Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Bought a Ticket

Every time I hear Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train"
I think of that night in August, 1993,
when I went to say goodbye to Chris.
I would be leaving for Brigham Young University in the morning 
and he would be starting at MIT the next week. 
High school already seemed like a distant memory,
and the future lay crackling like an exposed wire
just out of sight, behind the next sunrise.
I pulled into the driveway in the deep darkness of a Maine summer night,
fog rolling up from the harbor, and pooling around trees and parked cars.
I sat in his parents' driveway, 
and took a deep breath 
as I scanned the shadows in the vast yard beyond the porch light.
I remember slip-sliding down the wet grass on the small hill,
heart pounding as I wondered if he remembered I was coming.
I made my way to the hull of the sailboat where he was living that summer 
in protest of his parents' choice to not put it in the water that year,
for the first time in his life. 
I reached up and knocked three times -
the sound dull but loud in the stillness.
I heard movement inside,
and soon my best guy friend was peering over the edge of the wooden deck
the broad whiteness of his smile illuminated by the scant light.
He put a finger to his lips
and motioned me toward the ladder on starboard side.
I carefully climbed toward the emptiness above,
and he led me across the deck and down another ladder,
into the darkness of the confined space -
he sitting on one bunk me on the other 
our knees touching as he told me 
how strange and lonely it had been to live out there all summer,
in forced exile,
and how it hadn't helped him forgive his parents.
I tried to make out the features on his face, through the shadowy darkness
and I wanted this space to be familiar,
to have been where I had spent dozens of nights that summer,
instead of this last
I wanted to reach out and grab his hand,
to still his voice,
to whisper all the ways I loved him,
beyond friendship,
surpassing the boundaries of my relationship with Charly, or his with Suzie.
I wanted him to hear me speak the bare bones of truth that I somehow 
didn't know 
he already knew.

We ended up taking my car through the car wash, instead.

It was something we'd done before,
something to do,
in this too-small town after 9pm.
We stood in the dark,
spraying water at the car and each other,
laughing from a hollow place.
The jokes were all call-backs to our massive, 
4-year friendship,
less funny now,
as they echoed into a future without each other.

And then we were standing in the shadow of his sailboat again,
dragging out the final goodbyes,
shuffling our feet and trying not to be too sappy,
but wanting to savor it all.
He didn't want me to leave,
but knew I had an early bus to catch.
Finally it was time, and my heart felt physically heavy,
sagging against my ribcage,
dragging me forward - 
and when I leaned in to hug him goodbye 
realized too late 
that he had been angling for a kiss. 
The moment was lost 
and probably for the best that it was 
because I would have been in agony 
to have to say goodbye after that, 
although, I don't know...
maybe finally scratching that itch -
having a nice long make-out session of some kind -
would have been incredibly healing.
I guess we'll never know.

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