What does it mean to be alive anyway? (Quite short)
| The most memorable moments in life are unexpected. In the face of struggle, anguish or adventure; those glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel; those still frames of time where all the senses link on a harmonious plateau of beauty, your heart dances with joy and the whole world; your whole quest; your whole life; briefly seems to make perfect sense.
It was 7:30am; blue skies, no sleep, and light streaming through the windshield splintered off the faces of the CD’s on the dashboard and sent a spectrum that illuminated the drifting specks of dust.
Alcohol on my breath, puffy ridges beneath my eyes, hair matted in thick snarls from 16 hours in the car. Nelson was in the driver’s seat; his long legs bowing down to the floor. The seat angled as far back as he could stretch; shoulders sinking into the deep, soft interior of the Maroon ’92 Mercury Sable station wagon. Rolling on 16 inch rims, bald tires, the plastic on the smashed back bumper rattled as the car vibrated along on a bad alignment.
He had just opened the window. Suddenly like a burst of life, lemonade in the hot sun, wind had rushed into the stagnant, humid air of the cab. My eyes shot open against the sound of the pressure change. I saw her swirl quickly in against the dust. By some trick of the eye she seemed to catch the edge of the illuminated atmosphere, she pushed against the dust and humidity, carved slowly across its dormant back like a snowboarder slicing a deep, wide carve through fresh powder.
Nelson first; she hit him across the cheek. One arm outstretched, his right hand delicately draping the top of the wheel; the hair awakened on his arm and it roused the bumps. As if in some slow motion sync, simultaneously he matted the accelerator, the wind tipped back the battered straw cowboy hat on his head, it pushed open his thick black eyebrows and lips cracked. His left hand caught the drifting hat with a quick snap and his pupils dilated as the adrenaline streamed from his ribs.
She drifted beyond the flapping hat and caught the wave of music across the consol. Some old Rolling Stones hit; hard piercing guitar solo tearing against hand drums and a jogging piano: Real toe tapping sh-t. They danced in unison; decibels swirling in the breeze and slapping against Dara’s face. Her small body curled in the corner of the passenger seat, knees tucked against her chest and wrapped in thin, sapling arms. Her black bangs snapped back with wind contact, a smooth, wide smile crept across her bowing lips and she slowly opened her eyes. She tilted back her head and exposed her pale neck to the cool breeze.
The wind then flooded the backseat in a single wave. It lifted Monica’s eyelids and danced with the music in her thin hair. It smacked the back of Whorisky’s head as he looked out the side window. His broad shoulders and massive deltoids recoiled upwards like exploding earth, his wide torso turned slowly like a tank turret and his large nostrils flared against the temperature change. His blue eyes met the sun and fixed against the breeze, tears gelled the pupils and his body relaxed; exhaling smoke from deep in his lungs.
Then there was me. The wind hit me as I lay sideways in the far back. I was sprawled across the top of a trunk full of luggage, duffel bags to suitcases to empty whiskey handles and backpacks. Left shoulder resting on thin fleece atop Samsonite, right shoulder grazing the roof, I faced the front of the car. Whoriskey passed me the bowl as the wind brushed softly but quickly against my nose. She slid across my cheeks then buried herself deep in my hair, pushing it towards the roof. I smelt the sweet smoke drifting off the glass in my hand. The music poured into my ears and spilled over to my cheeks. A zest, a feeling of youth, vitality, freedom; a frozen moment not constrained by time or death. The wind she whispered softly into my ear; isn’t it beautiful? I cracked a smile, my cheeks curving and the wrinkles beside my blue eyes crinkling silently. It was the end of an adventure, a 30 hour drive from Key West to Vermont, a crappy car, five friends, no sleep, no beds, no rules, no money, just that light flutter of excitement dancing in our hearts; keeping us alive. The feeling of success, it is these moments, these perfect still frames of time that are the essence of reality; because truthfully they are all that exists. Those forgotten days in the office might as well not have happened; nothing does unless one can recall it.
Yes; it is beautiful.
Suddenly, my head turning slowly, I peered out of the hatchback. My eyes linked with the car behind us. Impala, white, sirens, North Carolina plates, large aviators covering a young clean shaven face, dressed in a short, black gelled crew cut, a badge, and a wad of tobacco pinched in his lower lip.
Our eyes linked. His stare was cold, collected, callous; he spit slowly into an empty Krispy Kreme cup without even looking down to protect his freshly pressed pants.
“Sh-t dude, sh-t.”
The light flutter of excitement in my heart collapsed, plummeting like an elevator loose in the shaft with a deep blood wrenching burn.
He was close, real close; bumper to bumper. I was frozen in place. A deer in headlights, affixed upon that which would bring my demise.
Then it happened, that one obnoxious outburst of blue lights and loud shrieking horns that every citizen who has ever – if only just for a second - dipped a toe into the waters outside our rigid judicial structure knows translates “To Serve and Protect” in to “To Stroke an ego and Fill a quota.”
“Nelson, cop dude, a f--king cop!”
Sudden alarm; heads bolt up snapping back and forth like frightened marmots.
Someone killed the music, the atmosphere tainted by nerves and horror.
“Windows down, it smells like pot,” Nelson shouted. “Put the f--king windows down!”
“I’m in the god d-mn trunk!” I smashed the bowl in between the luggage.
“What’s going on?” Dara awoke, her confusion angered Monica.
“It’s a god d-mn cop, Dara,” she said with a stern, condescending tone.
“Jesus Christ, put down your f--king window, Dara!” Nelson was panicking.
Still the siren wailed. I looked back. I could have sworn he was grinning. Freshly flossed choppers clenched like a snarling pit bull with an upturned lip.
Nelson was really freaking; sweaty palms sliding up and down the wheel, biting his bottom lip: All eyes and responsibility burning into his shoulders. He turned in the seat.
“Is the weed gone?”
He drifted across lanes, such a simple but critical mistake.
A quick jolt of the wheel, we were so screwed.
He hit the breaks, the whole car shook violently, more weight than the Sable could handle, shredding the break pads. Sweat beads burst through the pores on my forehead and began to trickle down the bridge of my nose. The whole rear end of the car skidded. I could hear the quiver in Whorisky’s breathing.
This was it, this was the big moment: A ten day trip of wild debauchery and hedonism; so close to success, only 14 hours of driving before home. I could almost taste the victory. But it was f--king over, spoiled, ruined, destroyed; I don’t have any money, I can’t afford this, I can’t deal with charges. Had Nelson been drinking?
“No, no, no, sh-t man, sh-t!” Nelson trembled.
Dara winced. Whorisky covered his eyes. Monica clutched her shoulders and melted into a pile of submission on the seat. I squirmed in fear. The sweat was f--king stinging my eyes!
Then, all eyes affixed upon his motions, the cop crept out into the left lane and began to pull up beside us. He was encroaching on the car; was he going to ram us? The siren wailed into my ear, someone whimpered about their mother, Whorisky said he was going to eat the weed, everyone inhaled quickly in unison, sucking us into a deep freeze.
Then as quickly as it had begun it was over. The bastard drove right by; a smug look creeping around the corners of his suntanned cheeks.
There was a pause: Shock. Nobody moved. Then, a deep exhale, a rumble of laughter and a beautiful, deep rolling wave of relief:
Wow, now that’s what it feels like to be alive.