You sit in the back seat of the truck, a book in your lap and two more tucked into the door, and warm sun comes through the window and makes a rectangle of yellow across the open page, and you think, this is alright.
You inhale ink on paper, the almost uncomfortably intense light stretching across your arms and face, and your sister announces that it took you seventeen seconds to read those last two pages. Slide closer to her, so that your shoulders are hardly touching, and music comes now, loud through the truck’s speakers, lyrics infused with the soul of recklessness and sun and wild freedom. Forget everything for a moment and lean close against the messy-haired, barefooted ten-year-old until she squints at you—”you’re kinda leaning on me”—and you grin and think, okay, this is what siblings do, in a normal world, which you are part of. It is a normal world, and the hawk circling overhead and the trees whizzing by and the shadowy ceiling of the truck are all pieces of reality. Everything is real. Why is that so hard to understand?
Pick up the phone and drag a spiderwebbed chair to one corner of the front porch and draw long, wandering lines in a blue notebook. Wait for the ringing to come, and think, pay attention now, this is what people do, people in the real world—they call their friends on long afternoons. The phone rings, and blood rushes in your ears as you pick it up and watch yourself lean forward as if you could somehow move closer to the warm voice on the other end. You’re smiling, and sometimes your own words break the silence, unfamiliar and disconnected from the words in your mind. It feels real and distant and kind of like sitting at the edge of a cold swimming pool, dipping your feet into the still water. Then it ends and you back far away from the edge of the water as your two universes melt back together. You stare down at your still-wet feet and think, alright, that’s enough of reality.
And then the sunlight looks like a question, and maybe it’s asking if you’ll ever do anything more than sit at the edge of the pool. You want to be pushed in, forced to swim, to drown in the real and tangible until you learn to escape your own mind, but you also want to hide somewhere impossibly quiet and watch the world turn and never get close to the edge again.
It’s bright and chaotic in the house when you unwrap your earbuds, spill an armful of mixed-up abstract words onto an unsuspecting page, and think, okay, this is what you do when you have a thought, or two thoughts, or a thousand of them, all humming different songs at the same time. You try to write them down, and you wish they sounded more like the truth, and you wonder if you’re the only one at the edge of the pool.
You glance down at your hands. Your bracelet is orange, with stripes of yellow. It looks like a sunset.
You think, it’s July, a good time to do uncertain and reckless things. And that piece of reality feels true.
You wander off to find something, anything startling or vague or colorful or edible, and as you stand in the kitchen, you feel the water splashing gently around your feet. The chlorine smells like summer, and for a moment, you don’t mind it being there. Maybe you’ll climb up to the diving board later and just stare down at the rippling surface far below. You could jump, or you could sit and swing your legs and watch the light change and stay there all night, longer than that, maybe even forever.