Story By: Douglas Patrick '18, Contributing Writer
The Late evening sun beats down on me as I sit on this rickety wooden bench. I watch the hot orange ball in the sky fall slowly beneath the trees that surround me and the Creek. There’s a certain kind of gloom that the last rays of sun give off. Today, those rays seem to beam especially strong.
My thoughts began to trickle with the water in front of me. It’s stupid that people automatically assume that something’s wrong if someone declines an invitation somewhere. There’s nothing wrong, not with me at least. Just because I’d rather ride my bike down to the Creek than go over Tom’s house with my friends doesn’t mean that I’m depressed or something. But I guess my friends just can’t accept that because my phone hasn’t stopped vibrating for the past couple hours. I wish they would stop calling me. I need time alone, time to think.
The Creek was not my original destination this afternoon, I recollected. I had gotten on my bike earlier with every intention of going to Tom’s. Except once I got up to his driveway I immediately turned around. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to look him in the eyes and that’s why I cancelled our plans without a word. So, maybe the constant calls of concern are justified, but I still don’t like them.
The bike ride to Tom’s house had once been supremely familiar. I still remembered how I’d sit on my bike, watch the garage door rise and gear up for my journey down to my best friend’s house every Saturday morning. The latter portion of these rides were the ones that I remembered best. Not because they had happened much more recently, because they hadn’t. Come to think of it, this particular morning’s ride was the first time I had made the pilgrimage in a year or so, although it seemed longer. I could remember the latter rides better because I was able to experience this great ecstasy that was created by the wind as it blew through my hair; a luxury I wasn’t afforded until after I deemed myself old enough to leave my helmet home. When a burst of wind rustles my hair now, I reminisce about letting my bike glide around the tight, flowing curves of the open road that led to Tom’s. I’d try my luck by taking each bend with my tires nearly touching the protective lip of the street. When I did this, I’d be able to look down the steep leaf-infested hill to the Creek. It was nearly a ninety-degree angle straight to the water. Even just looking down at it, I got the sensation that it was sucking me in like a black hole.
Today’s path was going to be slightly different for I was picking up Paul at his house so we could ride together. Unfortunately, this wasn’t because Paul didn’t know the way to Tom’s. In fact, he probably had a better memory of it than I did, to tell the truth. He had been making this trip more often and more recently ever since he and Tom became connected at the hip about a year or so ago.
It seemed like as soon as Tom made the varsity baseball team, Paul became his second half. He was this “super cool upperclassman” that I just “had to meet,” according to Tom. So, naturally, I did, when Tom invited him with us to a movie. After that, Tom started to mention the funny things Paul did at practice or after school. Then it seemed that Paul kept getting invited more and more to our plans until I became the one getting invited to their plans. Eventually, I wasn’t even being invited at all. It was bizarre when I realized that, although he was still mine, Tom had replaced me for a new best friend.
The inside jokes Paul and Tom referenced at the lunch table made me burn with wonder as I questioned whether Tom was ever even my friend to begin with. Maybe, I’d think too often, I mistakenly perceived friendliness for friendship because we never went to baseball games like he and Paul did. We didn’t both “absolutely love” 90’s rock like he and Paul did. We didn’t play baseball, talk about girls, or text like they did either. We did, however, not talk to each other for weeks at a time so that’s one point to chalk up on our side.
Tom and I did still talk from time to time, though. Surprisingly, the last time we talked, a couple of days ago, he invited me over. He probably only did this because I hinted that I was upset. I explained that I felt as if we were drifting apart, so he must have felt obligated to assuage the small wound he gave me. But, I was still invited over to his house nonetheless. In actuality however, this little wound was a bigger scar than I let on in conversation – I’m really quite good at downplaying things.
Unluckily for me, Paul was invited over too, which was why I had to stop for him along the way. I wished the entire time to be riding with nearly anybody else. Mostly, just because I wanted a calm ride down the bends accompanied by the white noise of my tires spinning over the top of the pavement. Sadly, I was going to be out of luck because I knew that Paul’s energetic body wasn’t going to allow for even a moment of silence. He seemed to be in constant motion: his knee would bounce up and down in class for what seemed like hours, his fingers tapped on anything they could find, and his mouth never stopped moving. Sometimes I wasn’t sure how he found time to swallow.
Though in front, he faced me countless times to shout at me while he rode his bike.
“You hear about who the Indians just picked up!?”
He turned back to the road for half a moment and then shot around again, “How about the Red Sox’s pitchers this year? Absolutely incredible, huh?”
“They’re alright,” I replied coldly.
Quickly after, he sensed a curve was coming and, thankfully, rotated back around. I thanked the heavens every time his stupid face stopped staring at me. I didn’t much care about the rubbish he kept yelling, but I will admit that I was impressed by his intuition to predict each new turn.
After gliding around a bend, he straightened his bike to the street and readied himself to turn around once more. Another turn approached quickly.
“Dude,” he called to me, “I’m so pumped!”
“Why is that?”
“Tom and I just got tickets to see this awesome Nirvana cover band!”
“That does sound awesome. What are they called?”
“The Negative Creeps! I’ve only heard good things about them!”
“Great. I haven’t heard of them. Where are they playing at?”
“Actually, I’m not totally sure yet! I would think –“
A loud shriek cut him off. His tires collided with the lip of the road, which sent him flying down the hill, leading to the Creek. Maybe I should have stopped asking him questions.
I kept peddling. Naturally, I thought, an athletic guy like Paul would be able to catch up with lazy me. However, upon arrival in Tom’s driveway, I looked around and couldn’t find Paul anywhere around me or in the distance. Then a chilling thought came over my entire body that scared the hell out of me.
And that’s why I’m sitting on this old bench trying to think and figure it out as I listen to the Creek’s splashing water. I wasn’t racking my brain trying to figure out what happened to Paul – anyone with half a brain knew what had happened to him. It didn’t take a detective to figure that out. Instead, I sit staring into this bloody Creek while I try to comprehend why I feel so good about his death.