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The Way a Heart Breaks
Can We Pretend
(reference to the song “Time to Pretend” by MGMT)
It wasn’t even autumn yet, but the air had the same old promise and curse of winter; the chill was present. It whispered of lonely nights, and as a dreaming brown haired girl stared up at the night sky, the barely damp air snickered at her disappointment. The stars flickered like fire somewhere beyond the storm of cloudy purple twilight sky.
The echo of once brightly lit cigarettes seeped into her clothes, her soft purple blanket, her hair, her skin. Her brown eyes started to empty, like the sea was in a bathtub and someone had pulled the plug. The salty water swirled near the drain, rushing and pushing at itself to be a sea some place else. And like the swaying ocean, here eyes shone in a forest green light up close, but it was so close that only she herself noticed.
Somewhere the answer of speeding cars and red and white flashing light airplanes drifted into her mind, but they were too far away to matter.
The feeling she held deep inside; a feeling, like most feelings, that is hard to describe. It was a feverish, insecure kind of solitude, one where she knew she was completely alone, and most likely would be forever, but it was just that numbness that left her feeling a small fragment of hope. A foolish stupid high hope, but a hope none the less.
A hope that maybe one day she’d find someone to make her happy.
But she knew that no one could make her happy; the lack of serotonin in her brain made everything awful. She didn’t know if she should take the drugs she probably should take, or if it was fake happiness in a pill. She wanted to make herself happy, but she had a feeling that such flawless happiness was impossible.
The girl’s name was Lucy, and whenever a wishing moment came upon her she always wished for happiness.
Always happiness. If it was with a boy or just to be happy, it was always that ever present pledge of upcoming that everything would be just fine, and she’d never had a problem with laughing or turning the corners up into something shining and brilliant. Or even better, she’d want to and do it with purpose, not just the empty unsaid commitment to pretend to be a lovely sweet-smelling open pink rose, when in fact Lucy had no clue what kind of plant she was.
She wanted the kind of happiness that shone from streetlights twinkling through melted raindrops on glass windows, the kind of happiness that fell from the sky in tiny clumps of snowflakes.
Perhaps she could sing; perhaps she could not. She liked to think her voice was fair, and rich, and mature. But honestly, she could never tell. Perhaps it was high and childish and off key.
Then again, it was just Lucy and herself sitting on the wooden balcony, on a cheap fabric lawn chair, staring at a blank dark sky and deserted looming branches.
She breathed, closing her tired eyes for a minute, thinking of every boy who claimed to like her; or even more painful, said they loved her. She didn’t believe that anyone could ever love her.
And truly, Lucy just wanted them to mean it. Or was the just necessary? Love was a lot to ask for.
She knew they just thought she was decently good looking and sometimes quite kind; but that was it. And then they held up their hands and screamed a declaration of love, like it would somehow free the slaves in her head.
But the truth was, Lucy herself was in chains, dirty and used, feeling ashamed that she didn’t keep the bind to her inner voice, and since she could not be bound by conscience, she was now bound by metal. Unbreakable strong steel, that marked her hands and sucked the power from her like some sort of metallic kryptonite.
She wanted to wander, to float through the apartment courtyard like a courtyard was all there was to life. As if walking with her feet and dog paddling, struggling through the same forest green seas of memories as her eyes could stop anything.
Lucy knew when she was like this, she couldn’t stop herself. She needed sleep. She remembered her mother had told her once that people went psychotic after sixty something hours without sleep, but the girl knew she couldn't go more than twenty four hours, and even after that whole day she could survive the bloodhounds of the cracks in her mind for that long.
She couldn't cling to the tree trunk that long, she couldn’t grind her teeth and breathe.
It was so goddamn silly. One array of words for every night she had spent alone, unsmiling, lost in the ever changing labyrinth of her thoughts.
And everyone had the same problem; this carefully cultured idea of happiness as if would ward off the bad and everything would be flawless like the very makeup on the celebrities that acted it out. But whenever you tried to apply your eyeshadow just the way Billie from Charmed did, it would never work out quite right and you’d be left with this reminder that you, who was in fact not Billie from Charmed and you would never have her mythical rumored happiness.
When the Snow Comes Down
(reference to the song, “Yule Shoot Your Eye Out” by Fall Out Boy, lyrics in piece relevant to Beat (Health, Life, and Fire) by Thao Nguyen)
Lucy loved days like this.
Cold days. Cold days when the essence and soul of the holiday season filled you and you could smell the sting of pine needles, sink into the ornament boxes filled with newspaper wrapped glittered painted glass, feel the burn of the hearth, see the gleam of starry eyed strung together lights, the sparkle of angelic powdery snow, touch the velvet red of poinsettias...
It was funny, how people associated feelings with holidays. Love was Lucy’s Christmas; it was, in fact, approximately 75 days too early to feel love. She was off schedule, she was out of whack.
Oh well, it’s okay to say screw the routines every now and then, she thought, giving herself a Mona Lisa smile.
Christmas was about the pain that Virgin Mary had to suffer to give joyous birth to a savior, who also suffered intense pain is order to give his people a chance at life and faith.
It was also a bit odd how on the day of the year where everyone was supposed to be happy, there was a significant rise in suicides. The day where you were supposed to try to get along with your family, people who had none felt so lonely they knew they had no way out. And so, to rid the world of their loneliness, they left forever. Or maybe not. Depending on the reality of the incarnation theory.
Never mind all the pain, it was still the kind of day Lucy could feel her heart beating out of her chest. She could feel a hurricane in her breast, thrashing like a wild animal against the walls of her her humanity. It was like all of summer decided to move into her heart, and it was choking her, blinding her, deafening her. And then the warmth would swell and swirl and bubble into her throat, and it was all Lucy could manage to choke a smile, trying to relieve the pressure. It was a beautiful feeling.
It must be love, she thought. That must be the only thing that felt this wonderful.
Or maybe this was happiness? Joy?
She did not know, not for the life of her.
Or maybe this was life?
What a positively confusing thing to be born into.
Had she finally achieved her long awaited goal?
She looked at the cookie dough in her hands blankly, yet still grinning to herself. When she felt like this, she knew she could make something great. So she’d rummage through the cupboards, yanking flour and sugar and vanilla and baking powder and baking soda. Then she’d search the fridge, pulling out eggs and butter. Then she’d mix it with a passion that came from this storm of thoughts and memories in her chest. Then she’d carefully shape every ball of sticky concoction, placing it in it’s respective area. Lucy loved baking, but she only baked when she loved.
Which, to be honest, was not very often. She didn’t always feel this way, and if she did, she’d have to open a bakery.
She couldn’t afford to open a bakery at thirteen; therefore she couldn’t afford to love.
So Lucy went on, half empty and alone and smiling.
But not today. Today was like Christmas. But it wasn’t. That was more than two and a half months away.
Lucy laughed, singing along to the music her mother put on. Beat (Health Life and Fire) by Thao. She had forgotten about this son, and she hadn’t listened to it for a while now. She sang along, quite fully, with everything in her while she rolled up cookie dough.
Beat my brow
Beat my chest
Beat the ones who love me the best
Oh how could they be liars
They assured me health, life and fire
Who who-ooh hoooo
Who who-ooh hoooo
How can you stand it
When I run, when I run like a bandit
I wear him like a habit
In the lining of my jacket
And oh my gunpowder
Is an emergency
I must battle without her
She is surely killing me
Who who-ooh hooo
Who who-ooh hooo
So you're never gonna leave
And I'm never gonna leave
But I'm proud to say that I've got us beat
And you're never gonna leave
And I'm never gonna leave
But you're never gonna love me like I need
Who who-ooh hooo
Who who-ooh hooo
Who who-ooh hooo
Who who-ooh hooo
Lucy smiled, laughing with her little brother and sister dancing with her mother, holding their hands and swinging their arms and spinning and swishing their hips.
And she could something awaken and stir in her heart, something absolutely wonderful.
Today felt like Christmas.
Golden Dreams & Cloudy Days
(reference to the song, “Do You Remember” by Earth, Wind, and Fire)
Lucy looked around the room, a little empty and craving something magical and true in this word that seemed far too modern and lifeless to her. She was alone, and she would be for the next few days. Her grandmother had simply told her that she would be watching her house, and Lucy didn’t fight it. When faced with conflict with her family, Lucy simply shut down. She locked her mouth tight, her angry thoughts torturing her insides, her heart, her head, her eyes. Outside the air was cold and clear, but she could sense a darkness stirring in the midnight. Lucy was scared of the dark. Or rather, she was scared of the things that lived in the dark. She sighed, and put her hand to her face. It smelled like gardenia. Lucy closed her eyes, breathing it in. She saw images of white flowers with thick heavy petals and a sweet, strong, delicate scent. She saw a garden of them, grown next to iron and wood benches. She saw a cloudy sky and a soft drizzle of rain. But somewhere deep in the dusty, cobwebbed corners of her mind, the smell of gardenia reminded of her when she was a small child and her mother had picked her up, and all the times they had driven through the dry heat to McDonalds in the champagne beige minivan that was sticky and musty with years of crumbs and spilled sippy cups and trash and toys. That car held a good portion of her childhood memories. Another one was before the tan car, when they had a smaller silver hatchback, though it was equally littered with toddler filth. Lucy remembered her mother wore glasses then, and they matched her careless silky very dark brown hair. They drove on the highway, a flock of doves flew across the windshield, and her mother stopped quickly and let out a sharp sigh of surprise. Perhaps it was not doves that flew, but maybe pigeons or some other bird. Lucy sometimes wondered if her mother had hit any of the doves or other birds, but it would forever remain as one of Lucy’s most beautiful memories, the sight of pure white wings fluttering and beating in the breeze, with a certain panic and surprise. In fact, though Lucy’s mother was not gone or forgotten, though she looked a bit different from from the day with the doves and the silver car. Her mother’s name was Nicky. She was average height, perhaps five foot six. She had large muddy hazel eyes that had the same wistful wild forest olive green that Lucy had. Nicky had a large nose and large lips. Even though she was only in her low twenties, she was nineteen when she had her first child, Lucy, and twenty one when she had Lucy’s younger sister, Jen. Lucy and Jen’s little brother, Isaac, was born when Nicky was twenty two. In the present, Nicky’s body was tired and very girlish yet wilting, like a rose picked not so long ago. And yet this rose has already started to droop, the velvety petals sighing. The three children she had born had taken their toll; though Nicky still had the personality of a teenage girl who just wanted a daydream life. Lucy’s favorite memory of her and Nicky was maybe the time where Jen and Isaac weren’t around, or they weren’t in existence yet. They lived in a strange house, perhaps the apartment where Nicky and her father, James, had raised Lucy in the days where she was perhaps one or one and a half. That apartment Lucy had heard so much about. The house they were in was dark, the kind of dark that isn’t black, but just deep sepia brown. Nicky had a collection of the cheap label-less saint candles. They were cheap, but burned okay and looked oh-so-pretty, like feisty stars stuck in little wax glass prisons. Nicky had hefted small Lucy into the side of her chest, and the tiny chubby hands clenched her shoulder and brushed Nicky’s dark chocolate hair. Nicky pulled a lighter from her pocket (Lucy’s mother was a smoker, ever since she was fourteen) and slowly walked around in the sepia tone dark, carefully picking up the green and white and red and blue candles, which sat in clusters of three or more or simply by themselves. Once the orange and blue transparent flame greeted every string wick, Nicky and young Lucy shrank back and watched the picture house in silence. They were very much the same then, and their big forest green dream eyes watched the warm golden stars of fire and the flecks of amber and copper and burnt sienna danced and glimmered. Somewhere gauzy cream curtains flared near an open window, a portal to a city sky filled with poisonous smog blanketing the rainbow of the modern kingdom’s lights. That was Lucy’s favorite memory, and it filled her heart and head with something good and wondrous. She smiled, standing up. She dug about for a bag of tea lights and her own green lighter, and ran upstairs to start turning off lights. Then she ran downstairs, and flicked every switch to off. She skipped back to the main level, and started lighting the tea lights and setting them about. Lucy turned off the lamps and the cheap chandelier in the dining room. She looked around her, then sat in the middle of the living room on the aging wood, breathing the relived memory into herself. It was beautiful, but only one pair of large emerald spotted coffee eyes stared in awe tonight.
When I Was A Young Boy
(reference to the song, “Welcome to the Black Parade” by My Chemical Romance)
When Lucy met Rae, life seemed illuminated, like a lantern in the dark, like a long awaited flash of light at the end of a tunnel.
Rae was a brown haired little rocker girl. She was bubbly, she was fun. They laughed about everything and messed around, like teenagers were supposed to. And after they started to hang out, talk, tell secrets... It was Lucy’s first real best friend.
They ate Little Debbie snacks and drank Mountain Dew and subjected their minds to the dark humor of Invader Zim. Rae gave looks to Lucy that communicated that she was in unknown, uncharted territory, and was at least uncomfortable, maybe nervous, maybe scared, maybe apprehensive. Maybe a lot of things.
Lucy just stared back, then got a blanket so they could share the smaller couch. Rae sat on one side, Lucy sat on the other.
They swam in Lucy’s clubhouse pool, Rae in a black and white bikini, Lucy in a pink and white bikini. They sat in the hot tub, turning on the bubbles and foam and jets. The painted concrete of the bottom of the pool was speckled with tiny bumps. The rest was smooth, but their toes still hurt. Lucy’s dad sat comfortably on the side, using this time to read, which was quite rare for him.
Lucy even convinced Rae to transfer schools.
“You know,” Lucy started, unsure. “You should come to Journey.”
“The store?” Rae laughed.
“No, silly, it’s the school.” Lucy shrugged. “But you know, if you don’t want to go...” She suspended the bait, swaying it front of Rae’s fair babyish face.
“Well, tell me more about it.” Rae said hastily, desperate enough for unyielding friendship that she would at least nibble on the hook. Lucy knew that she had ensnared her, and from then on it was set.
All that started this was a simple sleepover, actually at Jenny’s house. Jenny was a funny, random, more of the odd type. But she was both socially acceptable and cool. The girls did the usual, laughed around, rubbed at the caking stale makeup on their eyes, wiggled in their sticky clenching skinny jeans.
The girls would sit on Jenny’s cement front steps and eat pizza with green bell peppers and olives, which drinking soda. It was a ritual, almost; whenever over at Jenny’s, they had their pizza and their soda.
They also messed about at the private school Jenny lived only a few blocks away from, Waldorf, walking and singing and dancing in the warm yet strangely cold summer night. They walked, dragging branches, kicking stones, and half tripping over the uneven concrete sidewalk. Blasting music, texting boys, and laughing. Always laughing.
Waldorf’s playground had the typical things; slides, tunnels, half bubbles that made you feel like you were falling. Stairs. Rails.
Jenny, Rae, and Lucy would all skip the stairs, and slide down the slides, screaming and squealing at the childish fun. They’d swing, kicking off their flip flops and seeing who could fling theirs the furthest. They’d lay on the rectangular yellow tunnel, dangling their golden brown slightly toasted legs off the edge and telling funny stories.
Everything was perfect on those summer nights.
One night, after coming back to Jenny’s house after messing around at Waldorf, they took Lucy’s favorite blanket and a few pillows, creeping towards Jenny’s backyard. They spread out the blanket, sat on it, and played, “Welcome To The Black Parade” over and over. The funny thing about girls is they always had a rather fine memory for remembering lyrics, or at least all the ones Lucy knew did.
“This song is too sad for such a pretty night,” Lucy would complain.
“But it’s such a good song,” Rae would reply, maybe just the slightest hint of remembrance in her large brown eyes and her usually cheery but now a bit wistful voice, of which Jenny nor Lucy quite understood, and so Jenny and Lucy pretended it wasn’t there.
Lucy fell back on her blanket, looking at the very black sky. A sliver of a moon rested on it’s own back, singing to the stars. Lucy smiled, humming along to the song Jenny and Rae insisted upon.
Lucy turned onto her side, curling herself into a ball. She closed her eyes, and the world faded away into oblivion, shifting and melding into an invisible dream.
They say you dream every night, but you just didn’t always remember your dreams. Either Lucy never remembered her dreams, or she didn’t dream at all.
She groggily woke up not too long after her breathing had evened; and the same song was playing. Lucy looked at the faces of her friends, still singing along, and she smiled, her eyelids shutting slowly yet inevitably.
Soon she was asleep, the moon singing it’s sweet song to a happy girl.
You know, Lucy thought as her eyes closed in slow motion, I’m really okay with this.
Don't Forget, No Regrets
(reference to the song, “Thanks That Was Fun” by the Barenaked Ladies)
The painful thing about losing people is that it happens gradually. Everything is going great, and then one day you wake up and find a voicemail saying that it’s over, they hate you, and to never call again. No, it’s slow. Torture. Over time, they start to lose interest, maybe make a snotty statement, start cancelling on you for other people. But so gradually. And maybe the apathetic nature of the situation makes things seem natural, but then there’s this one point where everything that happened seems to fast forward in your head and you see exactly what happened and how very wrong you were. For Lucy, that’s how it was. And though it seemed like a child had slowed down the movie to laugh at the sillier faces and watch every expression transfer and blend and blur like a watercolor line into the paper, it was as simple as one day they were buying iced coffee and pumpkin spice lattes and taking their shoes off and sitting in the empty fountain, gossiping and laughing. The next, Rae pretended she didn’t exist. Ignored Lucy. Walking around on her toes, curly ponytail swinging, like Rae did when she was mad. Lucy even forgot what she did. She couldn’t remember what they fought about. How many fights they had Lucy had forgotten. Not to mention the rows and glares. How Rae was always ditching Lucy for Heather, a girl with a lot of teenage problems. They all bundled and swirled into one huge event. Rae was starting to drift away. That’s how it happened. The rope tying them together started to unravel and slip, fray a bit at the ends. The last good memory Lucy could remember was when Rae was upset and crying over some assignment and teachers and parents. But you know, once it starts, it always gets worse. You can’t stop thinking about everything you’ve done wrong and how people have done wrong with you. Once it starts, you cannot stop thinking no matter how hard you try, like a train trying to stop too quickly. No matter how much you pull the brake to off, it’s even less likely to get your desired results, and all you end up doing is yanking the brake out. And so the instant Lucy saw Rae shed a single tear, Lucy’s forest ground eyes widened and she quickly looked about the office lobby, searching for the careless bloom of white that signaled the discovery of tissues. Finding none, in a very short minute she was running down the hallway to the bathroom, ripping paper towels from the automatic dispenser like one ripped infuriating propaganda off walls. Lucy was simply lucky that no wandering teachers caught her racing about so. Lucy hugged Rae like a mother hugged a teary child. Rae didn’t resist. Lucy handed her the paper towels, and Rae didn’t resist once more. That was the last time Lucy would ever be with Rae like in the old days. And like a ship set course to the sun, Rae was sailing away to destination unknown, and Lucy couldn’t stop her. The melodic waves carried Rae off into the sunset. No matter how much she tried to cup her hands and keep the sand contained, there was always holes and the sand always slipped out, like some sort of hour glass. Sometimes, you just had to let it go. And sometimes, it went.
(reference to the song “Daughters” by John Mayer)
One mistake, that’s all it took.
That night, Lucy was staying at Nicky’s town home. All she remembers is crying on the chair, the kind of crazy crying when your eyes are wide in fear and you don’t care about the tear stains on your cheeks leaving salt instead of dust in their tracks and your knees are in your face and you don’t think about the kind of ugly crying noises you make. That kind of crying.
And as she stared into her legs like they had some kind of answer.
Has anyone ever noticed, Lucy thought, how well your eye sockets fit into your knee caps?
After being offered a tissue by Nicky’s fiance Ace, who obviously felt bad.
But these tears weren’t about another wife beating moronic jerk of a boyfriend.
This was about the times Lucy had to listen to her mother lecture her about how beautiful Lucy was and how smart and so wonderful and how she had sung lullabies in her smoke aged voice to her oldest baby while she had been pregnant but was now desperately drunk. This was for the red wine vomit that looked like blood all over the bathroom. For the time Lucy had to ditch school to stay with her bruised mom who clung to a box of tissues and had a purple blue ring around her round dirty peridot eye. For the disappointment and shock when Lucy had heard the news that Ace and Nicky had gotten engaged. For the pictures of a dyed blonde haired girl holding a smiling toddler wrapped in pink fleece. For the day when Lucy’s uncle Jake had called her to say that Nicky was going to try to kill herself. This was for the day James and Lucy had wandered around the parking lot of Nicky’s house for twenty minutes with a smaller Lucy screaming, “Mommy Mommy where are you?” while Mommy slept like she was dead. This was for the fights and the insults Nicky had used on Lucy and her second ex husband. This was for every missed school talent show where Lucy stood frozen on the stage, searching the very bored crowd for silky chocolate brown hair while singing Kelly Clarkson.
This was for the secret Lucy couldn’t seem to tell her mother.
When Lucy was maybe three or four, when Nicky and her second ex husband were still married, they had some neighbors. Kate and Max. Lucy knew they weren’t married, but wondered why. She was too little to know that a girl and boy could live together but not be in love.
Mommy, she asked, why aren’t Kate and Max married? Lucy’s sticky hand clenched Nicky’s. Nicky thought for a minute, trying to think of how to tell a three or four year old that someone was gay.
Kate likes to kiss girls. Nicky replied. Lucy knew what kissing was; in every Disney movie it symbolized love and marriage and babies. Lucy didn’t question it.
And now, as Lucy ran, locking herself in the spare room, clutching the sleeping bag that lived in the closet to her contracting, heaving chest, she thought about how Kate liked to kiss girls.
Funny how Lucy liked to kiss girls... and boys.
And then Lucy came out of her closet, leaned her head on Nicky’s shoulder, and felt the aftereffects of crazy tears while she watched Isaac and Jen and Ace and Nicky play Monopoly.
All she did was tell a friend over Facebook that she was gay. She was telling everyone. Lucy didn’t understand why people would keep it to themselves--and she had a lot of friends.
And so, Lucy proceeded to forget to log out of her Facebook.
And a day later when she was home alone, she heard a knock at the door. She opened it, and there stood Nicky, in a black slip, Halloween knee socks, cowboy boots, and two braids over her shoulders. Lucy stared blankly at her.
“You left your Facebook logged in,” Nicky said. “I read everything.”
A wave of panic rushed through Lucy’s chest.
“So you know, then.” Lucy said quietly, staring at the ground. Nicky let herself in, hugging her first born child.
“I just worry about you sometimes, Tiger Lily.” Nicky whispered into Lucy’s ear, and then left.
Lucy sighed. This was the first adult, first family member that knew. And she was worried. Why? Less of a chance that Lucy would end up in a relationship that was wrong with a baby girl on the way and a long trudge of a life ahead of her. Given, Everest had a beautiful view from the top, but Lucy wasn’t willing to lose a few toes to frostbite for it.
And maybe that made her sound mundane, or boring, or not a risk taker. But Lucy rather walk around and stare at the lights from the few hills in the dark, the collection of slightly blurred gold, white, red, and green spots looked like a valley of fallen stars, sparkly and shiny for the taking. Like streetlights that were lanterns against the black, dark indigo of the sky. Lucy knew there was very beautiful things, but Everest seemed like a lot of drama and an awful lot of snow.
This feeling was surreal, and Lucy didn’t want to believe it.
So she sat on the couch, turned on the television, and didn’t believe.
“This is my letter to the World
That never wrote to Me--”
- Emily Dickinson, J. 441
There are some things you never forget.
And for Lucy, the ocean was one of those things.
The sweep of the waves, the sound of the tide, the sea blue green of it all. How you could wander for an hour along the shore and find shells and hermit crabs and seaweed and sand and maybe some more sand and people. But you could never find an end.
She laid upon the quit her grandmother had nominated as the beach blanket, headphones plugging her ears, listening to a song that lulled you somewhere sweet and safe and yet was a place of such pivotal bravery and danger.
She let the song take her very far away from reality. On a sailboat maybe, as she smiled with tears and waved goodbye. A make shift raft where she floated through sharp coral away from a deserted island. A cloud, drifting through storms, avoiding sharp lightning.
She thought of the people she knew and the people she loved. And all she could feel was this unconditional caring for every soul she held dear; even for every soul she had simply seen on the street, just faces in the passing.
And as Lucy laid on the beach, staring up at the endless blue sky, she felt more things.
Loneliness. Happiness. Rage. Contentment. Sadness. Joy. Guilt. Pride.
Everything hit her like a train, like a bullet, like monsoon. Like a blizzard.
The whole world collided with her like only the universe could.
Like the storm on the horizon now; the purple swirling swollen clouds and the wind silently screaming and whipping the hair of many. The small waves raged and thrashed, throwing a wild teary tantrum, their beat slowly, angrily crashing and rolling on the coast. Some light shone through the clouds, only a few rays of sunlight that seemed to be like the nightlight for the world.
Keep away the monsters and the dark, Lucy prayed. ‘Cause I don’t want this minute to end.
And like she was Gaea herself, she could feel the entirety of it all. Lucy could feel every single cell in her body, every vein coursing through her being with blood. She could feel every heartbeat, hear every whisper, the breeze of every breath on her skin. She could see the murmur of every secret, every soul. She could feel how the October rain felt like ice and made the leaves fall like confetti like the yellow golden crimson flakes were targets and the clear cold raindrops were arrows.
She clenched her hands into fists, gritty pale sand clinging to her, digging under her nails. The saltwater brine on her legs had started to dry and became sticky. She curled her toes tightly. Lucy shut her eyes, the brightness of the sun turning maroon red behind her eyes and tiny pinpoints of light ceaselessly stretching into that forever or infinity or whatever her math teacher liked so much.
But as soon as the world was in her arms, it was gone.
And now again she was blinking at shadows and ghosts. The minute was long gone, and so was the special light, and her prayers to keep away the monsters and the night were unanswered.
Lucy released her fists, opened her eyes, forever melting into a second and then sinking away into oblivion.
But there are just some things you never forget.
Title is a reference to the song, “Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year” by Fall Out Boy
Nicky’s fiance, Ace owned a dark greed Ford Explorer, but Nicky drove it a lot more than he did.
She drove it to pick up Lucy from James’ house pretty often; and there were two best parts of the car. One, it had a nice stereo system that hooked up to iPods and played CDs well. Two, there was a very convenient sunroof.
So Nicky and Lucy would pop in an MGMT or Barenaked Ladies CD, and drive off, bouncing down the street on tires, laughing and singing and telling stories.
And if it was the middle of the day, they played Kids and Time to Pretend and Destrokk, turned it way up and sung along, buying acai pomegranate Vitamin Water and Rockstars, sometimes nibbling on donuts.
If it was later, they bounced down the street in the dark, singing along to the song Brian Wilson. Lucy looked and sounded so much like Nicky before everything happened to her.
And it was odd, yet comforting, to have the future chance and the past mistake in the same space, so much alike, yet so different.
One was living in a shadow yet was the very sun.
Lucy danced as best she could while in a bumpy car in a seat belt, twisting and shimmying her shoulders, rolling her hips. Nicky closed her eyes, her brow creasing, her lips forming an o just to hit those especially high and soulful notes that Nicky’s smoky, hazy voice couldn’t jump quite tall enough to touch.
That was how they stuck together; it was the unsaid tradition of bonding. It was their glue, how they stayed mother and daughter. It was completely theirs.
And every time they did this, Lucy felt soberly drunk. She felt like laughing until her stomach hurt, like crying until she was better, like smiling until her face was numb, like dancing until she couldn’t move, like sleeping til she had a beard and her name was Rip Van Winkle.
No, Lucy would never have a name as silly as that.
They drove, stopping for fries and large Diet Cokes. Once in a while they’d drive to Independent Records and file through CDs and admire fishnets. They’d smile at the pierced, gauged, tattooed men that worked as cashiers. The people who worked there braided and pleated their beards like vikings, but they always seemed so peace loving and hippyish. Mother and daughter loved them, just awesome nameless faces.
But as Lucy stuck one hand out the window, and one out of the sunroof, air pulling through her fingers like coarse silk, Nicky turned up the volume and they sang, their voices drowning in the green decaying forest of their twin eyes.
A forest very far away, near an ocean in a country with a pretty name and a little girl with hazelnut chocolate hair and big baby emerald brown eyes wrapped in pink felt. Holding her, a woman named Lucy with the same eyes, the same hair, a large mouth that smiled, the faintest butterflies of laugh lines echoing her speech, a green lighter in her hand lighting a labeless blue saint candle. Where it was always Christmas and cookies were in the oven, where a playground in the front yard, where a dark pine car with a sunroof in the driveway, where hearts always felt love, where a balcony on the second floor. Where lights shone like fallen stars.
And someday, somehow, things would be okay.