The Impermanence of Smoke and Rain

We spent the week painfully suspended between the past and the future to the soundtrack of Whitney. The band, not the singer, because we were just counterculture enough that we could reject normalcy while still completing our degrees with distinctions. We were cliché, but not to each other, and we relished the sepia fog while trying to ignore the cold daggers that brought prickles to our eyes.

I felt like a ragdoll tossed around silently in a tornado, like in action movies, where they cut out the sound when the heroine’s best friend dies and she screams silently, because how can you possibly hear something like that? I rode the roller coaster of drugs and sobriety and alcohol and emotion and more drugs. Nothing about that week was healthy, but somehow it needed to be that way. Somehow it was healthy, and what is health anyway? Fucking social construct, said my brain from somewhere above the surface. That week I learned more about consent and gender fucking and love and fucking and not fucking than I did the rest of my time in college.

And damn it if those song lyrics didn’t get to me. Will life get ahead of me? Are you fucking kidding me? Planes are headed home… It would have been nauseating to watch myself, were I not living the nostalgia in real time. I was nestled in a sleep-deprived huddle of people whom I loved and love and who love me and loved me. Foggily watching the scenery speed by as the sleeper car hurtled towards the cliff’s edge. 

On the last night, I cried. My fingers fumbled with the lighter as shivering sobs finally flooded my lungs. I choked out a watery laugh as I lost the smoke into the cloudy air. Fuck, I said, and they understood, in the tragic, beautiful way that humans do when they live through shared endings. The smoke wafted away and cleared, and I felt the fog break for a glimpse before the night pressed down on me again. Fuck.

It was raining the next morning as I pressed my face against the window and listened to Whitney, watching the place where I had learned to be an adult recede into the background. It was a cliché, but in that moment, that was all I wanted it to be.

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