Justin is fearless in his old, purple sweatshirt, snowflake-cotton hat with clashing baggy pants. (He was dressed this way last weekend when I met him at the house to take off for Mott college, because he didn’t care that particular morning. He didn’t know any better to look any more composed, and it was genius.) Usually, though, he just lazes around in generic sweatpants and socks without anyone to impress. His bony structure makes him appear more sculpted than grown, and when he moves it is with the driving power of his mind over any other force.
A golden, glowing moment, oh, way back when: He was at the kitchen table, telling Mandi many a story about jail time and Latino blood. With one arm leaned against the wooden dresser holding all of the family photos, he shifted his weight to his left leg and put a cigarette to his mouth. Looking ahead at nothing in particular, he squinted his eyes as he directed his thoughts in just what was a few seconds of silence and it was at that shirtless moment that my mind took a snapshot of Justin.
He’s always talking about the days he was “built”, leaving room to insinuate that his own image is not to him what it once was. Everything that was scandalous and exaggerated with heartfelt intention (something people fail to recognize about his tendency to bullshit- he has an artists’ scope on visuals) reflected off from his skin. His pale blue eyes suggest a deeper shade, long-since drained, half-draped by tired eyelids. It was a very overlooking stance that night, and rather commanding at the time of topics only he could tell of. More often than exchange, Jay will share his unheard-of stories with me and this control over conversation makes him powerful.
More often times than not, Justin is informative this way. I never know what he’s talking about and insist he take a moment to drop back to the knowledge level of learning to explain to me what, say, 350 SS means exactly or what a block *is* before I am to comprehend how it becomes cracked, and understand why that would be a bad thing. When he believes in me and suggests I have an answer but do not realize it, he’ll throw out the first syllable or tell me how many guesses I have. This reminds me of the history teacher that forced our brains to turn for ourselves in high school. Another common tactic is putting me in his shoes by asking, “How would *you* feel, this or that-a way, if so-and-so was so forth?” in an ever successful attempt to insist on the emphasized passion of the matter.
The other day, he was talking about what makes something a living thing in application to his Chevelle. “It takes in air and breathes it out just like we do. It takes in transmission fluid…” he instructed, taking a firm stand on his belief that a car has genuine life and should be realized on the same level as a plant, creature or person. This comparison helped to further develop my perspective of the city’s Cruise, which is another chapter in itself. When I was in Saginaw, I was learning facts from ancient textbooks. Since I have been to Flint, every fact is new, in use and I haven’t skipped a single lecture since.
Not Your Highschool Cruise
I used to be in bed by 10. This generalization is meant to insinuate everything you might assume from it. I am forever running along, making up an understanding of Humanity. It’s more than I can say for the majority of individuals who cling to their rules and never grow anything but older. In my past, it was always better to be driven than drive. I don’t care if you call it “overprotected,” “sheltered”, (cue flashes of me, sitting at a tabletop surrounded by homework as bumping cars go by outside my window) detrimental or for the best, so long as you get it; I used to be in bed by 10.
The desire in me to chase had long since been doused from the beginning; academically, I had never wanted to pursue a status of high rank upon observing the overall caliber of achievers with their world-conquering determination. For my freshman year of high school I joined the tennis team and fought my way to the final match in a state competition once, only to have the girls on my team wish me a swift loss so they could catch the bus home in time to have their hair done for homecoming that evening… Then there were the miserly years of piano lessons from a stiff bitch who taught me how to hate sitting down to play. These stories and many more similar to them caused me to break from any kind of match, and it was years until I ever returned to my original passions for knowledge, games and for music…the world had mistaken my hobbies for slave labor. How dare they?
There was an era when I believed that Boys Got Cars out of a conscious decision to Make A Statement attached to a scene which attracted them For the Wrong Reasons. Selflessly performing an image upheld out of the fear to be popular or respected seemed to me to be a cheap substitute for the truth. I judged the automobile as more of a prison on wheels than any form of freedom. Flashy cars meant maintenance, and maintenance meant money, and money meant responsibility – an altogether fatal equation to someone who knew nothing of the enjoyment of sport – nothing of muscle…
Nothing of freedom.
One night, when everyone in J’s house was in an altered state except for Cameron and myself, the unenlightened couple of bums became bored with the techno tracks and I was asked, “Do you want to head out to The Cruise?”
I’m sure that I don’t have to tell anyone what was going on. A quarter mile strip. A gathering of automobiles, racers and spectators. Community relationships, personal trusts, deceit and occasional police patrol when everyone immediately bails, only to regroup later on. It is no organization. It has no laws – just winners and losers. While the boys are standing with the crowd, yelling statistics and strength, I am watching horses being upgraded to horsepower. Vehicles were approaching the starting point like untamed animals, leaping and crying like it hurt them to remain still. It didn’t take me long to realize that Industrial Strip is the Wild West reborn and hauled over.
It takes place long after 10.