This piece was inspired by Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson, a hallucinatory collection of stream of consciousness experiences which center on drug induced imagery.
My heart is beating too fast in my chest. I’ve snuck out again, even though each time it never gets any easier.
“Hi.” I feel his scratchy bearded cheek with my own. No man will ever understand that feeling of complete otherness, that natural feeling of having hair on your face.
“Want to smash some mailboxes?”
“No.” His dad lost his arm smashing mailboxes. Where’s the irony in that?
I don’t realize he’s drunk until he’s already started driving. Oh well.
“Here, have a swig of this.” He hands me the bottle of Jack. He’s drunk most of the bottle already. He tells me it’s like water to him. It doesn’t bother me at this point, that he’s such an alcoholic, even at seventeen. I drink a little. I want to get a little buzz, not too drunk, so I sip it. He plays some good music and I bob my head to it. He giggles. I look at him when I talk, knowing his face so well. Still, it’s weird being with him again. Every time I see him he never changes; just his hair gets a little longer.
It registers eventually that he’s going really fast.
“Want to see me do 100?”
Some vague, fleeting, panicky feeling of “oh my God, what am I doing?” enters my skull. I watch the speedometer carefully, as if that will help. We got up to 95. It’s mid February. It’s cold and icy. I think I know what’s going to happen; I see it already. He gets off the highway. He’s still going fast on a dark narrow country road which weaves under the screen of trees. God, he’s drunk. He’s not driving in his lane.
“You’re supposed to be on that side of the road,” I proclaim.
“There’s ice on the road.” No kidding.
We hit it and skid for an interminable eternity. He wrenches the car into a snow bank, twenty feet from a pole. My body had been slowly tilting toward the windshield, but my mind does not acknowledge what’s going on. Again, that vague response involving the fact that we could’ve died. I don’t even think about it until slightly later, while I’m letting out my breath. Everything is delayed.
I realize immediately that the car is neatly stuck in a foot of snow. He kicks around at the tires and tries to go forward and backward for a while. He’s worried; I can see it on his face. I don’t really care. We aren’t far from the cabin, so we walk a little way up the hill, where he tries to call his friend Eric. Nope, failure.
“I’m going to call my parents, is that ok?”
“Yeah, is that bad?”
“Yeah.” I wonder why; my parents would want me to call.
The stars are gorgeous. I stare up at their little pinpricks of light amidst the darkness. What am I doing here? I’ve got a bottle of alcohol in my pocket. I just want to go to bed. It’s 2:30 in the morning. I have school tomorrow. But somehow, none of the constraints of the prison I often inhabit matter. I’m free from worry, if only for a few hours, from those constant high school pressures which seem so stupid now: the grades, the restrictions, the check in, the required bedtime. So I stare at the stars while he mumbles at his father who only has one arm. Life is weird, I muse, but beautiful, realizing the ridiculousness of my pretended profundity. There are stars and crisp cold air filling my chest and I feel good, really good, just forgetting. I’ve reached a freedom, if only from thinking.
We walk, and then jog, till his smoky lungs can’t handle it and then we walk fast. It’s cold. His feet are cold. My ears are cold. But I’m happy- no, not happy- free, relaxed, no longer pent up with that tension. I’ll deal with it tomorrow when the sun comes up.
I just focus on walking in a straight line, because the whole dark world spins.