I hung out with a bunch of jocks in high school. I myself wasn’t an incredible athlete. I ran track and cross-country, but I lived to watch my friends compete. I and a couple other friends would drive all over the state of Iowa to support our classmates. It was football and volleyball in the fall, basketball and wrestling in the winter, baseball and softball in the summer. When we weren’t competing or cheering on the competitors, we aimlessly searched for some form of entertainment. Being athletes, we decided to steer clear of alcohol and drugs. In a flashback scene in television’s Lost, Season 1, Episode 22, Kate’s old friend Tom says, “No self-respecting man in Iowa goes anywhere without beer.” The writer of this episode, Javier Grillo-Marxuach, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. However, he must’ve spent some time in Iowa…because there is a significant amount of truth in Tom’s statement.
During the early 90s, teenagers in small-town Iowa drank beer. If you didn’t drink beer, you had to be extremely creative in order to navigate along the seas of boredom and depression. The train tracks was a place of despair and hope all wrapped up in one pleasant parallel package. It was here where we would complain about our problems and watch the sky in hope of seeing a shooting star to wish them away. Our virgin trip was innocent—when isn’t it? Peeing on cars was desultory—a need to relieve oneself while cars passed underneath. I suppose the sound of rubber on concrete can influence one’s bladder to where your new-found control is as if you’re a five-year-old entering a hot bath. The tracks crossed Highway 20—about two miles from our starting point. The highway was divided, giving us two advantages:
- Lots of traffic
- Limited possibility for the driver to retaliate
We would make our way to the end of the main drag where the old P & P gas station glowed under bright lights. Beyond the P & P was the gateway into the welcoming darkness, as if modern civilization disappeared immediately behind the small filling station. We stepped into the P & P and purchased our beverages of choice in order to prepare our bladders for their eventual targets. We began our journey to the bridge just behind the P & P. The trip always seemed short. Like a scene from Stand by Me, we would swap stories, taunt each other, or silently walk along the tracks while peering into the distant stars of the night sky. The sound of cars would pervade our ears as we approached the bridge. Our anticipation had reached its maximum; we were ready for war.
We would all carefully select our mark…a pickup, a Lincoln Continental, and the prize of all prizes—the famed eighteen-wheeler. Upon my turn to go, I kneeled down at the edge of the bridge and positioned myself for the initial strike. I was a trained sniper, and as my victim approached, I fired. The monotonous sound of water verses pavement was broken only for a moment with the intrusion of steel-glass-steel. I laughed and watched my victim disappear into the distance. Occasionally, brake lights would send out a warning that the driver had detected our presence. Often, the traveler would persist as if nothing had disturbed his weary passage. We’d chortle and sit down on the edge of the bridge. After a few jests, we’d all sit silently with our legs dangling off the bridge and ponder the day when we would all cross that bridge for good—the glorious day when we would escape the tedium of our little town and venture into the brave new world. While retreating from the battle lines, our conversations were deep and meaningful, and we would frequently throw rocks along the rails ahead—hoping to create a spark.