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Requiem: 1993 // by C. Mathaus S. (January 2018)

I’m in the dark with music playing quietly when I hear the distinctive call of a car horn. For a second I don’t want to respond. I just want to stay in the dark and not look at anything. But I know that horn, and I know its owner as well. That knowledge is enough to stir me to action, albeit slowly. I pull myself up from my trench of self-pity and quietly leave my room, also leaving the turntable running on its endless spinning journey.

Downstairs I can hear the TV, but nothing else. She must be asleep by now. I think for a second about going in to see if she is, but I know better than to punish myself further. If she’s asleep, leave her. If she’s awake, leave her. There's no difference either way.

The air outside is humid. I can feel the moisture coalesce on the skin between my fingers. Macy is leaning against the hood of her convertible, checking her nails. She looks at me and sighs.

“What was it this time?” She asks indifferently. “Bach or Handel?”

I look at her with a passive expression. “Mozart."

“Mmm-hmm.” She nods at the vehicle. “Get in the car. Let’s drive, and you can talk it over.”

I get in. She turns the key, and the engine purrs to life. I concentrate on the feel of the wind on my face as she pilots us out of the neighborhood. The air once warm becomes pellucid and cool. Its effect is more soothing than I would have thought.

“When exactly were you thinking of telling anyone?” Macy shoots me a crosswise glance and guns her car onto the main road. “We’re not exactly imbeciles, you know.”

I think about a response for a while. The unfortunate thing about being friends with Macy is that she sees through every excuse. It’s impossible to fool her.

"I don't know," I say. "It's all been so... sudden."

"I'll give you that." She shakes her head. "Every time, it's as sudden as can be. You almost think you'd get used to it."

"You can't get used to that, Macy."

"Per se."

I recognize she's trying to lead me somewhere. "What? How can I get used to it, Macy? How does that ever become normal?"

"I actually think it will be normal eventually," she says. "Maybe not for you, but definitely for the nation. Our culture. I think we'd be lying to ourselves if we didn't believe the statistics."

"And the statistics say what?" I ask.

"As X approaches positive infinity, Y is also approaching positive infinity."

"Oh, come on, Macy." I sigh. "No math. Please."

"It's getting more common."

"It's becoming more common."

"Whatever, Grammar Nazi." She laughs and shakes her head again. It's good to hear some kind of happiness what with how my life is right now. "Did you hear about Cobain?"

"What about him?" I try to guess what she's getting at before she says it. "I heard he was arrested. Something about a domestic dispute or something."

"Fight with his wife." Macy has always maintained a sturdy dislike of Courtney Love. "Had to put him in jail to cool him off. Those two are going to divorce soon."

"Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love are not exactly harbingers of society," I say. "Just look at them."

"I think they do reflect our society, actually." Macy frowns at the road. "Or at least, our generation. The generation you and I come from. They're acting as role models that I'm not sure we need to have."

I consider. "What about Bach?"

"Long, long, dead, man. He doesn't matter at all to this generation."

"He matters to me," I say quietly. She shoots me another glance, this time with the frown more pronounced. I don't say anything else, though. I don't want to delve into the painful subject, even though I know that glance was a preparation for the dive.

"So where's your Daddy off to?" Macy asks carefully. I leave a long pause before responding. I still don't want to talk about this.

"Virginia," I say finally. "Desk job with Newport News."

"The warship manufacturer?" She whistles. "Wow."

There's another pause. She stares at the road, suddenly subdued.

"You going with him?" She asks quietly.

I look at her sadly. "I don't know. They haven't gotten to that part yet. I don't want to go, but if I stay with her..."

"It's not good." She nods. "You think she'll finally go off the rails without him."

"She's already going off the rails." I shake my head. "We've had fights I'd never even dreamed were possible. We are still related, aren't we?"

"Yeah. Heck yeah." Macy nods. "That's what makes it worse. Fight with a stranger, bust his nose in, walk away. Fight with a relative, walk away, wake up the next day, and there they are. It's hard. It's real hard."

"Really hard."

"I don't even know if that was you agreeing with me or correcting me." She laughs again. "But it makes me smile when you do it. Don't stop. Me and my grammar are a glorious work in progress."

"I can give you an amen to that." I watch the cornfields go by and put a hand up over the top of the windshield to feel the air. I'm like a dog enjoying the feel of the wind on a road trip. "She doesn't do much more than sleep these days."

"It's understandable."

"He doesn't do much more than drink these days."

"Equally understandable." Macy seems to notice how I'm enjoying the wind. The car picks up speed. "Neither is acceptable, but I can understand both. Actually, the drinking runs in the family." She laughs, "My dad does it too, from time to time. They're just reacting to stress in the best way they know how. When you think about it, each of your parents has just found a way to escape life. The one sleeps it away, the other drinks it away. And you, my friend, apparently prefer to Mozart life away."

I've never thought of that as escaping life. Mozart's Requiem Mass is certainly self-pity, but an escape mechanism? No. That's never occurred to me.

"Is there anything wrong with escaping life?" I ask.

"Wrong?" She thinks. "I guess it's a question of what you believe. If you're one of those people who thinks that you're 'on this Earth for a purpose,' then yeah, there's something wrong with it. You're escaping your purpose. If you don't believe that, then there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Life sucks and you're getting away from the pain."

"Oh." I look back at the cornfields. "I'm not sure which one of those I believe."

"Eh, me neither." She shrugs, and the car swerves. Thankfully there's no one else on the road, but it's enough to interrupt the conversation. "Um, if you're okay with a little less wind here, I'm going to stop doing an extremely dangerous 70 in a 55."

"Um, please." I didn't realize how fast we were going. "I'd rather not die today."

"Hey," She smiles. "That's what I like to hear. I just washed this thing anyway. I don't want to scratch it up by flipping it."

The thought of flipping on the highway in a convertible is enough to turn my stomach. I clench my jaw and force the thought out of my mind. "Where are we going?"

"Charlotte."

"Why Charlotte?" Macy hates that city. I'm not sure why she would ever purposefully enter its limits. "I mean, there are a thousand other places. Why Charlotte?"

"Symphony's playing at six. We're going to see if we can catch tickets." She shrugs, but the car remains steady. "I figured it'd be fun. A nice way to escape from life, you know?"

I'm pretty sure that was some form of irony, but I let it go. "I didn't bring any cash."

"Consider it on me, little cousin," she says. "We gotta do something to get you back in high spirits."

"Well, thanks."

"You're welcome. We'll find a phone and I'll call your Dad," she says with a nod. "I'll tell him you're with me. We'll grab tickets and then find somewhere to chill until the show starts. Sound good?"

"Yeah. Sounds good." I don't want to go home now anyway. I'm not sure if it is okay, but I want to escape life tonight. It feels good to have a way to do it, and it's certainly better than Mozart. The only problem is that I know that it will eventually end and I'll have to go back home. I don't relish that thought.

"I'm not sure if I can get through this, Macy," I say. She looks at me and smiles. I feels good to have someone smiling at me after all the negativity I've seen today.

"You'll get through it," she says. "People always adapt and survive. Sure, it won't be easy, but you'll make it. You're a tough kid. Even if you do end up moving up with them crazy Virginians."

"Those crazy Virginians," I correct.

"Yeah, whatever, Grammar Nazi." She ducks a look over her shoulder before changing lanes. "You'll get through it, and I'll be there to help you through."

"You promise?"

She nods. "I promise."

That doesn't sound so bad. I can see getting through this with her help. I still don't like it, but I see a way. That's better than I had when I was sitting in the dark listening to Mozart's Requiem.