My subconscious yearns for you. On the way back from class, we all turn our lights on. The rain starts coming down in sheets. A beat up Nissan is down a headlight. When the driver gets it replaced, I wonder if it will be one of those ugly fluorescent bulbs that shine more blue than white. Regardless, I pump my fist up to the upholstered roof of my car.
Thursday night, I lie on my bed and watch a movie in French so that I have to read the subtitles, therein distracting myself from the loneliness that is growing in my chest. I have undoubtedly lost my edge. I drive myself to Cookout and eat corn dogs at one in the morning. When I asked my sisters if they wanted me to come home and take them to the State Fair, they both said no, so I settle for this.
Friday morning, I go to class; I am unprepared to discuss the poems we were supposed to read. I feel awful when I find out that the poems were written by a former student, who was paralyzed and is now deceased. This should make me cherish what I have, but instead I worry that I’m not good enough to get published, and I proceed make too much noise eating my peanut butter crackers. In my next class, I listen to poetry and jazz and worry about being a racist when I know I’m not. (But if I know I’m not, then why would I worry?) I go home and, under the guise of working better under pressure, take a two-hour nap instead of writing a paper that’s due at midnight. I wake up groggy and get in the car to drive a half an hour to pick up my paycheck and promptly blow it on alcohol and whatever else my weekend entails.
Friday night, I feel sober as Chloe calls the Uber, but my vision blurs as I ride shotgun. I see a car with a single headlight eye, a sedan winking at me as I begin to feel the alcohol in my knees. I turn to Chloe and pass the wink on before tapping the roof and whispering:
At the party, we find our friends and get a cup of beer. We chug because I hate the taste of beer. Hours later, after almost everyone goes home, I am drenched in sweat and a song that I cannot remember is stuck in my head. The ceiling fan in the frat house has a bulb out and I can’t breathe. My vision goes fuzzy, and I rush outside. A group of smokers waiting for their Ubers stands by the door, and one of them bellows “She’s gonna puke!”
I run to the tree line to force a breath of too-warm autumn air into my lungs. As my breathing gets more and more labored, I thrust a middle finger behind my back towards the smokers. When I get my breath back and my vision is no longer clogged with the colored dots that accompany lack of oxygen to the brain, I think of the missing light inside the house and mouth:
Saturday morning, I wake up too early, try my best to look human, and take my car to the shop for an oil change two thousand miles overdue. One of the vehicles up on the stilts is missing the right side of the hood, headlight included—a battle-wound from a wreck.
Saturday night I sip a drink served tall and garnished with Maraschino cherries because the bartender only asked if we were over twenty-one, not to see our IDs. I boast to a forty-something woman about how I’m going to be a writer while I think my best Bukowski thoughts and try to conjure up a reality where my drink doesn’t taste like lemon Pledge.
I drive home from the bar and flick the ceiling too hard but in unison with Chloe as we plow through a yellow light. The second party of the night ensues and malt liquor smells like bad decisions and I want to go home. As we stand on the side of the street, several cars fly by us and a shirtless man stands on the street and screams “Slow down!” Our Uber has one yellow headlight and one God-awful fluorescent headlight. I count it.
Sunday I wake up at two PM. I roll out of bed and to the dollar store to buy milk and eggs. I complain about being broke to my Nana. I get home and get back in bed. Five PM feels like eleven AM and I think about how if I died my roommate would only find me when he came to gripe about my cat meowing too loudly.
After hours of being stagnant, I make myself get up. I ignore the pile of clean but unfolded laundry next to my door, instead commending myself for at least having done half of it. I take my keys and get in my car and I barely have time to start the engine before my tears start falling down in their predetermined tracks. I drive for what feels like hours, but it’s only minutes, and I try to keep my eyes open and my hands at ten and two.
Before I know it, I’m back at the South End of Wrightsville Beach, and although all I’ve done is cry and swallow salt water, I feel happier than I have in days.
On my drive back home, I click the automatic windows and roll them down. The night is cool but also warm, and the sky is starless, and as the instrumental song blares from my speakers, filling my small radius of influence with music, all of the cars have a matching pair of glowing headlights.
About the Author
Leandra Lee is a native of New England and a resident of Raleigh, North Carolina. She is a Creative Writing BFA student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a focus in creative nonfiction. Her essay that appears in Every Pigeon is her first publication.