Autumn Phillips: Choose your adventure

I was lucky to get a New York Times that late on a Sunday. $5.

With the paper tucked under my arm, I walked next door to Mocha Molly's and filled my cup with coffee. $1.

I dropped the paper onto the counter, and the thud woke you from your daydream.

"Can I sit here?"

"Of course."

You were scanning The Denver Post or appeared to be scanning it. You were distracted, waiting for something. Probably your next cigarette.

"It's good that we're sitting here together. I'm leaving tomorrow," you say.

"Are you coming back?"

"No."

I tell you it's too bad that you're leaving. Steamboat will miss you. There will be a void.

You say that's what they all say.

"Well, I'm going to go now. I have to meet someone," you say.

You are a drummer with a band whose last show is that night, and I promise to come.

"Well, just in case I don't see you tonight ..."

"I'll be there," I say.

And since this is not goodbye, we don't hug or say anything stupid. I just notice that your seat is empty after you leave. I notice it for a long time.

I don't go to your show that night, so I'll never know what happened next.

I'll let you decide.

If you decide to come back at the last minute, turn to page 26.

If you stop at the top of Rabbit Ears for a moment of contemplation, turn to page 42.

If you fly to New York and never look back, turn to page 88.

If your car breaks down and you take the Greyhound, turn to page 89.

Page 26: You load up your belongings into the back of a gray station wagon and start up Rabbit Ears. The cup of coffee resting on the seat next to you spills as you make the first curve.

An eyebrow lifts, and you decide to turn around. You come back to Steamboat for some paper towels to clean up the mess. You come back for the Azteca burritos and the couch at Bud Werner Memorial Library and that spot by the river.

You don't leave. You stay. Years later, you tell a reporter that you make sacrifices to live here, but that it's worth it.

Page 42: You stop at the top of Rabbit Ears Pass for a moment of contemplation. You light a Pall Mall. You smoke Pall Malls now, just like your grandmother. You think about why you moved to Steamboat in the first place. You wanted to get away from the stress of life. You wanted to move to a place where people didn't care so much how you dressed or what you did for a living. You moved here to heal.

You never meant to stay this long.

Page 88: You get a job at a tiny bakery on the corner of 11th and First in Manhattan. You bake custards and truffles that people come all the way from uptown to buy.

You take smoke breaks with the man from the newsstand next door. You have three anecdotes from your time in Steamboat -- a funny one, a sad one and a poignant one about the day you decided to leave.

After a while, that's all you remember about this place.

Page 89: You step onto the bus at the Stock Bridge Transit Center. It smells like the enclosed sleep of 30 strangers. They have been on the bus together since the dirty green station in Amarillo, Texas.

In your bag, you have a few CDs and a copy of J.D. Salinger's "Franny and Zooey." It changed your life once, but you can't remember why.

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