I was being shipped up to Ohio for a “fresh start.” Which meant two weeks taken off work. Two weeks away from my parents. Two weeks away from my problems. Well, not really. I was in for two weeks of a microscopic study session and discussion of them. Not to mention, I had to make the 22-hour drive with my younger brother and sister. I didn’t mind having them around, but I just wanted to be alone. Throughout this whole incident, it felt like I was being watched at all times. I was not interested in having company, because I couldn’t think straight unless I was in complete solitude. Which I think was the idea. If they ever left me alone, they feared I would come to my senses and bolt. They were right about that part. But my leaving had to be calculated. Because when I did finally leave, I wasn’t coming back.
I had to seize any possible sliver of solidarity so that I could vet my plan. Which at the moment was: GET OUT ASAP! I hadn’t had enough time to work out the details to get me to that point yet. I was hoping for a job offer that would give me the financial security to make that jump, but right now, that plan wasn’t looking too promising. So Plan B was to waitress as much as possible and save every cent. But with two weeks off work, that plan wasn’t progressing at the pace I’d prefer.
Regardless of my dissatisfaction with the timing of the trip, my brother, sister, and I awoke early that morning, loaded up the car and began the arduous trek to Fairview Park, Ohio. As I directed the car down the long winding driveway away from my parents’ house, my eyes were drawn to the sky rather than the gravely path. The skyline was deeply blue, not quite black. It was the early time in the morning where the nocturnal creatures had called it a night and the early risers were still in bed. It was silent and still. The air crisp and dark with an edge of chill. The crunch of the gravel underneath the tires fell into a rhythmic pattern and lulled my nerves to sleep. My brother and sister settled for a few hours of rest leaving me alone with the road and my thoughts.
As the tires of my brother’s Pontiac Torrent eased us away from Van Alstyne, my eyes continually found their way to the sky. The moment of day break was upon me. The pivotal point where the night turns to day. The point where the light slowly creeps into the darkness. The exchange was so gradual, that I didn’t notice the presence of the light so much as the absence of the darkness. The transition a gentle one, nearly unnoticeable until the light had totally consumed the darkness. The sky danced before my very eyes illuminated with beauty and radiance. Each color sauntering into the next, quietly edging out the darkness while blending together to create a colorful tapestry.
The exchange between the darkness and the light fascinated me as my eyes focused on the road. It gave my thoughts a chance to explore in a new direction. As the road moved us onward, my mind ran parallel to it as well: forward on a new path. Perhaps the action in the sky was prophetic of what was to unfold in my own life. I couldn’t help but hope the magnificent sunrise mirrored what was to come in my near future. Oranges, yellows, peaches and reds painted over the once dark sky in my mind to reveal that every period of darkness ends.
Then, as they often do, my thoughts drifted towards Kendrae. What was he doing? Was he thinking about me? Would he wake up tomorrow and realize this was all too much, and find someone else? No, don’t go down that road. I backpedaled as much as I could and went a different direction. Maybe later that evening after we stopped for the night, I could sneak a moment and give him a call. The sound of his voice would dispel all those nasty self-doubts and give me the strength that I needed to press on. Just the thought of Kendrae’s voice occupied my mind for hours as the sun slowly rose in the sky.
Our 22-hour trek paused for the night in St. Louis, Missouri. All three of us were grateful to have arrived at the hotel and get some rest from the road. The trip hadn’t been as awful as I expected. In fact, I had actually enjoyed the bonding time with my siblings. We didn’t discuss my current prison sentence and I feigned optimism and excitement of our potential “vacation” activities. Regardless of my own feelings towards this trip, I knew my brother and sister were looking forward to it. Maybe if I bought into the vacation idea, I might end up enjoying myself more. It was at least worth the effort for my siblings’ sake.
Three full stomachs later, we were ready to settle in for the night, stretch out and get some rest before another full day of traveling. My brother plopped down on one queen mattress and began surfing the screen of his cell phone, and my sister occupied the bathroom taking a shower.
I made up some excuse to go look for something in the car, and darted out to the parking lot. I quickly shimmied my burner phone out of my bra and punched in Kendrae’s number. I knew I wouldn’t have much time with him on the phone. Ring. As the phone rang, I walked to the trunk of the Torrent, opened up the rear door of the sport utility vehicle, and sat on the flat, carpeted floor. Ring.I positioned myself behind the head rest so that the hand holding the slim phone to my ear was camouflaged. I didn’t think you could see our car from the hotel room, but I didn’t want to risk being spotted. Ring.I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath until I heard Kendrae’s voice.
“Hello,” his molasses-smooth, melodious voice beckoned me in.
Every muscle and tendon in my body relaxed, even if only slightly. Because I could never fully let my guard down. Not while I was in survival mode at least. Wanting to ensure I captured every decibel of sound in Kendrae’s voice, I pressed the phone speaker closer to my ear. My senses heightened as the car pulling up three spots over caught my eye. Slam. The car doors closed and the couple flitted in, hand-in-hand into the lobby. The aroma of coffee from the diner in the next lot consumed my nose. And the simultaneous softness and prickle from the trunk’s carpeted floorboard danced on my legs.
I quickly updated Kendrae on our day’s progress. I also updated him on the depth of my longing to see him again. And how much I loved him, no matter my geographic location or duration of time between us. Much to my utter relief, Kendrae expressed feeling the same. With reassurance of our love, we daydreamed about when we’d be able to live in the same city and spend as much time as we wanted with one another. But those thoughts were short-lived as I knew I had to get back up to the hotel room. I didn’t want to give my brother or sister any reason to wonder why I was out of the room for more than a few minutes. We both clung to someday, as we exchanged goodbyes with one another, and I promised to text him when I could.
Pressing the red phone icon to hang up the sleek black phone filled my eyes with tears. Recently, I often found myself in an uncharacteristic state of sadness. Despair, depression, melancholy, heavyhearted. All words that better suited the depth of my feelings. But any emotional label other than sadness would have been too overwhelming. Considering myself just “sad” was the least sad emotion I could be feeling and while still being true. It sounded less hopeless and not quite so far away from happy.
My eyes averted to the skyline above the diner across the parking lot, in hopes of finding the silver lining I stumbled upon that morning. As my eyes settled on the low-hanging light left in the sky, a lump formed in my throat. The darkness was overtaking the sky. Forcing the light out of it completely. Its presence was heavy and weighed down upon my chest. Knocking the breath out of my lungs. The victory this morning was a pyrrhic one. The darkness had reclaimed its kingdom in the sky, vanquishing the light. No matter how many times the light captured the sky, the darkness would always return. My epiphany this morning was nothing more than false hope. If the day’s light cycle was any indication of what my future beheld, the forecast seemed bleak.
But a still, small voice quieted my thoughts and whispered to my soul. A grain of peace sprouted in the depths of my heart. So I steeled my resolve, wiped my tear-streaked face and narrowed my gaze towards the sliver of light left in the sky. Sure, the darkness returned for the night, but it would be dispelled yet again in the morning. Day after day, this exchange of power occurred. The light never tired of battling the darkness no matter how many times it was forced out. Maybe my epiphany wasn’t what I originally thought, but I could still have a change of perspective.
I hopped out of the trunk, slipped my burner phone back in my bra and closed the trunk lid. I quickly checked my makeup in the car window reflection. Ehhh…it was good enough to pass an inspection at a distance. I locked the car and slinked back into the hotel room. My brother was engrossed in the screen of his cell phone, ear buds in mesmerized by another Breaking Bad episode. Bullet dodged there. And my sister was still in the bathroom. Shower off, but steam was seeping through the crack of the door. Another dodged bullet. I quickly gathered my shower toiletries and prepared to occupy the bathroom. I smiled to myself, because the number of obstacles in-between Kendrae and me didn’t matter. Our light would drive out the darkness every time.