Midnight Drive, Lake Bemidji
I am dysfunctional. I don’t drive. There is something about sitting in a giant, speeding metal box that doesn’t appeal to me, and all of my friends have been driving so long that they can’t teach me anyway. I’m also great at making excuses.
This friend drives a Jeep. I don’t want to die in a Jeep, but I don’t want to go home either, so I tell her to take the long way and smile when she starts to head out of town. “This is spontaneity. This is living,” I think as I rest my head on the seatbelt, but then she takes a left turn, and I know it’s just a little drive in the dark around the lake. You can’t even see between the trees half the time, but anything is better than where I was headed originally.
She keeps her clean laundry in a basket in the backseat, and the whole car smells like fabric softener. It makes me comfortable and tired. I want to tell her that I could fall asleep right there in the passenger seat, but I don’t want her to feel like this trip was a waste, so I try to sing along with the radio instead. When I realize that I don’t know any of those songs, I feel strange and somehow sad, and I stare at the houses with their lights on and wonder instead about those people awake so late. Every once in a while, there is finally a break in the trees, and I can see the white snow on the lake glowing faintly in the dark. In the summer, it will just look black. I watch my friend shift gears and picture myself in the driver’s seat, leaving this town at midnight and being somewhere else by morning.
Friendly Game Night, Bemidji
Game night with a few friends? What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like we’ve done this before and had bad results or anything. And even if we had, we’re all mature enough to learn from our mistakes, so I’m sure this one will go much better.
Pictionary? Sure, why not start with the classic. Seems this game is always being talked about here. I think I find it less fun than they do, but no need to be a stick in the mud. Oh, you’re my partner? Cool. No, no, we don’t need to pick again, it’s cool. Three rounds in and we’re already getting too competitive. Well, we’d be ahead if you knew what the fucking MetLife building looked like.
My turn: draw a river using only my left hand. Easy. Just make a bunch of wavy lines. Air? No. Wind? No. Come on, time is running out. What else is there to draw for a river? The riverbank, I guess. Pudding? Seriously, we’re almost out of time. Oh wait, maybe people by the riverbank? Hang on, hang on. Time’s up. Are you serious? It was a river. Yes, how is that not a river? It’s water. That’s the riverbank, genius. Oh shut up. Play something else? Please.
Jenga? How do we do team Jenga? We go around in a circle like normal, and if she tips the tower over, I lose too? That’s stupid. Fine, whatever. We go around the circle a few times, and I can already tell this was a bad idea. As if we needed more stress in the room. I’m pulling the ones out from the middle because they’re easier. Life isn’t always about challenging everything you do. Why do you have to complicate everything like that? Whatever, it’s your turn. Just take one from the middle, what’s wrong with you? No, no don’t. This is so stupid. I shouldn’t lose because of that. Drinks? Yeah, why don’t we?
A few shots later, and I’m feeling better, but you’re still bitching like always. Are you seriously trying to make a metaphor for us out of the Jenga tower? How many have you had? No, that has nothing to do with Jenga or anything we’ve done tonight.
What? You’re the one yelling. This is so stupid. Fuck off. Hey dude, can you give me a ride home? Thanks, man. Yeah, I am leaving! Fuck you, too!
Just a fun little game night with some friends. I mean, who doesn’t know what the stupid MetLife building looks like?
Blue Ox, Bemidji
I am a homebody, but at the same time I can’t stand missing out on what happens when people go out. It’s just the people. I need to be with the people, and if the people go out, that is where I go. I like cutting loose in a more chill setting, but if I’m drunk I can embrace the bar. Needless to say, I always get drunk before I go.
When we walk into the bar I am surprised at how crowded it is. On band nights there are usually people, but not this many.
“What’s with all the moldy oldies?”
“The rodeo is in town,” Rachel replies, and this is immediately confirmed when I spy an older lady in a red leather-fringe top.
“Beer,” I say to Rachel and then split away. There are a good many people we know around. It feels like we are at a house party of our friends, but there are a bunch of people hanging around who don’t matter.
I wiggle my way through bodies, stand against the bar and wait on the busy tenders to order my pitcher. Feeling a tap on the shoulder, I turn around and next to me is my friend, Hottie Tottie.
“Hottie Tottie!” I say in a Minnesotan way, like “Hoddie Toddie.”
He’s high. I’m drunk, and judging by the stupid smiles we have, we’re both living happily. Once I am established with Hottie, I immediately get service because all employees at Blue Ox know him.
I get my pitcher filled with the cheap beer I like, but they are so busy the bartender forgets to offer me a cup. I don’t really care. The pitcher is basically only for me, and other friends who want some can just swig off of it. I just grab a straw and walk over to where people I know have placed their coats.
I stand around a little awkwardly for a bit while I drink beer. I don’t like working to establish myself in conversations, which is why I like being at home. I like being with a small group of people where it’s all about the talking and not the game of conversing.
Once I feel like I have been standing still too long, I say fuck it. I join the dance floor and hop around. I’m not a good dancer, but that doesn’t matter. I’m not social, but that doesn’t matter. I spin and I jump and I flail. I smile at my friends and they smile back as they do the same.
Toni Judnitch is a triple major in creative and professional writing, English, and philosophy at Bemidji State University; she will pursue her MFA at Southern Illinois University. Ryan Heilman is a writer, eater, and continuous sleeper. Pauli Meinecke will graduate from Bemidji State University in May.