We rolled into Memphis the day after a week of heavy rains. The river swelled against its banks, and again I had to fight the urge to leave the van, to leave my friends and just start walking towards the river, and keep walking until the muddy water covers my head.
“What’s with you?” Ty said, just after slapping me in the back of the head. “You look like a zombie.”
I turned towards him just as he lets loose with a manic giggle. Truth be told, Ty is the one that looks like a zombie. He’s been driving for the last six hours, a during which time I watched him consume two cans of red bull and eat two large Snickers bars. There’s only three living kids still traveling with us, and all three of them seem to regard ferrying the rest of us around the country as some sort of holy mission. There’s an odd sort of symmetry among the three—Ty, Chris and Kyle all wear hats or bandannas, all three have tattoos on their mountain-bike hardened calf muscles, muscles which are always visible because all three wear cargo shorts constantly. All three are addicted to the new Stone Sour CD (Ty, when the others are asleep, will sometimes put Hendrix’s “Valleys of Neptune” on the dashboard. They are the sort of athletic, easy going sort of guys that you can totally picture running two dozen miles over rough terrain to get medicine to an injured party lost in the woods. They are the guys you’d want with you in a fight.
“Sorry,” I said to Ty. “I’ll try and look more alive.”
Ty laughed his jangly laugh and tapped me on the back of the head again. Affectionately, I think. Ty was a basketball player; that’s what basketball players did on their way to the bench, tap each other on the head. Before my one-play football career with the Oakvale Badgers, I’d been a baseball player. I think the basketball guys had the better idea.
“We going to try and find Elvis?” Ty said. “I hear he's dead like you.”
“Funny,” I said. “I think his followers believe he never died, which is a little different.”
Ty shrugged. Kyle and Chris were helping our dead friends out of the van—for some reason they thought stretching was as beneficial for us as it was for them.
We made a few stops. Most everywhere we went people were supportive and kind. A girl gave Chris her phone number. An elderly couple brought three dead kids to us and asked that we take them with us, which we were glad to do. The girl who gave Chris her phone number painted a hot pink heart on the side of the van and I started thinking that the world had possibilities again.
We went to the Lorraine Hotel before we left town for D.C. The hotel is a museum now, and if you don’t know what it is and what happened there you need to look it up on Wikipedia. Hard to believe that happened within my mother’s lifetime.
On to Washington. Wish us luck.