We’ve driven through six US states, from the mid-west to the south. I’m sitting in a hot Holiday Inn in Columbia, South Carolina, with a room that looks out on a gorgeous, blasted parking lot. On the way here, we drove past the town hall, with its famous confederate flag hanging limply in front of it, like a tired racist bat. It’s nice to be somewhere that might be more racist than Australia.
Every day of this trip deserves a story, but it’s been busy. It’s been hours of delirious driving and grateful beers that turn into more and more beers. It’s been beautiful log cabins surrounded by fireflies in West Virginia, and duelling piano bars in North Carolina. There’s so much to unpack, but I can’t just yet, I’m still too busy being in the middle of it, and there are my old/new friends to talk to.
As of now, it feels like we’ve always been travelling together, that our entire life has been spent looking at Yelp for places to get breakfast, and playing card games over a dinner of cheese and berries. It’s not the same as talking to them in a chat room, but it’s similar. There’s the occasional tendency to tell a story or announce a personal fact as if we didn’t already know that, like we hadn’t been chatting online when that happened seven years ago – but I retell stories all the time, so it doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary.
Sometimes we gossip about the game that we used to all play. Nowadays only Michelle and Steven still play, me and Lyndsay having drifted off, me because of laziness and busyness, and Lyndsay because of the people who made her time there become less a game and more a chore. There is always gossip to tell about the game. It’s always been that way – I like to bring up things that happened back when I played at the turn of the century, and to discover new shocking information about it, about power plays and cliques and coups. Every person I’ve ever spoken to about the game has something to relate to about this kind of thing, and every person seems generally embarrassed to talk about it.
At a brewery in Asheville, NC, we played a game of giant Jenga, and people wrote graffiti on the big wooden blocks, and we wrote a bunch of Allerian graffiti on them, laughing at the idea of regular Americans being baffled by our in-jokes. It feels strange every so often, this weird convoluted in-joke that has brought us together and led to us driving for so many hours through fierce sun-showers and over mist-wreathed mountains and through endless gas stations, strange but also perfect.