There is nothing special about Indiana. The land is flat; fields and shitty cities line most of the roads. The rain falls cold at night in late May when we pull into Speedway, just off Interstate 70. Nothing tells us we’ll remember this night. It’s the same red sign now flashing SPEEDWAY instead of GAS AMERICA, situated between McDonald’s, Burger King, and a truck stop diner or Arby’s or whatever it is now. The rain smells like rust, tingeing my nose, and I slam the door and speed-walk inside.
I probably bought Camel Crush Bolds.
I walk outside. I want to go home. I can only stand being perpetually bored with unexciting people for so long. But they’re standing on the wet sidewalk, partly under the awning, a bad attempt to get out of the rain.
There are three other people.
Matt, Jacob and Hollie are talking to them. Smoking.
I’m standing by these big fucking bright green or yellow bags of some product leaning against the wall. They are soaked, and I keep hitting them. They’re pissing me off.
Davis and Dustin are talking to us. They’re Matt’s friends. We all went to school together. We all know who each other are.
So we spent a night catching up in the rain, as it fell in front of the headlights on Davis’s truck, smoking Camels and Marlboros.
In high school, Davis’s locker was usually beside mine. Sophomore year so was Cory’s, unfortunately, and he had an irrational and childish anger problem. He would also never get the hell away from my locker so I could get in.
He would stand directly in front of my locker getting his shit out of his, every day, without fail. It usually went like this:
Me – “Hoolllllie!”
Hollie – “Cory, MOVE!”
Me – “Hoolllllie!”
Davis – “Cory, get the fuck out of the way.”
That’s about as well as Davis and I ever got along.
He’s doing better, though. Studying physical therapy at Ivy Tech, apparently fire on guitar, and doesn’t even mess with recreational drugs anymore.
We talk. Not much. He acknowledges his endless belief that I hated him in high school, I explain that is false. Not an uncommon thing, I was a bitch in high school, and we’re all aware.
The minutes tick towards 11:00. Or midnight. Something.
Rain still falls.
It’s still cold.
There’s almost an orange tint from the pitiful Speedway lights reflecting off the raindrops.
Davis and Dustin tell us about Cory giving a presentation in Earth-Space Science freshman year.
Dustin laughs, dimples pinching in on a freckled face, probably jerking his body a bit to emphasize the story.
They tell us Cory half-spits, half-reads through the oral part of their project. He goes to read a second page, realizes it’s the same as the first, and yells, “What the fuck?!”
They talk on, building stories and images in our minds from what we remember of those people and those places, walls and rooms that were originally created to harbor prisoners, not students.
We laugh until tears mix with rain. Dustin’s green eyes shine, amiably reminiscing over the trouble they got into in high school.
Davis’s pale blond hair barely looks different in the rain and dim lighting under the awning. Maybe he has his hood up. I don’t remember.
We leave, separating. I think it was nice to catch up, we’ll probably see them again sometime soon.
About a week later I wake up one morning, see I have a text from Hollie, ignore it, and go back to sleep.
I wake up again.
I check it.
“Davis Foust died this morning.”
It is a surreal thing to hear of someone’s death rather than see it, or see the person after, their empty body, so stiff and void and not them anymore.
I call her. She doesn’t know what happened.
Matt finds out. He was with Dustin and Jeff, chasing Jeff, fucking around and being free.
Then he falls. He just falls.
He stands up.
Blood comes out of his mouth.
He walks five feet.
Falls back down.
He’s the first student I knew to die.
I didn’t know the sick boy. I didn’t know the boy who got killed by some bitch and her boyfriend because they thought they were werewolves or vampires or something like that. Maybe both. I didn’t know my friend’s brother who OD’d on heroin my freshman year.
I knew Davis. We weren’t friends. We didn’t clash particularly well. But we grew up together; he was in my kindergarten class.
And he made Cory get away from my locker.
~ ~ ~
I’d never seen so many people from my class in once place since everyone graduated and took off, storming away from our small town school and its beliefs into their own lives.
Makayla passes. She makes the comment that she’s glad to see us, just not here, at a calling of all places.
We stand outside for a bit, waiting to go in. Waiting for Matt to be ready.
Nick is standing out front, my best friend from what would be our equivalent of middle school. Davis was his friend.
His dark eyes puff against naturally tanned skin, under loose brown hair. He’s standing tall, trying to be strong.
We hug, and there’s really nothing else to say except ask how he’s doing. Tell him to call if he needs anything.
We go inside the funeral home. I hate this place.
The line is long to see him. Hollie and I stand. Hilary is long gone, back out the door, because it’s too hard.
A man in a suit looks older than he probably is, standing to the side of the line.
He shakes hands. Quietly thanks people for being there, at his 19-year-old son’s funeral.
A blonde woman I lightly recognize from somewhere in my childhood walks up to him, says, “I’m Caleb’s mom, and I’m not going to shake your hand because I’m so sorry,” hugs him, and cries.
My throat tightens.
Caleb. One of Davis’s closest friends.
We sign the guest book.
Take a yellow guitar pick.
Apparently we’re supposed to put it in the casket.
I keep mine, put it in my tin can of nostalgia and memories.
I am not crying. I don’t know him well enough to feel like I deserve to cry.
We walk closer, and I will not look until I am forced to, until there is no one between me and the casket.
I look, and it is breathtakingly awful.
He is so still and stiff. His electric guitar is laid right beside him.
I don’t understand people who come to funerals to say goodbye, because that chance is gone, they are no longer in there; they are obviously not fucking in there.
I can’t breathe because something chokes out, so I hurry away, past the line, with my hand over my mouth.
I feel a hand on my back. I turn, and it is Nick.
In the other room, I stand there, waiting for Hollie or Matt or Nick or anyone.
I see these pallbearers, all of them aged from 17 to 20. Why should they have to carry their friend so young?
Their eyes are shining, dark. They stand side by side, in suits and ties, not how we know them to be. So serious.
I go outside with Hollie, Nick and Alex.
They smoke, and I call off work, the first and only time I’ve ever done it, so that we can put something together for the boys, because, really, what can you do that would be enough?
~ ~ ~
I look at that spot we stood loitering around every time I went to that Speedway off Interstate 70 for the rest of summer.
I can remember the starless sky.
I can remember the rain in the pale lighting, its coldness, how it made my hair feel heavy.
I can hear their voices telling stories about Earth Space Science.
Goddamn, we all had stories about Earth Space.