You Can’t Cheat Death

The results were in and, as everyone feared, it was not good. Very not good. Months. Maybe a year. No more.

“Be strong.” “We can get through it.” Which made no sense since one can’t get through death. One can’t cheat death by getting really good at chess. It’s there when it’s there and it was a lot closer than anyone had reason to think it would be to someone in his teens.

It was a one-off the prior summer. They met when they crossed paths. He was hitching north to Maine, she south to New York. He lost his virginity to her in the bathroom of a diner just west of Hartford. That was last summer.

This would be his last. He texted her. This year she was heading west from her home in Boston. She was thinking of Montreal, but could go through Albany and maybe catch a ride straight through the Adirondacks to the Canadian border. Maybe they could meet somewhere in Western Mass.

He didn’t tell her about the very not-good test results.

When he told his folks, they were shocked. “Please stay here with us.” “Let us at least drive you.”

“No,” he said, “This is my last road trip and I want it to last. I’ll be back in a month.”

After the hugs, he headed out the door and turned to wave. No one knew whether he’d be back.