening, and terror filled my mind as I was no longer alone. I jerked my head around to see if Arturo had followed me in, but instead locked eyes with a mulleted man in a camouflage jacket and cut-off denims. My stomach turned as we stared at eachother, a fifty dollar bill still portruding from my nostril. Before the yokel could say a word, I bolted from the bathroom and grabbed onto Henry's forearm in the lobby, desperately pulling him towards the automatic doors and away from the portly store security officer, who I was sure was about to beat me incessantly and turn me over to the law. Arturo was already in the parking lot, sitting obliviously on the hood and puffing away at another black and mild.
"Start the car, for fuck's sake!" I screamed from halfway across the lot. "The fucking pigs will be on us in no time if you don't start the goddamned car, man!"
The panic that had ensnared me under the ghostly flourescent lights in that restroom was still with me as we tore up the asphalt. I'd begun to suck on the scotch we'd brought to ease my nerves and was now seriously considering vomiting all over the subaru's cloth backseat. "Hold your puke, man," Arturo said in a lazy voice over the pounding music, "this is my grandfather's car, he's pushing eighty but he'll still beat your ass." In my amphetamine-fueled insanity, images of myself curled in the fetal positon as a geriatric latino pummeled me with his cane filled my head, and I decided that spewing the contents of my stomach in this car would be a very bad idea. Acrid marijuana smoke from Henry's seat tickled my nostrils as our small, famiy sedan blew by every other car on the dark highway. As I lit another cigarette from my dwindling pack, I watched a fire red porsche disappear behind us as if it was standing still; my demeanor grew increasingly anxious and bleak.
We were, after all, three teenagers sitting in a car packed to the brim with clothing and drugs, ignoring all traffic regulations and pushing onward, deep into an ominous, starless night. We hadn't even reached the Massachussetts border yet and I was fairly certain we were already guilty of multiple felonies. The cruel, harsh night was upon us as we burned miles upon miles of highway. As I slumped in the backseat, filled with scotch and amphetamine psychosis, I began to wonder how insane and depraved our trip would get, how much further we could push our own limits past what we'd already accomplished in a few short hours. I gazed up to the starless, black sky and saw a yellow haze of light pollution ahead. Boston was upon us, we were nearing a blazing nerve center of college culture and I couldn't be more unprepared for the madness that waited for us there.