“Thanks for picking me up,” he said, climbing into the passenger seat.
I said it was no problem. I watched him from the corner of my eye as we made our way down the barren road, there was no traffic. He leaned the seat back as far as it could go and was looking out the window, chewing on his thumbnail. I could tell he was young but couldn’t pinpoint his age.
I asked why he was out so late.
“Probably the same reason as you. I just had to get the hell out of the house for a while.”
I could understand that. And from the looks of his washedout complexion, it didn’t look like he got out much. His v-neck tshirt was ripped at the shoulder and his basketball shorts barely reached the top of his knees. I asked if he’d like to wear a sweater I kept in the backseat as the frosty October winds were making it very clear that summer was long over. He didn’t answer and gave no indication that he heard me. I still had not gotten a good look at his face, as he kept staring out the window and chomping on his nails.
We drove in relative silence while he occasionally pointed out directions when he sighed suddenly.
“Ya know, I had a crazy dream last night,” he said in a small tinny voice. “All of my teeth were falling out. They’d itch for a moment and I’d grab ’em with two fingers and they’d wobble. They’d slip out easy when I pulled, no pain, and I didn’t even flinch. And I just kept doing that one by one until my gums were bare.”
I said that sounded like an intense nightmare.
“I just remember thinking… how am I going to bite into an apple now? They keep the doctors away and I don’t trust them as far as I can long jump. How am I supposed to live if I can’t eat apples?”
I suggested baby food. A light laugh escaped from his lips and he quickly closed his mouth and furrowed his brow as if flustered, like a preteen who’s voice just cracked. He looked in my direction, only for a moment, but I still couldn’t quite make out his facial features, as if his face had a light onceover with the Photoshop Blur tool.
“Heh, that’s pretty funny…could have used your thought process then.”
I asked what happened next.
“Nothing. I woke up.”
I made the final turn down a street he pointed out and he told me the house number. I felt a twinge of familiarity while driving down the neighborhood but it didn’t fully hit me until I pulled into the driveway.
I had lived here for a few years long ago with my father and new family after he had remarried but left when things started getting complicated. The lawn was unkempt, a FOR SALE sign on the front door, and it was obvious no had lived here for quite some time.
I turned to the boy to ask what was going on
but he wasn’t there.