Darkness creeps into your soul as you peer out the car window. You fiddle in the backseat, overwhelmed with the chaos vibrating through your head. Staring forward, two silhouettes emerge in the obscurity. You encounter an unfamiliar feeling—complete liberation. Indulged in tranquility, you wonder why the past 16 years hid you from this.
Suddenly, the carefree mood shifts. The ominous whispers from the passenger seat warn you there’s something wrong—but what?
“Just drive slow,” he says.
“Use your blinker,” he says.
“It’s 3 in the morning,” he says.
Your vision blurs but you still comprehend their faces—fear. Swiveling your head, you grasp their apprehension and reciprocate their expression.
Headlights. Headlights behind our car. Headlights from a cop car.
The realization sinks in and you become frantic. Oh no, you think, I’m in trouble. Silently, you pray that the scent of alcohol no longer lingers and that the empty bottle remains unseen.
The sound of your father’s voice echoes in your mind—the edged disappointment sends you into an uncontrollable upheaval. Your heart begins to pound in an unnatural way. Your eyes glaze over from sleep deprivation. Your muscles tighten and your breathing accelerates.
The car pulls over and windows slide down. A uniform approaches and questions you. Do you know what time it is? Answers flow back, but silence would have sufficed. Your words contained no significance.
Two bodies step out of the car, isolating you. “Stay here,” they said. Anxiety builds within you and explodes. The knots in your stomach continue to grow. What’s going on?
You mindlessly stare out the window, watching the cautious movements of your two companions as they speak with the officer. Why am I still in here? Maybe he doesn’t even see me.
A car sidles forward, and one accomplice reluctantly heads towards it, paper in hand. Angry disbelief pulls him inside, and he disappears.
The other moves in your direction and returns for you. Finally. He peers into your eyes and you find comfort. “Everything’s going to be okay,” he says. For some reason, you believe him.
Idling yourself out of the car, you clench his hand and find yourself in a state of relief. You slowly follow him to his house, where safety awaits.
The front door opens, the lights flicker, and the couch becomes your dwelling place.
Realization takes over. No words exchange.
The white noise begins to pierce your innocence. Your perfect image shatters. The fear of failure crumbles beneath you. Who you were no longer exists—now, you wear the tag of disappointment. The tag of imperfection. The tag of reality.
A breath escapes you, and you realize you’d been holding it your entire life.