Like I did in part 1, I have changed the names and extracted some embarrassing details.
When we arrive at Norms and I open the car door for Paige, the others having gone ahead to get a table, she gets out and gives me that same serious look she gave me at the dance, the eye contact we avoided there, and I feel close to her, closer even than when I kiss her a moment after. We go into the diner — the others are seated, menus out. Baz and I exchange a nod and smile before I sit down.
Baz is on one end of the table with Jeanine and her sister, Paige and I are on the other end, and in the middle are Paige’s friends Beth and Lisa and Lisa’s boyfriend Carl. We all order hot chocolates and some of us order pie and fries, and we chatter, watching the clock. Baz and I have late curfews at 1 am, and the girls all need to be home at midnight, either approximately or exactly. Carl doesn’t say he has a curfew but declares that the Holy Ghost goes to bed at midnight. Baz and I exchange a look.
After the food arrives, the subject of graduation comes up — Carl is a senior. Jeanine asks what he’ll do next year, and he announces that he’ll go to BYU for a year and then go on a mission. The girls, all sophomores and juniors, start to weigh their options: BYU, Ricks, local Cal States. Carl is sitting there in the midst of them like a guru, a man who knows his future. Baz and I eat our pie.
Then Paige turns to me and asks, “What will you do after high school?”
I open my mouth and say, “I think I might take a few years and work on my music.”
Baz looks surprised, but he’s not as surprised as I am. The truth is that I have no definite idea about what I might do, and I was about to admit to that, but this idea of working on my music just popped into my mind, and out it came.
Beth asks, “Work on your music?”
“Yeah. Get a band together and see what happens. I’ve written a few songs, and I have quite a few more floating in my head.” I’m making this up as I go, but I’m not exactly lying here. I have written a few songs, and it would be great to start a band. Baz is trying not to laugh.
They ask more questions and I keep spinning this thing out, and I’m thinking, “Hey, why not?” I’ve never thought about this as a possibility, but as it falls out of my mouth it sounds pretty good.
Then Carl asks, “What about serving a mission?”
Well, yes. I’ve always thought I’d go on a mission, but I have not actually planned to go as a concrete fact. So I say something that’s been going through my head: “Yeah, I’ll probably go. But maybe not when I’m 19. Maybe when I’m a little older, a little more mature.”
Carl looks a little surprised, but from the look on Paige’s face, I can see this worked out — that I struck a balance between being a good Mormon and being interesting. As an actual plan it may not happen, but for now it sits pretty well.
We pay up and get going. We drop everyone off at the right places and pick up Todd from the Denny’s parking lot. As we drive back, Baz says, “So you’re going to start a band, huh?” And we all laugh and do impressions of Carl.
We find we have time to hit Tommy’s, and over chili fries, I say, “Seriously. I’ll probably do the same thing as him — go to BYU and go on a mission, because that’s what everybody does. I don’t want to do what everybody does, but I don’t have any better ideas.”
Baz says, “I’m afraid I’m just going to become my father. He’s OK, but I don’t want to be like him just because I can’t think of anything else.”
I take Todd and Baz home and find my father waiting in the living room, working on a crossword puzzle. We smile and nod, and then he heads down the hall as I turn off the lights behind him.
Postscript: Paige and I met each other most weekends until the end of the school year, and then during the summer we found other people with whom to spend our time. She married someone I knew slightly at BYU and at last report was raising kids somewhere in Utah. I put a band together during my senior year of high school; then I went BYU before going on a mission, as did Baz. Baz now works happily as a CPA in his father’s firm, and I chose to be a school teacher, as was my father. Todd married the girl we always called Whasername, and they have six surprisingly cheerful children.