In the summer of ’96, we’d finally moved to the Valley. I had my best friend up there and was excited to take part in a better quality of life that I knew would be the result of more trees, mountains and culture. The year of taking the bus with the friendly Russian bus driver, Misha was short-lived, but simply remember the blinding, burnt, neon-orange light that pierced through its hazy windows on those frigid winter mornings. I boarded that bus with a bloody nose that year from finding myself in the middle of a fray in which I was punched several times in the nose. It was a moment however that evidenced something of miraculousness of life itself though: that when a punch connected, my body coursed with adrenaline, time slowed down a lot, and I couldn’t feel pain. I had more will than I thought. But I never tested that either, again. I hated physical fights. Violence is not in my nature. Misha looked at me with innocent eyes, blankly proclaiming that I had a bloody nose. I was alright. I don’t know if Robin was alright though. I didn’t see him after that year.
Ryan’s dad suited him up with an older red Audi coup. We carpooled to school together. When Ryan arrived, the neighbors would hear first, his tearing around the corner and into my cul-de-sac. Melanie, my neighbor hated this because she had small children and one day caught hold of him and lectured him which he did not like at all, because he had no concept of his freedoms being curbed upon yet. Ryan was impressive in this way, because still, he without bother, and yet excelled at it. I had a good, old alarm clock radio that glowered green. Howard Stern would blare out at 6:15 a.m. Around 7:00 a.m. I woke up in stitches often and this proved not just to get me up but get me up with enthusiasm. I’d either hear the horn he honked twice, or just look out my bedroom window that looked out onto the driveway and see his striking red Audi clandestinely appearing onto it, in his unusually-usual combination of urgency and humorous candor.
On one blizzard-like day after school, Derek asked for a ride to which Ryan in his entertaining way, said, “Yeah, hop in.” Derek lived one street over, up on Barrington Ridge where the houses were phenomenally beautiful and big. The only thing really visible were the cement curbs that snaked along a windy road down to Valley Parkway, the main artery of the Valley. Down below were school kids waiting for their bus. Ryan took the turn too fast. The car, failing to hug the turn slid across the snow-packed lane and crashed into the curb. I felt my body momentarily jolt off of the seat, but coming tightly up against a locked seat-belt. The kids, still far down the road watched curiously. Shaken, Ryan and I both steadied ourselves, unfastening ourselves and letting ourselves out to assess. Just a minute prior, where we let Derek out, I remember thinking as I got into the front seat, “I’d better put on my seatbelt in out here in this snow.” Ryan’s entire rear tire buckled completely inwards. The car the was going to have to be towed. We walked the rest of the way home, he to his house up Amaranth with some explaining to do, and me the next block over.