Arjun was leaning forward between the two front seats, fingers hovering over the radio’s dial. Libbie glanced over and shrugged.
In Marco’s car, it was the radio or nothing. With a practiced hand, Arjun flicked us past Christian rock, Ici Musique, and a handful of crackly, indigenous local stations speaking a language I didn’t know. I leant my head against the car window as the speakers competed lymphatically with the hum of the wheels below.
We were headed to Redbridge, Ontario, where Jay’s parents lived. It was where Jay had been raised, and where they’d fled by coming to U of T, and we’d joked together about it back in the day, its barren appearance on Google Maps: a single road, a general store, trees and trucks and campervans dotted along the roadside like hopeful hitchhikers. None of us had ever expected to see it in real life. Though Jay had never said so, it had always been understood that they went by a different name back home, and that returning for the holidays had been not dissimilar from a brief vacation in inferno.
In fact, the only positive thing I could remember Jay mentioning about Redbridge was Lake Nipissing. The town wasn’t right on the water, but it was close enough for a trip; close enough to make it one of the only viable outings growing-up. In the summer of Jay’s twelfth year, they’d gone there fishing with their father—caught a pickerel within an hour, and cried until it had been released. It wasn’t until later, driving license acquired, that the lake had become Jay’s properly, a spot for them to smoke and sext and swim. On Facebook, you could still see one of their jaunts there in their profile pic: Jay wet-haired, red-eyed, and happy, now eternally.
Beside me, Libbie leant forwards and thumbed at the car’s touch screen.
“Alright, straight for like, three hours, and then we’re looking for Highway 63. Trout Lake Road. Wow, they’re really leaning into the whole hillbilly thing.”
The car swayed over a rumble strip, rattling my teeth. The sun was lower on our left now, and it striped dust through the car in searing beams. In the back, I could hear what sounded like a Funny or Die skit. Inside, the air was hot and thick and still.