Brian woke that morning feeling edgy, like something huge was going to happen any second – something dreadful. The lack of control into a potential disaster made him anxious.
He’d eaten a large breakfast so the jitters weren’t from hunger. And the tension couldn’t be the result of pent-up energy, because he went for a run that morning.
Was he getting sick? He hoped not. Summer had just begun. The end of another school year was upon him. He was psyched to break free and submerge into some serious R&R. Between finals and training for the regional cross-country championship, he was ready to take things light. Being laid-up on the coach because of a stupid cold wasn’t his idea of relaxing.
“Yo, Brian – let’s do this!” His audacious friend, Pete called from a Miata.
Brian waved from the confines of his car, parked in the driveway of his house. He’d been rummaging through the backseat for climbing shoes. Finally spotting the bright-yellow swede beneath his raincoat, he snatched them up then jogged to Pete’s impatient, idling convertible.
His friend coaxed him into going to the rock-wall gym when all Brian was seeking to do that afternoon was lounge by his pool. Pete had a talent for manipulation though – he offered to pay and drive. So whether it was bribery or Pete’s uncanny influence over people, Brian agreed to the invite, mainly to shut him up. If he had refused, Pete would inevitably rag him a pussy the entire summer.
“Dude – you look wired.” The lanky blond noted Brian’s edgy appeal.
Flashing Pete a soulful glance, Brian wasn’t up for going into the depths of his bizarre mood, especially with a friend who probably wouldn’t care.
He changed the subject. “Which rock gym are we going to?”
Pete accelerated down Route 128 like his life depended on it, tailgating and weaving through traffic. It was road-ragers like him that gave all Bay State drivers the disreputable prestige of Masshole.
“Rock Hard in Peabody is the closest.” Pete turned to Brian, never pulling back to face the priority of the road.
“Eyes forward, lunatic!” Brian yelled, half-serious in his hysteria.
Pete ignored his friend’s demand, adjusting his eyes back to the windshield as if there was nothing wrong with his driving etiquette.
“Remember,” Pete blathered back to the topic of their destination. “This gym offers indoor and outdoor climbing. I say we stick to the walls outside. Then we’ll get to see the chicks in sports bras.”
Brian wasn’t offering much in the way of attention. A low ringing erupted in his ears, and was gradually increasing in momentum. With his head propped on a palm resting against the window, Brian found himself cringing over the gushing wind and intense sunlight severing his eyesight. He’d wished Pete hadn’t opened the convertible top.
An unnatural hammering seemed to pummel his head. It was as if all his senses were being temporarily blocked. Too distracted by the anomaly to make heads or tails, he forced his brow to a sharp ripple to nullify the pain.
“Dude, you’re not going all soft on me, are ya?” Pete’s salty pitch jolted Brian back to consciousness.
In an instant, the buzzing in his head and blinding landscape crashed into extinction. His hearing and sight were no longer besieged by some unknown cause.
“What?” Brian’s confusion meant nothing to Pete’s dire observation skills. “What did you say?”
“Girls, man. What else do I talk about? What are you no longer interested in scoring?”
Brian snorted. “When have I ever been as desperate as you?”
While Pete recoiled like an imbecile laughing-hyena over this zinger, calling him short-bus in retaliation, Brian quickly attempted to make some kind of sense of what just messed with him.
Was he having some kind of seizure? A stroke? Probably not – he’d never been diagnosed an epileptic, and he was too young to be stroking.
Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night. His mind continued to muse. He felt too high-strung to be tired.
Finally he chalked it up as a fluke. After climbing for an hour he’d have wasted any possible excess energy, and would be back to normal.
But the gnawing feeling that he might be wrong on all accounts, sloshed in his stomach like sour milk. Because of this relentless uncertainty, he constantly peered over his shoulder, jolted when loud noises hit, and remained completely distracted – anxiously anticipating some freak event to blast out of nowhere.
But nothing ever did.