It was the only time my father, Cal, had ever condoned driving fast. It was a 45 mph zone, and I was already going 52.
"Come on, David, we HAVE to get a move on!"
I increased my speed to about 57 mph, praying that I wouldn't be pulled over.
As Cal and I merged onto the 101, I sped up to 65 mph and both Cal and I were comfortable there.
"So, where are you going?"
"I'm going to Israel."
"That's cool. Is this a trip with the school or something?"
Cal was silent.
"Cal, what the hell is going on?"
"Tell me what's going on or I will get off of this freeway at the next exit and I will turn around."
"It's not a short-term thing!"
I tried to digest it, but I kept hoping I had heard wrong.
"What do you mean it's not a short-term thing? How long of a term is it?"
My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And had it not been the cantankerous tone of my heart pounding against my chest, the prius would have been totally and completely awkwardly silent.
There was no music playing. My usual soundtrack of Coldplay and country music had ceased to exist during this excruciating car ride. I couldn't wrap my head around this. Cal had left before, but never to a foreign country, and certainly never to Israel.
"So, Cal, let me ask you something."
"WHY? Why the FUCK are you doing this? What the HELL are you RUNNING FROM?"
"Then why aren't you working it out like a MAN?"
"It's easier this way."
"Typical Cal. Always taking the EASY WAY OUT!"
"DAVID JUST FUCKING DRIVE!"
"Why? Why should I adhere to this, Cal? Am I an accomplice? Are you running from the law? It's not like it would surprise me."
"David, I said it was complicated. Why isn't that ENOUGH?"
"Because it tells me NOTHING!"
I would like to be able to say that Cal's behavior was surprising, but it wasn't. It was totally and completely expected.
Back at home, my sister Libby had come back home to help my mom get the house ready for the first night of Chanukah. Every year we hosted a party for the first night and invited all of our friends. I always looked forward to Chanukah; eight nights where I actually felt that my family wasn't so bad. Of course Cal had to screw everything up, just like he always does. It was so nice to have this dark cloud hovering over my favorite holiday.
After about a half hour of painful silence, we reached Sky Harbor Airport and I pulled up to the curb.
"By the way, the Prius is your's."
"Wow, there IS a silver lining!"
"David, please try to understand. This is--"
"Complicated? You told me."
Cal and I looked at each other for a moment. It was the first time him and I had truly seen each other for who we were. I saw him as a sad little man who knew only how to run away, and he saw a man who finally knew how to deal with things the right way.
"Take care of yourself, son."
"I've been doing it for awhile, Dad."
"You called me Dad."
"Well, it's the last time I'm ever going to see you, so why not?"
He hugged me and for some strange reason I hugged him back.
"Someday you will understand all of this, David."
"And someday I hope you will too."
I turned around to get back into the Prius, fighting back tears and anticipating that I would never look back, but--
I tearfully turned around.
"I almost forgot. This is a ticket for you. One day, when you do understand all of this, please come find me."
We went to our vehicles--me to my car, him to his plane--and neither of us ever looked back.
As I put the pirus in drive, I headed toward the "Cell Phone Parking Lot" and parked. As I watched the planes taking off and landing through a stream of fat, wet tears, I thought about destinations. Everyone is always going somewhere, whether it is another state, another country, or just the next class of the school day, we are always on the move. We are nomads in our natural form. Without a destination, we are just standing there with no purpose.
So as I took one final glance at the nomadic runway, I walked back to my car and headed home.
"That's it? He just left the country?"
"It sounds so simple, doesn't it?"
"I'm so sorry, David. Look, why don't you come over? My parents have been dying to meet you, anyway."
"I don't want to impose."
"David, you're my boyfriend. You wouldn't be imposing even a little."
"Okay, let me just text my mom and let her know what my plans are."
After receiving the okay from my mom, I headed over to Callie's house to meet her parents.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
Callie answered the door. It seemed like our coffee date with my ex, Joy, had been ages ago even though it was only about an hour previous.
We kissed and I almost felt better. Being with her made everything worthwhile. It was one of the reasons I loved her so much.
"David, these are my parents, Robert and Suzanne Anderson. Mom, Daddy, this is David Adler."
"Lovely to meet you, David."
"Yes, Calliope has told us so much about you."
I shook Robert'shand and Suzanne gave me a hug.
"Well I hope you're hungry. There's ravioli in the kitchen for you."
"Thank you so much, Mrs. Anderson."
"Oh, darling call me Suzanne."
"Okay. Well, thanks Suzanne."
Callie's parents walked into the kitchen and I looked at my girlfriend.
Suzanne was a phenomenal cook. Her ravioli alfredo was exquisite, as was her garlic cheesy bread. It was nice to spend time with a real family for once in my life.
"So David, Calliope tells us that you're a Jew?"
"I think that's quite wonderful, really."
How do you respond to that?
"Robert and I chose to raise Calliope in a non-denominational home. We believe in God, of course, but we don't feel that it is neccessary to put a label on it."
"If only the entire world didn't see a need to put labels on religion."
"That's exactly how we feel!"
"Calliope has never had a suitor who has actually agreed with us! Oh, Calliope you MUST keep him!"
"That's the plan."
Callie kissed me. I don't know why I was so surprised at how comfortable I was with her family. I felt so at home.
RING RING RING
I had received a text message from my mom telling me I had to go home, so I said goodbye to Robert and Suzanne after inviting them to the Chanukah party, and Callie walked me to my car.
"What did you think?"
"They are so great! I envy that."
"David, the rest of your family seems great. Just because your dad isn't great doesn't mean the rest of your family isn't. I can't wait to meet them on Friday night."
"I love you so much."
"I love you too."
We kissed once more and I drove back home.
School was a blur that week. We were preparing for our holiday concert in choir, we were on deadline in journalism, and I had a C in AP Government/Econ, but I couldn't seem to focus on anything. I couldn't even focus on Mark Adams' latest escapade, or the reactions from Michael Florence and Aaron Stanwick.
"She put her LEGS BEHIND HER HEAD!"
"I'm sorry, what?"
"Wow, you really are out of it."
"What's going on?"
I looked at my friends and took a deep breath.
"Cal's in Israel. And he's not coming back this time."
"Oh my God!"
"David, I'm so sorry."
"Stupid fucker. What is wrong with him?"
"It's okay, I'm over it."
And for the most part, I really was over it. I just couldn't figure out why he left. What was the big hurry? Why now? Why right before Chanukah?
"Leslie, over here!"
Michael's girlfriend, Leslie Lawrence, shot him a tearful look and walked away.
"Did you guys break up AGAIN?"
"I'll be right back."
Michael ran over to his girlfriend and wrapped his arms around her. She started bawling on his chest.
"Babe, what's going on?"
"I got a D on my English test!"
"And now I have a C in the class, and it's too late to bring it up to an A!"
"Babe, it's gonna be alright. You've already been accepted into plenty of schools."
"But what if they don't want me anymore?"
"Anyone who doesn't want you would be crazy!"
"Thank you, Michael. I'm sorry for freaking out, I've just--I've got a lot on my mind. I've gotta go though. I'll see you later."
Leslie walked off toward the parking lot so she could take advantage of her half day.
"I love you!"
Michael walked back toward us with a confused look on his face.
"What was that all about?"
"She's freaking out over an ENGLISH TEST!"
"It was a hard English test."
"That's not the point! She gives me this look of depression and then tries to just walk away from me? Is that normal?"
"I don't know if we're the best judges of normal relationships."
"You and Callie seem to be pretty normal."
"I don't know. I guess it's more normal than Joy and I ever were."
"Relationships are just abnormal in general. God intended for us to be fruitful and multiply, and how can we do that with one person?"
"Mark, you don't even believe in God."
"True, but if there was a God, he would know what he was talking about here."
DING DONG DING DONG
"Well, I guess I'll go hang out in Connolly's room until the day ends."
"It must be hard having a half day without being able to drive."
The days went by and my tone toward school remained apathetic. I had had senioritis since I was in 4th grade, but I had never had it this badly. All I could think about was the ticket to Israel and the visions of the planes taking off and landing. I thought about the look in Cal's eyes when I called him dad, the feeling of weakness as I hugged him goodbye, and the feeling of strength as I walked back toward the car. I had changed so much over the past few years. Maybe it's just something that comes with age.
Friday finally came and at approximately 5:30 PM, our guests began arriving. Mom's colleagues from work flooded the room with "Linda, I love your hair!" and "Lin, your decorum is SO CUTE!" Then Jake's friends, who were all female, were aflutter over his new pea coat. Then, my friends came. Michael was the first to arrive.
"Hey, Dave. Happy Chanukah."
"You too, I guess. Where's Leslie? I figured you guys would carpool here."
"No, she said she wanted to bring herself here, and in her current emotional state, I don't want to do anything to set her off. Where's Callie?"
"She's coming with her parents. She should be here soon."
And as if by clockwork--
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
"Hey! I brought some jelly doughnuts. I understand that's a popular thing to have during Chanukah."
"Thanks. Hello Suzanne, Robert."
"Good to see you, son."
I introduced them to my mom and the three of them went into the kitchen to have an adult conversation.
Soon after, Mark and Aaron arrived, as well as Mal Wales, who had become a pretty good friend since choir retreat.
"Not too shabby, Adler."
"Why thank you. I like having a nice place to come home to. Have you met Callie?"
"I have not. Mallory Wales, my friends call me Mal."
"Nice to meet you, Mal."
After we lit the Shabbat candles, and then the Chanukah ones, the festivities were underway with songs, dancing, and eggnog (I know, it's not a traditionally Jewish thing, but it's damn good).
At around 7:25, we heard the doorbell ring.
"I'll get it."
I opened the door to a crying Leslie Lawrence.
"Leslie, are you okay?"
"Can you get Michael please?"
I went back inside and found Michael, who immediately made a b-line to my front door. They walked toward the sidewalk.
"Babe, what's the matter?"
"I know, the party started at 5:30, but you're here now, so--"
"No, Michael. I'm late."
"What--Oh my God. Um, how late?"
"About five days. I don't know what to do!"
Michael wrapped his arms around his girlfriend.
"Everything's gonna be okay. Let's just go to the drug store and get a pregnancy test."
Michael came back inside to tell me that him and Leslie were leaving.
"Is everything alright?"
"Yeah, Leslie's just not feeling too good."
"Okay, well tell her I hope she feels better."
So Michael and Leslie left, unbeknownst to us that they were about to find out something that would tremendously affect their lives forever.
Meanwhile, Aaron came up to me.
"Hey, have you seen Mark?"
"Come to think of it, no I haven't seen him since he got here."
"Wow, I've never done it in a coat closet before."
"I know, it's definitely different. So what's our escape route?"
"Um, okay, you go out first and say that you thought you were going to powder your nose but you forgot your powder in your jacket?"
"Um, I don't powder my nose."
"None of these people know that."
"Okay, what about you?"
"I'll wait about 15 minutes and then I'll say I was looking for the gift that I'm giving David."
"Oh, what'd you get him?"
"Nothing, but they don't know that."
"For someone who's never had sex in a coat closet before, you sure know a lot about escaping."
"I've fucked in a lot of other really odd places. Remind me to tell you about it some time."
"Will do. Anyway, um, great sex, and I'll see you later."
Mal emerged from the coat closet and bumped right into me.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, David. I was just looking for my powder so I could powder my nose."
"Um, okay then. Have fun with that. Hey, where's your purity ring?"
"Oh, must have fallen out somewhere. Oh well."
She walked away and the party continued. About 15 minutes later, I finally found Mark.
"Mark! Where were you?"
"Um, in the bathroom. Latkes didn't sit well in my stomach."
I tend to not ask questions when it comes to Mark. It keeps life much simpler.
At around 9:30, all of mom's friends started leaving, and then at around 11, Jake's friends were being picked up. So by 11:30, it was just Callie, Mal, the guys, and I. Mom, Suzanne, and Robert were still in the kitchen talking. It felt good to just be sitting with my friends and my incredible girlfriend drinking hot chocolate and talking. It was the first time life had seemed remotely perfect all week.
There's no way to live a life of complete perfection, because there's no such thing as perfection. If anyone ever reached perfection, than they would have no way of improving themselves. They would not be normal. But sitting and chilling with the people that I loved was very normal. It was the most normal occurrance since Cal left.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
I walked to the door, hoping that it would be Michael and Leslie coming back to the party to have some cocoa. I had hoped that it was Joyturning her "Maybe" reply to a "Yes". I even hoped that it might have been Cal with an apology that he would have rehearsed the entire ride back from Israel. I hoped and I hoped and I hoped, but in the end it was the last person I had hoped would show up.
I opened the door to a woman in her early 30s, and a little girl with long blonde hair and blue eyes.
"May I help you?"
"I'm looking for Cal Adler."
"He doesn't live here anymore. Um, who are you?"
I knew as soon as I muttered those words I would live to regret it.
"My name is Lucy Greer, and this is my daughter Maya. You must be David."
I couldn't respond. I was too distracted by the noise of my heart pounding against my chest like a mallot on a bass drum.