Kyle knew he should be writing. Not editing his articles for The Philadelphia Inquirer about the Cherry Hill mayoral race or the recovery efforts following the Brooklawn marina flooding. He should be writing. His book. His ticket out of local politics for a city paper. Away from his rented apartment in Collingswood. An entry into a grander, creative life. Maybe make good on his threat to move to LA. His nominee for the next Great American Novel was a semi-autobiographical, fish-outta-water number where a New Jersey kid gets caught up in a Parisian dream. Instead of writing, he was dreaming.
The night was encompassing. A dark, low night where everything is enveloped in pitch. He tried to focus and look out at the road ahead, but his back seat position counteracted a good view. He decided to enjoy the ride. He was returning from a party. Clara by his side. Her eyes heavy with sleep. Her head lightly resting on his shoulder. Kyle could smell spearmint on her breath; Aqua Net in her hair. He couldn’t believe his fortune. This quiet moment he was stealing with the beautiful Clara. Wanting the ride to last forever. Knowing it wouldn’t.
The drive was silent and not able to recognize his surroundings he opted instead to ascertain the driver. Discovering that identity would help in figuring out his destination. More importantly, Kyle didn’t want to move. He wanted Clara’s weight to remain on his shoulders. He stretched forward. The lights of an oncoming car were about to hit the widow. Kyle anticipated the revelation. As the other car grew closer, the brightness growing, his driver unexpectedly slammed on the breaks. Kyle jumped forward, awake in his bed. Heart pumping. Mind racing. Trying to hold on to the evaporating dream. Warm memories replaced with cold questions. Where were they going? Who was driving? Why did he have to wake up? Why did he want to return to that dream instead of his own bed?
Culture Club was jamming out of the speakers enveloping the tight cafeteria in a solid wall of sound. An aural barrage seeking to destroy the karma of any chameleon in the premises. The DJ, a bored Millennial with a bored look on a boring face, stood stoic in defiance of the beats and wondered why “New Wave” sounded old.
“I remember exactly what I did after graduation. Went and saw Batman.”
There was an unnecessary pause following this revelation. Wasn’t this old news? A story already told crowded around a pub table or while playing Monopoly?
“This is why I love you,” Mira smiled at the simplicity of the statement. The honesty. The to thine own self be true coupled with a damn it all to hell attitude that was more charming than it was trying. “All your friends are out drinking Budweiser. And partying. And doing their best not to go off to college a virgin. But you? You celebrate your freedom from high school by watching a superhero movie.”
“Not a superhero movie. Remember, this was 1989. For about the next ten years Batman was the superhero movie. And I didn’t miss out on any partying. Even as a boy of seventeen I knew better than to drink Bud. I was all about vodka.”
Kyle and Mira stood off to the side holding up the wall like young teens at their first mixer. Kyle with a bottle of Stella. A glass of Pinot for his wife. Watching Roy talk with his hands in large, exaggerated motions while three blonde classmates laughed at every statement. Wishing their husbands packed similar biceps. Or Amex platinum.
Kyle loved the intimacy of standing close to his wife. Talking directly into her ear superseding Boy George’s harmonica.
“The cafeteria of all places.” There had to be a gripe of course. A complaint. A path of truth more enlightened than their current one. After all, Kyle was back in his high school. “Catholic schools always have to do everything different from the public ones just to fuck with you, even after graduation. Did you know my senior prom was on a Thursday? And my date? My girlfriend at the time? She was from Collingswood. I had to have her home by eleven o’clock so she could get up and go to school the next day. I’m the only one of my friends that went to party in Wildwood the next day without a date. Graduation? That was on a Sunday. This was so they could work mass into the ceremony and drag out the fucker to, like, a three-hour Cecil B. DeMille event. Everyone was waiting for Charlton Heston and Yul Brenner…”
“Or were asleep,” she interjected.
“God, I was,” Kyle agreed before continuing. “But the Friday before that snoozefest was June twenty-third. School was a joke that day. We went into homeroom. Reviewed where we were supposed to sit for the graduation ceremony. Got our final report cards. Cleared out our lockers. And two hours later we were released like inmates given a pardon. Running free into the wind like lunatics.”
“And instead of drinking vodka. Right? Vodka? The choice of a new generation?” Mira had to tease. Keep him young. “And you are aware that Anheuser-Busch, the world-famous brewers of Bud, also produces the Stella you are currently enjoying? But no. Vodka or not, off you went to see Beetlejuice.
“No. I saw Beetlejuice after my junior prom. Senior year was Batman. So many teen moments defined by Tim Burton movies. But that’s what I remember most about my stupid, forgettable high school graduation. Until now. Standing here. With the Class of ‘89. Celebrating our twenty-fifth high school reunion. In the cafeteria. Like didn’t any of my classmates ever see Grosse Pointe Blank?”
“Ooh, I loved that film. Where else do you get Dan Aykroyd cast as a killer?”
“And you’ve gotta love Benny Urquidez in the film.”
“Uh… right. No… wait. Does this make you John Cusack?”
“Hardly. I’m not the suave, silent killer who comes home after living abroad for over twenty years.”
“You’ve had your share of travels. That is how we met, mon chere.”
“I’m not John Cusack.”
“You can be my Lloyd Dobler any day.”
“You can be my Vicki Vale,” Kyle said with a smile, drawing closer, kissing her cheek.