It’s 8:30-something AM and Riley and I are sitting in the dorm cafeteria before class.
“There’s this guy,” he said that morning. “He looks like him.”
Oh yeah? I said, biting into a hardened bagel.
Bradley had been dead for a couple of months.
I made a face; shaking out the crumbs from my sweater. How so? I asked, when he didn’t volunteer more.
Hard to explain, he said, reaching over to help. Y’know how Bradley has big bug-eyes.
And like, small lips.
I feel weird saying that, he grinned. Are they small? Am I just imagining that?
They were small, I agreed.
Well, this guy, he looks like that. Played soccer too. They even have the same jersey number.
Dirty blonde. Calic.
Damn, I muttered. You let him know we have a soccer-playing dead best friend doppelgänger?
Riley snorted. Not exactly. I just saw a soccer picture in his dorm room.
I tore off a piece of bagel and handed it to him. Do I get to meet him? See for myself?
Friday, actually, he said, taking the bagel. He leaned over to dip it in the cream cheese packet. He’s driving with us to the bonfire.
I made a face. I don’t know if I’m going.
You’re going Linds, c’mon.
I hate shit like this, I said. Everyone slamming whiskey, blacking out and stumbling around, I paused. Blasting Wagonwheel on max volume.
Hey, he whispered. We’re 18, not 80. Let’s have some fun.
I shrugged. Well, maybe when I’m 80 I’ll handle it better.
Or listen to Wagonwheel again, he offered.
I’ll never listen to Wagonwheel, I said. Not without thinking of him.
I pushed the half bagel and cream cheese packet towards him. Take it, I offered.
He thanked me. And we sat quietly for a couple of minutes while he finished.
You think Bradley wanted that as his funeral song?
Hard to know, he said, his mouth full of bagel. I mean I think so; it was his go-to in the car.
Yeah, but, I paused. Sometimes I wonder if maybe it should’ve been like –
Lil Wayne? Riley grinned.
Lil Wayne, I repeated. Jesus. Can you imagine?
Blasting Lollipop at his funeral?
We both smiled at the thought.
Or Ridin’ Dirty, I offered.
Riley snorted, running his tongue over his teeth. That’s not Lil Wayne, Linds.
Whatever, I said. He still loved that song.
He did, yeah.
I looked at him, pointedly.
He glanced up at me as if to say ‘go on’.
If I go this weekend, I said slowly.
Will you help with my tent?
And try not to get too drunk?
He rolled his eyes. I’ll try.
I’ll try, he said again. If you promise not to do that thing where you run off and I have to look for you for half an hour.
Deal, I said. And no Wagonwheel.
No Wagonwheel, he agreed.
Except maybe in your car on the way there.
He smiled. Except maybe then.