I closed my eyes. Sprawled out in the back of a faded black Grand Am, I waited. My legs dangled out the cracked car door. I laced my fingers behind my head, and instantly fell into a daydream. I remember so clearly the air. It buzzed with energy and exploded like pop-rocks. A peacefulness crept over me while she dipped into CVS to replenish our supplies. Soon, we would embark on an adventure into Nashville. It was my first time. I remember the people. No smiles, but their excuse was they were busy. Everyone was moving. Eyes set squarely on the distance as they pushed past you and you didn’t feel insulted. They had places to be, just like you. Their art is embodied in mechanical activity.
Back home, I could see the contrast. The sleepy suburbia I was used to had all but gone comatose. Ohio’s politicians promised to break the spell with a kiss planted firmly in the mayor’s checkbook. I never saw a difference. All that came from levies and bills was a Panera Bread and a new Dollar General. The slow, lethargic pace in town widened the gap between generations. We were born in the steely blue Wild Western world of the internet. No time could be saved for consideration, and opportunity could come to anyone. Someone you knew had 10,000 retweets on one of their posts and there were only 2,000 kids at our high school. This guy’s famous. The silver screen became Twitter feeds. We both grew up in this world. A world over-saturated with complexity.
A water bottle hit me on the chest and brought me back. I was instantly aware of the air, of the energy.
“Look what I found!” She held up a disposable Kodak camera, and snapped a picture of me. Click, she wound the camera and holstered it in her purse.
“Ready?” She asked. I sat up and nodded my head, immediately unscrewed the cap on the water bottle and gulped it down. “I bought more, It’s so much hotter here than Ohio.”
We meandered into the car. She was driving. After two semesters living in Columbus, I still drove like a blind Amish man in the city. I GPSed the park we were headed to first, and we were off.
“You sure you want to go to Cheekwood? We could go anywhere.” She hadn’t been there, and she had been everywhere. There was no compromise. It was Cheekwood through and through. Ultimately, I didn’t care where we went, as long as it was with her, and she was enjoying it.
The trip to Nashville was rushed. The week before we’d broken up, her birthday no less. Neither of us were sure if following through with the plans we’d made was a good idea. We did it anyway. It would weigh on us, for a couple hours at a time during the trip. We would lose ourselves, forgetting everything, only to snap back to reality with sad eyes. It had to be done. Our biggest struggle seemed to me to be loving each other too much, if that’s a thing. Every time we were together, things got out of hand, we did everything to inch our souls closer and closer together. That’s love’s goal. Bring two souls so close together that they start to blur together like when you hold your finger real close to your nose and slowly move it away. With all our inching we ended up crossing lines drawn at the beginning, lines drawn for her future. We made promises to ourselves and each other to build up a wall at the new line we’d made. Each time it came crashing down. Until we had to stop, before we ran out of bricks.
I gripped every second of this trip. I held on to the memories knowing everything was about to be blown away. Time came through my life, again and again, like a tornado through Kansas, leaving me with scraps, planks, pieces without form. I was determined to remember, when the tornado came, how everything looked before.
“Mike, it’s a right here, right?” The absent-minded professor was a nickname I’d had for a week in high school. I snapped out of remorse, and directed her the rest of the way. We rolled the windows down and basked in the heat. I love the people who would rather have the wind in their hair and the smell, even if it’s not fresh, of the outside pouring in, than the dry, contented A/C.
The gardens at Cheekwood were gorgeous. Each petal felt meticulously placed and contrasted beautifully with its neighbors. There were sculptures, paintings; the house itself was a work of art. At each place we stopped, I heard the click-wind of the disposable camera she’d bought back at CVS. I never took pictures. If a picture was really worth a thousands words, I’d just write about it, put it to the test.
I don’t think the pictures on that camera were ever developed. After a while of walking around, I stopped hearing the click. I don’t know if it was because I was immersed in the beauty and couldn’t hear it, or if she was too liberal and ran out. Those pictures were some of the last we’d have together. We ended up leaving Cheekwood drenched in sweat with smiles on our faces. Everything about that day seemed to unconsciously tie up the loose ends of our relationship. I found out more about why she’d left Nashville, and about her life there. It added meaning to the distant looks she’d get sometimes. She would stare back in time and across states to that city. A future she’d be torn from.
Tomorrow we would sit together on the banks of a pond for four hours unable to let go. We could sense it would be one of the last time’s we’d see each other. Only a few weeks from then we would sit atop a hill beneath the massive sky and say our final goodbye.
Every little thing I write is like the click-wind of that disposable camera. These words are all I’ve got now to look back on, and I refuse to let them go undeveloped. I refuse to let time come through and smash up everything. Every paragraph is a picture, every page a film roll.