The story so far: After a day of tension and hurt feelings, Brian and Kate broke up outside of her house. The year is 1987.
The porch light turns off, and I sit on Kate’s front lawn, the damp grass on my legs. I should feel worse than I do. I should feel torn up. I don’t. Relief. I feel relief that it’s over.
Closing my eyes, I’m on a shore somewhere. The lake. Seagulls caw. The surf crashes. Sitting next to me is Allison, wearing the swimsuit she showed me in Sears this afternoon.
I open my eyes, guilt sinking in now. What did I do to this relationship? What did I do to Kate?
My legs feel like dead weight, holding me to the ground. When I get up to leave, this will truly be over. Yet, this is what I wanted, isn’t it? Son of a bitch.
I lift myself up and head for the Family Truckster, parked by the curb. A quick glance back at Kate’s house. It’s dark inside. I get in the car, start the engine and Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” is just beginning. That simple keyboard part, the plucking guitar, the bass and snare, they all bring an ache to my heart. The song should have me thinking of Kate and all the great times we had, but it doesn’t. I’m thinking of Allison. The first time we met, back in 7th grade History class, when I thought she was the prettiest, most incredible girl I’d ever met, but I didn’t have the courage to tell her. Working with her on our 8th grade English project about The Scarlet Letter and the hours we spent at the library doing research. Attending every varsity soccer game I could, cheering with pride when she saved a goal and feeling her pain when one got by.
I think about our moment in Washington D.C. That night plays through my mind as if it happened yesterday. We sat on her hotel bed watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s. When the movie ended, I got up to sneak back to my room. Allison saw me to the door. I didn’t want to leave, not after the day we’d had, not after Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. As I reached for the doorknob, a force was tugging at me, not just my heart, but my whole being.
I looked back at Allison.
“See you tomorrow,” she said, smiling.
Her face washed over me like the ocean and I realized that this force wasn’t going to allow me to leave. Without a word, I stepped up to Allison and kissed her with all of the passion I’d been suppressing since 7th grade History. And she kissed me back. And it was… legendary.
I stepped away from her, and the two of us stood looking at each other, stunned.
“I should…” I said.
“Okay,” Allison replied.
I opened the door. It creaked slightly and echoed in the empty hallway. Just as I was about to walk out, I couldn’t help wanting one more look at Allison’s face. I turned to her again, and our eyes lingered for a minute. I tried to memorize every detail of her smiling face. I never wanted to forget a thing.
“Bye,” I said as I left.
That was our moment; that was our kiss.
Kate was right: it wasn’t just one kiss. It was an awakening. I only just realized it now, with Springsteen singing to me.
“I’m on Fire” ends and U2’s “With or Without You” fades on.
I was a fool. I should have asked her out back in 9th grade. I should have…
I have to see Allison this instant.
I gun the engine, throw the car into drive and peel out of Kate’s neighborhood, the Family Truckster’s muffler exploding beneath me. I head east toward the valley entrance, a shortcut back to Eric’s house. As I coast down the long hill that takes me into the Metroparks, “With or Without You” slowly builds. At the bottom of the hill, I turn right, following the solid yellow line that slices through the darkness of the valley road. The speakers are buzzing. I press down on the accelerator, driving faster and faster. The music crescendos, and Bono wails at the top of his lungs. I sing along.
“Oooooh whooaaaaa ohhh ohh!”
Right here, right now, this is the most important song in my life.
“With or without you. With or without you, oh, hmm. I can’t liiiiiiiiive, with or withouuuut yooooooooou.”
The band carries the song on to its end with the elegiac guitar playing of the Edge and the throbbing rhythm section of Larry Mullen, Jr. and Adam Clayton. With just the music and the hum of the tires, I gaze out at the night sky. The car follows the curves of the road.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of something sliding around in the passenger seat: Eric’s yearbook.
Holy mother of God!
I slam on the brakes with only a split second to react.
My head thrusts forward into the windshield. WHACK!
I throw the car into park, flop back in the seat and stare ahead at a young deer standing in the middle of the road, transfixed by the headlights of the station wagon. Head throbbing, lights circling my eyes, I open the creaky car door and step out into the middle of the road. The deer and I look at each other, both confused. It sniffs. I swear it nods at me. With a sudden jerk, it sprints off the road with grace, joining another from its herd, waiting on the edge of the forest. The two beautiful creatures disappear into the dark, mysterious woods.
That could have been it for me. I could have wound up with the car wrapped around a tree and no one around for miles. I get the chills. The deer must have felt it too. That’s why it nodded.
Maybe I’m being melodramatic, but one thought pops into my head when I think of what might have happened: I haven’t told Ally that I love her.
My lower lip trembles, overwhelmed by the sense of relief and feeling of joy I have inside of me. Climbing back into the car, I turn off the radio, shut the door, and begin the drive back to Eric’s house.
Today’s artwork was by Villamor Cruz. Villamor is a filmmaker and writer living in the Los Angeles area. For more information about Villamor and to see examples of his work, visit www.villcruzjr.com
Bruce Springsteen’s song, “I’m on Fire,” is found on his 1984 album, Born in the U.S.A.
U2’s song, “With or Without You,” is found on their 1987 album, The Joshua Tree.
Previous Chapters: Chapter 29, Chapter 28, Chapter 27, Chapter 26, Chapter 25, Chapter 24, Chapter 23, Chapter 22, Chapter 21, Chapter 20, Chapter 19, Chapter 18, Chapter 17, Chapter 16, Chapter 15, Chapter 14, Chapter 13, Chapter 12, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 7, Chapter 6, Chapter 5, Chapter 4, Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1, Introduction
Read Chapter 31 of Legendary.