by amy rossi
It is raining on my right and thundering on my left.
It is possible I have this backwards.
What matters is, the weather is happening separately in my ears, like the lyrics and bass on a bad pair of headphones.
Or: like a memory.
The first time I used an Uber by myself in this town, it was at four in the morning. It felt different doing it here than it did in Boston or Los Angeles, places where it was common to be alone and in need of cost-effective transportation at all hours. My phone showed a picture of the guy coming to get me, the kind of photo that usually accompanies sentences like he mostly kept to himself and seemed like a nice guy. The street I was on was hardly a street at all. More like a named alley. The lights didn’t reach here. Reid, the driver, was four minutes away, then five. It was the kind of neighborhood that fucked with time like that.
I am awake before the alarm.
I am in the nowhere time.
If I close my eyes, maybe I will fall back asleep. Or maybe I’ll lie there, barely drifting, only to be yanked back to reality the moment I let go.
A metaphor. Or not.
Reid’s car wasn’t the first I got into that night. The first one was playing a song I loved. A song I knew, in and out. Yet I couldn’t remember who sang it, which never happens to me. I woke up to that song every morning and still the name of the band hovered beyond my tongue. I’d drank enough whiskey to smooth out the wrinkles that come from knowing and knowing better. I kept thinking ELO, because ELO is the answer thirty-five percent of the time, regardless of the question. The driver knew it wasn’t ELO, knew who it was. The man next to me didn’t. Even if I believed in signs, it would have been a flimsy one.
It is the middle of the day.
This time has been allotted for nothing, for avoidance.
As if these things can be planned. As if I can pencil in crying for four p.m. and begrudging acceptance for six, right before my daily walk.
Illusions are quite useful and also blinding.
Years ago, when I was in the fifth grade, the guidance counselors or maybe just our teachers handed out motivational stickers meant to quiet the bully and soothe the bullied. What is popular is not always right; what is right is not always popular. No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. I wanted to put one on a binder, except my mushroom haircut and ill-fitting shorts already advertised my inferiority. Now I think there is no way Eleanor Roosevelt bought into that shit, at least not as presented. For instance, that night, when humiliation was more interesting than consent. When that became the point.
The alarm goes off: time’s up.
Some people can’t wake up to music because it just worms its way into their dreams.
I let the alarm play, make the words of the song wrap around me like the right memory. I force myself to think of roads and early flights and singing along, but I can’t make myself feel it.
It is possible what I mean is, I can’t unfeel it.
In person, Reid looked safer. I ran across the night and into his car, and I laughed and joked about how it was so late, it was early. He asked me if I’d had fun and, still buzzed, I said that I did until I didn’t, and that I just had to get out of there. Reid glanced me at the rearview mirror; I was too slow in looking away, and I could tell maybe he knew. So I talked, my voice high up in my throat like a disguise. Reid answered my questions about his work as a driver, where he was from. We liked the same old music. I pointed out that I was wearing a vintage tee shirt of a band we both professed to love. He knew better than to tell me it was on inside-out.
What matters is, I made it through that night.
I will make it through this one too, and the remaining day before it.
The song is mine and the shirt crumpled in the back of my closet is mine and my body is mine. I will say these things until they are true. Until I am more than a before and after.
Until I can hear the thunder and rain together as one sound.
Amy Rossi lives in North Carolina by way of Massachusetts. Her work appears or is forthcoming in places such as WhiskeyPaper, Jellyfish Review, Blue Fifth Review, and CHEAP POP. She is the web editor at Split Lip Magazine, and she blogs about hair metal music videos from the 1980s at amyrossi.com.
Art by featured artist Sirena Hildebrand.
Monsters and Lace was created by Sirena the Mermaid and Chris the Troll. They live in Lancaster, PA, with their many plant children, such as Mary the Mint and Bert the Dracaena. On any given day, you might find them romping through the forest, toting reflectors, camera gear, smoke grenades, and who knows what other props. The aim, is to tell a story via pictures, whether it be a hard road a friend has travelled, or a light hearted children’s tale. To view the world through a lens is a beautiful thing! To capture someone’s soul within a photo is a hard task, but one they aim to master.