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Rock music growled quietly from the speakers. Aaron had chosen something fitting, being one day removed from the school year. “What we are is the sum of a thousand lies. What we know is almost nothing at all. Well, we are what we are ‘til the day we die. Until we don’t have the strength to go on…(1)” Aaron was a fan of Rise Against, and so was Eddie. Being best friends, and both being in a happy mood, they’d felt like listening to something more rebellious. They sang along a bit, sitting on the hood of Aaron’s Chevy Lumina, the windows rolled down so they could hear. But Aaron kept forgetting the words, a rarity for him, so they just sat awhile, listening as the song wound down to its end.
“Ya know, we’re old, you realize that?”
“We’ve just finished our sophomore year, Eddie, how could we be old?”
Eddie sighed, “I don’t know man, it’s fast, ya know? We’re like old kids, halfway done already.”
Aaron quirked an eyebrow. Bonding sessions between two friends who were more like brothers was common enough, but Eddie, the star wrestler, was throwing Aaron, a straight-A student, a curveball.
“Where’s this comin’ from?”
“It just, well, you know…how’s two more years enough? Just like that, and we’re considered adults? That sucks,” Eddie said.
A different song played now, with Aaron’s Ipod shuffling through songs at random.
“So you found out today you’re life’s not the same. Not quite as perfect as it was yesterday. When you were just getting in the groove, now you’re faced with something new...(2)” Aaron thought that was a little weird; too perfect. Eddie didn’t comment, seeming not to notice.
“We gotta make this summer count, Aaron.”
Aaron tried not to chuckle, realizing Eddie was in that “pondering life” mode. “We will. I mean, it’s gonna be harder with both of us working at the grocery store and all, and everyone else is working too…”
Eddie growled with frustration, “Ugh, I know! But this time, let’s get outta town more, ya know?”
Hoping to calm Eddie, Aaron tried to joke, “I don’t know dude. Being on that highway more…we’ll probably wreck. Remember what the Drivers Ed teacher said? ‘Unfortunately, chances are, at least one of you will be killed in a car wreck.’”
The song was winding down again.
“I almost don’t care Aaron, as long as we get too…”
The next song had started, “So let’s get party going! Let’s get party going! Now it’s time to party and we’ll party hard!(3)”
Eddie glanced back toward the windshield, slightly bemused. “Well, that,” he said. Aaron, on the other hand, could feel the workings of a nervous knot in his stomach. Twice now, songs had played that appropriated their conversation, and the perfect lines had played at the perfect time. And still, Eddie didn’t seem to notice, or he didn’t care. Nor did he catch the uncomfortable look on Aaron’s face.
“Ugh, what the heck!”
Aaron jumped at Eddie’s sudden outburst. Looking at him, he saw that Eddie’s nose was gushing blood, some of it speckled his shirt, and some flicked on Aaron’s car. Aaron alighted from the hood, dashing around to the open passenger side window. Grabbing some napkins out of the jockey box, he removed his head and shoulders from the car, only to run into Eddie, who was now standing beside him.
“Eddie, what the…” Eddie’s face was clean, his nostrils bloodless, and his clothes were different. At least, Aaron thought they were. He couldn’t remember what Eddie had been wearing. Besides, why would Eddie be dressed like he was going to church, or to a funeral? The song had changed again, but Aaron didn’t know why he kept noticing that, of all things.
“Aaron. It’s time to wake up.”
Suddenly, Aaron didn’t know where he was. What was this place that’d they parked at? Why couldn’t he focus on anything? It seemed as if Eddie, the car, and the music were his island of lucidity.
“Don’t you remember the crash Aaron? You’re so smart, I’m surprised you don’t.”
Aaron’s eyes widened. The music….
“Crowded streets are cleared away one by one. Hollow heroes separate, as they run. You’re so cold; keep your, hand in mine. Wise men wonder while strong men die!(4)”
“Eddie,” Aaron whispered. “You’re dead.”
Eddie chuckled, “There’s the genius I know. And you, dude, are in a coma. Have been for three months. These songs…”
“They’re the songs we listened to on the way to that party, the day after we got out of school,” Aaron said dumbly, in the grips of shock. “Then…”
“And then that drunken idiot drove into the wrong lane and nailed us,” Eddie said, sighing.
“Did he die too?”
“Ha, no. Had his seat belt on. Talk about cruel irony.”
“But,” Aaron said, the horrible realization hitting him. “You got a bloody nose out of nowhere. I didn’t want you getting blood all over the dash, so I reached over….To get napkins….I could’ve avoided him, couldn’t I?”
Eddie shrugged, “Eh, I don’t think so. There were only two lanes, and when the oncoming car is doing ninety, it’s kinda hard to get out of the way….Hey! Don’t you dare start crying on me!”
In spite of himself, Aaron laughed through his running tears, tasting the salt.
“Dying didn’t change you much I see.”
Yeah, but you should see yourself outside of this La-La Land of yours. Three months, and you still look like crap,” Eddie teased.
Now they were both laughing, and now, Eddie too, was crying. After a few moments, Aaron asked, “So does He exist?”
“You know, is there a God?”
Eddie laughed some more. “Dude, if I could tell you that, it would be cheating. Besides, that would take away what makes everyone human.”
“Yeah, and what’s that?”
“Hope of course. And they call you the genius.”
And now they stood there, silent, both knowing they couldn’t put it off any longer.
“You said it was time for me to wake up, Eddie. I think I’m ready.”
Eddie, stared at him for a second, almost as if regretting what he was about to do, but then he extended his hand.
“Just so you know, you’ve missed you’re entire summer vacation, you loser.”
Aaron just laughed, and took his hand, and they shook.
“I’ll see ya later Eddie.”
Eddie opened his mouth to reply, but all that came out was a beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Eddie’s eye’s brows began to extend, zigzagging up and down. And when Aaron woke up, Eddie had become his heart monitor. And the monitor was telling him he would get to live again.
Song: The Strength to Go On Artist: Rise Against
Song: No Giving Up Artist: Crossfade
Song: Party Hard Artist: Andrew W.K.
Song: So Cold (Remix) Artist: Breaking Benjamin