Lewis and Gina awakened after a quick nap. He felt a little bad about not re-joining the party.
“Believe me,” said Gina, “no one expects you to…no hard feelings!”
They met his dear friend Chris at the Waffle House later for warm congratulations. He explained how he’d called out from work and gotten a replacement for his shift, then spent the next four hours trying to get to the wedding on time.
It wasn’t much time to get to know the bride, but Chris felt a genuineness about her. She was bright, too, and the three had many a good laugh. Their party felt very natural with Gina along.
“Remember my friend, Von Balasuriya?” asked Lewis. “He called to congratulate us. I don’t even know how he found out! Maybe my sister.”
“My friends LOVED that guy when he visited me,” said Chris. “He almost kept up with me, partying!”
“Great! You know Baby Aries is always up for a new journey.”
“I can guarantee,” Lewis replied, tongue-in-cheek, “next time I’m asleep on the passenger side, I won’t wake up from an Amaretto-induced nap yelling while you’re passing an eighteen wheeler in the rain!”
“Dang it!” said Chris, laughing. “I thought we were dead. It’s maybe the one time I thought of killing you myself!”
“Since I got to legal age, I’ve hardly drank anymore,” said Lewis. “I’ve had like, four beers! But we had some fun in those days. Oh!” he said, turning to Gina, “this was when he visited me at college and drove me home for the holidays. Poor guy. One of a few idiot things I’ve done.”
“You didn’t mean to,” Chris replied. “But if you do it again, I’ll open the door and let you out, no matter how fast we’re going! Ah, that was the year of the Christmas Adam party, complete with streakers and that amazing hunch punch you made that got Heather and Ed dancing in handcuffs.”
“Now this boy and I,” Lewis said with a pat, ”used to take home leftover fried chicken wings and go cruising til all hours. One call and they never gave me any hassle about spending the night. His Mom loves me. Mom and Dad never gave me any trouble over hanging out with Chris. We never hurt anybody. I don’t think they knew about the sign changing, though.”
The guys burst out laughing.
“Don’t get me wrong,” said Lewis. “He and I had so many thought provoking conversations, about being yourself, finding your own way. Maybe I was too hard on the society around me; I just found it frustrating that people couldn’t raise the level of discourse.
“But dining roo og made it all better,” said Painter. “Our manager Johnny sounded so perfectly confused when he found what I’d left of the ‘dining room’ and ‘to go’ sign!”
“Yeah, I’ve got to catch her up on all those exploits,” said Lewis. “But maybe it all started the night I stayed over and messed with your Mom’s message board on the fridge.”
“Feed Michael to the Cats!” Painter said with a guffaw. “Spade Weldon!”
“That’s Chris’ brother and his now-step dad, by the way,” said Lewis.
“Look, those two are getting married this spring, themselves!” said Chris. “They’re going to have it out at his new house on the golf course on highway twenty seven. The sixth hole is actually their backyard, basically!”
“I don’t know when we’re leaving to stay,” said Lewis, “but if we’re in town, you know we’ll be there!”
“I meant to ask,” said Lewis, in one of the lingering interruptions. “You like that Joni Mitchell I loaned you?”
“Oh, yeah!” said Chris. “You know me. Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, all that, forever! Anything from my Mom’s era. I listen to that album at night, before I go to sleep!”
“It’s ‘Green,’ just like my first R.E.M. album---you know the one with ‘World Leader Pretend’ and ‘Inside Out’?” said Lewis to Gina.
“It didn’t have ‘Losing My Religion,’ did it?” she queried. “My Mom loves that song. She used to sing along with that video every time it came on! She calls it ‘the Losing My Religion song.’ It’s too funny listening to her sing it, because she’s kind of tone deaf!”
“She probably grew up with that expression, too,” said Lewis. He wondered what significance it carried for a former minister’s wife. Then again, it had a nifty mandolin and a haunting use of d minor, set to a cool rhythm. Maybe that was the appeal!
“Nah, that one’s on the next record, ‘Out of Time.’”
“My brother had them all, I think!” said Gina. “His band used to play a cover of ‘Superman.’ They borrowed my dad and uncle’s equipment and jammed out in the garage!”
“Ooo, I know that one!” beamed Painter. “I am, I am, I am Supermaaan…”
Everyone sang along. “And I can do anyyy-thing!”
“The smash hit off ‘Green’ was ‘Stand’ actually,” said Lewis. Painter and Gina did an imitation of the facing directions dance from that video next.
“Haha, the ‘Green’ I’m talking about is Joni Mitchell’s. You know ‘Wish I Had a River’?”
“Oh, yah!” she said sparkily. “The Indigo Girls did a cover of that!” She sang a little part of it, beautifully.
“Yah, thanks for that one,” said Painter. “Seriously, I was sleeping to it every night.”
“I liked sleeping to that one, too,” said Lewis, warmly. “I like that song ‘Carey’ too, but it’s mostly a dreamy kind of record. I just knew when I got back from Colorado, I wanted to hear all the great song writers, so I bought Carol King, Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Beatles…a lot of stuff I already liked, but I really tried to absorb them. And now, I play guitar…sorta!”
“I used to sing in the chorale,” said Chris. “I only do it as a goof now!”
“What, sing in the chorale?” said Gina, jokingly. “I did that in high school, too. We did this chorale version of ‘Great Balls O’Fire’ that was like, totally NOT what Jerry Lee Lewis intended!”
When she mentioned the school production of Grease, Painter flipped. It was without question his favorite movie of all time. Sometimes Lewis wondered if Chris wouldn’t be perfectly happy diving head first into the screen while “American Graffiti” played, straight into his own ’57 Chevy.
Gina gave Chris Painter a hug before he finally got on the road. They told each other goodbye three times, and took half an hour to break up the party. As always.