The darkness of night has gathered and covered the central Utah landscape. The Saturn coupe we're driving smells like a mixture of Carson's sister and a distinct old-man smell - a fragrance to which we have become accustomed. St. George, Seattle, Boise, Idaho Falls, and now Newport Beach—Carson, the Saturn and I had done it all this summer, and this trip was to be the last of our adventures. The strangely soft leather of the seats, the little amount of light in the cab, the hum of the small engine working hard to take us somewhere different, had become our preferred break from the stress of work and school.
Although this was intended to be our last hurrah of sorts, the drive is unmistakably disparate. As A$AP Rocky's braggadocio and lyrics come through the speakers as they have all summer, instead of singing along with all the confidence of a drug-dealer-turned-rap-star we sit mostly in silence. Personally, I enjoy a break from talking now and again, but this is more than just lack of spoken word, it's a suffocating presence of churning thoughts and unexpressed concern. This consistency of thickness in the air is all-too familiar to me; it's been the climate for many of our midnight talks.
These conversations generally covered a variety of topics, from stress, work and college major choice, to depression and anxiety. Yet, this climate has never been a part of our trips s far. I take responsibility for part of the ill-fitting atmosphere as I contribute worry to the mounting tension. I fear that the discord present will consume the joy of our last adventure.
Though we might be only ten inches apart from each other in the cracked, tan leather seats I feel his mind isn't remotely proximate—inaccessible. Maybe he’s gone to visit the place where I’ve sent heavy, unpleasant thoughts in the past, where I thought his had been sent without forwarding address. I ask him what he's thinking about, what's eating him. I never really know ahead of time exactly what is going on in Carson's head I can anticipate what's to come. There’s a pause in his response.
"It's nothing," he claims.
Words I've heard before. Words I’ve said before. Words not too far from "I'm just feeling kind of confused" or "I don't know how to deal this stress" or "I don't feel like life is worth living at this point." In my head the phrase "it's nothing" directly translated to "help me."
I respond with a bit of a chuckle and remind him that it's never “nothing.” Usually by now I would have gotten at least gotten some kind of response from my friend, but I receive no reply. There are but little light coming from other roaming vehicles on the other side of the highway, and the land is as plain as it comes. Are we in Fillmore yet? Mumford and Sons has now made their appearance in our playlist, a more appropriate backing to our current situation with their sentimental poetry and songs of brotherhood, and we're still hours from our destination. After a short pause, which seemed much longer than the delay that only lasted a few minutes, Carson lets out a belabored sigh accompanied with "dude, I don't know what's wrong with me," and goes on to thin the air in the car. We talk about our personal discipleship, the difficulties of adulthood, self-control, self-esteem, and many other things. Topics of discussion not focused on before, which honestly I had not anticipated. Though familiarly dense, there is certain freshness to the sentiments shared.
As the words fly between, my worry subsides entirely and I feel instead the intangible yet perfectly solid connection between us. Not in the same way most people feel when they just “hang out” with their friends, but with the actual depth of a relationship shared by siblings in spirit; brothers that share no blood ties. Maybe this is because we are so very much the same, despite our differences. Maybe it’s because whenever we talk about these deep, personal parts of our lives and hearts we fuse another link in the bond of our friendship. Maybe it’s because, like Carson, I have worries and troubles and no one else to share them with. Maybe it’s because I am Carson, or Carson is me. No matter what the reason is, in this moment, we are one—such singularity I have never quite recognized, not even with my own brother. Rather than a swan song, this trip has become the opening act for another chapter of our lives.