by Lydia Hulshizer
I don’t know exactly how I ended up on the empty top level of a seven story parking garage, but here I was squealing around in circles in a beat up cherry red Toyota pickup truck, leaving skid marks across the concrete ground as I tried to learn now to control the stick shift. I am still trying to figure out how I ended up there, under the dark blanket of the night sky lit in patches by the city lights. I am not sure why luck had blessed me that night. Perhaps it was just Destiny having fun in her spare time, but I had ended up there next to the incarnation of a beautiful storm–a boy who was laughing hysterically, leaning his head out the window screaming the words to a song that shook the whole cab with a heavy bass as he willingly let me drive his muddy truck to its utter demise.
I still am skeptical on how exactly the night had led us there, perhaps it had been Fate or maybe it was just God toying with our existence, but there I was having the time of my life.
City lights have a hypotonic power to them. They make you think that anything is possible here is the metropolitans of America because America is the land of the free and freedom means running wild. So earlier, believing in the city lights, we had been doing exactly that– running wild. Sneaking into a late night movie, swimming in fountains, relaxing in the lounge of a fancy hotel we could never afford, crawling up onto the empty park stage, and performing our own concert for the few strangers still out under the stars. Just us pretending, self proclaiming ourselves king and queen of this wild world.
And then we had ended up here, spinning around in circles pretending we were Nascar drivers peeling up the track.
The truck had finally had enough of my amaturer driving techniques, and after a few laps of the empty parking lot, it had come to a stubborn stalling stop throwing us around in our seats. Samuel had just laughed and congratulated me on being the suckiest driver of a stick shift in the whole entire world, and then had opened the door and tumbled out into the night air.
I joined him running across the lot, racing each other to the other wall. We had come to the wall going full tilt, and stopped with screeching halts inches from the concrete, as if testing the walls encompassing the garage to see if they could handle the infinite amount of energy coiled up inside the both of us. Daring gravity, maybe, to see if it would propel us over the wall and over the edge to the certain end of the wild force living inside both of us at that very instant.
We had leaned against that wall then laughing, trying to catch our breath, feeling the cold concrete of the wall holding us back from a brief experience of flight, not caring that our lungs were struggling for air, just living in the moment, glad to be alive. Alive and happy. Slowly as our breathing had become regular the giggling had stop, and we had stared down into the night, memorized by the lights flashing beneath us. We had watched in silence then, as car after car went through the intersection below us in a chaotic rhythm.
“What do you think they are like?” Samuel asked me.
“What?” I looked at him. He was leaning over the edge as if trying to figure out if he could survive the jump to the ground far below.
“What do you think all those people in the cars are like? Like what are their lives like?” He answered, swinging his legs up on the wall and sitting down, his feet dangling dangerously over the edge.
“I don’t know. I don’t know how you would ever know,” I said. I slide closer to him leaned out on my elbows, but stayed on the solid ground of the garage too scared to hop up to sit next to him.
“Like there,” he pointed down at a man in a mini van stopped at the light, “I wonder what he goes home too. Probably has kids. Probably a wife. Probably works hours, and hours, and hours to pay off his suburban house with a mortgage that is way too high. Watches sports on tv for fun. Steady job he spent years in college to get. Making good money. He probably thinks he has his life together. You know what I mean?”
He glanced over at me and slowly I nodded staring down at the man, looking at him in a new light.
“Typical life. Some call it the ‘American Dream’,” I said slowly, choosing each word distinctly, afraid to offend the world itself.
“Boring,” he said what I was actually thinking, but scared to admit because that is how everyone lived these days. Almost as if we were all going through the motions.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “Yeah I bet he never thinks to do things like we have done all night.”
I watched the light below turned green and the mini van man cruised off to wherever his cookie cutter self had to be in his pinpoint schedule.
“Yeah he would never do this.” Samuel pushed himself up to stand on the two foot wide wall daring the wind to push him off to his death.
“Look at me world!” he yelled spinning around, dancing along the edge, “Look at me now!”
He turned and stuck his tongue out at me like a little kid.
“Look at me world! I am high on life!” he puffed out his chest challenging the sky.
“Get down,” I laughed, “You are going to fall.”
He looked down at me and then squatted so that his eyes were at the same level as mine from where I stood on the ground. His eyes were this hazel brown that made you want to trust him, made you want to believe everything he said.
“You can’t live always afraid of falling Lyd because if you don’t learn to fall, well, then you never will learn to fly.”
“But what if you don’t learn to fly before you hit the ground?” I challenged, raising an eyebrow in protest.
“Well you better hope I am there to catch you,” he laughed so smoothly.
A smile had unconsciously spread itself across my face, and then cautiously I had pulled myself to up to stand next to him on the wall, the only barrier between me and a tragic death. The wind had torn at me threatening to send me over the edge, and as if by instinct I had reached for his hand because in that instant he had seemed so steady. So wild, but so real. Flying so free, but so down to earth all at once.
Our fingers had interlaced, and he had squeezed my hand as if sensing my need for a point of security in this world that seemed to be flying around us at a million miles an hour.
We had both stared out at the city skyline, entranced by the lights flickering on and off in the distance. Millions of lights out there, millions of people, trying to find what it meant to live. Trying to find something–something in the shadows and flashing lights to explain it all.
“Do you know what you want with the future Lydia?”
I breathed in the cold night air, “No.”
“Not at all?”
I thought, letting his question and lights of the city run through the streets of my mind in search of an answer that encompassed what I was feeling at that moment.
“I want a life like this. This is what a true American dream is. This is freedom. Not caring just laughing, and not letting the world conform you. Just…”
“Just not worrying about the future. Just living because we aren’t promised tomorrow,” he finished for me.
“Yeah exactly,” I agreed, my breath frosting in the night air that had suddenly become frigid, “I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe I just don’t know. I don’t know a lot of things.”
“Well maybe that’s ok.” He squeezed my hand again.
“Yeah–yeah maybe it is.”
We had stood there in silence staring out at the jungle call a city, soaking it all in until we each had a polaroid of those city lights ingrained on our memories. And then we had turned, jumped down from the wall hitting the ground running, racing back to the truck, away from the lights, and into a future we didn’t need to understand.
Image by Megan Waardenburg