A Long Ride Home

About three o’clock I left the bar and caught a cab uptown.

Muir was my driver.

I got in the passenger’s seat instead of the back.

We drove in silence up first avenue.

A song from Bieber’s new album came on.

“Is this what you like to listen to?”

“What?”

“This music, this top 40 pop stuff, is this what you like?”

“No. Is for the kids, mostly young kids this late.”

“Well what do you listen to?”

“You can change it if you don’t like.”

“No I don’t care I just wanted to know what kind of music you like to listen to.”

“What station you want to hear?”

“No man I don’t care about that I just wanted to…Well anyway what do you think of this Justin Bieber kid?”

“What you mean what I think?”

“Well you know I mean what do you make of him?”

“If you want to change station is OK.”

“No man. I mean. Look I just...”

I looked out the window and caught a glimpse of the lights on the East River.

“Well he does a lot of crazy shit doesn’t he? I mean what do you think about that?”

“Oh, Oh, I see. I see. Well to me is like this.

OK he does a lot of crazy shit right? Well if you were young kid, millionaire and famous, everybody loves you, from before you finish school, you be doing these drugs and so many girls and crazy shit too. So is no fair to hate him.

If you hate him OK is because jealousy not because him. He is just another kid. He doesn’t know anymore than you or me, he just have opportunities and of course he is going to do crazy drug sex shit. And be bad person. Nobody teach him. He is just another kid. Is no different.”

“Yea I know what you mean. God knows we all do a bunch of crazy stupid shit when we’re young. I could tell you stories, hell I bet you’ve got some stories too don’t you? You ever do any crazy shit when you were young?”

He laughed.

“Of course my friend.”

“Alright let’s hear it. Come on Muir what’s the craziest shit you ever did?”

“Oh my God. Let me see. Well OK one winter in Bulgaria when the Soviets fell, my friend and I, we get drunk, and we take out girls. And between the rebels and the soldiers we lay down in two feet snow and fucking these girls for an hour.”

“Right in between the two sides?”

“Yes. But in cold snow how you say, your dick? Prick? You can’t do it because it’s your dick, is hard keep it hard, yes?”

“Oh don’t tell me you couldn’t get it up.”

“Yes exactly. But then we say OK OK so we say OK we drink more vodka and then we can get it up so is OK.”

“You mean you drank so you could get it up?”

“Yes. Right. Is hard to get it right but if you drink right amount you can get it up in snow better.”

“That’s hilarious.”

“But be careful because if you drink too much your dick whiskey so is no easy do it right.”

“Yea, yea, I know what you mean. Whiskey dick.”

“Well did they all see you? The other soldiers and rebels I mean, what did they do?”

“What you think they do? They laugh, and yell, and cheered. No fighting that night. Everybody happy and watch us with these two girls in the snow. And everybody else start drinking too.”

“Vodka?”

“Vodka, yes. Everybody, all the time, vodka. Both sides, vodka.”

“Yea of course. Well that’s a beautiful story man. But let me tell you one now. This one goes way back though. I haven’t talked about this in years, but since we’re talking about crazy stupid young people shit.”

“Long time ago I knew this girl, one of the sexiest women I’ve ever known, and she had this thing for Darth Vader. And she had it bad too. She had a Vader backpack, towel, socks, everything.

One day I walk her home and so I’m finally alone with this girl, and I’m trying to figure out how to get her into bed. And she starts asking me what my favorite Darth Vader quotes are. So she keeps asking for more, and I start doing my best Darth Vader impression and going through every line I can remember.

And she gets so turned on that in a few minutes I’ve got her bent in half, choking her with both hands with a Darth Vader t-shirt over my face and yelling ‘You are unwise to lower your defenses!’ and ‘You don’t know the power of the dark side!’ and shit like that. And doing the whole breathing thing too. I felt ridiculous, but it was so good.

She was fifteen and she had this long blonde hair with an hourglass body and the ass of a Brazilian go-go dancer. I think we went like four or five times that afternoon.”

“I like this movie. This Star Wars.”

“Me too, everyone does. God that was good pussy. I’ll never get any ass like that ever again. I guess that kind of thing is only for young people.”

“Speak for yourself my friend.”

We laughed.

“Alright Muir tell me another one.”

“OK. Second craziest. OK this was in Austria. This was a few years later. I had Volkswagen Beetle. You know this?”

“Yea.”

“OK good, good. So I have Volkswagen Beetle and there was lake racing. Winter time lake froze over, so we racing on the ice. So I have seven people in my Volkswagen Beetle. And we racing on the ice with my other friend in his car. Also full of people. But we don’t really race we make circles. How you say this?”

“Doughnuts?”

“Yes, yes doughnuts. So we all drinking and naked in my Volkswagen Beetle. And we make doughnuts and go 150 kilometers per hour across frozen lake.”

“Wait naked?”

“Everybody yes. Naked and we take the pills. You know this?”

“Yea, Vodka too?”

“Yes, but mostly Schnapps. German girl like Schnapps.”

“So you were drunk and speeding across a frozen Austrian lake in two tiny cars full of naked people?”

“Yes and the girls all take turns give me blowjob while I drive.”

“That’s pretty rock n’ roll.”

“Very crazy. Very dangerous.”

“Well yea I’m sure people could get killed doing that.”

“Yes because we see big hole in the ice, and a car had fallen through and the bodies floating in the water, and so we see this and so OK I say OK and I drive off of the ice.”

“Oh shit they died?”

“Yes, not any more fun after this so we leave.”

“God. Yea lots of kids die doing stupid crazy shit in cars. The first friend I ever had died that way. He was trying to show off how fast his car was because he wanted to sell it. So he had some people in the car and he was speeding down these little winding streets. And he was drifting and all that. Somehow he lost control and rammed into a tree. He sat up and said ‘Is everybody OK?’ Then he just collapsed. Apparently when he hit the tree his chest slammed into the steering wheel. Crushed his heart. Everyone else was OK, but he died right there in the car.

I met him when I was about a month old. He was the first friend I ever had. My best friend for the first five years of my life. But I did well in school and he didn’t. We made different friends, did different things. You know how it is. People drift apart.

And he stopped talking to me or hanging out with me. I remember how that felt. Seeing him everyday and wanting to run up and hug him and get my friend back. But I wasn’t cool. I embarrassed him just by talking to him. So he avoided me. I remember how much that hurt to watch him turn into a stranger. Losing him a little bit each day. Seeing the new friends change him.

We were brothers once. My mom cried a lot at his funeral. His mom is the sweetest woman I’ve ever known. Used to wipe my ass when I pooped my pants. But she kind of lost her mind after that. She just couldn’t take seeing her young son’s broken body.

We were eighteen when it happened. He hadn’t spoken to me in years. I still miss him though. It’s strange, but after all this time I still miss a guy I only knew for a few years. I miss everyone who leaves. But I didn’t cry at his funeral. I’d lost him years before that.”

There was silence.

“Yea. Young kids. They sure do a lot of crazy shit.”

Silence.

“I’m sorry my friend. Life is mother fucker.”

Silence.

“Wait, Muir you said that was the second craziest, what was the craziest?”

His voice went flat.

“The craziest was I am from Afghanistan. I spend three years fighting the fucking Taliban.”

Silence.

“They kidnap my daughter.”

“Jesus man.”

“They kidnap my daughter when she five years old. And then few days later they send her back our village. And she screaming ‘Daddy! Daddy!’ running toward our house. But when she reach middle of village she explode. They put bomb in her backpack and send her back. Many people in my village dead. So I spend three years fighting the Taliban.

My wife left. Family destroyed. House destroyed. Finally I have nothing left to fight for. This endless war. So I say OK I have no life here why I stay and die? So I say OK I leave Afghanistan.”

Silence.

“I’m sorry Muir.”

“I’m sorry too. Lot of Yankees die fighting those bastards. Could have been you.”

“They only send young people to do that kind of thing. Crazy shit to have to do when you’re so young.”

“Is no different. Young man, old man, young girl, no different.”

Long silence.

I took a slug from my flask.

“Is Vodka?”

“Bourbon.”

“No different.”

I handed it to him and looked out at the river.

“Crazy shit.”

“Crazy shit.”

He took a deep pull.

I turned off the radio.

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