I found this the other day- I think its from last summer, betwixt freshmen and sophomore year. Not great, but not the worst either. I don't really know much about where it was going.
The Way Things Are.
I slipped out the front door into the brisk morning air, steam rising from between my lemon chapsticked lips. I bit down as I pushed the door with both hands, keeping it quiet to the best of my ability- subtle, lemony sweetness hit my tongue. The door stopped prematurely, resting unevenly in its frame. I shoved it with my jacket-padded shoulder, latching it into place. I sighed, letting the cold fill my lungs. I shivered.
Shit, it felt nice to feel something.
I pulled up my collar around my cheeks. Making my way away from our front stoop, I glanced up at the icy blue light of the sky above. Today was going to be cloudy. The cold air bit at the tip of my nose tenderly; I winced.
Stopping halfway down our walkway, I pondered at a loss for what to do. I had woken up early without really needing to. I frowned unenthusiastically. I wasn’t needed anywhere, which wasn’t unusual, and there weren’t any chores that needed doing- at least I could get out of the house before my brother Jake could chew me out. I rolled my eyes, catching a flash of red in the glance. I smirked sneakily. What was unusual was the fact that I had a mode of transportation to take me where I wasn’t needed.
I let my eyes run over the smooth maroon paint of my 1982 Volvo. Oh yes. This car was fine. I slid into the car easily, the door creaking as I pulled it after me. It was a small, rather rusty looking thing, sort of like myself. I jammed the keys in the ignition, glad that I kept them in my coat pocket. The engine purred noisily, gently shaking the car. I turned on the heater with a sigh of relief. I had to hand it to those Swedish engineers- they knew how to heat a car.
I backed out of the driveway slowly. There weren’t many cars out yet, which was good for me. I noticed a back window was rolled down halfway. I stopped the car and leaned back over the seats to crank the thing up into place. True, it didn’t have automatic windows, but I didn’t mind too much. I had picked this car out myself.
The Volvo had been a gift from my mom- a sort of an “I’m sorry” for never staying in the country for more than a few months at a time. We didn’t see each other super often anymore, and had some trouble keeping in contact regularly. That is, I really hated talking on the phone.
You see, my mom and I had a certain lack of communication skills around each other. And I mean a major lack of communication skills. She didn’t even realize that I couldn’t drive when she offered to get me the car.
“Mom, you know I turn sixteen next month.” I reminded her over the phone. “I can’t drive yet.”
“You said you were going to take some lessons last time we talked,” she muttered. I didn’t bother reminding her that the last time we talked was over two months ago. And I had said I wanted to drive away and not come back. She had selective hearing, I think.
She was in Sidney this time, doing some research at a convention or some business related thing like that. My mother: Business goddess extraordinaire.
“Dad said he was going to teach me, but he, well, hasn’t.” I stopped. There was an awkward pause where I could tell my mother was making the heartbroken “I’m sorry” face all the way from Australia. My mom was sorry a lot.
“Jake said he would teach me,” I added before she could throw in her two bits. I tried not to speak badly of my dad in front of Mom. I didn’t want to give her an excuse to be mad at him. Since the divorce it had been a little difficult for them to transition from unhappily married rivals to mature separated adults. It was even harder to be the children of those unhappily separated… adult rivals.
“Well, if Jake thinks he can handle you, I’ll trust him to it.” I could hear her smile over the phone. “He practically taught himself to drive.” Her voice was dripping with the sickeningly sweet sound of a mother’s pride. “He’s always been a bright boy, hasn’t he?”
I rolled my eyes. “Sure he has. The brightest.” The one thing I think my mom was happy about coming out her marriage to my dad was my brother- my handsome, intelligent, responsible brother.
Oh yeah. And me.
“How is he doing?” She asked, sounding genuinely interested in the conversation at last.
“Um, he’s okay, I guess.” I said lamely.
“Really?” she said happily. “He’s going back to school in September, right?”
I tapped my head against the kitchen wall in a dull sort of way. “Uh-huh. He’s doing just great.” I didn’t really know a whole lot about Jake’s school plans, but if someone had to discuss them with our mom it wasn’t me. I’m his sister- it’s not my job. “I’d put him on the phone, but he’s, you know, out.”
“He is?” she queried. “Where is he?”
I winced. I didn’t know what Jake wanted me to say or what was under wraps, as much as I’d like to see his spotless reputation tainted, I would never betray Jake- not to our mom. It’s kind of like some unspoken code: we may be enemies of war sometimes, but parental involvement is off limits. Of course, he wasn’t doing anything bad so… “He’s hanging out with Pam.” I said biting my lip.
“Pam?” her cheery tone dissolved instantly. “I don’t remember Pam. Who’s Pam?”
“Pam is, uh,” I was twisting up the phone cord around my arm without realizing it. “She’s… a nice girl.”
“Nice?” she said with disapproval. “Liz, is Jake dating this girl?”
I tugged at a strand of my hair with my free hand. “Not really. I mean, I don’t know… not officially?”
She didn’t seem to hear me. “He is dating her isn’t he? I knew it.” She pulled away from the phone for a moment. “I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long, Elizabeth. So much has changed- I haven’t even met Jake’s girlfriend. And who knows what you’ve gotten into!”
I stopped, looking at the phone incredulously. I quickly put my ear back to the receiver. “What do you mean ‘what I’ve gotten into’?” I asked, offended. “What makes you think I’m the one who gets into trouble?”
“Well, sweetheart,” she began with her usual ‘I’m sorry’ super sweet tones.
“No, Mom.” I said clenching the phone with my hand. “You know, you think-” I cut myself off. I rarely spoke to my mom, and I wasn’t going to start a fight with her, even if it meant keeping her in the dark. “Goodbye, Mom.” And I hung up the phone.
I took the car out of reverse and started down the street. I let out a long, deep breath. Only with the streets abandoned on Sunday at 6 A.M. could I find driving peaceful. I have to admit, it is a lot easier without Jake reminding me to check my blind spot every thirty seconds. I flicked on the radio. Static, mostly, with a little Latin radio wedged in between more static.
“Hmm,” I kept my eyes on the road, turning the dial. I found a “gangsta rap” station and recognized the song, to my horror. After a few seconds, I decided to keep searching. I wasn’t really in the mood for a song with the phrase ‘Tap that’ in it.
“Come on…” I urged the radio. Over a hundred years of development and my radios only function was white-noise. Pathetic. As I considered turning off the useless device, a soothing male voice poured in through my speakers. I considered it a moment. It was an old station, maybe 40’s.
“Alright,” I told the radio with a shrug. “Let’s give it a try.”
I rounded another corner, gracefully directing the car. If my brother was with me, I probably wouldn’t be driving this well. The pressure gets to me too much, I think.
I decided to go to the overpass. The overpass wasn’t really a scenic or beautiful place to be, but for whatever reason, it made me feel at home. Maybe it was something about the graffiti and trash littered around the place. It was just sort of imperfect, and made your imperfections seem a little smaller.
I parked off towards one end of the bridge, and laughed quietly, getting out of the car. I must seem like quite a derelict, hanging out up here at the crack of dawn. My mother would be shocked.
I slammed the heavy door of my car, pausing momentarily before sauntering off towards the edge of the overpass. Maybe she wouldn’t be shocked. I laughed again, humorlessly. My mother didn’t really seem to have very high expectations of me anymore. Maybe an overpass isn’t the last place she would expect to see me. Neither is a ditch on the side of the road.
I peered over the edge and spat. I’m not usually a huge spitter, but when you’re alone and the urge hits you… sometimes you just need to spit. I sighed, ruffling my hair with one hand. My hair was brown and short and looked better messy, I thought. It was one of my mom’s biggest pet peeves, which made it even better.
I leaned down, lowering myself to the ground. There was just enough room for my legs to fit under the railing. I nudged myself forward, leaning my forehead against the cold metal bars.
I was tired. It had occurred to me that sleeping in might help me not be tired, but somehow I had gotten use to it, or something. Sometimes sleeping in didn’t help anyway though, and when I slept in too long, Jake started to worry.
“Jake,” I muttered against the bars. He worried when I got up early too. Always fussing about something or other… everything I did wasn’t up to his standards, or Mom’s, or Dad’s.
“Or anyone’s.” I sighed.
I heard something from above and stiffened. I looked to the right, up at a telephone wire. There was a flurry of black and grey- some feathers fell, drifting in the breeze. I squinted, making out the source of the commotion. A large crow was harassing a flustered looking pigeon. The pigeon was attempting to repeatedly fly off, but the crow was pulling it back- refusing to let it go. I leaned back, peering over at the spectacle.
“Freaky…” I whispered.
I jumped. Some electronic music thundered from my pocket. I flipped out my phone; actually, I kind of hauled out my phone. It was old, and about half the size of Rhode Island, but still new enough to receive texts.
Incoming Message from… Taylor.
I glanced back up at the telephone wire, but both fowl were nowhere in sight.
“Huh,” A little perplexed, my eyes wandered back to the phone. I pressed enter.
i had a sewperr weird-ass
dream just now about
you. you were an agent of
i knew you were hiding
we should chillax, yeah?
I thought about it for a moment. Taylor was nice, and seemed to want me around, for whatever reason. I messaged her back, biting my lip.
I might drop by later
if that’s okay.
I’d like to spend some
time away from Jake
It was true. I heard that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and believe me, I was more than ready to test that theory. I wasn’t overly fond of Jake right now.
A few minutes later, she responded.
ur brother is hawtt
gonna sleep now
I shook my head and put away my phone, smiling. If only I could live like Taylor: sleeping in till noon, hanging out with people, just not caring about what anyone thought…
I wrapped my fingers around the dull metal bars in front of me. I wasn’t sure why, but I had noticed a great deal of anti-social behavior from myself in recent years, during summer especially. I just couldn’t see people. I found it difficult.
A traffic light changed in the distance, oblivious to the fact that there weren’t any cars around. I stared into the green light for awhile. It was kind of hypnotizing.
I swore under my breath, tucking my chin in close to my chest. “It’s cold out here.”
Hanging out… I could have fun hanging out. I mean, I was a fun person, right? Doubt swept through my mind like an icy current. An icy current swept by too, to add to the effect. I shivered.
I could have fun when I was with people, I mean, it’s happened before, hasn’t it? It’s just… when somebody would call or drop by, this little hand in the back of my mind kept on pushing the escape button. And who was I to question the escape button?
“I should’ve told her no…” I muttered. A car sped by below. My eyes followed it lazily.
I liked Taylor well enough. She was one of my only friends who still asked to see me knowing how… anti-social I was. I never called her or anything, but she seemed fine with it.
I rolled my eyes.
Of course the only friends I could keep would be ones who didn’t mind not seeing me. That was just the way it had to be. I squinted down the road in frustration. Was it wrong that I didn’t hang around the mall everyday or waste my money on bad movies? I chose to live this way because it suited me!
I swallowed as an unwelcoming thought crossed my mind. Maybe I didn’t just choose this lifestyle. Maybe I was just doomed to be like this- to be by myself?
I rolled my forehead across the bars. “Why should anyone want to see me?” I said drearily.
I pushed the thoughts away. After all, it was that kind of thinking that made hanging out hard.
I sighed. Too late to turn back now; a deal is a deal, after all. I was going to go to Taylor’s house, and that was final. No getting out of it.
I swung my legs out, tapping my heels against the dirty grey cement of the overpass, wondering if I would be able to hold up a good conversation when I got to Taylor’s. You see, that little hand in the back of my mind was getting nervous.
And so was I.