The next day, we awoke and prepared everything for our departure.
Back home, my friends and I would go camping once a year. And, every year, I would borrow a sleeping bag from one of them, and spend an hour and a half trying to force the thing back into its sleeve at the end of the trip.
As I stood in the middle of the room, looking at everyone else’s neatly-packed-away bag, and then at my own still-splayed-out-and-torn heap of blue fabric, I had flashbacks to about seven camping trips, wrestling with sleeping bags while my friends trekked down to the cliffs to hurl rocks into the lake. (We were easily amused.)
It seemed that I had improved since the last camping trip, as it only took me twenty minutes of swearing and sweating profusely to pack away the bag. It didn’t look pretty at all—a quarter of the bag still hung out of the sleeve like a limp noodle—but the damn thing was packed away. I walked into the living room, took the tea that was offered to me, and sat down with a sigh.
The Traveler, always the charming and pleasant one out of the group, thanked the Germans for having us around. He said that our flats were open to them any time—Canterbury, he further said, may not have been the most metropolitan of places, but some times, people need a bit of country to soothe the soul.
I stared at him, wondering how a person could be so talkative and so damn eloquent in the morning. It wasn’t fair.
Anyway, we all stood up and hugged. Nothing makes friends faster than crashing in someone’s house, going drinking with them, and then somehow traipsing out to Wales on accident.
I hugged Dee. She said, “Bye, loverman.”
“You’re not going to tell me what happened, are you?”
She smiled and said, “Nope.”
I nodded and shrugged. It’s fairly easy to resign oneself to ignorance.
We picked up all our stuff (which was quite minimal), said goodbye again, and walked out of the flat down to the car. The Traveler unlocked it, we put our bags in the boot, and got in.
“Son of a bitch,” said The Drunkard, getting into the back. “I forgot that you can actually spread yourself out back here.”
I followed suit. “No kidding.”
The Student popped the front seat into place, sat down, and said, “Honestly, I just want to get back to Canterbury, head to the Sub-Pope’s Flock, and have a pint.”
“First thing after getting back from a trip?” asked The Traveler as he got into the driver’s seat. “You’re turning British on us, aren’t you?”
The Student shrugged. “It’s a relaxing place, isn’t it?”
“What,” said The Drunkard, “this wasn’t a relaxing trip?”
“We did get attacked by Welsh nationalists.”
The Drunkard snorted. “You kidding me? We could’ve taken them.”
The Traveler started up the car and drove out onto the road. “How do you figure?”
“Dunno,” said The Drunkard. “But we could’ve.”
“Huh?” asked The Student. “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Americans,” said The Drunkard, putting on a gruff voice, “love a fight. We love to win. Frankly, I feel sorry fo—”
“Shut up,” said The Student. He grabbed a CD from the sleeve of our mixes, tossed it in the player, and the opening bars of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Suite played out of the speakers in the car. The Traveler drove us out onto the main road and towards the M-2.
“Oh come on,” said The Drunkard. He flung his head back on the headrest. “You’re wanting to play Vi-fucking-valdi on a car trip? Have you no knowledge of how these things go?”
“Oh,” said The Student, “God forbid that we have something pleasant to listen to on the trip instead of trash.”
“My music isn’t trash, you plebian,” responded The Drunkard. “It is as much of a musical entity than your precious Spring suite.”
“How? How is that possible? One of your songs is thirty seconds of cacophony brutalizing blues scales in such a way that makes any sane person yearn for the sweet embrace of death.”
“Punchbug green!” I shouted, bashing The Drunkard in the shoulder as a green VW Beetle drove past.
The Drunkard winced, glared at me, and said, “It is on, motherfucker. You shall rue the day.”
The Traveler looked at us through the rearview mirror as we pulled onto the M-2. “You are aware that Beetles are much less common over here than they are in the States.”
“Yes,” The Drunkard and I said in unison.
“Thus,” said The Traveler, “you will be vainly staring out of your windows for the two and a half hours we’re on the road.”
“Yup,” we responded, turning to our windows and peeling our eyes open.
“Just making sure,” he said. He turned the volume up and skipped to the last part of the Summer suite.
Alas, for the rest of the trip, we only saw one other Beetle. And, of course, it was on The Drunkard’s side of the car. He yelled, “Punchbug red!” cackled maniacally, and hit me so hard that my right shoulder was numb for three days. I learned right then never to play a car trip game with a grown man. But, aside from being semi-injured, the trip was pleasant and relaxing—no doubt because of The Student’s collection of classical music. There is, you see, something about listening to Vivaldi and Dvořák that squelches the urge to annoy people. (Also, we found that it is entirely possible to headbang to the last movement of Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony—which is always handy information.)