Mitch coughed to break up the droning noise that permeated throughout the car. “Hey, so. The whole ‘you don’t know me‘ garbage? That…was shitty of me. I do appreciate the ride, though. You didn’t have to do this.”
“Don’t mention it,” Avi gently replied, then followed up with, “I uh, sort of panic offered-“
“UGH, I knew it!” Mitch slammed the back of his head against the seat, and Avi held a finger up.
“BUT, I was sincere about us getting used to one another. And I got free Starbucks. So ultimately, I don’t regret offering.”
“If you say so.”
“I do,” confirmed Avi; his flustered state was a direct contrast to Mitch’s petulance. “That being said,” he started slowly, redirecting the climate with such subtlety that it almost went undetected. “Aside from the fact that you have a busted shoulder, your ex dumped you, and you’re emulating Eddie Vedder’s wails, let’s hear about you. You know I’m from Washington, but what about you? Are you from around here, or-?”
“No, not exactly. I’m originally from France,” Mitch started to explain.
“Wait, what?” Avi’s head shook as he did a doubletake.
“Valence, specifically. I moved over here when I was about…11.” That sounded right, although he may have been 10 or 12, but that period of time was a blur so he couldn’t accurately recall.
“Yes, from France.” Mitch nodded. “And then I lived in Burlington for a while with my Uncle and Aunt.”
“Where’s that? Is that Vermont?”
“And where’s Valence, specifically?”
“The southeastern corner, close to Italy and Switzerland.”
Avi gave a low whistle. “That’s wild, man.”
“Is it? I’ve never really given it much thought.” He fully expected further questioning, and braced himself to explain why he ended up in the US, but Avi bypassed that and instead asked, “So do you like New England? Like you obviously stuck around.”
“Oh,” Mitch blinked and changed gears. The tension that accumulated due to talking about himself drained out. “I’m sort of ambivalent. I’ve stayed because life happened the way that it did, and Jodie’s here. Parts of it are nice. The foliage’s pretty in the fall.” Mitch’s head lolled to the side and he stared at Avi. “What about you? Pacific Northwest to here? That’s gotta be underwhelming.”
Avi’s lips pursed, but his expression stayed neutral. “Honestly? I’m barely ever home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful out there. As an outdoors guy, it can’t be beat, but staying in one place too long…” He looked thoughtful. “I get cagey? There’s so much world to see, y’know? Like I’ve never been to Valence!”
“Beautiful city. Not much in ways of wrestling, though. Last I checked, anyway,” Mitch commented, pleased with himself when Avi broke into a smile. “I’ve never been to Everett, for what it’s worth. Or Washington state, for that matter. Always wanted to go.”
“Everett and Seattle and that whole area used to be much cooler. Now it’s just expensive. It’s a significant part of the reason that I’m never too desperate to head back, because I’m not too hot on the idea of paying those rent prices. Even if the views are spectacular.” He let out a sigh. “Miss having mountains in the backyard, though.”
“There’s an overrated hill some 20 minutes from the house, if you ever need a nature hit. We’re about to drive by it.”
“What’s that, Wachusett?”
“That’s the one.” He glanced out the window as they passed the large sign for the Wachusett Mountain. To the west, the lone mountain itself came into view, towering over the surrounding forest.
“There’s where I’ve been doing my runs in the morning. It’s…” Avi’s mouth formed a line. “It’s, y’know, nice!”
“You don’t have to defend it to me. I grew up at the foot of the Alps. But it is better than nothing.” Mitch held back from cracking up as Avi’s face collapsed into what appeared to be relief, as though he was concerned with offending the county’s most prominent geographic feature. The discussion turned to winter sports; Avi revealed that he snowboarded, but over the last few years had trouble with carving out time to get more than one or two runs in during the season. In contrast, Mitch skied, except he hadn’t in a few years. He then warned that snow in the east differed greatly from the west, all wet and dense and icy instead of powder.
They compared the different places they visited, and Avi waxed poetic about the Cascade range and Hokkiado, while Mitch spoke fondly of the Green Mountains.
“I’ve been to Aspen a few times with my ex,” noted Mitch. The phrase ‘my ex’ did not make an easy departure from his mouth, clinging to his tongue and teeth like caramel before being forcefully ejected.
“Lucky you! I keep meaning to go, but never do. The Rockies are kind of barren when it comes to wrestling, so I’m never there.”
“It’s great, except Calv was always more interested in how he looked in the gear and drinking in a hot tub than actually getting out onto the slopes. Could have done without that.” Mitch recalled the barrage of complaints about Colorado’s thin air and the freezing temperature in the mountains.
“He sounds so fun,” Avi snarked.
“That’s the word for him alright,” Mitch snorted and rested his head against the window, closing his eyes for a short while. While he choked down the bitterness, Avi didn’t speak up, and Mitch was thankful that the conversation didn’t drag on any further. However, that silence was punctured when Avi hummed along when Roxette’s ‘It Must Have Been Love’ started, becoming more high pitched when the vocals picked up. It was a Herculaneum task to not burst into a fit of giggles, and Avi must have noticed how Mitch struggled over in the passenger side seat.
“What?! I like this song,” Avi indignantly barked.
“I’m not judging,” Mitch insisted. “Roxette fucks pretty hard.”
“Do you want to change it?”
“What? Why?” Mitch raised an eyebrow as Avi held out his phone for him to take possession of.
“Didn’t know if it hits too close to home.” Unbelievable. Never had Mitch met someone so unwilling to be offensive, even by accident.
“Oh? Why’s that, because…” he waited until it reached the chorus, then belted out along with it. “IT MUST HAVE BEEN LOVE, BUT IT’S OOOVER NOW?“
“I’M DRIVING,” Avi reminded while he shook with glee, but Mitch didn’t stop.
“IT MUST’VE BEEN GOOD-“
“BUT I LOST IT SOMEHOW,” Avi joined in, they finished the chorus together, and then mumbled through the second verse. The sing-along continued well past Worcester’s city limits, a half hour come and gone since leaving Monument. but it felt as though no time passed at all.