The night was beautiful.
Raindrops tapped softly on the windshield, occasionally increasing their force. They streamed down the windows of the car, each new batch swiped away by sweeping black windshield wipers.
My mother sat in the seat beside me, her mouth pressed into a thin line. Dark hair covered most of her face, but anyone with eyes could read her- she was annoyed. Unhappy.
But for the time being, I could ignore the uncomfortable energy inside the car, and melt into the beauty outside of it. I knew the world could be better. It could be wonderful, even.
Lana Del Rey’s voice filled my ears as a song came on from my playlist: “Sometimes love is not enough, and the road gets tough, I don’t know why.”
Neither do I, I thought to myself.
There was pain in the lyrics, in her voice.
Someone told me once that art was the only way to express pain.
Art can hardly save me now.
I stared up at the inky sky, stars covered with dense fog from the rain. It was so big. The world was so big.
So why did I feel so trapped?
Bright off-white headlights stared back at me as I brought my gaze back to earth. I could almost pretend that the world was black and white, if not for the violently red taillights peeping on the back of the seemingly endless stream of cars.
I thought everything was more beautiful in black and white.
Colors were too bright for me.
I was reminded of the Plath poem- the one about the tulips being too bright, disturbing the peace in the otherwise tranquil room. It was a bit different for me, I supposed.
Plath was surrounded by white, but in that moment I would’ve given anything to be swallowed by the darkness.
Anywhere but this car ride.
But I could pretend. I was an expert at pretending things weren’t the way they really were. I could fake a smile as easily as I could blink. But it was difficult to do so with no one to fake it around.
There was no hiding from myself that night, and though the outside world was pretty, it was atmosphere on the inside of the car that eventually turned my eyes into the sky.
Raindrops of my own slid down my cheeks, some falling upon my lips.
They tasted like the ocean.
I sniffled slightly, and I saw my mother shift almost imperceptibly in my peripheral vision. I thought for a moment that she would speak, but no- she remained uncharacteristically silent. She might as well have been a statue, the only movement coming from her thumbs, which tapped the steering wheel lightly.
I considered opening my own mouth to say something, anything. But what was there for me to say? I spoke rarely, even when I wasn’t in sickening situations such as this. I imagined, for a minute, how it would go.
“Mom?” I would say, my voice barely more than a raspy whisper.
She’d hear it anyway- she could hear a mouse scamper from three rooms away.
She’d stiffen, probably. Maybe snap, “What?”.
I’d have nothing else to say, so I’d mutter a quick “Nothing”, and go back to staring out the window. She’d shake her head, and think to herself, if not mutter aloud, “Such a disappointment”.
I’d sink back into the world of my music and let the words fill my ears.
I’d feel a flood fall from my eyelids, which I’d close. I’d wish to be lost, if only for a second, in my own little world where nothing went wrong and all was okay. Even me. Especially me.
So I kept my mouth shut.
We were stopped in traffic every few moments, so I tilted my head to look at the car beside me. I couldn’t see who was inside.
I wondered what their life was like; bad or good, or just normal. Normal. I wondered what it would be like to have a normal life.
But maybe not.
Maybe it would be nice.
Whatever it was, it had to be better than this.
I wanted to be five years old again, playing in a world of my fantasy in which nothing really mattered, and everything was fine.
I eyed the time, and felt myself beginning to sweat. My heart beat fast beneath my winter coat, and I felt my pale hands shake. Beads of perspiration formed along my forehead.
Beads, like the beads from the necklace that had been torn from my hands and broken before my eyes.
My face heated. I was nervous, horribly nervous.
I was desperate to roll down the window and feel the cool night air on my face, but I knew I would get soaked to the skin if I did so.
My anxiety must have been apparent because my mother actually spoke.
I heard her sharp voice ring out above the music playing softly in my ears.
She was the only person in the world who refused to call me Lexi.
She said it sounded stupid.
The traffic light glowed red for half a second longer, so she had time to glance over at me.
I thought, for just a moment, that her face flickered in pity.
It must’ve been my imagination, however, because her focus returned to the road and she said, “Pull yourself together.”
Pull myself together.
I could no sooner pull myself together than I could pull the continents together into a new Pangaea.
The last remaining bits of myself were scattered across my room in the form of the ceramic China doll, thrown mercilessly in a fit of anger that wasn’t mine.
I wrapped my arms around myself and held tightly. The rain was coming to a stop. The pitter-patters were growing softer, but the fog remained. Fog covered the road ahead, revealing only the glowing sanguine taillights in the darkness.
I tried to fill my mind with that fog.
I wanted to forget.
I just wanted to forget.
I tried to sink into the better part of my mind.
Into a story, a fantasy, anything. I needed a book. I needed to enter somebody else’s world and forget about mine.
But here there were no ink and paper worlds for me to get lost in; there were only increasingly meaningless lyrics and an awful energy as we neared our dreaded destination.
My mother turned her head to face me for the second time.
“Alexis, you know, I really just can’t believe you-”
I closed my eyes again, just to block out the sight of her face contorted with anger, and I suppose that’s why neither she nor I saw bright red car veer sharply to the right going God-knows-how-many miles per hour.
I felt the earth-shattering impact of the vehicle slamming into our car.
A flash, a scream, and I got my wish:
I surrendered to the darkness.
That Rain-Filled Night
The night was beautiful.