Writing Prompt: “The Yellow lines on the hallway sped by in a blur, and we flew through the night, and we felt free. But we weren’t, and we knew it. We were running away from something, and running away was never the path to freedom. I thought about telling John to turn back. I thought about suggesting…”
…we just call it an early night. I knew that we had graduation tomorrow and we needed our rest. But I also knew that tonight was important. I could feel it. It was like a dramatic swell growing in my chest. Tonight was important.
I looked over at John. I knew that he wasn’t looking forward to high school graduation. He didn’t want all of this to end. Not school, obviously, but the structure of it all. He thrived in the structure. Well thrived might be a strong word. He was a C+ student at best, but for someone who grew up in the family situation he did, C’s were great.
And then there was Zaria. She promised John they would stay together once she left for college, but she will be on the other side of the country with Prep School boys. I believed they could make long distance work, but John had expressed his doubts. He didn’t want to hold Zaria back.
“She’s too smart for me, Marv,” I remember John telling me. “But she’s too stupid to dump me for some laywer or doctor.”
“Don’t say that, John,” I said. “Zaria really loves you. She wants to be with you. You guys will make it work.”
“She’s going to Harvard. And I’m going to be working at my Dad’s auto shop. We just aren’t destined for the same things,” John said.
He looked up and stared off into the distance like he was searching for something in the clouds.
“I’ll miss her,” John said as he wiped a tear from his eye.
That was only a few weeks ago, but tonight John was different. He had a wild energy to him. An energy I’ve only seen one time before. It was the night we stayed up and watched the Seattle Seahawks win the Superbowl. We were yelling and cheering so loud we thought we were going to wake up the neighbors.
Afterwards it was super late but John and I drove around town in his truck yelling and cheering at every car or truck that passed us. We were celebrating for Seattle but we were mostly celebrating for us. We hadn’t really done anything other than root for the winning team, but we felt like we were on top of the world.
Now we were once again driving around in his truck, John Driving, Zaria riding shotgun, and me in the back. However, this time, it felt like we were just driving to put off the inevitable.
“Think Moma Rosa’s is still open?” John asked.
“I mean it’s pretty late,” I said.
“12:09,” Zaria said, checking her phone. “I’m pretty sure they close at 11 or something.”
“What about Taco Bell? They’re open all night, right?” John asked.
“You really want Taco Bell? This late?” Zaria asked.
“Well. I don’t know. I’m kind of hungry. What about you, Marv?”
“I could get a bite to eat I guess,” I said.
Zaria leaned her head on John’s shoulder.
“If you want to go to Taco Bell, then we should go soon. My parents want me home before one,” She said.
“Right. Of course. You have a big day tomorrow, Valedictorian,” John said.
“Have you been practicing your speech?” I asked Zaria.
“Yeah I went over it a dozen times today,” Zaria said.
“I didn’t think the jokes could get any funnier, but hearing them the twelfth time really made me laugh,” John said with a chuckle.
Zaria sat up and gave him a light punch to the arm.
“Yeah whatever. My speech is going to be great,” She said.
“Of course it is,” John leaned over and gave Zaria a kiss on the cheek.
We continued driving through town and ended up at the Taco Bell early in the morning. The person on the intercom was exhausted or stoned or both. They could have also been surprised anyone was showing up this early to order soft tacos but here we are.
The three of us ordered our food and sat there in the parking lot, eating our late night tacos.
“I can’t believe we eat this stuff,” Zaria said as she took a bite of taco.
“What? Too good for the peak of Mexican food?” John asked.
“Really? I’ll have to tell my parents that you think this stuff is better than their genuine cooking,” She said with a laugh.
“I’d happily take a real Mexican meal from your parents anyday,” John said. “But they aren’t cooking up tacos at midnight.”
“True. True,” Zaria nodded.
“And Taco Bell has Baja Blast,” I added as I sipped my large drink.
“Two points Taco Bell. One point Mr. and Mrs. Castillo,” John smiled.
“Now I’m definitely going to tell them,” Zaria shook her head.
“No, don’t!” John pulled her in and gave her a kiss.
I just shook my head and continued to drink my Mountain Dew. I looked up at the night sky. The few lights of the town had it hard to see many stars, but a few managed to shine through.
The night was stretching on longer and longer but I knew no matter how long it went, it would never be long enough. Not for John. Going home and going to bed meant he had to wake up tomorrow. Graduation would mean everything would be different. Today was the last day that things were normal. It was a beautiful still in time, but it would not last forever.
Every second that passed was like a grain of sand passing through an hourglass or a drop of water flushing down the drain. It could not last forever.
We sat there for a moment, not talking. Just breathing. Breathing in this moment and trying our best to burn it into our collective memories. Maybe the three of us could keep this moment alive.
Our silence was interrupted by a series of beeps coming from Zaria’s phone.
“That’s my parents. They want me home now,” Zaria said.
“What time is it?” John asked.
“12:30. Bed time, I guess,” Zaria said.
John just nodded and let out a sigh.
“Ok, let’s get you home,” He said.
It was a mostly quiet drive from Taco Bell to Zaria’s house. I sat in the back of the truck again while John drove and Zaria sat in the passenger seat. She leaned up against him as they drove. All of us were quiet. I wasn’t sure what to say. What could I say? Would my words just ruin it?
I heard a whispered conversation between Zaria and John.
“Are you alright?” Zaria asked.
“Yeah I’m fine,” John said, keeping his eyes on the road.
“Are you mad at me? I’m sorry I have to go home early,” Zaria said.
“It’s fine. I’m fine. I swear,” John said.
Zaria just sighed and closed her eyes, leaning against John’s chest.
“Love you,” John said.
“Love you too,” Zaria replied.
Header Photo Credit to Pexels
Writing Prompt comes from Piccadilly‘s “Complete The Story.”