I hate when stories end in death, which is ironic because they all do. So I’ll tell mine out of order because there may be certain rules in life, but most of the time there are ways to jump over them, run, and turn your head back just to stick out your tounge and give them the finger. So I guess that’s what I’m doing to you.
It all happened within a few blinks, a look to my mother- one that said “I know.” Then the airplane wing exploded. And as I fell through the clouds- clouds I once thought could hold me- I suddenly felt alive. The ocean, so vast, grew beneath me in a sunlit blur. And the wind poured through my ears. I was in such a trance that I didn’t even mind when my face hit the blue and shattered into a million pieces.
It’s Sunday morning and the sheets feel too soft to get out of bed. The sun drains lazily through the window onto my face. My arm reaching for a book while my my eyes remain carelessly closed. The Old Man and the Sea.
He comes to my door with black coffee and a smile and I tell him how much I love his sleepy tousled hair. And he puts Chet Baker on the old record player and we dance like idiots in the soft morning light. My foot kicks the coffee and it spills slowly, carving a mud river across the floor. I dip my toe into it.
I trip over a large book on my way to the door, open it, see my mother. She’s all teeth and I know it’s fake because she never has anything to be happy about.
She sits on the thrifted green sofa while I make some coffee. I pour the boiling water over the grounds and know exactly why she’s here. She’ll start with chit-chat. The same cliché bullshit like “How are you doing?” or “How’s the book coming along?” Either way I say “good.” Then she starts with the “so and so’s daughter transferred into Point Loma a year ago and now she’s interning at Scripps! Can you believe it? She has money flying out of her pockets!”
“Well that’s unfortunate,” I say as I hand her the chipped clay mug filled to the rim with coffee. I watch the steam escape the room with envy.
“Why do you say that?” her face with an almost-believeable look of concern.
“Because if all that money continues to fly out of her pockets while she walks those piss-covered streets of Pacific Beach, those wrinkle-encrusted men with beards and paunchos will follow her money trail, using it to buy crack, and eventually they’ll find her at the end of it. Next thing you know, she’s on the Missing Persons column of your Sunday newspaper.” I don’t even have to look up from the table I’ve been picking at to see the expression on my mother’s face.
I flop down onto the leather seat of my car. It’s a run-down yellow piece-of-shit but I love it. The color’s faded from the sun which now beats down on my legs, making them stick to the leather. I drive slowly through my neighborhood as “Fat Old Sun” blares from the speakers. Then, I go fast. The wind hits my face and the grass grows tall, green, soft. I drive carelessly. Then I shriek to a stop in the middle of the road, right where it bends. And I look out at the grass and halfway hope a car will hit me.
The next morning, I wake in a startle and for whatever reason realize that I haven’t seen my father in over seven months. I throw on a nice dress and fake pearls, but I don’t know why I even tried because I knew he’d see right through me. The doorman politely informed me that Dr. Bernard was at the seventeenth hole. Sweat poured down my forehead by the time I reached him. My father was the picture of “how life is supposed to be” with his white golf/ jazz musician’s hat and pink/ salmon colored polo. He stood at 6’3, exactly a foot taller than me.
“Hey dad,” I said while squinting.
He didn’t even look up. “Cupcake, is that you?’ he chuckled. “Do you need money or something?”
My father never needed small talk. He knew how to piss me off right away. I couldn’t even respond. I turned and walked away, throwing my fake pearls in the fountain on my way out.
When I got home, I had a craving for cinnamon, so I drank a whole case of Fireball and passed out on the sofa. I woke up to Jake’s concerned face. “You drunk again?” He knew. “This is the third night in a row.” He was disappointed and it stung more than the rawness in my throat.
A month or so later, I decided to go to the amusement park in Ocean Beach. I hate amusement parks but I figured that I could people-watch and maybe find some inspiration for my book. Jake knew how I felt about overpriced tickets to throw balls into fishtanks and thousands of sweaty people touching elbows in hour-long lines for fifteen-second rides. He told me once that he hated amusement parks too. So imagine my face when I saw him in line to buy an $8 soft serve. And then imagine my face when I saw him bring the soft serve over to this curly-haired girl who was waiting to ride the wooden rollercoaster. And now imagine my face when he kissed her.
The next morning, he knocked on my door with coffee in his hand. He dropped it when I threw the Chet Baker record at him. He left and it was over and I watched the black coffee cut through the floor like a knife through veins.
I drove up until my ears began to pop and my head buzzed numbly. “This is so spontaneous!” My friend yells from the passenger seat. I laugh and turn up the shitty music that I can’t help but like to sing to. My boss calls. “Shit, I forgot my first draft was due today.” I pick up the phone. “Hello, Kimberly, I was just about to call you! Unfortunately, my grandma has fallen ill and I am unable to work tonight.” I end the call and breath hellfire. I feel like shit.
I stop the car once we see the rainbow-painted mountains. They are all covered in Bible quotes and things like “Jesus loves you.” The air smells like cow shit. We hike up and through the boiling mountains. I stop and put my hand on the mountain’s side. “Let’s pray.” Obviously I’m joking and my friend laughs, but inside I’m saying, “God, if you’re real, than I’m sorry for disrespecting you. Please help me figure my shit out because I’m a really messed-up person who has no life.” I also pray that my grandma doesn’t get ill and die because if that happened, I would feel somewhat responsible.
I hear my mother’s heels hit my driveway and open the door before she can even knock. “Ok, I’ll do it,” I say.
“Do what, sweetie?”
“Go to college.”
I had never seen real happiness on my mother’s face until that moment.
We flew to Monterey because Point Loma seemed too nice of a place for someone like me. I wanted to save money and drive the seven hours, but my mother insisted on flying. “We’ll use your father’s points,” she said.
After touring the school, we got lunch at an old pink restaurant that stank of fish. I forget what we were fighting about. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried harder than I had in years. The worst part was that the bathroom had a huge mirror so there was no escaping myself. I tried to look down, but it didn’t work. Eventually, I grabbed both sides of the sink and looked up, facing myself. God, I was so ugly. I wanted to look like a hurt puppy, someone that someone would feel sorry for and want to wrap up in a warm hug and soft, gentle kisses. But I would never be her. Not even if I lost fifteen pounds and got a nose job. This laughable thought stopped me from crying for a bit so I whipped my eyes and returned to the table. My mom was devouring a salad. She took a moment to look up and her anger melted me. I broke down in front of her, in front of everyone, and ran to the bathroom. This time I leaned my heavy head against the wall and caught my puffy blue eyes in the mirror. I thought of that day when I stopped the car in the middle of the bend and wished for someone to hit me and end it all. And I thought of that day when I was secretly praying to a God who I was’t sure even existed. And I realized that I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live and just didn’t know how.
I sat back down at the table where my mom was consuming a salmon and told her that I wanted to study Environmental Science at Point Loma and maybe I could even minor in English and take a semester abroad in Australia or New Zealand or Europe.
The next day, we began to fly home from Monterey. To a future. To a life worth living. I closed my eyes and listened to “In the Air” by DMA and felt happy and alive.