In With The Old (Haunts), Out With The New
Volume III, Issue I - Spring 2012
  • We park on the dark road facing the chain link fence. We park with enough space between us and the other cars. We try not to think about the darkness or remoteness of the road or about serial killers just like we try not to think about the people in the other cars having sex, but accidentally we do, and then laugh. About the sex.

    We roll down the windows and three of the four of us light cigarettes. One of us doesn’t smoke. Two of the smokers use the lighter of the third, the only one who ever remembers. We take drags, blow them out, watch the smoke pull itself from the car windows and across the dark road. One of us tries, like always, to blow a smoke ring and also like always, cannot.

    This one has a beautiful voice and wants to be a singer. The one of us who doesn’t smoke has a face that can look like any face and she wants to be an actress. The one of us sitting shotgun sees things that others miss and wants to be a photographer. And even though he’s never been there, one of us wants to move to New York so he also wants to be a writer. Later, most of us will decide to be other things, but tonight is many years before we turn into ourselves.

  • We fight over who picks the next song. One of us wants the request and dedication station that plays soft rock of the 1970s and 80s but the photographer one wants a song on a tape he made of a local band that no one else has heard of, and to which none of us can sing along. Which is the entire purpose of having a stereo in a car – singing along. We will vote on the issue. One of the citizens of the car is lobbied by the one with the terrible tape. Hands rise. Three to one. The first button on the stereo is poked, and the DJ reads the dedication. We all smoke and listen respectfully until the singing begins except the one who lost the vote, who only smokes.

    We sit and sing and wait. From the back seat, one of us points to the windshield and says, “Look.” A plane trawls from the squat terminal to the runway we are parked at the end of—it’s small, like a toy of a plane that one of us could have had when we were young, by which we mean when we were younger than this. We know however the plane is actually massive and gleaming. It’s bigger than our houses, maybe even as big as our school but not as ugly nor as covered in corrugated cement nor as cruel. From across the long hallway of orange lights lining the tarmac, the plane points its nose at us. It pauses, and the one of us sitting  ............

  • shotgun, the outvoted pouting one, turns off the stereo. The shiny toy accelerates and begins growing right at us with its sound growing too until the sound feels like it’s everywhere, coming out of the ground and the car and us—our faces and hands.

    We lean back in our seats of the car, as though we can feel the force of the plane speeding toward us, as though we are being pressed into our seats as they, the passengers, are being pressed into their seats, as they leave the ground and enter the air to fly wherever they’re going. Like always, the one of us who wants to be a singer screams.

    And there is the chance the plane won’t raise its nose in time to climb the sky, that it will shoot all of its steel and fuel and people straight into us, and pin us to the hillside behind our car, and blow up and scatter its glowing pieces. There is always the chance that things will do not what we expect nor what we want but instead what surprises. And what surprises happens so rarely that there is a small part of each of us, though none of us have ever admitted it, that wishes to be pinned to the hillside by the plane in a fiery explosion because then we could be the kids who died in the fiery explosion instead of who we are, the kids nobody  ............

  • has ever heard of.

    The plane lifts at the same moment it always does—at the moment when its noise is so loud it feels like it’s going to kill us. The car trembles, and we feel the great sweep of wind as it hits us, and our cigarettes burn a little brighter orange from the sudden rush. We stare at the plane’s embarrassing belly, wheels just hanging there. Out the back window, we watch the tail for the wiggling air that the heat makes. The plane eventually sinks into the dark, blinking red and white, and things get silent again. But the silence here is never actually silent, we just think it’s silent because it’s not roaring.

    “New York,” whispers the one who wants to be a writer. “LA,” whispers the one who wants to be an actress.

    After watching a few planes, as we sometimes do, we park the car in the floodlit lot and go inside to the long hallways with their wide glaring floors. To the ticket counters, mostly shuttered and dark. To the blinking screens with columns of cities and hours of arrival or departure, on time or late. We look like people who could be going anywhere. Back in one of our bedrooms on a  ............

  • nightstand sits a fat Europe travel guide, well-read and highlighted in yellow. Drawn in fountain pen ink are stars next to the Leaning Tower and the Eiffel Tower and the Tower of London. We are all saving money for a trip together next summer, the trip we can’t stop thinking or talking about. One of us washes dishes, one of us sells the newspaper over the telephone, one of us waits tables at a steakhouse, one of us files and makes copies for the electric company. We don’t know it yet but we will not go to Europe together next summer. We will never go to Europe together.

    We stand in line to pass through security. One by one we go through. The last one of us, the writer one, gets nervous as he steps closer to the metal detector. He’s never actually flown so he’s never been to the airport other than this ritual of theirs, late at night screwing around nothing better to do. After putting all his pocket stuff in the plastic bowl, he wonders if there might still be a penny in his jeans from when they bought cigarettes at the gas station that will set the metal detector to screaming. Unless a penny isn’t enough metal to detect, or isn’t the right kind of metal? If the guards found it, will they take him to a little room for frisking? Will they call his parents out of their sleep? Will his  ............

  • parents ask, voices thick and groggy, “The airport? What are you doing at the airport?” The security officer waves him through the grey plastic doorway; as he walks through, he strains to hear the inevitable buzzing, but the guard only nods, the machinery doesn’t scream. Every time we do this, he thinks he’s going to get caught for something like a penny.

    We meander the various lounges of the various gates. One of us searches for one where passengers are just now arriving so we can watch their faces. We stand beside other people waiting for arriving faces—wives, fathers, brothers, best friends—their cars in the parking lot next to ours. One of us whispers he’s going to wave at the next face that comes through the door, that we should all wave to see what the person does, but another tells him no, that’s mean. Outvoted again.

    We walk through haphazard tables and chairs of the food court. One of us walks backward on the long conveyor belt so it looks like he’s walking in place. We buy candy and gum. In the middle of one long hallway, three of us sit in the glass cube for smoking. It smells like the oldest, most undumped ashtray. In another of the interminable hallways, we cram ourselves into a photo booth and  ............

  • make faces as the camera flashes. We huddle around the slot where the picture will drop, each of us wanting to be the first to touch it. The first to touch it is the one who gets to hold it as all the others look. This is the rule. After we look, this photograph will be folded carefully and put in a purse for safekeeping and none of us will see it again.

    We say, “Let’s go,” and on our way, we walk through baggage with all of its carousels. People with crossed arms stand around and stare hard at these shimmering silver ovals under fluorescent light like this whole room is a museum for abandoned spaceships. At the carousel nearest the exit, one black suitcase with a yellow ribbon tied to its handle rides around and around, a long lazy mile traveled all in one spot despite already having crossed an ocean, a mountain range, mute farmland. Its spinning and waiting is the loneliest thing any of us have ever seen.

    Leaving the airport, we turn the car into the all-night breakfast place hooked to the hotel on the other side of the highway. We slide into an orange plastic booth and order a carafe of coffee because it’s only midnight. We each do our coffee recipe, and at the end of it, one of us has to sweep aside a pile of ripped pink  ............

  • paper and fake sugar grains. We talk about our parents and what we want to do this weekend and how boring our jobs are and how none of us have any money. None of us ever has any money.

    After we count out change to pay the bill, one of us asks, “Where do we want to go now?” and we say, “I don’t know.”

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