The day is breezy, a couple of people are on their skateboards, and the park near the beach maintains its presumably usual energy despite the lack of population here. I’m the one with my chin perched in my hand, sitting on the blue bench, isolated from the liveliness.
The skaters smile and Melody comes to me, a similar grin on her face, pink dress dancing in the wind. This isn’t my day to enjoy. I shake my head to the breeze a little. It honestly is a beautiful day, but I’m not in the state to enjoy it. It’s not even a state of desolation, it’s just one of blankness when I stare ahead at the sky and the vast ocean. Nights of sitting in the car, back seat, a muffled harmony playing in the front...these memories can pass my head, but reviving them is another story.
But I’ll get in the car, two voices calling me inside. Today feels like neon pink and turquoise, maybe stained with blue and black. Fitting, isn’t it? The happiest summer day is a backdrop to the melancholy details.
But being depressed isn’t like that. You’re either seeing in the melancholy details if you’re lucky, but when it gets bad you’ll just see in black and white. Everyone finds happiness in new experiences, life bustling and bulging through the fences just to break free, but routine is comfort for me and I’ll take any bit of that I can get.
I will myself not to cry, though I have no real reason to cry anyways. My arms are crossed over my chest and I smile a little weakly, a little sturdily, a facial set to self-assurance. I’m strong. I’m more confident than I think. My seatbelt feels more suffocating than usual, but it’s to keep me in place. I need to know my place because ruining someone’s day is not the route I’m wanting to take. There’s nothing like fixing yourself day by day, rather than submitting to the trance of time, right?
I’m the electrical grid that never gets a reset and time to heal but will get cords and wires replaced slowly so I’m a mess where parts of me are lagging behind the others. I’m an ever-lasting, high-stage cancer, that will get an assortment of pills and treatments. But I can’t start over. No, I can’t afford to start over. It would not be worth the risk.
I relax in the seat. My sister asks if I want the window down, and I tell her it’s whatever’s fine with her. She smiles, punches me in the arm and tells me to cheer up, then leans back into the front seat where our mother sits beside her. The car begins to go into reverse, backing up to leave the park, and the wheel turns sharp and stains the pavement in black marks. We’re on the road. Or, well, sort of on the road. We’re taking a pedestrian-friendly street...well, shit, there’s a police car.
Our mother leans out the window to see a swarm of flashing lights and a man standing there ominously, seemingly staring down our azure Volvo, two hands waving as if to beckon us over. “Shit,” she hisses in realization, backing up the car ever so slowly. “My tags are out of date. Melody, you stay calm, okay?”
“Noelle, what trouble did we get ourselves in this time?” Melody’s use of words indicates that there had been a first time, a second time, maybe a hundredth time and those were all times I had missed out on. The two of them together, laughing and driving with expired tags and probably no driver’s licenses, for fuck’s sake. Their comfort around each other didn’t surprise me much anymore, though--Melody was the only one who had the balls to call my mother by her real name, Noelle. I always thought of not saying it as a respect-ignited decision. There was no real need to refer to her on a first-name basis--she was the woman who birthed me. Probably. Who knows, I could be adopted, and it wouldn’t shock me.
We swerve, and we’re on the highway now, Melody turning on some tunes and dancing to the rhythm. She was named after her dad’s grandmother but always claims she’s called Melody because she can feel the music in her veins. I don’t doubt her, as she moves her fingers to the beat and taps her toes happily. My mother is even joining the spirit, too, nodding her head a bit. I try to perk up and at least smile normally, shake a little, but I’m not sure how well it’s working.
Shouts echo behind us, drowned by police sirens, but no one seems to hear because we’re too busy escaping. The Vanilla Daze air freshener is jangling rapidly and the purple keychains are swinging on Melody’s purse.
“How ya doing, little brother?”
I always hated how my sister treated me as if I was a child, still, since I’m not that much younger than her. She’s 24, and we’re not that far apart, but she could care less.
A look of concern passes her face at my lack of an answer. “You okay?”
“Yeah, yeah. Better than ever. Today is a fine day, isn’t it? That park we went to, uh, really makes you feel the summer breeze. Living near the beach…” my words trail off and I can tell by my mother and sister’s stares that I’ve overstayed my welcome. I smile awkwardly and pretend I’m dreamily gazing out the window, as if I’m in some old film. If I squint, I can see the sunbathers and walkers and swimmers in the sand, windy momentum beginning to separate towels from their owners.
The car makes a sharp turn and my mother aggressively grips the steering wheel. “I think we may have gotten ourselves into a bit too much trouble, here,” she complains, police sirens fading in the distance at her words. It seems they’ve given up, but you can never be too sure, I guess. I would worry too if I was in the front seat.
“Well, it’s sunny and not humid for once, the wind is passing through our hair, and I’m not seeing too much litter around here or the park,” Melody reasons.
Turns out, we aren’t looking forward to a sunny day on the beach, and time seems to slip out of our fingertips. For that reason, we’ll turn onto the main roads as the sun begins to set, and we’ll walk out of the car to the little shop-and-eat complex. Well, I’m not getting out of the car, because I know I’ve overstayed my welcome once again as I see Melody bouncing towards the Chinese buffet.
I turn on my earbuds, because there’s nothing else to do in the relative silence, and I love the night. Familiarity is the one thing I can enjoy. There’s nothing typically heart-fluttering about music and darkness but it’s always been precious to me and it’s within my grasp. It’s those mundane things that make me wonder if I’m the only one who truly appreciates them, or if I’m just stuck in an endless loop of my comfort zones, and whether that’s a good thing or not. They do say pessimists are great at finding the positivity in everything, which might explain why I’m never truly disappointed.
Fireflies begin to swirl outside of my window, the dusky blue fading rapidly into black. It’s the moments where I’m in crowded areas that I feel isolated most. It’s weird to be here, in my little bubble, away from everyone...the bustling life itself, just, how would I capture how many people are out there?
The music fills up my earbuds. I wasn’t feeling up to skipping, but the past song choices haven’t been anything much special to me. I look out the window and see a pitch-black sky.
The moon is beginning to find its place, too. Maybe I can learn to do the same.
Before I know it, Melody and her apparent best friend Noelle are back in the car, and the song finishes. That’s quite alright, and I know it’s the right thing when the engine revs up, the keys are in the ignition, and when Noelle turns on the radio, the song that would’ve played next comes on. It’s the perfect type for one of those night drives home, when it’s so long and you’re in that mental space of an adult and child yet not a teenager, and you’ll be watching out the window and city lights pass you by.
The singer’s voice drones out of the speakers. It’s not loud enough, but it’s okay. I huddle myself as if to comfort the loneliness of my thoughts and the last chords fade away, into nothingness.
I start to think I won’t mind continuing my chapter so much anymore, as long as I can re-read the pages. The car backs up, and I’m lost in my thoughts.
But this time it’s not so bad.