Coral Reef

The best night I ever had with Nadine, I was hallucinating. We both were.
It was around eleven pm on a Tuesday and it was just about to snow. We were doing laps of Baygate. Just because.

This was probably when gas was 95 cents a gallon.
And cigarettes were 3 dollars.
And my hair was long, down past my shoulders, stupid long, and it stunk because I never washed it.
And before my ring finger had been bitten off by my neighbor’s doberman pincher.
Nadine was driving and I was in the back seat of her car, laying flat only back, sneakers pressed flat against window. I was smoking a cigarette, which I hardly ever did, only when I was with Nadine.
That’s how we were, we both did things we hardly ever did when we were in each other’s company.
I smoked cigarettes, and she dated assholes. I was the asshole. She had the cigarettes.

“I shouldn’t be driving,” she said, like a wheeze.
“Well I can’t drive either,” I said.
“Neither of of us should be driving.”
It wasn’t like we were going anywhere, our destination was zilch. It was just that we were driving, to drive, to move because we could be. That’s how our relationship was and still would be, if we had both been as set on zilch destination as I was.
Orange light passed like ghostly orbs through her dirty window as I faced perpendicular to the direction of our true travel.
“I’m not driving,” I said, “It’s only you who shouldn’t be driving.”
I sat up and let her take a drag from her own cigarette, and I said, “Just think of it like you’re piloting a submarine and we’re underwater. You can’t crash into anything when you’re at the bottom of the sea.”
“That’s BS! You can crash into electric coral reef!”
“Okay, then just imagine that all the buildings are electrified coral reef.”
“Ha, I’ll do that.”

Her hair was longer then too, and it wasn’t blonde yet. I saw a picture of her the other day, her hair is short now and she is marrying a cop. This was on Facebook, her haircut, short and spiky made me think she will have two sons that will play soccer and they both will suck but she’ll cheer anyway from the bench.
It’s okay, I’m sure she’d look at my picture too say “what happened to him?” if I had a facebook, but I don’t. I was in the library and someone had forgotten to sign out of their account. Judging by my experience, 1/6 people in the public libraries of the world forget to sign out of their facebook accounts.

I was tripping enough, this time, that when I looked out of the back window of Nadine’s car, I looked out on the small town where I had grown up, where I’d spent all of my youth and my life up to that point, but the small town looked different.
The street lights running down route 9 were brighter.
It looked like Las Vegas, instead of some podunk little blip on a New Jersey map right on the edge of the marsh.
My eyes got wider.
I saw the brontosaurus outside of Dinosaur Liquor and it was somehow catching a neon reflection, from I don’t know where and the brontosaurus was lit up like a blue bonfire.
I was about to say to Nadine, “I’m never leaving, I’m going to stay in this town forever, or be its mayor or its judge or nobody at all and I’ll flourish here, I’ll be happy, so happy, happiest of all …”
But just then Nadine turned off of route 9 and headed into the darkness on Morris avenue with the flickering streetlight and the asphalt disappearing halfway down where the dune grass starts—so I didn’t say anything.
And that feeling was gone and has never returned.

Of course, I’ve gone too, and haven’t been back to that place in so long. Maybe it’s all been flattened or boxed up in trucks and moved out to make room for nicer, shinier things.
I kept quiet.
I sucked my breath in.
I sucked my breath in so deep and I thought so hard on the backseat that eventually, Nadine said, “Are you alright?”

She’d pulled the car over and turned the headlights off and she’d climbed in the back seat with me, to see if I was dead.
I wasn’t dead.
She isn’t now either.
She’s marrying this cop I’ve heard.
Which I can’t believe.
Someone has to marry cops, they will lead you to believe.
I would have never guessed it’d be Nadine.

Oh! That night, the reason why I remember it so fondly. When we finally sobered up enough.
And the snow never showed up.
And it was 1 am or 2 am.
We went back to Dinosaur Liquor.
And get this, we sawed off the brontosaurus’ head.
I still have it.

I keep it in my room and I have it painted neon blue, it’s like stupid bright and sometimes I put it on top of the TV, even. When people come over they ask what it is, and I say. “Who knows?”

If I ever make my own Facebook profile, I’ll probably have the dinosaur be my profile picture.
And the only message I’ll ever send will be to Nadine.
Something like, “Beware electric coral reef.”


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