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Music of the heart
The crowd moved with the music. Thump. Sway, to the side. Thump. Sway back to the other side. Thump. Thump. Thump. Everyone was lost in themselves. You could see it in their eyes, their gleaming, absurd eyes. I watched them. But I was getting bored sitting on the couch while the rest of them let themselves go, each of them forgetting about everything but here, losing everything in the music, in the moment. Isn’t that what high schoolers were supposed to do? I wondered. But it bored me. So I got up, gathered the motivation to walk to my car, and I left.
I don’t think it really mattered though. Maybe they all thought I was lame for leaving. The quiet kid, who was too pretty to be as boring as she was, it was just like that. Some boy, some over zealous high school boy who was motivated by a lower realm, would come up and talk to me. I probably found him boring. But he would make small talk, ask what I was interested in, probably go in for a kiss, ask if I wanted a drink, and maybe invite me to follow him to another room. Though it always ended the same. No. I am alright. Then he would rise up from the seat next to me in some baffled confusion. His mind churning faster than it did in school, thinking over him being turned down. And he would think: She is cute. I am cute. Why not? Wasn’t that how it worked? Maybe I was dreaming too high. Maybe he was dreaming too low. Or maybe he was just too drunk to comprehend much anyway. But I wasn’t interested. He would soon give up, and walk over to his friends, probably tell them I had hit on him, and how cool he was for turning me down.
So I left the party. I drove home. Alone, again on a Friday night. Oh, I was just too cool. But I liked it, on the road. The cars would rise up as bright lights growing brighter and bigger as they inched away from the horizon and toward my car. They would press down on the gas, look at the clock. Turn the wheel a bit; thump their fingers on it impatiently. Look out the window. See my car. Look away. Did they think about me as they passed? Or where they just like the high schoolers off in their own world of music and sex and drugs and homework and nothing else but themselves and what they wanted to do. They probably didn’t think about me. But it’s alright. Not much to think about. And I liked it. Here on the road, they couldn’t really see me. They didn’t know I was thinking about them, or watching them. It’s just interesting though, you know? How we are all on this earth together, and yet how many of us really give a thought to the person we pass on the road? On the street? In a store? I don’t think people really do. Or at least they don’t seem to.
So I could create my own little world, in a world of the unknown. The man stepped on the gas because he needed to get home, maybe his wife thought he was cheating on him, and she said if he doesn’t get home on time tonight, that was it. So he sped up. Looked at the clock, wished the speed limit wasn’t 40. Damn. It’s a straight road, he thought too himself. Why is it only 40? Straight and flat, he would think, and I just want to get home. So he would go faster. Strum the wheel like it was a drum, adding in his own beat. Look out the window as he see my head lights, look into my car. Just a kid. He would look away. Probably forget about me the next second. And he would drive off faster because now he knew I wasn’t a cop and he was the only one on the road. Everyone has a story.
But now I was literally alone on the road. No more bouncing headlights on the looming horizon, no dim tail lights on the road before me. It was quiet. Everything smelled of darkness and loneliness and I got bored again. I turned on the music. Watched the trees blur in greens and browns in the corner of my eyes. I wondered now, all alone, of the old saying: if a tree falls in the forest when no one was around, did it make a sound? So if I thought of the world around me, but no one was thinking about me, did I really matter? Right now? At this moment? I didn’t know the answer though, and the trees kept blurring past me. Nothing really changed in the world. I was on the road. Driving home. That was all that mattered. I wasn’t at a party. I wasn’t being a cool high schooler. I was just driving. Just a small little part of a whole I couldn’t comprehend. So I stopped thinking, just let the trees blur past me and the road melt from under me, and I drove. I guess it didn’t really matter.
But I didn’t want to go home. My parents would wonder why I was so weird. Why I was always home on Friday nights, and maybe make me see another therapist. I was tired of therapists. I reached my street and rather than turning onto it, I went straight. Took a left. Then a right. And another left. I honestly didn’t know where I was going. I was just driving. The lights from my headlights washed over the street in pale yellows that were almost white, and allowed it to lead the way, the way to where I didn’t care. Just driving. Then the lights reflected on a color it hadn’t in a while. Bright red. It was a hoodie, and arm of a hoodie with a thumb sticking out the other end of a small person, probably a teenager. The hood was pulled over their face, so I all I could see was a hand. And I couldn’t put a story to them. Just a walking red hoodie. So I stopped and picked up the hitchhiker in a red hoodie. It caught my interest and to be honest I was getting a little bored of the same colors on the road, and I liked red. I watched them in my rear-view mirror, run up. They were skinny. And I could make out a face now, then they reached for the door, opened it without really much care or worry for whether or not I was a psycho killer who could kidnap them and leave them on the side of the road in little pieces. Whoever it was. They seemed worn down. Or they were used to hitchhiking with people.
“Thanks so much.” A girl’s voice said from a shaded face hiding under a hood.
“No problem.” I said slowly. I didn’t like talking.
“I am just going a few miles from here, so if you could just get me closer to San Diego, that would be cool. I mean you don’t have to take me all the way there… So where you going?”
“I am not sure.”
“You’re not sure?”
“I was just driving.”
“Oh,” then silence filled the car. I felt alone again. “Well umm… we should probably get going wherever it is that we are going.”
So I did just that. Started the car again, and drove off… to wherever it was that we were going. And we drove together like that. She eventually pulled down the hood. I saw the darker red flash from what I could see in the night air around me. It was quiet. Then suddenly the car dinged indicating I was on empty. But I was scared to talk now because it had been so quiet.
“I kinda,” I mumbled, “Need to go get some gas.”
“Oh alright, that’s cool. I can just get out there if you want. I can walk the next couple miles.”
“No…” I said too quickly. “I mean I don’t mind driving you. I have no where to be anyway.”
She looked over at me, her soft curls bouncing slowly in the moonlight as she turned her head.
“Alright. Me either.” She shrugged.
I pulled into the gas station and the quietness was gone from the air. I wasn’t bored. I didn’t want to go back.
“So umm I’ll be right back,” I told the red hooded stranger next to me.
I got out. That’s what I was supposed to do. Go pay for the gas. And then my mind starting bugging me. I liked the stillness of the car. Here I didn’t know anything anymore, the world was real again, people saw me and I saw them. I didn’t know what to do. My parents were probably going to get worried soon. It was a Friday night. I didn’t do anything really on these nights. Hung out with friends, but only on the side of them, never really talking. Just listening. And sometimes I watched parties, but never really went or partake in them, just sat on the couch. It wasn’t that I couldn’t make really good friends and let go of myself and be a high schooler, it’s just that I didn’t understand the point of it. People didn’t understand me. I never talked, what was to understand?
I should go back, the thought suddenly crept into my head, but I didn’t want to. Life was like that though, doing a bunch of things you didn’t want to do. I quickly went inside and paid for the gas with the last of the meek money I had made the weekend before. I filled up the car. I kept looking into the back window to make sure the stranger was there. I wanted to follow through and take the stranger wherever it was she was going. I don’t know why. I had nothing better to do. Then as soon as she was gone, I would go back home. Everything would be the same, and that was alright.
“Alright, we’re good to go.” I said as I hoped into my car.
“I’m Jessie.” The red hooded girl blurted out.
“Oh umm… right, well I’m Alice
“Okay. So why are you here Alice?”
“Oh, umm well, I don’t really have a good answer. I was just driving. I didn’t have anywhere to go. And I didn’t want to go home.”
“My parents think I’m crazy.”
“Are you?” She asked, honest curiosity showing through with a slight hint of laughter hiding behind her lips.
“Oh well… maybe. I guess I might be.”
“But not the bad crazy?”
“God I hope not.” I said sorrowfully honest.
“I don’t think you’re crazy.”
“But I might be. You don’t know me.
“Well… everyone is a little crazy.”
“I might be a little more crazy than them.”
“Well I guess I just think differently,” I said, for the first time really giving myself a straight answer.
“That’s not always a bad thing,” she looked over and gave a slight smile.
And then we just talked. She told me about how she had ended up on the street, she said she was homeless, sort of. Her parents had kicked her out because she wasn’t what they wanted her to be. But that confused me. She didn’t explain what she meant. I didn’t ask. She said she was 17, and she was only 8 when her step-dad had started beating her. So she kind of rebelled when she got older, did badly in school and didn’t come home a lot. It didn’t matter much when she got kicked out, she explained, she was hardly home anyway. I assumed that’s what she meant when she said that her parents didn’t like who she was. Today was the 4th month she had been out here. Not too long. But what do I know, I had never known anything besides the warm comfort of a simplistic life under a crowding roof, four months goes quick when you’re safe.
Then she asked about me. And for once I talked. I told her that I didn’t really understand people. I guess I thought differently because I was always trying to wrap me head around the true meaning of things, and why we really lived, and why it all mattered. So everything else in life seemed so pointless. I told her my little sister had died 7 months ago. I don’t know why I told her. But I did. And since then nothing has been the same at the house, no one really talked, and I guessed my parents were disappointed that they lost the normal kid. My life wasn’t as bad as hers. But it wasn’t what I had expected.
“You need to learn how to live.” She said brightly, a smile behind a face I couldn’t see as I watched the road.
“We all do.”
“Sometimes I don’t want to live,” she said. “And your life isn’t too bad. So live.” She said, growing a bit softer and slightly sad sounding.
Then we passed the entering San Diego sign. My heart dropped. I felt alive for once. I talked to her, and I could talk to her and things seemed alright and normal and I didn’t feel so different. I wasn’t bored yet. Everything was alright, but then she had to go.
“Keep driving.” She said, I could hear she was crying. I didn’t say anything. I kept driving. And the first time since my sister died I felt like crying too.
We drove like that for awhile, her sniffling every now and then beside me. The road was passing slowly beneath us and yet I felt like I could spend the rest of my life just driving with this red hooded girl named Jessie that I’d only just met.
“Life is complicated,” I sighed into the silence between us.
“I guess you just need to know what you want.” She sounded tired. “Drive faster.”
“Is that what you want?”
“Right now it is.”
So I drove faster. And I turned to her, her eyes looked sad, so I drove faster. And I kept it up. Shift. The car jilts forward with more power. Shift. The world around us blurs into one dark mass of night. Shift. And I couldn’t go any faster. She sighed, and a tear trickled down her face.
“Now what do you want? Because well, I am on E again” and the car dinged as if to prove my point.
“I want you to stop.”
So I stopped. Shifting down slowly and pulling into a nook of road on some flat part of California I had never seen before. All I knew is that we weren’t in San Diego anymore. I stopped and she got out of the car, and I did too. I didn’t want her to leave yet. But she didn’t. She just stood there, looking at the stars. I didn’t know what else to do so I walked over there and looked up at the stars too. She grabbed my hand for a second and pulled me across the flat, dry landscape. And we walked for a bit, in the same fashion we drove. In silence. Then she stopped and sat down. So I sat down next to her.
I didn’t know what else to do, so I laid down, and she did the same.
“So what do you want, in the whole world?” she murmured tiredly,
“Yeah. This second?”
So I leaned over and kissed her. The world seemed perfect for a second. Then she pulled away and sat quietly.
“God uhh… I’m sorry. I don’t know why I did that,” I said, sitting up and moving a bit away from her. “I just… I don’t know.”
“It’s okay,” she said, starting to cry again.
“God don’t cry. I am sorry. Just don’t cry.”
The night seemed to be moving too fast around me and everything was in motion but this red-hooded girl named Jessie besides me and myself. I just watched as the world buzzed on speeding in a continuum thousands of miles faster than I could comprehend. But the next time, she kissed me and I kissed her back and the world finally stood still, and everything fell into place. I smiled into her lips, and felt as though I was finally moving forward with the world.