Road Trip with The Boys
Shoes squeaked against hardwood as the crowd waited in growing suspense. The score was tied with ten seconds left in the last quarter, and the guest team’s ace was in possession of the ball. They had one final chance to make a play.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
Each dribble of the ball translated to a throbbing in my head. The sight of team sport embittered me.
The ball went in, the crowd went wild, and the uproar was unbearable. Friends and families storm the court, while screaming, sweaty teenage boys hugged each other to commemorate the last game of the season. It was the time of the year for celebrations, after all – the last spring of our high school days.
It reminded me of our last game in junior high.
I flipped the guest team’s scoreboard.
“Analogue scorekeeping in the 21st century…” I grumbled.
“At least you’ll be gone from this shabby school next year,” said an amicable voice.
I turned my head to see one of those sweaty boys clad in a black and green jersey. At first glance he was unrecognizable, but the lukewarm sentiment incited by his crooked smile erased my doubts—it was my old friend Prius.
The timbre of his voice was deeper, and he was two heads taller than the last time I saw him, His dirty blonde hair had darkened and he sported a trendy undercut hairstyle like half of the other jocks.
“Hey… were you playing today?”
“You didn’t notice? I made it to the semi-finals!”
“I only look at the ref.”
“Really? But your school’s amazing! Those last couple of seconds were pretty awesome.”
“Yeah, it was sweet. I almost wished I was on the team for a second.”
“Haha, you should’ve joined! Are you in any clubs?”
“No. My friends don’t really do much other than study and play games. I haven’t anything in high school other than volunteering and schoolwork.”
“Ah, I guess that’s why you’re scorekeeping. So no parties or anything? That’s a big surprise.”
“I’m probably in the minority though.”
“Yeah… it looks like we hang around totally different groups of people now.”
Our conversation sprouted a hint of resentment in me. Is this how Hamlet felt when he held the skull of his former playmate?
Alas, poor Prius! I knew him well – a fellow of most intimate comradery, of most excellent athleticism. He hath humoured me a thousand times, and now, how foreign his friend group is! My heart sinks at it. Here stood the boy that I hung with, I know not how often. Where be our bonds now? Our pranks? Our childish escapades? Our past filled with merriment and laughter?
“It makes me a little sad,” I said.
“How things are so different than before.”
By this point, the gym was more than half emptied. All that remained were a group of boys in tear-soaked jerseys being consoled by their coach, while the winners were probably at the afterparty already. A sense of melancholy appeared in Prius’s crooked smile.
“You miss the good old days too?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Hey Via, you busy tomorrow?”
It felt nostalgic to hear him suddenly use my nickname.
“I’m free all day, why?”
“I finished fixing up my dad’s old truck recently, and I was thinking of going on a short trip.”
“Oh yeah, sure! Where do you wanna go?”
“I was thinking of Crescent falls.”
“Isn’t that far?”
“It’s only a daytrip. We can just walk around.”
“I’d be down. That’s a... pleasant surprise...” I trailed off.
“Oh, I said I was surprised you invited me. We hadn’t talked for a while.”
“It’s almost been three years, huh? We were pretty bad at keeping in touch. The others as well.”
“Everyone kind of disappeared.”
“Yeah, especially Coco," Prius said. "She transferred back to our city this year because of school problems, but hasn’t contacted us yet.”
"Really? How's she doing?" I asked.
“Dunno. Well anyways..." he continued, patting my shoulder. "It’s good to see you again bro! I miss hanging with you guys. Let’s get the old gang together again sometime!”
He just implied a farewell.
A spike of anxiousness took over my mind. Since we didn’t do this when we greeted each other, this was bound to happen at the end of the conversation...
Dapping was an essential gesture of companionship between boys that appeared in many forms—knowing which dap to use requires advanced social intelligence and flawless intuition.
Normally I wouldn’t care if the handshake turned out awkward, but since Prius used to be one of my best friends, I felt an obligation to get this right. If we couldn’t dap properly, were we even friends anymore? What I did next was crucial to the success of our trip tomorrow, and by extension, getting our gang back together.
Time started ticking in slow motion as I began my deduction.
Most people would go for the regular handshake-dap. We haven’t hung out for three years and weren’t all that close anymore, so it’s safe to assume the default option.
But something unusual caught my eye:
He was winding up his arm at chest level instead of waist level. It was almost like he was going for some kind of high-five.
That’s when it hit me: Prius was on the basketball team, so he’d certainly be familiar with the dap-embrace. This was something we did often during middle school.
I adjusted my hand position accordingly and our palms met halfway with a clap.
He clasped my thumb in an arm-wrestling position and we pulled each other in for a half-hug. It was an immaculate display of sportsmanship.
“Yeah. Well see ya!”
He ran off as I let out a sigh.
My right hand tingled a little as I thought about Prius’s earlier words.
“I miss hanging with you guys.”
“Let’s get the gang together again.”
With a grin, I silently went to join the rest of the staff in cleaning up the gymnasium.
But internally, I was hyped.
To text, or not to text? That is the question. Whether it’s nobler among estranged friends to make small talk and gradually build relations; or to invite each other out of the blue, and by inviting, bypassing all estrangement?
I anxiously stared at the empty textbox, having typed and retyped multiple messages only to delete them again. Contacting someone was only easy when I had a reason to; reaching out simply because I wanted to rekindle a friendship made me feel needy.
As I was pondering how to contact the other two, my phone started ringing. I juggled my device with my sweaty hands, barely catching it safely. It was Prius calling.
“Hey Via, could you text me your addy?”
Addy? Did he mean address?
“Thanks. You ready for the trip tomorrow?”
“Ye- wait, no. I actually haven’t been on a day trip since we were kids. What should I pack?”
“Oh yeah, bring a pair of sandals and an extra change of clothes. We could play in the lake a little.”
“Sure. Anything else?”
“Uh... I dunno. Water, camera? Anything you think you’ll use.”
“...Alright. Thanks. Anything else?”
“Not that I can think of,” Prius said. “I’ll come over at eight then. See you tomorrow morning!”
I paused. It felt clingy of me to drag it on, but I wanted to talk just a little more.
“Have you uh, invited Ravi or Corolla?”
“Maybe next time. This is pretty last minute, so I don’t think they’d be able to come.”
“Yeah… I can see that. Especially because of Coco’s parents…”
I guess I’ll text them another day.
“What kind of bag are you bringing?” I asked.
“Just a string bag.”
“I guess I’ll use mine too.”
“That’ll be fine. Anything else?”
“Well you better sleep early tonight. You’re not allowed to nap while riding shotgun.” Prius sounded like a stern mother.
“Gotcha,” I said.
“See you at eight!”
Did he mean eight in the morning?
That’s incredibly early. I was the type of person who routinely wakes up at noon on weekends. Why were we heading out so early? Wasn’t it only an hour away?
I searched the location on my phone.
Crescent Falls: three hours by car.
A shiver ran down my spine. I wasn’t a fan of super long car-rides. What if we run out of things to talk about? Or if we don’t get along? Well, at least we’ll have the chance to talk.
Despite Prius’s warning, I packed and repacked my backpack multiple times late into the night.
Socks, sunscreen, sandals, swimwear.
With each item I shoved into my bag, my excitement grew until it washed over any uncertainties I had earlier. It was a while since I had something to look forward to – a trip with one of my OGs.
“It’d be nice to listen to some throwback songs in the car,” I thought, as I restlessly napped the night away with a smile.