Let’s go for a ride

For one whole summer, he drove me everywhere. He had a little blue Mazda that he had named the Smurf. We’d pick up friends and drive downtown to get coffee at Louie’s bookstore or to wander around Fell’s Point laughing at the drunk people. Sometimes we’d go have enormous sundaes at the fancy pastry shop, sometimes we just drove to the park and made out on the grass.

For one whole summer, I was important. I was interesting. I was fun. We had our own silly, secret language to prove it. We were “Smurfing it,” and everyone knew it. We communicated in strange, archaic, made-up words and when we talked it felt like we had always known each other. How could four months feel like a lifetime?

For that summer, we were always together but never alone. Our friends were our witnesses, they were our audience, and they created us. Without their eyes on us, we would have been boring, bored. With them, we were everything. We spoke in imaginary words and made out under blankets, and they observed us on the outskirts, soaking up our excess energy.

Without our friends, we took a few trips together. Alone, we researched obscure authors. We fought. We crammed too much into that summer. Alone, we flared and burned out.

Two decades have passed and it dawns on me. Aren’t we all always waiting for someone to pull up in their cool car and roll down the window, point a finger, and grin? “Get in. Let’s have some fun.” And we would. Aren’t we all waiting for someone to notice us, to take an interest, to make us feel special? Don’t we all want to attract an audience? Isn’t that what our lives are all about?

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