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Thursday, December 13

Meteor Shower.

They were standing in the corner of a noisy room in a crowded house, unremarkable in a sea of similarly young and drunk faces. His body was turned toward hers, and he was smiling, she thought, rather arrogantly at her, despite the fact that she had shown no interest in him over the last half hour of halting, awkward conversation. She considered walking away from him, but she had nowhere to walk to, and was admittedly kind of enjoying the nondiscriminatory attentions of this boy on a day that had otherwise been devastatingly ordinary.

"So," he practically shouted over the music. "How'd you end up in Santa Barbara?"

The question was innocent enough, one that the girl was asked quite frequently. Nevertheless, she hated it. She never knew how to sum up all of the thought processes and decisions that had gone into moving her body and belongings to this place and still remain in the realms of polite and banal party conversation. It did not help that there was no real reason for her to be in Santa Barbara in the first place, and she had come to this party to drink herself away from that little unresolved detail in her life.

As it was, she could be at any party happening in any house in any city of the United States. This boy could be any post-graduate, pre-professional boy who was trying very hard to not look like was trying to look down her shirt every time she shifted. The fact that she happened to be at this party, in this city, talking to this boy was almost an accident.

"Uh... I don't know." She really needed to come up with a scripted answer for this question. "For a job, kind of."

Yeah. A job. Kind of. A job that she had disentangled herself from over three weeks ago after finding herself unwittingly in the midst of a major corporate tax evasion scheme. Since then, she had sat in her beautiful room in a beautiful house in a beautiful city, doing freelance work on her own time. Yet, despite all this, she felt a little bit miserable. And then she felt increasingly miserable for feeling miserable in the first place, and ended up wanting to pack up all of her things and just leave.

The reason the girl felt miserable for feeling miserable was simple: she lived in paradise, and she lived there for free. She lived in a town that was so prepossessing, people paid unequivocal amounts of money on rent just so that they could get up, look out their windows, and see the sun shining on their green, green lawns year-round. The same sun that caused her, upon waking and finding its incessant, cheery light shining into her room every morning, to scowl, shut the blinds, and pull the covers over her head, so that she could try to fall back asleep.

Her clients, most of which were located in the Midwest or on the East Coast, would look at her sunny backdrop while in video conference calls, and groan with envy.

"Wait," They'd say incredulously, seeing that she had shorts on. "Did you wear that outside?"

She would shrug her shoulders, uncomfortable with the meteorological bounty that had been bestowed upon her. "Yeah. To the beach, actually."

They would sigh longingly, the way all Midwesterners had been trained to sigh at the thought of living in California, and tell slightly (or blatantly) embellished tales of mornings when it took hours to get the ice off of their cars, nights when they got snowed in to their houses and had to dig a tunnel to the corner store to get toilet paper. She would merely nod absentmindedly while staring wistfully at their pixelated, chapped lips. She would listen on with mournful envy as they stepped apologetically away from the screen to blow their running noses. She, of chronic Vitamin D deficiency and seasonal depression fame. The same girl who, just two years ago, while on her daily two mile trudge through heaps of grey snow to campus, had decided that she was absolutely sick and tired of the Michigan cold, had skipped all of her classes and driven south for hours, stopping only when she could step outside of her car without a jacket on and not shiver.

That evening, she had sat in the grass of a surprisingly spacious rest stop in northern Tennessee, eating sour gummy worms, basking in the sun, and had promised herself that she would never live in a godforsaken, cloudy place like Michigan ever again.

And so she had moved, as she had dreamt of moving, to a sunnier place mere days after graduation, leaving her belongings, her boyfriend, and her friends behind as she drove west, chasing the sun.

But it wasn't enough. Of course it wasn't enough. She had found, as she had known all along, that the newness of a place faded eventually, no matter how sunny and beautiful it was. And she had run out of land. Run out of road to drive on. Driving west now meant going straight into the ocean, and science had once again disappointed her by failing to market a viable and affordable boat-car hybrid.

Out of ideas and out of money, she was left sitting in a beautiful room in a beautiful house in a beautiful city with the one thing that she had been running from in the first place -- the one thing that she had failed to leave behind in the grey sludge of a never ending Michigan winter: herself. There was a time, she knew, when she would have joyfully jumped at the opportunity to isolate herself from the world and explore the unmarked territories of her own thoughts. But she was older now, wiser, and therefore much more aware of the ease with which one could get lost in that wilderness, that feral darkness that was contained within one's mind.

Instead, given the option of sitting in her room and coming to term with her fears and past hurts, and going to a mindless house party where she would get free liquor with minimal effort on her part, she had, of course, chosen the latter. So here she was, long last, returning to the present conversation with the arrogant young man who was still smiling at her, seemingly unperturbed by her long bout of silence.

She smiled back at him, deciding that she could like this boy. He had a pretty face, but his head seemed to be about as empty as the now-drained red cup he held in his hands. There was, she thought, no uncharted territory in this interaction, no matter where it might lead. There was no fear of getting lost, no risk of surprise.

Seeming to sense her shift of opinion, the boy leaned into her and said, "Come here." She watched as he placed his hand gently into hers and began to pull her through the room.

She did not know where they were going, and she considered, briefly, protesting. Stopping him or letting go of his hand and simply walking away. But there was something nice about being pulled into another person's orbit, carried on the waves of their predetermined trajectory to an unknown place. Catching a glimpse of a clock as the two of them walked out of the house, she saw that it was two in the morning. Staring at the sky, she could tell.

It was getting to be that magical and heartachingly lonely point in the night when one could stare endlessly into the sky, and, upon getting lost in the stars, begin to believe that the sun may never rise again. But the girl did not want to think about the stars or the universe tonight. So while the boy, who had stopped walking when she had, looked at the stars in drunken amazement, she turned her head to look at him. He seemed to shine in the inky darkness, and she stared, stubborn and unthinking, into his light, willing herself to go blind.


Grace said...

This is gorgeous.

Travis said...

I'd like to remind you that you have enough friends to crash with in nyc that you could live here for the indefinite future.

S. Kahlon said...

And I would like to remind you that not everything I write is entirely autobiographical, dear Travis.

Travis said...

Sorry. I was thinking of my other friend who drove south to be warm, moved out west, works as a freelancer, lived in michigan, and gets hit on by more stupid pretty boys then anyone else I know. My fault.

S. Kahlon said...

Okay, okay. You got me.

But I would like to say that I do not let aforementioned stupid pretty boys hold my hand or lead me to unknown places. And I am not miserable.

Bored? Absolutely. Miserable? No.