You know it’s wrong, and immoral, and unsafe, and an all around bastardly thing to do, but honestly now, is there any better feeling than getting a vicious buzz on and coasting down an empty backroad at four in the morning in a beat-up 1986 Ford Taurus, the summer air just now turning too cold for a T-shirt, all the windows open to keep you alert, shitty lo-fi punk rock blaring out of the shitty lo-fi stereo, and you’re young, and hollering along, and Brandon is passed out in the backseat, and Matt threw up on his shoes earlier, and you need to go home, should really go home, but god damn it, is there nowhere else to go?
The nights bleed together in memory. Did we go up on the roof that night, or was that the night we played spy-games with the cows? It was Griffin’s house, sure, but which night? Was that the night we broke in when he was on vacation, and the next morning somebody woke up and asked “are you Chuck Norris?” and a foreign, adult voice responded “No.” Too bright, too hungover to risk moving lest the nausea catch on that you’re awake and force you into the bathroom, every step driving a headache into the place where your spine meets your skull. So you stay perfectly still beneath the blanket, hoping that Walker, Texas Ranger just…just goes away. Hoping that whatever he was here to do, he decides against it, after finding this purportedly empty house full of drunken heaps of teenager instead. But he doesn’t. He stays, he asks angry questions of somebody, and that’s okay too: That’s for outside-the-blanket-people to deal with. That’s not your world.
It wasn’t that night – so when was it? The night you crested that hill cutting through the sage grass fields, and the moon was full, bright, cold. You stopped the car, right there in the middle of the road, because you could. For no other reason. You hugged the steering wheel, looked up at the moon, and lit a cigarette and said “God damn.” And then you said “1,2,1,2,3,4” because the song did too and that’s always your favorite part.
What song was that? What band? Dead Kennedys or Dead Milkmen? Something was dead, anyway.
Matt stirred, and he asked if you were here, and you said “no,” and you kept driving. Smiling so hard, the way you only do in private – got an image to keep up, deep teenager is way too cool for pure euphoric childhood joy – but you can’t stop it because it’s just all too good. And tomorrow night is the same. Probably. Hopefully. If you can get somebody to shoulder-tap (you’re way too shy for it,) and if somebody’s got a place, and hell – even if they don’t. It’s not too cold for the woods. Climb down those rocks that the cops don’t feel like trekking down, set up a tent, chase apparitions in the woods with the giddiness in your chest that the mushrooms give you, and no – that’s another night.
This night wasn’t the woods. This night was definitely Griffin’s house.
Not the night you got in a footrace on the dirt road without your glasses and crashed into a tree, woke up in the waterbed in a pool of blood. You didn’t make it home that night. This night, you pulled into the driveway with your lights out, cursing every single individual piece of gravel that betrayed your car to your sleeping dad. You stood on the deck, it still smelled like fresh stain, and watched the air be cold and clear and still for a minute. Then you turned and hauled Matt in, pushed him up through the window and heard the thump as he fell over the recliner you used as a step-stool whenever you snuck out. You climbed in after him, threw a blanket over him on the floor, and slept in your bed, dreading how quickly the handful of hours would pass before dad would be there, waking you up with a project.
He’s building a helicopter in the garage. Out of wood. What?
No, that’s later. This time it’s a boat made out of carpet, soaked in resin – it’ll work! He says! It’ll work!
Ah, that was in Bend, though.
This is Redmond, Oregon, 4:30AM, nighttime in July. He’s building a cabinet, and he wants you to sand tomorrow. You wish, now, that you’d paid attention to that stuff; that you appreciated what it was to make something tangible, physical, spent more time learning how good it was to build. But it’s gone now, and it’s bed then, and the drymouth is already setting in, so you better get to sleep before you’re too hungover to sleep.
Did you lay for what seemed like hours, with your eyes closed, trying to chase that song out of your head? Who was it, Buzzcocks or Screeching Weasel? Or did you dream stupid power dreams, still giddy from kissing that pretty girl by the side of the road, headlights flashing by right as you closed your eyes? That wasn’t at Griffin’s house. You never kissed anybody too special at that house.
Probably. From what you can remember.
No, at Griffin’s house, you mostly fought for position in the beanbag chair (you didn’t call fives; I did too) and listened to records, and drank shots of cheap, foul liquor because you’re a man, god damn it, and you’re broke (god, damn it.) Sometimes a moment stands out, but two years could all have happened in one hectic, blurry, fantastic night – laughing, drinking, hurting yourself and others, not on purpose but it happens and let’s go on the roof! Trying to kiss pretty girls and mostly failing – but that drive home is the one constant.
You’re the last one up. Drunk, but you hold it well enough to drive, and you never did see a single other car on those back roads at four AM, nighttime (morning? Morning is more like ten, if you’re lucky and Dad forgets about the cabinet) in July. And you’re sure there wasn’t always a fuck-all moon, and you’re sure you didn’t always stop in the middle of that road, and you’re sure Matt didn’t always throw up on his shoes, and it wasn’t always Brandon in the back, and it wasn’t always The Clash on the radio, but when you look back, it is.
It’s all the same night, and it’s a good night.
Sometimes these stupid words, they don’t do what you tell them to. You want them to communicate what it is to be mad and horny and drunk-tired and drug-wired and insecure and sublimely arrogant all at the same time. You want them to talk about the peace in that moment, the way the cold feels only during early summer mornings, the quietness of that moon, how fucking in love you are with the notion of cars – you can go anywhere, everywhere! – and how great friends are when you’re young, and how they’ll never be that great again, and all they want to talk about is Griffin’s house.
And what’s on the radio.