Engines rumble and tires screech, sending foul-smelling smoke spiraling in the air. My nose wrinkles against the sharp, distinct odor of gasoline. The track is all hot pavement and scorch marks and humidity soaking the collar of my plain gray shirt. The rickety bleachers aligning the simplistic oval loop, a short track less than a mile in length, are empty of an audience, but shrieking metal creates an enthralling cacophony. The pit stall is absent of any repair teams. The track has an overgrown infield of swaying wheat grasses and a lone, gangly tree, which is where I stand on a solitary mound of overturned dirt. A soft breeze swirls my hair in a caress, and my imagination muses that the highlight of sun on my hair makes me look like brown-red embers and something untouchable by the earth.
The men and women in the multi-colored sports cars, shimmering and glinting like a beatific chrome rainbow, holler their euphoria and pump their fists out the windows. For a short while, they thrive off the adrenaline that sends thrills straightening their spines and warming their blood. For a short while, they are unstoppable beings of blurred metal and boundless speed and burning rubber on black asphalt. The trick is that there isn’t a checkered finish line, and there aren’t any waving flags or scoreboards to count the laps. There will never be an end, and they have no intention of stopping.
Circling the track is a constant, elating excitement that pumps life into the veins and strains cheeks with the force of wide, toothy grins. It is easier to survive in the moment, to react to a quick and relentless pace that does not wait for anyone to catch up. We are swept into the flow, and we think we are moving somewhere with how fast we travel. But the punchline of our own fabricated joy is that we are driving in neatly rigid circles, and we are not going anywhere.
We are not progressing.
Every letter, every e-mail, is given a cursory glance before recklessly tossed to the side. Homework sits innocently on the table in clear encouragement, but it is so uncomplicated to ignore it and fall into the patterns that have habitually developed through practice. It may not be the intention, but teachers and parents and my own actions have taught me that I can get away with a pattern. I can get away with this paltry excuse of fluidity with only the most minor of adjustments that, honestly, never change anything at all.
Why am I so scared of change? Why am I so scared to face the demons and skeletons lurking in my closet? Sharing a cup of tea with a friend and a quiet, benign conversation invokes placid admittance, but knowing and enacting are two very different actions that I never bother to distinguish.
I am standing in the infield of an oval short track, watching the bypassing sports cars with a taciturn expression of mild amusement. The tall grass brushes over my ankles and knees teasingly, offering a place to rest in the lingering cool mildew, unaffected by the heat. The rumbles and roars of the engines are my lullaby, my white noise, and my muscles stretch and relax languidly as my eyes close in bliss. Today is a good day, I will say aloud, tasting ashes on my tongue and feeling sunlight turn my hair into fire.
I am stagnant.