"God. Sometimes I want to scratch the skin right off my body."
"Don't you ever feel that way?"
"No. Not really."
"I can't wait to graduate and get the fuck out of here. I'm telling you. I sit in my room. I just sit there and wait for my head to explode."
"Understandable. I don't know how you deal with your dad."
"I can't believe we actually live in this place. The dirt. The shit falling down everywhere. Half the world's a Goddamn strip mine."
"You're really cheery today."
"Don't you ever think about it? How easy it would be? We slip down this hill and climb into one of those cars. We roll off in the sunset. Free at last."
"That train's not moving."
"Yeah, I realize that."
"It's been parked there all summer. Totally empty."
"I wonder why they do that."
"You know what? I'm going to come back here in twenty years. Just to visit. I'm going to stand here and think about all the cool things in my life. And I'm going to think about you. How Brad settled for a job down at the hospital emptying bedpans and how Brad still lives in his grandparents' house. I'm going to think about all these corpses walking around town. I'm going to think about how you turned into one of them."
* * * * *
He stood high above the valley replaying the old conversation in his head and remembering the restlessness. Maybe he still felt it. Maybe a little.
He thought of Brad and wondered what ever became of him.
He was right about leaving and about accomplishing many things. But he was wrong about how it would feel. He didn't expect the guilt over leaving them all behind and missing their lives. He wished he could ask Brad to forgive him.
Back in his car on his way out of town, he breezed through the old streets one last time. And when he met the eyes of a familiar face, he did not stop. He looked away and drove on.
(Picture: St. Michael, Pennsylvania, overlooking what was the bottom of Lake Conemaugh.)