End of the Line

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When the sun finally decides to come up, this moment in time will be taken from us. But for now it’s night, so everything is still ours.

We do not care. If we were to be asked how many fucks we give, the answer would always be zero. Social norms are like suggestions to us. Etc.

We’re here at the end of our seventeenth summer. The previous sixteen were test runs for this one. Your face in the fading light is minimalistic: the smoke of your eyes, the cherry of your lips. Slung around your neck by twine, over the blossoms printed on your dress, is a stop sign with the S scrubbed away so it just says top. I ask if it’s meant to be a postmodern self-referential thing or what and you roll your eyes at me, lace your hands and do a boy band heart pound. I do the move in unison with you and smile, but I’m leaving for college in the morning so the smile ends up being a sad smile.

We walk until you stop to balance an acorn on the laces of your red Converse. The top sign scrapes pavement and sends up sparks in a pattern we can’t identify: some jumbled up version of Morse code. You become one-legged. You hop. You balance the unborn tree on your shoe. You tell me I am to clap along, maybe do that one Russian dance, the one that involves crouching and kicking. I do these things. We sing a song for the tree fetus and when we’re done you kick it in the air. When we’re done you catch it in your mouth like a tossed popcorn. When we’re done you immediately regret your decision. I give you a wax bottle to wash the taste of dirt out. I hold your spun-gold hair back as you spit tiny grass blades onto someone’s lawn.

For a second there, everything becomes the last time we’ll do it together. This is the last time we’ll see who will say penis the loudest. Here’s the last rock we’ll sling at a McMansion’s bay window. Etc.

I laugh too loud at your next joke to cover up the choking sound in my throat and we make forcefield cars together. Forcefield cars are when you snatch a sprinkler and put it on a car’s roof. The forcefield’s only water, but it’s super effective: most people will chase us but never stop the sprinkler. It’ll go all night like that.

We find the Switzerland car (always neutral) and force it into conflict by rolling it into the middle of the street. We go through a drive-thru in an invisible car. We make Our Lady of Piety’s sign say that righteous men follow the word of dog. We cannot be stopped.

When you eye me with that look I know what you want to do before you say it. It. The grand finale. Our little pièce de teenage résistance. The masterpiece we’ve been planning all year.

We get there right on time, while the driver’s still scarfing down his burger across the street. We look at this idling bus, door open, and we remember to breathe. You get in the driver’s seat and pass me the driver’s jacket. I put it on, apply adhesive to my upper lip, and stick on the fake Luigi mustache I used last Halloween. With aviators on, I could be your supervisor. You bite your cheeks to stop smiling. Clear your throat to stop laughing.

I shield you from view when our first customer gets on; insist you’re doing fine in a voice I hope sounds adultish. Two more get on at the next stop. You’re doing fine. Good job. I’m okay. I mean you’re okay.

No one says anything when you go off course. They don’t speak up till the bus stops outside some concert in the park summer series, till my mustache tells them this is it, last stop, end of the line, everybody out. Some mutter, but this is Chicago, and the shades and mustache make me look like Coach Ditka. All Chicagoans respect Coach Ditka.

I funnel them out the rear door just in case. Some crowd the stop for the next bus. Others spill into the concert. Some just walk home. I watch your face pulse in the Morse code of streetlights as you drive away.

We park in the lot of a forest preserve; turn the lights off so we’re in stealth mode. We push the emergency hatch that opens onto the roof and I give you a boost. Climb up after you and ditch my Ditka disguise.

You lie on your back and I copy you. We look up into the splattered canvas of sky, white dripped on black, and listen to a faraway car alarm that just started up. We do a boy band heart pound in unison. We don’t plan it. It just happens.

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