The entire journey from the monastery to Atlanta took John twenty hours, he spent each minute of every one of them filled with dread. He had spent seven months in this place always in love with everyone and everything and every place and every meal. Every song literally sounded better. Food was richer. People, beautiful.
He started the day sitting on the bottom stair of the cement and tile foyer next to his suitcase and backpack. Still drunk at 7am, he had spent the entire night with his classmates in the “After Dark” cave under the abbey where a bar and pillow lounge seating had been set up. His right buttcheek was entirely purple from now many times he fell down the stairs coming back down from the bathroom.
They had a cute little hookah down there, a thousand carafes of wine, an acoustic guitar – if there were a text book about American study abroad students in the millennial era, this would have been photographed for the cover. One of the young men in the circle even had dreadlocks – white guy dreadlocks.
One trait specific to American study abroad students in the millennial era is their complete lack of respect for rules or order or planning and still managing to have everything work out. I state that as praise, fond memory, and hopeful expectation for the future.
Every minute of the return to Atlanta felt to John like one ominous note after the next in the death waltz into adulthood. Tick – get a job. Tock – get an apartment. Tick – contact friends. Tock – go see mom. Tick – buy groceries. Tock – pay bills.
And that voice behind even the tick tocking of monotony reminding him about that gay stuff like love, loving men, being in love with Buddy, waking up together and knocking on every door on their way down the hallway to wake up their friends so they’d come down and sit on the lawn. They’d drink wine, eat old baguette with cheese, smoke cigarettes, laugh about last night, pass a joint around, read passages from their books aloud to each other, and take naps. All day.
John spent eighteen years in Atlanta and seven months anywhere else and anywhere else was proving terrifying to leave.