Mornings don’t feel the way they used to. Warm breezes send chills down your spine, and cold mornings scare you into thinking something’s wrong. The world has tilted it’s axis further and seasons don’t feel like they belong.
It’s been about two hundred and twenty seven days since I’ve seen another human being. Even though it’s opened it’s doors back up, I’m still too scared to leave the house and discover the world once again. But today, I’ll put an end to that.
“I’ll start off easy.” I tell myself. “I’ll walk the cat.”
Murray and I stop on the front porch and stare out at the street.
Old women with scarves across their face speed walk past trees. Gardeners speed past in their trucks loaded with equipment . Dogs bark, children scream, birds sing.
We leap off of the porch, and a breeze stirs up my sweater. My glasses fog up from breathing a little too hard through the mask, and Murray licks a few leaves.
I forgot what sunlight felt like.
It revives me, like liquid happiness.
“One step at a time, bud.” I say to Murray. “One step at a time.”
Each foot forward feels like the first step I’ve ever taken. My shadow moves in ways I didn’t remember it could, and Murray seems just as confused.
The world is all at once calm and bursting at the seams, the quiet hum of thewind letting me know that I’m still not alone.
Everything looks like it’s been waiting just for me.
~used to you~
I’m a few blocks in before I realize what I’m doing.
I’m outside. I’m kicking at the leaves, I’m basking in the sunlight.
I’m doing things that I didn’t think I could do anymore. I take my mask down for a second, when no one else is around. Murray is nose diving into the front garden of someone I’ve never met, and I decide to steal a bit of their scent too.
I take a deep breath, and so much comes back. Things that used to be, things that would have been, things that still are supposed to be. Plans and dreams and all that comes with liquid happiness -the sunshine kind.
I dance in falling leaves, I twirl on fresh-cut grass, and all of a sudden I’m staring at a bright blue sky.
The sky has never been so clear. Only yellow sun and blue strokes that fill the entire world. I shift my gaze to the tree beside me and watch the light dance between the branches.
Murray comes to lay on my chest and within a few minutes, he drifts off.
I pet his head as he snuggles to me, and slowly, the sun between the leaves begins to blur.
I can’t tell if I’m dreaming, or dead.
Most likely dead.
Either way, I know I’ve gone back in time. It feels like the week before things took a turn for the worst.
It had been raining for days. It tried to let us know. But my friends and I danced in the rain at lunch. We shivered from the cold, we shook in anxiety. We felt every and anything, and then we went to class.
I’m back, sitting in that room, the weight of the world on my chest. I feel like I’m rolling down a grassy hill, picking up speed and heading towards a tree.
The bell rang and coming out of the classroom, I realize that I’m no longer at school, I’m not at home. I’m in the middle of the jungle, wearing something Elizabeth Bennet would have in her closet.
I swing at vines in my way and I scream out into the trees with no response, no answer, not even an echo.
I push my way through trees and bushes, until I reach a meadow filled with lavender and rosemary. It smells like french perfume and tarts, and every and anything right with the world.
My friends are sitting on a picnic blanket having a feast, at the other end of the field, waving for me to come and join them.
I start walking toward them, but each step I take moves them further across the field. I start walking a little bit faster, and their waves turn into words.
“Come on, Aisha!”
“Hurry up, your plate is getting cold!”
Walking turns into running, and that into sprinting. Suddenly I’m halfway through the lavender fields, but they’re still so far away. At some point, my boot gets stuck in a hole, and I slam into the dirt.
The heel of it is caught in the roots, and I take it off, throwing the other one on top of it. I get up and start my run again, turning back to see the fields swallow the shoes.
I’m by the rosemary now, and time has slowed. My feet only hit the ground every five seconds, and I watch my friends throw their heads back, laughing loudly, turning every few seconds to see that I’m okay.
I reach the spot they’ve chosen, only to see that I need to climb up a hill to sit with them. I’m almost there. Without shoes, I can’t gain any traction, but I’m making it closer with every near slip.
I look up to see Audrey bent down, arms out.
“We knew you’d make it, Aisha?”
I reach for her hands and before I can grasp it, the world caves in.
No more picnic, no more friends.
Just Aisha so close to Wonderland, falling slowly through the rabbit hole.
I jolt up, and in turn, fling Murray off my chest.
Looking up, I notice that the sun is lower than I left it. It’s time to make our way home.
Murray is scratching at his ear and glaring at me with tired anger in his eyes.
“Sorry bud.” I say while I put my mask back on. “Let’s go home.”
I pick up his leash and we start to head home. We turn a corner I don’t recognize, and we enter a park I’ve never seen before. There’s bushes of flowers and pine trees so tall, the buildings downtown couldn’t compare.
Tall grass and dandelions run rampant, every breeze blowing something new our way. It looks like it’s been left alone for a long time, and it likes it that way.
We take a moment to run around the playground, up and down the jungle gym and all across the monkey bars. I chase Murray around in the grass, until he leads me to the other end of the park. I hear conversation and laughter flooding from the streets, music carrying the rhythm of their chatter.
I pull down my mask for a few seconds.
Smells from all over flood my nostrils. I let them lead me out into the open.
Meat and onion from the taco truck on the corner, fresh bread from the homes around the block, and stale beer from the men drinking and laughing on the porch. I could stay out here all night.
But one of the men yells, “How are you doing, mamas” and that’s my cue to hurry on home.
As soon as I shut the door behind us and let Murray off of his leash, I feel the air get sucked out of the room. Suddenly the world goes dark, the rooms feel heavy, and every ounce of my liquid happiness pours itself out.
I let myself do what I always do. I let my heart sink, I feel my stomach plummet, and my head starts to cloud. Murray hits at the blinds and meows at me.
“Open the curtains, Aisha.” He’s saying. “We both miss the sun.”
I do as he says.
I open the blinds. I open the windows. I turn off the lights and I grab a chair.
When I was little, I used to take my little armchair to the window in my room and watch people walk past. I would wave to whoever caught me, and usually they waved back.
Honking horns crowd the streets now. Kids screaming and music blaring comes from all different sides of my apartment.
Even with all the noise outside, I realized it was just me, Murray, and the sun.
And the sun was on its way home. Maybe it was time to see another friend that isn’t a star in the sky.
“Hey, are you free tonight?”
The sun was even lower now, but the streets were empty. It was the perfect time for a drive.
“Oh Kendall and James, no question.”
“What? James? He has zero brain cells.”
“That’s the sole reason, ma’am.” I scoff and it makes Audrey turn around.
“Alright then,” she says. “What girl were you?”
“Kendall and Logan!”
“Basic. The most basic of basic. I can’t believe you!” She holds a glare with me.
“Keep your eyes on the road!” We’ve been driving toward the beach for an hour, and Audrey hasn’t looked ahead of her more than ten seconds the whole time.
“You’re right, I can’t die in the same car as a Kendall-Logan girl.”
“How dare you! Kendall and Logan were the entire reason Big Time Rush produced hit after hit.” She shook her head and tsked. “Ugh, whatever.”
I look at her with a cheshire grin. “So the swollen hand did it for you too?”
“Hey!” With a punch in the arm.
“Hands on the wheel!” I rub my shoulder. “Jerk.”
“I love you!”
I rolled the windows all the way down and made Audrey do the same. It already smelled like salt and fish.
I look up at the purple sky and let the cold wind freeze my cheeks.
Maybe the world has some hope left after all.
“Hey guess who I got a text from the other day?” She says.
“The one and only.” She looks in the rearview and starts to switch lanes. “He said he misses me and wants to get back together.”
“What’d you say?”
“I’m sorry, who’s this?” She put her sunglasses on and turned up the speaker.
“You evil child.”
We scream-sang Boyfriend the rest of the way there.
By the time we got there the sun was well underwater. The waves were a lot louder and you couldn’t see beyond your own two feet.
iPhone flashlights and a few minutes later, we were sitting on the edge of the tide, toes in the sand.
“Do you ever wonder what would’ve happened?” I ask.
“What would have happened if what? If the Pandemic hadn’t happened?” She looked at me with raised eyebrows.
“Yeah. Like, if everything happened when it was supposed to.” We stared out at the blackness for a bit.
“Every damn day.” She looked so tired. So much older than before.
We layed out onto the sand and stared up at the sky. I expected to see stars. I don’t know why I was surprised that the only thing in the sky was smog and airplane lights.
“I do think it’s for the best,” Audrey says to the sky. “Things were getting a little too close to perfect.”
“I guess.” I turned to lay on my side and she does the same, until we’re nose to nose.
“Thanks for being here even though things aren’t perfect anymore.” Audrey looks surprised that I said it out loud.
The waves crash a little softer.
“It’ll be good for when you make it big.” My eyebrows meet the bridge of my nose.
“I’ll be the friend from when you were poor. I’ll keep you humble.” She boops the tip of my nose with her finger.
We turn on the speaker and let melodies carry our gaze up.
After a couple of hours, the music cuts out.
“Time to go home?”
“Time to go home.”
After Audrey drops me off, I lay flat on my back with Murray on my stomach. Looking up at the ceiling, the world feels small again.
This whole day felt like taking a deep breath in. Laying here in my rightful corner of the room, it feels like a big breath out.
I don’t know if I’ll be comfortable in this corner for long. But that’s not really for me to decide.
“Goodnight Murray.” A small little sigh escapes his nose.
“We’ll do it again tomorrow.”