The Absence of Light
Part 2“Did you know,” I said to her last night, as we sat on a damp park bench, “That when you see a star, you’re actually seeing what it looked like thousands of years ago.”
“Is that why Madonna looks so young?” She replied.
“Why?” she asked seriously after I was done.
“I think it has something to do with the speed of light.” I was so taken with that bit of information that I didn’t really remember why.
“What do you think the speed of dark is?”
I couldn’t tell if she was being serious or not. I hoped she wasn’t because I didn’t have an answer.
“Okay,” she smiled, “Do you think it’s faster or slower than the speed at which that teacher kicked our asses into the principal’s office that day?”
“Faster or slower than the speed at which dad yelled at the principal.”
“Faster or slower than the speed at which the principal wrote out our suspension forms, after dad flipped him off and implied something rather unpleasant about his mother?”
“You know, I don’t think the dark moves. I think it prefers to just surround us and see what we all do under its cover.”
My sister appeared not to hear. She was smiling and squinting at something in the distance.
“Hey Marco,” she hollered, “Is that you?”
At first I only saw his silhouette, but eventually a boy my sister’s age broke out of the darkness and was standing in front of us. There seemed to be a short girl behind him.
“Hey Malinda,” he grinned. He had shocking red hair, a lop-sided smile, and what I believe would be called a “lean built.”
As for the girl, she was still behind him; but I could see that she had soft eyes and hard lips.
“So,” Marco said, “I heard that you’re no longer a fellow inmate.”
“If only,” my sister sighed, “we’re returning to school in like 2 weeks.”
“So, a two month suspension? I can’t decide if that’s harsh or awesome. Who did you have to kill to get such a large sentence?”
“This guy who was ruffin’ up my brother Holden here,” she patted my head.
The girl giggled, and I felt myself turn as red as Marco’s hair. My sister looked around Marco,
“Hey,” she said to the girl, “Who are you, and why is Marco hiding you from us?”
“I’m Dolly.” She said. Her voice was like the autumn wind; cool and gentle.
“Well get out from behind there Dolly, and come enjoy the show with us,” she gestured grandly the night sky; endless and dazzling, “Oh, and you too Marco.”
We were sitting in the middle of the bench. Marco took a seat next to my sister, and so Dolly had sit next to me. For a while we all just stared up there, not saying anything. Isn’t it great that when the star which we call “the sun” sets, we suddenly have full view of hundreds of others just like it?
The silence dissolved as Marco and my sister began whispering. Marco was talking about a boy who he’s “really into.” My sister was telling him that before he could be “into that boy,” he had to “come out to his parents.”
I looked at Dolly. She had blonde hair, and not the blonde hair that is forced into being blonde when it actually wants to be black or brown or grey. Oh and also freckles. God, I love freckles.
I cleared my throat and racked my brain for something charming, intelligent, and flattering;
“So, like, is Dolly your really name?”
She turned to face me. At first she looked surprised, but that look slowly faded into one of amusement.
“Yeah,” she replied, “You can really tell my parents did drugs. Is Holden your real name?”
“Yeah,” I said, “You can really tell my parents liked JD Salinger.”
I wasn’t trying to be funny that time; it was simply a fact. My mom read Catcher in the Rye almost every day when she was pregnant with me. My dad was even reading it to her as she was giving birth! Just when he got to the part where book-Holden talks about wanting to catch little kids as they fall off the edge, I slid out of my mom and into the doctor’s hands. Dolly still laughed though, and I was fine with it.
“How old are you?” I asked. I guessed that she was around 14. I would have been fine with that; it’s only 2 years younger than I am right now. Still, I wanted to make sure that she wasn’t too young for me or anything.
“I’m 25,” she said.
Before I could even react, my sister whipped her head around to look at Dolly.
“Wait,” she frowned, “You’re 25?”
“Yes,” said Dolly,
“Like 5 times 5?”
“Like 15 plus 10?”
“Like 100 divided by 4?”
“Jesus Malinda,” Marco chuckled, “We get it; you know how to do math, and Dolly looks like she bathes in anti-aging cream.”
My sister laughed, “Damn Dolly, you’re like a female Benjamin Button.”
“Yeah,” said Dolly, “But I get to have fun with it sometimes. Like one night, I ordered fun-sized chicken nuggets, apple juice, and smiley fries off the kid’s menu at Sam’s Burger House, and then went across the street to that Irish pub, flashed my ID, and got wasted.”
They were having all having this conversation without me, and I really wanted a part. So I said;
“If Sam’s Burger House thought you were a kid, how come they let you eat alone?”
Dolly stiffened, “I was with a couple of people.”
“Friends?” I asked,
“They were friends,” she said looking ahead, “Now, they’re just people.”
“One of the side-effects of rehab,” Marco mumbled.
“Is that where you two met?” my sister asked.
“You know what,” said Marco, “I’ll tell you, but not here. This place is becoming way too…. something. I can’t put my finger on it, but I just don’t want stay here anymore. My car’s nearby. Let’s take a ride.”
“Where?” asked Dolly.
“Where ever the open roads take us.”
“What if we get lost?” she asked.
Marco looked up. I could see that he was staring towards the infamous Northern Star; the one that once guided explorers to new lands and adventures, the one that acted as a compass before compasses were even invented.
“The stars will show us the way.” He said.