Midnight in California

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: Set your story on a day when the sun never sets.... view prompt


Coming of Age Fiction Inspirational

My grandmother was a woman who was stuck in her yacht club youth and insisted that everyone who did not want a life similar to her own, was either lying or delusional. She was an inspiring woman, true in tenacity and grit, and I aspired to be as self-assured as she. When I was eighteen, I decided to study abroad in the art of communication, and I could not be more ecstatic to leave the predictable life I led in California. Every morning I would commute on highway 101, listen to Fiona Apple, and imagine the fury Greta Thunberg would embody after taking a glance at all the litter dancing in between the exhaust fumes of the middle class, and the electric cars of the upper class. 

My car was one with exhaust fumes dating back from a model far too old to be a reliable ride, however, we made do. The wealth of my grandmother did not pass down to me, yet much to my mother’s dismay she often gave a helping hand making my appearance confusing to outsiders. Beat up car, fancy education, shitty apartment, front row at the opera on Friday night. 

 I did alright in school, I turned in my assignments on time, but I was not extraordinary like my brother. He ended up valedictorian by luck. He was the aggravating type of smart that gave the least amount of effort and received the greatest reward. I was dependable but that was never enough for me. I wished I was a bit more spontaneous but truth be told, I feared I did not have the guts. I lived in my books, and in my head, and played life rather safe than sorry. 

Moving to Switzerland was my grandmother’s idea, and the thought instantly brought upon an overwhelming confusion of fear and excitement. I confided my feelings in her, to which she explained that the onslaught of emotions I held was the perfect concoction to form an agreeable decision. With my faith in her words and my fate in her hands, I decided to take the punch. I had nothing to lose, and yet I was afraid of everything. 

The night before I left, I looked at the clock sitting upon my now empty shelves. 11:00 PM, California time. The sun was already rising in Switzerland. They were going on without me, they were getting up and heading to work, life was happening. I whispered into my pillow as I rested my head, begging them to wait for me as I closed my eyes. 

The day of my departure was a Friday. My superstitious mind was grateful that the date was not the 13th, but it may as well have been as I was overcome with a sense of dread. I told myself the dread was not a sign of bad luck, but rather an apprehension for the unknown. I was not so sure I believed myself. 

My thoughts echoed like a cacophonous chorus echoing every negative instinct. I felt like Lindsey Stirling’s violin, so I listened to Claude Debussey to calm me down. 

Goodbyes were never something I had much patience for. I was a bad actress whose transparency of expression revealed her secret sentiments. I couldn’t help but feel as though I was giving an inadequate performance as I waved goodbye to my family and the life I once knew. I remember hearing a podcast once about all the preparation actors must go through before getting into character. In order to enter a role authentically they would read scripts and analyze not only the character they were to portray, but also who they were close to, their setting, the time period, their outfit choices, and the arc they would inevitably take. I wished I had the script in front of me to know how I should feel. 

My grandmother kissed my forehead with her Dior lipstick and hugged me with a trace of Chanel number 5. She didn’t say anything then, just winked and I knew that she understood. 

  I boarded the plane at 9:00 in the morning. It was edging on dinner time in Switzerland, but I had not eaten anything all day. The light was shining outside, bright as ever. I always said the only predictable thing I liked about California was the weather. I suddenly felt a wave of appreciation for the place I called home, feeling grateful now for the life it had given me. It added to who I was as a character. Now, I could see that. I realized that when I would meet new people and explain my birthplace, I would do so with a sense of pride. 

I breathed in the last breath of California air through the little crack between the carousel leading up to the plane, and where the aircraft was stationed. I had a window seat, inconvenient for bathroom breaks, but perfect for daydreaming, which I was to do plenty of on the nine-hour flight. 

We touched down in Geneva at 7:00 in the morning, local time. I watched the sunrise over the vineyards winding around the lake, a Monet-like scene with soft colors palatable to the eye. As the nose of the plane hit the ground, I felt like I was nose-diving into a dream. 

Confused by the French language and Swiss efficiency I slowly managed to navigate my way out of the airport, and into my new apartment. The time zone was confusing me and I was exhausted despite sleeping on the plane. It occurred to me that I had not seen the sky go dark that night. I questioned if there was even such a thing. I had just flown over a multitude of different time zones, so what was night and day if not when our body decided to rest. The sun never set for me that day, it started out with bright skies in California and began again in the middle of a sunrise, and I felt like I was rising too. 

I opened my phone to text my family a picture of my new place, and my new world, but upon pressing the home screen I realized it was midnight in California. Although midnight marks the beginning of a new day, it also marks the end of the previous one. In California, their day was ending as my life was beginning. I couldn’t wait for their sun to rise so I could call my grandmother and thank her for helping me get here. 

March 20, 2022 12:05

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Michał Przywara
20:10 Mar 26, 2022

This was a fun read! It seems like such a small event -- millions of people move all the time -- but it's always a little different when you're one of them. I also really liked "I decided to take the punch." What a great way to describe making a scary decision!


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Mike Panasitti
16:38 Mar 26, 2022

Reads like non-fiction. Will the character settle into her grandmother's yacht-club shoes? And I agree with Jeannette, clever and thoroughly accurate way for the sun not to set for a day. Keep writing.


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Jeannette Miller
14:42 Mar 26, 2022

A clever way to address the sun never setting! I liked the peek into your character's life and her new adventure. Great job :)


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