(A rough draft of an idea that I am currently taking in a slightly different direction, but I thought I’d share it with everyone!)
When I came up to Cherry Street while on my walk tonight, I thought: What if I go the other way? I’d go down the road, pass the development’s pool, and maybe I’d never look back.
I wouldn’t have to come back to the pool every damn week in a couple summers or so when Maggie was old enough to learn to swim. I could just delete that part of my life. I’m sure Tracy wouldn’t be happy with me, but then again, who cares? Really, only her. Sure, some of her friends would come over (they used to be our friends, but this is in the case of me leaving, so in this context they’re just her friends) and they’d mourn at the disappearance of me together. But afterward, they’d just go back home and settle back into their normal, boring lives like nothing happened. None of them would really care. Only Tracy, and that’s only because she wouldn’t have someone to delegate duties to. No one to tell “you’re doing it wrong” to. And I’m not worried about Maggie – she wouldn’t even remember me, she’s too little.
When I’d pass the pool, I’d come by a little trail through a patch of woods. Maybe I’d hear someone back there. Actually, I’d hear a couple someones back there. Teenagers, probably smoking a joint. Not even doing it right.
And instead of getting mad that some hooligans were making the air in my development skunky, like the old farts that live in the condos, I’d go down the trail just to see what they looked like. I’d be timid, but I’d still do it.
Then I’d come up to them, face to face. The leader of their little group, the one holding the joint, he’d be a little worried at first, but then he’d gain all his confidence back and he’d offer me a hit. It’d be weird at first, but I’d still take it. Why not? I’ve smoked weed before. Tracy hasn’t – little goody good, got straight A’s and went to Brown, but look where that got her? Same place as me. So, smoking weed is just as good as going to Brown. I’ll tell the kids that and they’ll laugh. They’ll probably think I’m pretty cool for an old guy.
But I’m not even that old. Not really. I’m only thirty. There’s still lots I could do. A lot of authors don’t even publish their first books until they’re thirty. Maybe I’m an author. Or a scientist. Sometimes I wonder if there’s a talent trapped in my muscles or a thought trapped in my brain that I haven’t been able to express because I’ve been trapped to this safe life of mine. Always taking rights down Cherry Street. Having sex with my wife only to get her pregnant. Making sure I get my required amount of vegetables. Maybe I’m just a free-spirit.
The kids might sense that. Maybe they’d start to feel comfortable with me. Enough to ask me to buy them beer or something at the gas station. I’d say I don’t have my car, but they’d just say we’ll walk because that’s what kids do. They don’t drive – they walk places, and I’d love doing that with them.
Well, I do love walking. Maybe that’s why I’ve always done it. And at night. Just to feel a bit of the dark, law-breaking mindset one feels in the night. Tracy likes the treadmill in the basement. She watches TV while she does it. That’s not the same. No matter what time you do it, even if you turn all the lights off. There’s just something about the night air that only me and these teenagers understand – a feeling of potential criminality. It’s a rush.
So we’d be walking down the road, in the middle of the night. Well, 9 p.m., but it’s fall so it’s getting dark quickly and there’s a nice breeze which makes us all have to dress in hoodies which makes the whole tone of the night really come together. We’re all wearing hoodies, by the way, even me. Anyways, it’s been a while since I’ve walked down an actual road so it’s livening to feel the wind of cars driving passed. The leader will tell me that this is nothing. He’ll say in his best uptight English teacher voice that all the cars here go thirty-five and not a mile over – wait till we start walking along the highway.
“Wait, we’re going to walk on the highway?” I’ll ask.
And he’ll say, “Probably not tonight. Another time.”
And I’ll be excited because this means I’ll have got an in. I always knew I wasn’t too old to be cool. Tracy would be jealous. She thinks she’s better than me, I can tell. If you’d have ever seen her, you’d know what I mean.
I’ll give you an example: Close your eyes. Imagine you go to a restaurant and you see they have a burger on the menu that’s got the works. I’m talking lettuce, tomato, some fancy sauce, those little fried onion strings. And you get all excited about it, so you order it. Then the waiter goes to your date and asks what she’ll be having and she looks at you, back at the waiter, back at the menu, rolls her eyes, looks at you to make sure you saw she rolled her eyes and then she orders the salad. And the whole time you’re wondering if she did this just to make you feel bad about yourself and it’s not until she hands the waiter the menu and he walks away that she gazes back at you and raises her eyebrows that you realize she didn’t even want the salad, she just ordered it because you ordered the burger. Open your eyes. That date is my wife. And she does that shit constantly.
I’ll be hoping that Maggie never picks that up from her mother when we arrive at the gas station. It’s a Speedway just a mile down from my development. The kids will giggle and I’ll tell them to stay outside while I get the stuff. I won’t just straight-up call it beer because, first off, that’s lame and, second off, someone might hear us. So I just call it the stuff now.
I’ll go in the gas station, grab a twenty-four pack of Pabst – they’ll have asked for a twelve, but I’ll grab a twenty-four – and get the hell out. Well, actually, maybe I’ll see someone there I know. A neighbor. Probably Ted. He’ll be buying cigarettes and see me with the stuff. He’ll say something dumb like:
“Getting ready for the weekend?”
I’ll just smile and nod. Then I’ll get the hell out.
I’ll tell the guys what happened. About how Ted doesn’t even know what’s about to go down tonight – then I’ll think about it and ask, well, what is going down tonight?
They’ll say, “Same as every night,” and laugh. And then the leader will come up to me, probably because I’ll still look a little confused, and say, “Who the hell knows.”
That will take me back a little bit. Then I’ll look at the stuff and I’ll think about Ted again, and my house, and Tracy. I’ll get a little pissed off, but in a good way – in a there’s-a-fire-under-my-ass kind of way. And I’ll tell them it’s about time we get drinking, and not just by ourselves – we better be partying tonight.
“Of course,” they’ll say, “no night starts without a party.” Every night starts with a party for them, they’ll explain. It’s what happens after the party, that’s the who the hell knows part.
So we’ll start down the street, they’re leading me to this party they know about in Chicago.
I’ll say, “But, we live, like, two hours away.”
And they’ll say, “No, dude. You do.”
I’ll ask, “Where do you guys live?”
And they’ll say, “Wherever.”
That will really open my eyes. I’ll start to think how dumb I was to have bought a house because humans are animals after all, we shouldn’t be tied down to one place. I’ll realize that I practically bought my own coffin at twenty-five and have lived in it for five years without even noticing. Well, that’ll change tonight because I’ll say:
“You know what? Me too.”
We’ll be walking through a couple parking lots and they’ll say they know a quick way to get to Chicago. I’ll be confused because no matter how good of a shortcut they could possibly know, it’s still Chicago, and it’s still two hours away – at least. But then one of the guys will come up to a nice four-door sedan, look over to the leader, the leader will nod, and then the guy will go to smash the window in.
But just before he can, the leader will stop him and try the handle. We have a car now.
I’m sure you’re thinking that stealing a car is a bad thing to do, but it’s really not that terrible. Because, really, who owns anything? It’s all just a social construct. We give green paper to people to get a different piece of paper with our name written on it which says something belongs to us. That means nothing. And if you don’t think so, well, then, how come we have a car and the guy who has the piece of paper for the car we’re driving doesn’t? The kids will tell me that, and I wouldn’t have ever thought of it in that way, but I’ll think that makes a lot of sense.
We’ll be on the road for a couple minutes and one of the kids will go into his backpack and take out a Bob Marley – no – a Sublime album.
All of a sudden, I’ll have an intense urge to wear tie dye. I’ll feel free for the first time in my life. I’ll notice that all of them are wearing tie dye, too. The leader is wearing a bandanna, the other two are wearing beanies. I’ll be getting a little jealous when the leader hands me my very own bandana. He’ll say that I’m showing a lot of promise. And I’ll be happy, I’ll feel the first real smile stretch across my face in a long time. It’ll hurt my lips like when you first realize they’re chapped, but I’ll like that feeling for the first time. I’ll start to think I’m going to like a lot of stuff for the first time.
We’ll arrive at the party in no time. They said two hours, but it felt like minutes. I’ll probably think that because we’ll have smoked pot in the car. We’ll be arriving just as things are starting to really heat up, at least that’s what the guys will say.
By this time, Tracy will have texted me at least ten times and have called me twenty – but I won’t have time to deal with her because I’ll be noticing that this party is much different than ones I’m used to.
For one thing, the lights will be much dimmer than usual. There’s the party aesthetic of dim lights, but then there’s a devilish ambiance – this will be that kind of devilish ambiance. Next thing I’ll realize is that all that’s there is a bunch of beautiful girls sitting on the couch. And they’re nearly naked. Well, no, they’re wearing lingerie. Sexy little things, too. And at this point, I’ll be even more confused so I’ll ask, “What is this?”
And the leader will turn and say, “A party.”
I’ll say, “Looks more like the start to an orgy.”
And he’ll say, “Well, nowadays, what’s the difference?”
I’ll laugh, but then I’ll worry a bit. “Will these girls want to be with an old guy like me?”
And he’ll say, “What’s the difference? Passion is passion, lust is lust. Age doesn’t define what sexual contact one can have.”
All the girls will be wearing beanies and bandanas too, and I’ll realize that these kids practice free-love. I’ll be into it. I’ll even hope that maybe Maggie can one day be one of these girls. Well, not really. Maybe.
The leader will hand two beautiful blondes over to me and I’ll take them into the other room. They’ll show me the greatest night I’ve seen in years and I’ll want to relive it over and over.
The guys will tease me; they’ll notice how much fun I’m having.
I’ll play along and say, “Can I keep her, please?”
And surprisingly, they’ll say, “Sure.”
So I’ll take the hotter one. The one with the better features, the one with a voice that comes out more naturally. And I’ll take her right then and there – we’ll make love again, just us – and then I’ll tell her to come with me. She’ll follow because she’s starting to really believe that I’m the guy she’ll have the most fun with.
I’ll take her to the car, we’ll get in, and I’ll drive. And I’ll keep driving. The guys won’t even care that I took the car, they’ll just laugh and cheer me on. After a couple hundred miles, I’ll get probably the 500th call from Tracy. I’ll think about answering, but then I won’t. I’ll just throw my phone out the window – I’ll tell Laila, that’s the blonde’s name, that I’m starting over. She’ll kiss me. And we’ll keep on going until we go all the way to L.A. and set up camp in an apartment just east of Venice Beach.
I’ll rob banks for cash, and she’ll tan that beautiful body of hers every day. And I’ll feel free. Free from my prison. Free from my responsibilities. Free from my wife, from my daughter. I’ll be my own man once again.
Of course, I ended up taking a right on Cherry Street.
And I slept that night, in bed, next to Tracy. I got up in the night twice to check on Maggie. She can’t sleep through the night without crying bloody Mary at least twice. Little bitch. But I still checked on her, just so Tracy wouldn’t have to. Tracy needs her beauty sleep. It’s too bad she lost her beauty 5 years ago – no amount of sleep will ever help her find it.
The next morning, I went to work.
On my way home, I took an exit before my normal one. I stopped at a Walmart and bought a beanie.
Tracy still doesn’t know.