growing pains

Short Stories / Sunday, March 26th, 2017

I already knew back then.
Judged from an outsider’s point of view it may have seemed like an insignificant stretch of time, all of us standing on the brink of our own lives; not yet old enough to understand the weight of all that was to come looming above our shoulders but neither young enough to dismiss the change in our dynamics, the soft pull towards adulthood as of no importance. We were on the threshold of that awkward stage where small things suddenly feel all-consuming, simple actions become a multitude of possible impacts on our lives and the people we surround ourselves with become sworn-in companions in the seemingly impossible task of finding out who we are. Shortly, it was a somewhat strange limbo of uncertainty, having finished school and turning our heads towards eight weeks of nothingness, a vast expanse of days to be filled before each of us went off into all possible directions under the sun to go to university and shed our ignorant dreams of youth.
I knew it then, on that blazing summer morning a whole lifetime ago; there was something in the air. The sun not quite risen yet but her warmth already heating up the inside of the car, her light breaching through the last shreds of dawn, ever-growing in uneven specks at the end of the horizon.

It’s funny how memories work – I don’t remember what we talked about in those days, what business occupied or thoughts. All my memories of them are stitched together out of impressions, minutely poked into the narrow alleyways of my brain. Chip’s peaceful face, asleep, his mind lost somewhere between dry rivers and tarred roads, his left arm dangling out of the rolled down window. The wooden rosary hanging from the rearview mirror, swaying in the soft breeze coming in from one window and fleeing through the one opposite. The unsteady hum of Jospeh’s Corolla that must have been much too old to pass any kind of vehicle inspection. Waves rearing up and crashing down somewhere below, white froth dancing upon them, glistening in the morning sun. The sleepy silence only four people who’ve known each other for a certain amount of time can produce. The sunburnt skin between Archibald’s ear lobe and his neck. Spotless skies above and empty streets ahead. A coffee stain on the backseat and no one’s particular care about it.

It’s funny how memories work, really. There’s nothing great about that particular morning, nothing I can pick out and look at with pride or special joy to say: That was extraordinary. After all, it was just a car ride. But the feeling of content, of complete and utter content just to sit there, drowsy and not yet hardened by the burden of missed opportunities – all that was lying ahead of me just a white open plane to splatter my life on, to hurl myself against without fear or apprehension – that is something you can never achieve again once you’ve lost it.
I knew it then, in the silence and the calm of a car headed towards nowhere in particular except for away, that this was a moment of stolen happiness no one would ever know of. One I wrestled stubbornly from an unyielding world that was usually too loud and too fast, one I stole simply by not knowing or caring about everything my life held in store for me.
All of these momentary stills, these slices of life of that morning have stayed with me over the years. They have been replayed in my head time and time again and I’m saddened to have detected a rigid heaviness that has mingled itself with the initially quite sweet growing pains I used to feel when remembering my childhood friends.

We’re old now, all of us.
Four boys who grew down into men.

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