We Could Be
The guest speaker stands at the front of the room, words of encouragement spilling from her mouth. Boredom and excitement wash through the students. I’m in a chair, Raina is on the table in front of me. The speaker’s words bob and weave through quiet chatter. Study Abroad. Summer. Spain. Japan. Africa.
Some kids across the room have rolled up their informative booklets. Smack. Thwack. A teacher makes her way over.
A guy is spouting philosophical jargon about some topic or other. Raina laughs, who knows what he’s talking about. She’s hyper today. The table bounces under her, her giggles and high-pitched noises bubble up. Her antics arouse chuckles.
We aren’t that close... maybe we could be. I’ve seen her around school and we share some classes. We only recently started talking.
A world map gazes back at me from my booklet. So many possibilities. Mom threatened to send me to China last year. Said it would be fun. Said I should get out more.
Raina’s laughter rises above the sea of noise. People smile with her. We are being too loud. The teacher makes their way towards us.
Shhhhh. Giggles slip quieter.
Raina topples from the table, spastic movement taking her over the edge. She squeals. I smile down at her.
SHHHHHHHHHH tries to pierce our smiles. She’s back on the table. Bouncing less, but not by much.
Possibilities stare up at me from the booklet that has shifted on the table. I flip through them. Spain in bold. A map of the country. Beautiful photos of beautiful places.
“You. Me. Spain?”
I pull the front door closed behind me and lock it. Perky tiles charm the walls and floor of the hallway. Pattering down four flights of stairs, I press the button to open the apartment’s front gate and spill onto the street. My long legs push toward my destination as my fingers seek, find, tug headphones from my bag.
They pop into my ears. Bouncy music keeps time with my steps as I plough through the streets. My eyes count cobblestones and trace shadows. Tall buildings cast lovely shadows.
I’ve trekked this route eight times over the past four days. Day one: Google Maps glued to my hand, praying I don’t get lost. Day two: semi-confidently with my phone in my pocket, until I do get lost. Day three: more certain of every turn, successfully reaching my destination without Google Maps. Day four, without even thinking, really.
As my eyes stay lowered my feet take me where I need to go, no problem. They steer me from shadow to shadow, the sunlight too hot. Music drowns out the city and muffles my myriad thoughts.
Glancing up, the clear blue sky greets me, why, hello young one. Isn’t this a lovely day? I smile and my feet slow. A veil lifts and I notice the people leisuring???around me. Colorful buildings sing brightly, the cars provide accompanying instruments, the voices of strangers a beautiful harmony.
My headphones slip back into my bag. My feet keep moving, slower this time. But my eyes....My eyes do not return to the streets, or the cobblestones, or the shadows. Instead, they roam over the city, hungry for more beautiful music. Beautiful music that I now know can be heard and seen, if you just take the time to look up.
Click, click. The car doors unlock and I hop inside. The familiar scent is comfort. Just the way I left her. I sigh pleasantly, and start her up. As I drive, I notice that the rear view mirror isn’t quite right. No one’s driven her since I left… Have I gotten taller? Can’t be. I adjust the mirror.
Mom calls from the kitchen. Chicken, cabbage, and butter fill my nose. Mmmm. Stir-fry for dinner. I’m in the doorway in an instant, mom glancing up.
“You’re so beautiful,” She says and I sputter.
“What’s that for?” I smile.
“You’ve been glowing since you got back. You are standing taller, your posture has improved and you are.... glowing.”
I remember feeling taller in my car. I remember all the fun I had, the new friends I met. I remember the way I felt being able to navigate the streets of a foreign city by myself. I remember exploring on my own and loving every moment. I remember growing comfortable in that city far away.
“You’re more confident now. And it makes you beautiful.”
Photograph by Mariah Renae Photography