house

I never liked our driveway. All the other driveways on Claire Court were either flat or gently sloped, usually down to the street. Ours was angled up sharply to the street, connecting the house the old cul-de-sac.

The weathered Huffy took the hill with ease and soon I was pedalingĀ up the street. Bob had gotten a new Nintendo game and had asked me over to play it. His family was more well-off than mine, so he was always showing off his new toys. While Bob wasn’t always the nicest guy I generally got along with him.

It wasn’t like I had friends tripping over themselves to hangout with me, either.

Leaning my bike against the garage door, I lazily strode over to the side door. I could swear the door opened immediately after I rapped on it. There stood Bob, looking out of it, like someone close to him had passed.

“Hey TJ,” he greeted me without the slightest hint of emotion. “Come in.” It was like Bob had gone all the way past contempt and ended up on indifference.

“Hi Bob,” I said stepping in. “Are you doing okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” He wasn’t fine. “I’m just tired. Want a Pepsi?”

I accepted and we went to the living room. The couch was too far from the TV to play comfortably to Bob changed the channel as he sat down on the floor. Some comedy movie was on with actors my mother had liked. I don’t remember their names, but the big one used to be on Saturday Night Live. The other I recognized from Taxi; he had weird eyes and was pretty funny.

The movie was only on for a second, quickly replaced by the title screen for Hit The Ice. Bob was really into sports, so we played many sports games. As usual, he destroyed me. I suspected his ineffectual demeanor was at least in part from staying up late practicing.

After going down six goals to two, the Pepsi started to make its way through me. I excused myself and use the bathroom. It wasn’t until glancing in the mirror but I realized that something wasn’t right.

Scratch that. Everything was wrong.

Instead of my cherubic 12-year-old face, I saw the face of an older man. Stubbly, wrinkled, and fat, with dark circles under the eyes.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.” Bob appeared behind me, startling me. “We’re not allowed to say anything.” He lowered his head. “You have to realize it on your own.”

Thoughts started to flood into my head. The earliest thing I remembered from that day was riding my bike. There was no recall of waking up, going to sleep last night.

“It could be worse.”

Was I at a party last night? Was I even in New York? My mind was racing.

“At least you get to go home again.”

I had not lived on Claire Court for over a decade.

“Looking back, it should have been obvious.”

The actors. That video game. It wasn’t possible.

“We’d always call it the cul-de-sac, but it’s really just a dead-end.”

I raised my eyebrows, staring at myself as the final realization settled in.

“Anyway, want to play the third period?”

Bob was killed in a car wreck 15 years ago.

I had joined him, one last time, on our old dead-end street.