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The Front Seat

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I haven’t sat in a backseat in a while. It’s stunning when it hits: driving down Edgewater, the midnight moon bouncing in the reflection of the water, one hand out the window, feeling the crisp January air while the other hand stays at the top of the steering wheel, it comes to me. I’m always in the driver’s seat now. And it angers me a little, saddens me too. I can remember those days in the back of Rowan’s car, driving down East bay, shrieking with Emily as he runs lights and speeds across bridges; those moments stretched out the side of a window, the wind, cold, tart, whipping at my face and my chest (so far out the window, “Kennis, we’re not coming back for your upper half if it falls out,” Rowan would say. But he would. He would.).
But now, I am the driver. I can’t yell out the side of the window, for I must be focused on the road, on the cars, on the lights and the sounds and the speed that Kiwi goes at (always 60mph, never anything else. The Kiwi has a mind of its own. Honest.)
And so coming home from Nicki’s that Friday, with the dark black sea my only companion as I drive that stretch of road between the two cities, I wonder if this is what growing up feels like. Realizing that you’ll never again be sixteen; young enough that there’s all this youth left ahead, and old enough that you think you are wise. And if this is growing up, it hurts a little. It pangs a small bit somewhere not in the heart, but a little to the left of it, like it should hurt more, but it just hasn’t realized it yet. But at the same time, I know that there is the better side. There is the fact that it is midnight in a town I will leave soon for other worlds and other people, and the water and the palm trees have watched my transition with pride, and for a moment, I am alone with them. With only Kiwi’s vibration beneath and within me, I smell the salt and the night, feel that Florida wind that caresses as it whirls, see the palms dancing in the cool moonlight, touch the furry cover of the steering wheel of the car that’s seen me through, and taste the bittersweet realization that growing up is hard, and it hurts, but it may just be worth it. I hope it’s worth it. I do.
And Kiwi turns right, towards the city. And I am proud of who I am, and where I’m going, and that for thirty minutes on a Friday night, I could be alone, driving through the cities that watched me grow up, and be alive, here, in the lost moments of life. And I could take it all in: me, the city, this way of life, before I head off, all of a sudden, all grown up.



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