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A Way Out
It’s loud and crowded, but I’m all alone and all I hear is silence. I’m in the eye of the storm, desperately looking for a way out, and there is none. Everything is closing in. Everything I see is spinning. The bright, neon colors of dresses and disco lights and illuminated exit signs are blurring together, like spin art. Except the art isn’t pretty. It’s intentionally dizzying and disillusioning, so that I can’t find the exit.
The air is stuffy, with grease and sweat. There are too many people and not enough air. I gasp in my little eye of the storm. People don’t notice. They’re in their own storm; raging to the pulse of the beat, turned up deafeningly high. My heart is pounding. It’s too much. Everything and everyone is too much. So I push through the crowd and shove open a door.
It’s a bathroom, dimly lit and grimy. It smells even worse than it looks. Wet toilet paper is soaking into the cheap gray tiles. The walls are gray. It’s like a jail in here. Everywhere in this place is holding me in. The sink looks disgusting. Then again, so does the doorknob. My only way out. Well, not out exactly, just back into the storm. I take a deep breath, but the smell is too awful. I kick the door open and I’m back in the chaos, having to press myself against the wall to head for the next door. It’s locked. I’m trapped. All I want is a way out.
Somewhere above the rampant music, I hear a voice. “Hey.” He calls.
I look behind me. He’s pressed against the wall, too.
“Are you looking for an exit?” he asks.
I nod. He motions me to come the other way. Reluctantly, I follow. He finds an unmarked door and pushes it open. There’s a gust of cool night air. Relieved, I walk through. It’s a side entrance that seems kind of sketch: an empty alley, cigarette butts littering the doorstep, graffiti splattered over the walls. But I’m too tired to care.
He doesn’t leave. He just stands against the door. I sit, leaning against the wall next to the door. The streetlight just barely illuminates our faces and shadows dance across the brick wall of the 24 hour mini mart in front of us as cars pass.
The throbbing in my head starts to lessen. The world has stopped spinning and the quiet seems so much louder out here.
Breaking the silence, he asks, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m fine,” I reply.
He nods. He knows it’s bull.
“The DJ is awful tonight,” he says.
“Yeah,” I agree. “Tonight is just awful.”
He looks around, grinning. “I don’t think it’s so bad. It could have been colder.”
I look up at him, half-smile. “Yeah, true. I still didn’t want to be here, though. My friend dragged me here. Or well, I guess she didn’t drag me here. I kind of come along to make sure she doesn’t get too drunk or do something she’s going to regret. ”
“Where is she?”
“I don’t know.” I say, feeling a little nudge of guilt, but the headache shoves the guilt back to the wayside.
“Don’t really care either,” I say. “God, I’m so tired of this.”
“Are you guys like roommates or something?”
“Nah, we’ve been friends since we were little, just cause she lived across the street, and because she was nice back then. Then we went to middle school, got a little corrupted, and she didn’t get out the same person.”
I pause, remembering two little girls in pigtails playing dress up with Momma’s high heels and shoving our faces in ice cream on our single-digit birthdays every year. We wanted to grow up so badly back then.
I continued, “I don’t know why but she always hung on to me; toted me around when she needed me as an excuse. When her mom didn’t want her to go out with boys, she always took me along. I was always the third wheel, and it was so awkward. They would just be sucking face for two hours and I had to pretend like I wasn’t even there.”
“I guess that’s what happens when you promise to be friends forever.” I say.
Though, when I thought about it, we weren’t friends forever. Where was she when the world was spinning? Why wasn’t she out here in this alley talking with me? It’s because we don’t talk about stuff like this. All we ever talked about was stuff that happened when we were little, like the day we went biking in the woods the day after it rained. Our bikes and jeans were caked in mud. We had fun. That was back when she didn’t mind getting dirty. Well, at least, that kind of dirty.
However, like a good friend and feeling my headache subside, I start to get up. “Well, thanks,” I say. “Sorry, I was just rambling on. It’s just been a bad day. I guess I better go find her.”
I start to push the door to the club back open.
“I thought you said you were looking for an exit,” he says.
I freeze, turn around, look at him. There’s a question laced through his raised eyebrows. He’s biting his lower lip, as if he’s scared to hear my answer. I take one more glance at the half open club door, knowing she can take care of herself. We’re not little girls in pigtails anymore. I let the door swing closed, and make my exit- or rather, enter into a new friendship. Maybe even the forever kind, because I know that if it’s just me and him in the eye of a storm, then I am not afraid.