Sunday, December 9, 2007

the epitaph of the taurus

We always had a bond between us somehow, it was just a little hard to explain to anyone who asked. I remember that in the beginning you were a drifter; youd never stayed with friends for long. Friends were for fun times, but not all times you were a drifter, and I was trying to find my place - I was the new kid. You were the one with the somewhat undeserved bad reputation. Somehow the pieces just came together. It seemed like an oddly matched pair of fiends there was me, the sophomore in high school, and you, the fraternity boy from the University of Idaho. At first it was just you and me. We would drive around in your Taurus almost every day.

There were times we had nowhere to go and nothing to do in fact that was most times. Days passed when nothing would be accomplished, no vivid memories would be formed, and no life-changing conversations took place. Wed simply drive around, you and me and the Taurus, drinking our almond steamers from that little coffee shop on the corner near Theta Chi. I remember you introducing me to steamers and cheap college coffee, telling me that Starbucks wasnt always the way to go especially when you have no income and youre living on ramen and macaroni and cheese.

My house became your house. My mom became your mom. The Taurus became our retreat some might say institution. My school got out at noon, so youd pick me up and wed drive home. I would change out of my hideous mock-Irish school uniform. Then wed just drive. Sometimes we had a destination. Other times wed find ourselves out in the country or in Pullman, the nearest town. There were days wed be in the drive thru to McDonalds, only for the sake of ordering nine waters because if you ordered less than ten waters you got them all free. Wed be at a loss for things to do with them, so, just like everything else we had and didnt need, wed throw them out the window at the random bikers and pedestrians we saw by the sides of the road. Wed laugh and high five each other and then go back and do it again. People thought we were crazy, and rightly so.

I remember summer nights. Volleyball in the yard by the side of my house. We set up the net one hot Easter afternoon in April. Soon it became a ritual after church on Sunday nights to play the game after dark, only I couldnt hit a regular volleyball, so wed make special trips to Wal-Mart to buy an especially large beach ball. We would sometimes have twenty kids over, all laughing and making jokes about me and my hopelessly lost sense of direction. There was that one crazy time where I actually vanished into the shrubs as I attempted to hit the volleyball soaring overhead. Everyone thought it had swallowed me whole, but I emerged a few minutes later, with bush stubble in my hair and all over that sweatshirt of yours that I always borrowed. Mom would make a quick run to the store to provide snacks for everyone.

Watching every game begin and end, and watching every Sunday come and go with you and me was the Taurus, parked outside my house almost every day, ready to whisk us off to some exotic destination, like the arcade inside the Palouse Mall.

We found the swing one day, or rather, I remembered where it was from a biology trip to a creek during my freshman year. It was in an old abandoned park on a dead end road far from town where no one ever interrupted our escapades. We found Raleigh then too. Soon there were three where there had once been two. And surprisingly, no one knew the difference. So the three of us would venture out almost every day to the swing, making plots to kidnap mattresses from dumpsters on campus to break the fall of our constant crashing into the trees. We could never find a truck to haul them though, and handy as the Taurus was, the backseat wasnt quite spacious enough.

Times were hot and humid as summer crashed in around us. Windows were rolled down, sprinklers on, and grandparents would rock back and forth on front porches. I would illegally drive your car, and you would laugh nervously, telling me I should slow down. Raleigh would just laugh and play with the radio dials. We were the three musketeers, looking for adventure, mischief, and the American dream of escapism trying hard to overcome the realities of life. Realities like the fact that things can change all of a sudden, leaving nothing untouched.

I found another boy. You and Raleigh didnt approve much, not out of jealousy, just out of honesty. He occupied my time, wanting to be with me whenever we could be together. You would tell me that I was so caught up. Raleigh would say that I'd never been so wrapped into another person before. At the time those seemed like good things. But what did I know?

Every day for a month he came over, sometimes interrupting our evening traditions of watching Kung Pow and eating Ben and Jerrys ice cream. He was never happy to see you, always wanting time alone; always needing things to be his way. Still I didnt see it. You began to come by less. While that was still more than most people ever visit friends, we were used to more. We were used to almost living at my house, you talking to my mom like she was the mom you didnt have.

In the midst of me losing you, I lost my new fling as well. He stopped coming by. He stopped calling. All of a sudden my life contained a void of empty silence on those nights when you would usually be there talking with me or watching movies with me. When I looked outside my window, the silver gleam of the Taurus wouldnt shine back at me as often. But just when I realized you werent there, change was bearing down on me again.

I was moving. Mom was getting remarried again, and wouldnt have time to be a mom to everyone in the town anymore. And we were going to Seattle, over three hundred miles away. You commuting to have your evenings with us somehow seemed far fetched, although it was funny for awhile for us to talk about it. It was the three of us again for a few weeks, driving out to the swing. But the radio wasnt on anymore, and we didnt laugh as loud as we used to laugh when things looked brighter. The windows were still rolled down, but wed let the wind sting our eyes in silence, taking in the rolling hills of the landscape, imagining the way things would be soon.

One night, we were leaving my house to go to WinCo, ready to stalk up on energy drinks and junk food. Raleigh was in the lead going down my front steps, and all of a sudden he broke out into a run. You and I looked at each other as he went and stretched his body out on the pavement, face up, looking up at the sprinkle of stars in the sky. He spread his arms out above his head, and spread his legs wide, like that creepy drawing by Michelangelo or Da Vinci. You and I werent sure what to think until we heard a laugh escape his lips as he cried, 'Asphalt angel!'

It was just like a snow angel only there was no snow. Only asphalt.

Now things are different; mostly for me because Im not there anymore. Youre still at Theta Chi, my fraternity boy. Raleigh is still just as weird as when we met him, but thats why we liked him so much to begin with. We dont talk all that much anymore. I have my license now, and so does Raleigh; no longer the kids in need of a free ride. Things seem so adult-like now. In six months I'm eighteen, and you'll be twenty soon. We never wanted to let go; it was just something that had to be done. I came back and visited every now and then, and we'd climb back into the Taurus and drive out to the swing together in reverent silence for the good times that came in lives before. Conversation was attempted here and there, but we soon realized it wasnt worth it to try and describe the change the way it didnt feel the same anymore. Its a haunting numbness we can all relate to, but cant put into words.

Things change. People fade. Memories turn into shadows, and soon all we remember are the highlights the life changing moments. With us, though, it was the numerable meaningless days that made up our existence. The days wed drive around and have the deep conversations that shaped our actions, which, in turn, shaped our futures.

The Taurus isnt around anymore; it got totaled in a freak accident, which was only to be expected by the way you let people drive it around without even having insurance. But it carried cargo with it that cant be destroyed by one accident, or a hundred accidents. It carried an era of our lives. An era of laughter, tears, craziness, and our struggle to feel alive and okay; an era when life seemed so beautiful, complicated, and new. Time can take away many things. But I can still see the imprint of Raleighs asphalt angel on the pavement of my mind, and I know it wont just fade away. Some things, it seems, are here to stay.

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