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400 lux

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we’re never done with killing time
can i kill it with you? …
we come around here all the time
got a lot to not do
let me kill it with you…

my friends in high school were nearly universally born in 1980. more specifically, i have a high concentration of friends and classmates who were born in june of 1980. i really can’t imagine what kind of event could have occurred in september of 1979 that could have led to such a mini-baby boom, but there you go. thus, in the summer of 1996, our clique received the greatest gift of all: a number of licensed drivers. and just like that, the universe opened wide for us.

you pick me up and take me home again…
i love these roads where the houses don’t change (and i like you)
where we can talk like there’s something to say…

the nights would all start off the same. because this was before instantaneous and constant telecommunication, because I AM AN OLD, all of these plans would be made in advance, with no ability to call audibles. we would all meet up at someone’s house, the mall, the movies, the park, etc. someone would have to stop on the way and pick me up; i wasn’t 16 until the summer of 1997, so i spent 11th grade as the perpetual passenger. my friends were gracious about this, mainly because they knew that i’d be so damned eager to drive that they could spend all of 12th grade collecting on the favors they gave me. after i was collected, we’d amass at the appointed location at the appointed time, be relatively well-behaved but knuckle-headed and loud for a few hours, then disperse in time to meet our curfews.

of all of us, the man had the nicest car. on the other side of all of this, having the understanding of his family and their approach to finances that i do now, i am not as shocked as i used to be. but at the time, his basically-brand-new mercury mystique was stunningly excessive and glorious. he had leather seats, a moonroof and a 10-CD changer in the trunk. because of this, he was nearly always appointed to drive us around. (that and, until we started dating, he would never, ever, ever, ever, EVER let me drive, EVER.) he and i also had the good fortune to have the most liberal curfews of our entire peer group: i could stay out until 12, later with good reason and a phone number my dad could call to check on me at any time; he had no curfew, and really a lot of the time i don’t think his parents knew or cared where the all-holy hell he was.

so ANYWAY, the man would come pick me up for our nights out low-key carousing. this resulted in a lot of time driving around aimlessly. often, when other people were busy, we’d go out by ourselves. even when he was dating one of our friends, he and i managed to get in our buddy time. and we had these long-ranging and VERY IMPORTANT DISCUSSIONS while we drove. these were the kinds of conversations that usually happen in college when all the participants are either drunk or stoned, but we were so precocious that we did it younger and sober.

[in retrospect, it’s no wonder we got married; we are the only potential romantic mates for one another. we are weird, y’all.]

now we’re wearing long sleeves and the heating comes on
you buy me orange juice
we’re getting good at this

our parents always insisted that we were dating, even when we weren’t. his mother would rather colorfully criticize his girlfriends in front of me, like she thought that i’d snap my head up and go, OH WELL, SINCE YOU SAID SUCH UNBELIEVABLY HORRID THINGS ABOUT HER, LET ME BREAK THEM UP AND SAVE YOUR PRECIOUS CHILD FROM THAT HARRIDAN. but until i was divorced, we were not a couple. [and to the mother-in-law’s credit, she’s, to my knowledge, held her tongue on criticizing me. the father-in-law is different, but we’re not going there.] we were just well-suited to one another’s habits and needs.

in high school, the world was equally very tiny and very large. we got to the point where we had every road in the city memorized, but we would ride around at night as if those two lanes could take us anywhere. intellectually, we knew that “anywhere” was gautier, mississippi (long story; don’t ask), but it felt broader, more expansive than that. the worst part of adulthood is that you start to see the limits that, though they were always there, adolescence hides from you. i desperately miss the ability to climb into the car on a saturday night and feel like the tree-lined streets would eventually transform, hinge outward and open, revealing some new, mysterious possibility we’d never considered.

the man and i were – and are – very good at this deep, companionate friendship. and the first bricks of our fortress were laid in the summer of 1996, rolling around the streets of our hometown when we didn’t know we could be stopped. sometimes i look at him, sitting on the other end of our couch reading his ipad, and i feel the way i felt back then. it’s a nice feeling, and i’m glad i have an anchor to the years when i was free. adults are rarely free. but with him, i can grasp back to it, if only for a moment.

i’d like it if you stayed…

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Author: magnolia

grown-ass woman, solidly 30-something. mobilian by raising, with some louisiana thrown in for lagniappe. fiercely devoted lover of my husband, my friends, and my folks. highly reconstructed southerner. teacher of tax accountants. LSU alum. atheist. peace-loving liberal. recognizer of humanity in all of its forms. non-practicing lawya. sports fan. hopefully friendly and amusing. writer of a whole lot fewer fictions than i used to write.

One thought on “400 lux

  1. I love this. By the way, the peanut is looking at cars today…my heart hurts, but I’m excited for him.

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