If you could spend the afternoon with anyone who is no longer alive, who would it be and what would you do?
It would be fourteen years ago in Vermont (because if I could have him back? I could also bend time to my will), and I’d call Glenn. Wake him up. He loved his sleep. Are you ready to go? He’d answer me no all groggy and foolish. We’re leaving in half an hour. Get your ass downstairs.
It would be fall, right about this time of year. The Green Mountains wearing a skirt of painted foothill foliage, perhaps a sugar dusting of snow on Mount Mansfield. The air would be cool, the sun warm, the sky blue. Pulling up in front of his dorm, leaving the Subaru running, I’d run up and knock on his door. He wouldn’t be ready.
In the end, he’d sling a book bag and a sack of laundry into the wayback. Usually, we’d have another friend with us for the drive, but not this time. This time would just be us. We’d drive through town, around the funny corner by Steve’s diner and Neil & Otto’s Pizza, and we’d sigh over the home fries at the diner – so good! – and the crust at the pizza place – so bad!
Just south of town, out on Route 7, we’d stop for gas. I’d man the pump. He’d go in to pay, and come out with a convenience store cornucopia of treats masquerading as lunch.
And then, I’d slip the car through the gears, feeling the road south unfolding as I approached fifth. I’d tell him to pick a tape. Yeah, a cassette, from the compartment under the radio. He’d spend ten minutes mocking my music mercilessly before producing some obscure thing from his book bag and putting that in. Today? It would be the singer/songwriter/humorist whose name I can never remember*, or maybe his Chuck Berry tape.
Whenever we passed farms, and in rural Vermont we’d pass farms every few miles, he’d make me join him in a chorus of animal sounds, and threaten to make me play car bingo to pass the four hour drive. Of course, as I am driving, he’d be playing my bingo card, and he’d cheat.
We would talk, about stupid things. Life things. Big things. Mean things. Strange things. Small things. We would laugh. Oh, how we would laugh! And about the time we hit southern New Hampshire, he’d tell me he had to pee, but mostly so I’d stop at the McDonald’s in Keene. He’d eat a bag full of cheeseburgers and fries, and talk me into some, too.
I’d pick on him about the pit stop, since the Massachusetts state line is only a few minutes from Keene, and his parents house only a few minutes from the state line. He’d make some crack about there being no food at home, which would be a lie, because there always was. And then, we’d be there, on the side street in the Chair City where he grew up. I’d come in, maybe say hi to his parents, and then, quickly, hug him goodbye, and promise to call him about picking him up on the way back north in three days.
And then, I’d kick a few dry leaves under my shoes, slip back into my worn out Subaru, and back out of the skinny driveway, past the house, to continue on another forty five minutes to my parents home, with my own music playing, knowing I’d see him soon.