Allison came from a real wholesome family. She didn’t smoke. Not even weed. So we sat there staring out the windshield without saying a lot. After a few minutes she suggested we drive around. I agreed.
She put on glasses that she barely wore. Her eyes were sharp enough for normal life, but when she drove in the dark she wore them. I thought of how if we were still in high school, I would’ve commented about her spectacles. Yes, that’s exactly what I would’ve done back then, probably same with most my peers. Predictable teenagers.
But now in her warm SUV, I preferred the rumble of the engine, the icy wind blowing against us, and the radio playing on the lowest possible volume rather than listening to the sound of my voice uttering banalities. I was fine with being quiet unless there was something meaningful to say. So I don’t know why the next question came out of my mouth.
“What made you want to hang out?”
We’d been driving on a country road alongside empty fields. Fields that’d been brimming with corn the last time I was back here. That was the end of summer. Trevor had still been walking the planet breathing, pissing, shitting, and inhaling K2. It felt like so long ago. It’d been so bright and humid then. I could feel it vivid in my head, how bright the sun shined against all that corn. It all reminded me visually of a Budweiser commercial, audibly like The Plain White Tees song Hey There Delilah. It took me back to how I felt at the time. I was filled with the same melancholy that appeared each summer’s end without fail. Or at least all the summers I could remember. Summer in my memory since childhood has never ended in bliss the way they had in the old days. There was always a tinge of sadness. Oddly, I liked this sadness the most. I enjoyed replaying it in my head over and over.
“I’m trying to hang out with everybody. One by one at least.”
“Mm. That makes sense,” I said.
She nodded while remaining focused on the road.
After a moment she mentioned that I was the last one.
“The last? Really?”
“Yeah. I’ve already seen everyone else.”
“How’re they all taking it?”
“Pretty well. They’re tough, you know."
“That’s a thing I really only learnedonce I moved out to school. How strong everyone was. Is.”
“Yes. They are. Including you, Drew.”
I said nothing to that. She then mentioned that they were all planning to meet at Larry’s Diner this week.
“It’d be great if you’d come out.”
I didn’t have time to reply. By the time I was about to open my mouth, we had suddenly appeared back on the main drag, and Jack’s Tavern was back in sight. For some reason I didn’t want to reply, now that we were so close to the parking lot. I planned to respond once I'd gotten out of her SUV.
She parked in front of my car. When I stepped outside and shut her door, she opened the window.
“Thanks for hanging out,” she said through the open window.
“Yeah.” After a moment I added, “I’m sorry that I asked you why you wanted to hang out. Back there, I mean.”
“What? Why would you apologize for that?”
“Cause… I don’t know. Maybe I wanted to make you feel bad?”
“Ha. Feel bad about what?”
I made a face, like I was watching us like some characters in a film. I made a face how I imagined a film character might make in this moment.
“I don’t know. I just wanted to make you feel bad is all. Here. This is me admitting it. But I didn’t actually want you to feel bad. I just wanted to be the one to make you feel something like bad.”
“Well you failed, Drew.” Her eyes smiled at me through her glared glasses. “So we’ll get breakfast sometime at Larry’s?”
She drove off. The air was freezing cold, but it didn’t affect me. Having been inside Allison’s SUV had warmed me to the bone. I stood in the parking lot watching her turning left onto Main Street before driving up the hill. It felt like the moment deserved gentle snow fall, but there was only iced wind blowing against my face. I watched the taillights of her car disappear over the horizon of the hill. I thought of how incredibly warm I still felt. Still, I knew that this warmth would be stolen by winter’s air eventually.