“What’s up cousin, you’re sitting home, right? I know you are, there is no possible way you’ll somewhere else. Okay, let’s get to the business. Remember I bought fresh broccoli from the market yesterday, turns out it’s too much for me and I have to finish them today otherwise they are goners. Do you get what I’m saying?”
“Perfectly, where are you, Gary?”
Broccoli was their code for weed, Gary was paranoid that cops might be listening, that is why they never used names during phone calls and never spoke about the word ‘weed’.
“At home, come up. I’ll leave doors open and wait or you on the balcony.”
Gary lived in the same building, except his apartment was on the other side of the building. Gary was a virtuous guy with a small amount of hair growing on top of his head, with constant fear for losing hair – he dreamed of having a beard one day, but it never started growing. A guy with a second chin coming down onto his neck and look of an innocent wild animal. Gary was around the same age as Matthew and being a few months older than him – tend to point it out during family events. Matthew often asked him to cook something magnificent because Gary was the one who taught how to bake pizzas. Everything Matthew knew from making doughs to creating marvelous looking dishes, he had to thank Gary for that. Gary was a single guy who liked to get high and cook for his own amusement, to grow another layer of fat on existing one; a guy who always wanted to start going to the gym, but food gave him more pleasure than sports.
Gary lived in the last apartment on whole building and feel when standing on the balcony made them think they were on the corner of a building. Two cousins sat balcony, facing each other with joint passing from one side of the balcony to another – with some stories in between them.
“Cousin, I think we need to business together. I have an idea already, we could make a rentable place beside the lake with few houses and preferably one sauna house for those who lack the feeling of hot weather here. What do you think? It could earn a buck for us and we could go travel the world with no worries about going dry on paper.”
Gary was determined to make a name for himself, to be recognized, to work hard now and rest later; establish profitable business and forget about it at the older age.
“Why wouldn’t you just go travel right away now, why sacrifice a few years with no possible guarantee it will work out? Meaning you can just pack your bag and go, live your dream. Try hitchhiking Gary, might even drop that second chin.” Matthew laughed and started coughing for some time without stopping, all because of hot smoke from weed.
“This is what you get when you joke about someones double chin,” and Gary laughed slightly – knowing that if he tried harder, he would start coughing like Matthew. Both of them laughed a little and Gary continued. “Is that what you want to do, go out there and hitchhike your way around. I don’t see another way around it since you’ve probably gonna be jobless. Speaking of job, how you imagine getting money for food?”
“I have faith, and there are people who could use some help in exchange for food.”
“Just like the old days?”
“Just like in the old days, make a sign from cardboard with saying ‘work for food’,” he lightly laughed and continued “But instead I’m gonna roll with my van.” Gary laughed like it was a joke
“Wait, you’re being serious. That’s even more expensive and you will need more than faith to get where you want to.”
Gary was pessimistic about the idea of Matthew driving his van into Europe. Pessimistic words from his cousin didn’t bother Matthew, deep down he knew it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey. About the places, he never visited because he was scared and didn’t have a clue how to travel there in the first place. Being told that hitchhiking is a terrifying way to get in trouble and that few countries being extremely dangerous for foreigners. When people told him only downsides of travel, things that could go wrong and leave good things faded behind the fear of failing. Even now, when a decision is made, someone with a negative opinion shows up.
Both cousins stood on the balcony for next half hour, discussing what is right and what is wrong with the world they live in – a small debate to entertain average minds. The wind was getting colder and stronger on the fifth-floor balcony, forcing both of them to start getting inside. Gary proposition for Matthew, if he wants, dinner, but he declined, saying that he has a date with the mechanic after an hour and he must be going soon. Spinning his car keys around the index finger and about to slide his feet into shoes, when suddenly Gary’s voice came to his hearing.
“Are you sure about driving van high as a kite? I know it won’t be the first time, but if I were in your shoes I would have some meal before going.”
“I have to be there after an hour, Edgar sounded really eager to meet me there around 7 PM.”
“Edgar? That old wolf still fixes cars for unfortunate ones, huh? I guess some people never change, does he still can hold a wrench in his hand?” tiny joke made Matthew smile little and reconsider Gary’s offer
“I think I can stretch my schedule and stay for dinner, but no smoking afterward. I know how you enjoy a smoke after receiving food satisfaction.”
“I won’t approve that, nor deny that; it’s your choice and yours only.”
Gary liked to speak metaphorically sometimes, it made feel like one of the wise man – whose quotes got remembered for future generations. Whenever someone from family circle came to Gary for a visit he would try to make something magnificent; the dish that would show off his skill of being a good chef. For the first five minutes, there was a sound of pans and pots hitting each other. The metallic collision between two objects made Matthew wonder whats going on in the kitchen. Matthew sat in other room with curiosity whats happening in the kitchen; he would stick with Gary in the kitchen, but it was small enough for one already. The sound of kitchen tools and cookware colliding with each other, making a loud noise from the kitchen. Matthew grew curious and asked himself ‘could it be that Gary might be overestimating himself?’. Twenty minutes of TV enjoyment passed by like nothing, when Gary called Matthew to the kitchen – yelling across the apartment.
“It’s ready!” and invited him to the kitchen. Matthew strove in the kitchen with excitement to discover unimaginable picture.
“Holy Jesus Christ, what is that?” Matthew didn’t know how to describe it.
“I’ve might overcompensate a little.”
“A little? How do you even call this monstrosity? I mean there is potatoes, beans, and mushrooms, with some sort of sauce over it?. And yet I have a question, is it edible?”
A lot of questions raised on Matthew’s mind, he couldn’t describe the smell of it. The whole pan was covered in light brown goo with potato pieces and a few beans sticking out of it. The dish looked like Gary took everything he could find in the fringe and just trowed it into the pan.
“It is edible, here, take a spoon for a taste.” Matthew dived spoon in sticky brown goo, which had strong yet mild texture and he took it for a taste. “Don’t forget, if I wanted to poison you, I would try my hardest for it to look fancy.”
“It’s either I’m high or it tastes decent enough to call it food. I was definitely expecting something fancier from you, Gary.”
“Well, sorry for not delivering.”
“You know I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Sure you made it sound like that.”
A silence stood for a few seconds with staring at each other faces, when Gary started laughing and setting off the same reaction in Matthew. Cousins like Matthew and Gary could joke or insult each other all day without taking each other seriously. Cousins like them could sense if one being serious, but it wasn’t necessary, as they were serious on rare accessions.
The phone rang in the far room of an apartment, but there was no one to answer, both cousins were busy dining and laughing about how bad the dish looks – making jokes about brown goo. Surprisingly it tasted exactly like their grandmother’s famous potato stew. Matthew thought it was Gary’s intention all along, for he felt devastated after she passed away. Gary always admired her cooking. Couldn’t bare losing a wise mentor, he decided to keep her recipe book for family reunions. Thinking that what she would want. The meal was over and Gary began saying.
“I’m rolling up, you wanna join?”
“Oh man, thanks for the meal but I have to go,” checked his phone screen and seeing a missed call from Edgar “Shit, man I have to go. See you later.”
“See you later.” Matthew stormed out from apartment leaving nothing but gratitude for cousin’s hospitality.
Van stood right outside the building, a dark green tin can laying horizontally with four wheels attached to it – there it was, his trusty green Herby. It was mid 80s Volkswagen transporter, manufactured for German military purposes, with petrol engine swapped to diesel one few ages after he exited factory. Matthew bought it from a guy whose name he forgot, right after a month of falling in love with his van. The last owner had no love towards it, despite being last known inheritance from his father. His father would roll with it to the East side of Europe to smuggle alcohol, cigarettes, and people, people who were trying to escape harsh environment in East. Good old green Herby with few rust stains was way older than Matthew; the old war veteran ran relatively good for such rundown. Sure had more adventures past years and about to have more in upcoming summer. Matthew thought the last owner showed no passion for good old Herby because of all the repairs he had to do on it since he bought it. The barely licensed van named Herby landed in Matthew’s hands the day he fell in love with it. He was big enough for ten people to fit in and get to the desirable location – transporter was the right ring to it. Huge doors made it almost impossible to step outside the van in parking lots without scratching other people cars. From outside it looked like an ordinary green van with few rust stains around it, but inside was where all the magic happened – a place where Matthew’s imagination ran wild. Going from dreamcatchers hanging from its ceiling, posters covering sides of it and ‘rasta’ flag covering the whole ceiling above everyone’s heads. He would clutter it with everything he could get his hands on, with everything that affiliated with things such as hippie, wild, and freedom. With old blankets covering windows and floor; Matthew’s green Herby looked like another casual van, but with a feel of a home inside for Matthew to escape reality whenever he needed it.