Generally, I hate the long silence that follows certain songs as their digital track finishes up on my iPod. Instinctively I press the “next” button but then the silence finishes and a new song begins and I end up pressing the button to skip the song that just began. It’s sincerely frustrating. The silence was welcome tonight though, and in between concluding chords and percussion beats signaling a new song we would revel in the dark but gentle breeze that rushed through the windows and broke the silence of the drive.
“I could always join the army,” she said as a song started up. ‘Champagne’ by 311, this was a quiet playlist. “There’s a definite career track.”
“Why are you trying to join the armed forces now?” I sighed. “You’ve been all over the place for the past two weeks and school is nowhere close to starting up.”
She turned to the window and hung her arm out, rotating her wrist and flattened hand so the wind current would move it up or down. “Maybe the Air Force is a better choice.”
More silent thuds. The fireflies were out in droves tonight — for all we knew we had stumbled upon some secret celebration. I can’t imagine my windshield was invited; a glowing abdomen served as a trophy on the bottom left side near the “buckle up” sign on the back of my inspection sticker. It was lit for a while now — bioluminescence, go figure.
“Jumping on a career won’t make you happy, it will only set you on a path that you might question later on,” I said. “I don’t understand, are you just trying to do things that will make you uncomfortable? Will that help you find what you want?” This was a stupid question; she didn’t care what her parents thought about her decisions.
“Have you ever tried wiping yourself after a poop with the hand you don’t normally use? That’s uncomfortable,” she said, still looking out the window. Only farmland rushed by on either side of the moonlit road now. I winced for her. “I’m just actively seeking my future.”
“But you don’t have to. We have years to figure our futures out. We have our whole lives to figure out… our lives. Why would you rush to—”
“That’s the point!” She had turned around now and pulled her arms into the body of her sweatshirt. We have our whole lives to figure everything out, so why wait to start later? I want to start now so I have time to do everything.”
“But that’s not how it works. You could go to college and join the ROTC, work on something in addition to the military. Take your time and plan your moves.”
“I never wanted to join any of that in the first place, I was just thinking out loud. Why do you take everything so seriously?”
I scoffed. As if I took everything so seriously, she’s the one entertaining every possibility she could think of. I’m surprised she hasn’t thought of becoming a skydiving instructor yet, but I didn’t want to say that because I’m sure I’d be jumping out of a plane with her in a couple days. “We gotta find a gas station, I’m starting to run low.”
The ensuing silence wasn’t tense, but it wasn’t awkward either. The two of us just sat there, dazed from the possibilities that lay in the infinite.
I needed to hear “That’ll be 38,” twice before snapping back to reality. I paid, and before I drove off he complimented me on my song choice. The radio didn’t even register with me at this point, so I looked at my iPod. Pepper’s ‘Your 45.’ The gas man had good taste.
“I don’t want these late night drives to be a stereotypical teenager thing.” She broke the silence. “I don’t care that gas is getting expensive, and I don’t care that we might have work the next morning. I’ve thought more during these drives than I have in any classroom they’ve put me in.” She sounded like she was tearing up.
They don’t have to be, we could do this every break we have. I couldn’t imagine a better way of spending time.
“You’ve been quiet for a while,” she said.
I thought I was responding, but apparently my mind wasn’t working in tandem with my mouth. “You never did tell me what you were going to do with the band, are you guys going to try and stay together?”
“I want to, but everyone else is so overcome with the impending change that the group’s taken a backseat. I understand, but it’s sad that they have such one-track minds.”
“You guys are easily one of the most popular bands in the area, and it’s mostly from your work.”
“I just figure out what mood the chords put me in and I write accordingly. It’s not hard, you could do just as good!”
At least she was distracted again. I wasn’t sure if I could take much more talking about what was ahead for all of us. We stood on the edge of one building and another’s roof was close by, but it was just far enough that we had to jump. There wasn’t any stepping from one to the other, allowing ourselves to backtrack and find another way, we were going to jump and completely leave behind our present situations forever, regardless of what that meant for each of us, and that left a bewildering feeling with touches of terror, astonishment, and numbness.
“Do you think things will be different by the time we do this next time?” She never forgot, after all. Her tone was quiet again, the breeze from the windows was chilly now. “Can we remain like this despite whatever happens to us?”
Maybe it had gotten too early, but I didn’t see anymore fireflies out. The glowing half of our prisoner was extinguished. It seemed that the rest of nature was going to take a rest for a while. The party was over.
“I don’t think it’s possible to remain the same, all we can do is try to change for the better and appreciate who we are right now,” I said. I looked at her and briefly felt like I was never going to see her again. “The future will change all of us, there’s no helping that, but we’re here now. Thankfully, this moment can’t know any other reality than the one we’ve presented it with.”