My imagined arrival
I step out of the jetway wearing a slim-fit, three-piece sharkskin suit. Despite the two-and-a-half-hour flight to Detroit, it appears as if my wardrobe was just freshly-pressed. I myself am looking well-rested and composed. And as I slip my iPad into the leather portfolio bag slung over my shoulder, a voice calls out. “Alex? Is that you?”
I turn to be greeted by a very familiar-looking TSA officer. Why, it’s my old high school rival, Jim! (He’s the dirty dog who stole my best gal and took her to the Homecoming Dance senior year.) “Hey Jim! How are you? You’re looking good, my man!”
He looks terrible. Like a young Wallace Shawn with a beer gut. He tells me that he and my one-time best gal got married after high school, but it fell apart and now he’s back living with his parents. I give my sincere condolences as he walks me to the baggage claim. We shake hands and say Merry Christmas. Then it’s off to the Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
They’re out of Ford Fusions, so I’m upgraded — at no additional cost — to a Midnight Blue Dodge Charger SXT. The engine roars as I speed out of the rental lot. Jim waves to me from the terminal. I wave back, my hands now inexplicably clad in a pair of fine Italian leather gloves.
My actual arrival
I stumble out of the jetway, groggy and covered in a thin film of dried sweat. There’s drool on my Slimer sweatshirt and at some point between West Palm Beach and Detroit I seem to have developed a sore throat. Jim is nowhere to be found.
I check my voicemail and find two messages left by my mom. In the first she tells me that she’s left early and is now parked in the cell phone lot. The second goes: “Hey Al! Did you land yet? I brought the van because I didn’t know how much stuff you were bringing. Call me when you get this!” Both were left over an hour ago.
My imagined night on the town with old friends
I enter the old pool hall I once patronized on weekends home from college to find it’s been converted to a gastro-pub that serves only local brews. I order a Ghettoblaster and tip my hat to a framed portrait of Bob Seger. I realize that the bartender is the younger sister of a girl I used to date. She informs me that my ex is actually here also, then points to a table comprised of every girl I’ve ever gone out with. I pick up my beer and head their way.
“Hello ladies,” I say. “It’s strange to see all of you here.”
“Even me?” says Amanda C., my sixth-grade girlfriend who I swore I’d write when she moved to the next town over but never did. “I totally forgive you by the way.”
I thank her and bid adieu to the others, who seem a bit… what’s the word… awestruck? As an afterthought, I tell Marissa over my shoulder that she should give Jim another chance. Then I make my way to a corner booth where my best friends are all sitting, laughing. They boom a collective “There he is!” when they see me coming. King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” begins to play from an antique jukebox.
My actual night on the town with old friends
I call each of my friends asking for a ride to the bar, but no one wants to pick me up. By the time I secure transportation — and we figure out where we’re going — it’s after ten o’clock. Everyone agrees that it would be better if we just went to James’ house and played Rock Band.
My ride and I stop at a liquor store on the way there and pick up a case of Coors Light. While we wait in line to pay, one of my exes walks in and we have a forced conversation about a band we used to mutually enjoy. We both hate them now, and I think I hear her mutter “asshole” under her breath as she walks away.
My imagined rest of the trip
I’m awesome and good-looking and my family is really impressed that I moved away and (sort of) became a writer.
My actual rest of the trip
Everyone’s more interested in my cousins’ two newborn babies — and no one will try the ceviche I made.