Tyler and I are sixteen and we’re hunting for Dead people. We say to each other during class, loud enough for other people to hear, “Hey! Let’s go hunting for dead people today!”
It’s a game. But it’s also real because maybe, if we see Death, we won’t be so scared of it.
Most days after school we drive to the university, Cal State Channel Islands, which is not Cal State Channel Islands quite yet. Half of it is still a boarded-up mental hospital that was shut down in 1997. The other half of it is in some stage of renovation as the building transforms from psych ward to college campus.
It’s 2005 and we don’t just drive down the curvy canyon road. We fly. I sit on the windowsill of Tyler’s hand-me-down Mustang as he takes hairpin turns way too fast, but he’s doing that for me. It’s so I can stretch one arm out, stare up at the sky and really feel like I’m flying
He never puts a steadying hand on me because he trusts me to not fall and I trust him to not let me. Like life and death, we exist within the same idea, yet never touch.
It’s stupid and irresponsible and fabulous and fast and makes you scream in every good way. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you’re sixteen?
We arrive at the abandoned hospital that’s under renovations. Some of the buildings look like skeletons; just the framework juts out of the ground. Others are already finished, complete with thick walls and paintings of blue dolphins.
There’s a six-foot chain link fence around the hospital. We race up it, then jump down the other side. Tyler and I run across the grounds, looking for a hallway to explore. We pick the longest one. The darkest one. The one that goes down.