Chapter 14: We All Lose Track
Alanna drank casually with Amanda, who flirted with one of Brian’s friends. Kieran and Harriet were drunk enough to start dancing, while other family members, the most obvious of which being Violet, passed out in the white folding chairs stationed at the empty tables. I felt less then better even after throwing up, casually walking over and asking for a glass of water from the bar, before stationing myself at one of the vacant stations. I took periodic sips, and avoided her looks for awhile. I couldn’t handle any of our normal exchanges at that point. Although I knew we had already decided on our stranded plan of action, I figured that the notion of space was more than appropriate at that point.
Joy spotted me from the opposite end of the banquet and was soon sitting in the seat next to me, another distant voice from the high plains of insanity.
“Are you okay honey?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m just taking things down a notch, that’s all.”
“Did you drink too much?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
“Well are you alright? I mean, do you wanna go back to the house?”
“No, I’ll be fine in a few mom, okay?”
“Alright, I was just making sure. I don’t know how much longer your father wants to stick around.”
“He’s ready to leave his daughter’s wedding early, huh?”
“Well, it’s been a long day for all of us, and besides Gail and Brian are gonna be leaving soon anyway.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I’ll be fine mom. I’m gonna stick around for awhile, see where the night takes me, okay?”
“Alright, maybe you shouldn’t drink anymore, though.”
“I’m not planning on it.”
“Okay, well I’ll be around if you need me.”
“Thanks mom.” She walked back over to Sue, most likely explaining my weakened condition; the two of them going on to discuss my bad habits. It was a strange thought knowing that I wouldn’t need the comfort of my mother anymore. I had grown out of most of the catering around college, and yet after being back home for those first few misguided weeks; the wave of laziness managed to wash over me. I stopped doing laundry, cooking meals, the whole nine. It just felt better to be home, to pretend like there wasn’t anything worth it going on in the outside world. My friends were far cries for help, and the whole Muriel situation had turned a normal slump into a prolonged period of deep self-reevaluation.
I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, I needed someone like Alanna to jump-start the rest of my life. It was like a warp away from the parts I could already foresee turning into soul-sucking abscesses. Alanna had been thinking about escape long before our fateful encounter, and I guess I had been too, mere drifting thoughts, never fully backed by any substantial presence of backbone. I would always be far from actually doing anything. I suppose, in short, I needed someone to run away with, to fall in love with, and eventually figure out all the other miscellaneous factors with.
Even a few years living at home, deciding on a particular path would slowly kill my spirit. It wasn’t like I hadn’t seen it a million times before. I wasn’t just deciding to base my decisions on examples in films, or tired generic characters slowly turning to eventual suicide in similar small towns at different time periods, the outside world, events and headlines, only circumstantial. They didn’t seem to take with anyone, especially Alanna and I. Just so long as we discovered something new, something worth turning over for, we would be okay. The gradual jumping around from place to place would feel almost exhilarating.
We could be any of them. The new neighbors. The ones without any children or pets. They were on the run from the spread of settling. People knew people like us. They would barely remember to mention formed moments when they finally did figure their lives out. In that way it was always a constant chain. We would know all of them far too well, and hope that eventually we wouldn’t have to see them again, that they would escape, find what they were looking for, or at the very least remain indifferent to all the others who were or weren’t like them.
Sometimes we needed to say fuck you, to decide to hate something new for awhile. As I watched Alanna act about as normal as she could from across the banquet hall, I realized that we would never be invited to such a gigantically familiar setting again. It was all in the past. They wouldn’t be like that anymore. They wouldn’t be huge, and planned to the point of insanity. Instead it would be the friends made quickly, deciding that they needed witnesses. They needed someone to know that they simply existed, two floors up, a few doors over.
I went to the bathroom again after finishing the cup of water, and started heading back towards the hall for what felt like the thousandths time that night. I found her sitting alone, reasonably tired, near the dance floor. I sat next to her, not saying anything at all. She looked over at me for the briefest of moments and then turned back to everything else.
“We overdid it, didn’t we?”
“Yeah, I think we did.” We reacted as any person would as “Wild Horses” slowly started to build in the background of the wedding. I took her hand as the two of us spun out towards the slowly fading lights, the disco ball reflecting mass amounts of bad vibes. It was our first dance, seeming to have more significance than all the other first dances before it. There were those from the beginning of adolescence, school-sponsored outings turning even the most confused of twelve-year-olds into a full-fledged couple for about a week so. Then the ones that followed it up in high school, myself standing off to the side, wishing there would be a different kind of memory forming, from somewhere lost in the middle, with all the other hapless music boxes being wound up again and again by each other.
College was a time for everything but slow dancing. Nobody seemed to care anymore. We were skeptical and too over-bearing in our own senses of self. Our images weren’t in the least bit important had we decided to have them in the first place, and yet even with such truths hidden behind a hive of lies, there was a sense that we were better than it. We weren’t living in the past, but rather always thinking about the future. For once in my life, I wanted to live in the present, and if nothing else she helped me to decide whether or not it was in the least bit possible.
I drank some more after that, and didn’t remember sobering up. I needed to be completely unconscious by the time we returned to the establishment, one more sleepless night under the Brinker roof, one last gasp of their thin air. I avoided the dance floor for every other song, letting my mind quietly rest on its one big decision. Kieran and Harriet were out of it faster than Alanna and myself, sleeping against opposite windows as Joy drove us all back in Alanna’s car. It felt like we were on our way home from a sleepover, the words spoken late at night still secretive.
Parents didn’t seem to care all that much about what their children were talking about. They warned a lot: steer clear of this and that, learn to live by this life lesson. Love, love, love. I had grown tired of trying to comprehend such double-sided messages right around the same time other possibilities started to make sense. We all couldn’t stay forever. All children eventually turn into uninvited houseguests and vice-versa. Through this brash rational, I saw myself doing them a favor, doing all of them a favor. We canceled each other out. It was that simple. That night, I slept with my eyes closed for once, no real reason to stop and stare anymore.
It felt fast, probably the shortest sleep I ever had. There weren’t any dreams. It was like blinking. One moment I could hear the faint sound from the basement television set, my cousin’s drunken snore, a few painfully tired steps in the kitchen. I shut my eyes and opened them to her tapping me on the shoulder, saying that we had to get a move on. She had set an alarm so they wouldn’t notice.
My hangover was worse than the morning before. I wanted to sleep. I wished I were home, that it was only Saturday and that the onset of the rest of my life could still be nervously dwelt upon during a long day of flipping through movies edited for cable, and deciding to possibly call Muriel again, just to say a few of the same things.
Despite my constant bashing of her and everything she represented, I couldn’t help but feel like life was easier when I was in love with her, or at least thought I was. It was easier because it wasn’t anything. We didn’t have anything to do, and with each movement of hand came another question left unanswered. Why were we these people sleeping in on Sunday? Why did we find it easier to temporarily forget about all the strain? It felt constant, but it didn’t have to be. Why after all the bad choices, wrong things said under varying conditions, did I still manage to think about how much easier it would have been if nothing changed at all? I suppose that’s how reality works, though. You can’t necessarily dream about the old familiar things until you’re sure they’re gone.
I awoke to her smile. She looked excited, no longer able to handle all the anticipation. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t feeling up to it at that very moment. Even though I knew it was then or never. I wondered if she would go alone, try to find a place well hidden where she could be somebody brand new. I would talk to all of them about it, pretending to be a fragile kind of oblivious. I would have to lie even more. It wouldn’t be safe. It wouldn’t be right to do that to myself. I rolled out of bed and grabbed my bag. It was all packed. Everything I needed for roughly four days, not the rest of my life. If I had only thought ahead.
There were times where I would end up heading off into a social situation, thinking that maybe I should bring along my MP3 player, just in case the certain instant occurred where I had to walk home alone. The walk wasn’t nearly as bad with something playing in the background, something to settle nerves and to continue ringing as I slept and waited for the next morning. Yet despite knowing that I would more than likely end up walking home alone from several random social situations, I never did bring it along. I suppose I could call that hope, as I would always simply want for something amazing to happen. I wanted there to be an easier walk the next morning, and no need for music. It would be all around; hummed silently or chimed verbosely from a belfry. It would be a time to remember if it ever happened that way.
I tried not to look at anything as she took my hand and led me out towards the front door. She didn’t notice Violet walking through the upstairs hallway on her way to the bathroom. I looked up and saw my grandmother taking the briefest of seconds to look down at us, fleeing the scene, taking our sweet little adventure away from all of them. She gave me the subtlest of smiles before continuing to walk past. All of it happened faster than my attempt to sleep that night. Alanna didn’t even notice, and I would never tell her about it. That look was just mine, and I needed it for myself more than anyone else could ever understand.
Her car miraculously started as we took the long way out of town. The sun was just coming up, illuminating what would look similar other places as we passed them by. She lit a cigarette as she turned out onto the highway. I tilted my seat back and tried to possibly shut my eyes again, letting her make all the decisions for awhile. I didn’t know where we were going, or where we would end up. Sleeping proved more difficult than I initially imaged. I couldn’t refrain from occasionally opening my eyes here and there, just to make sure she was still right next to me.
Title: The Opposite of Blinking