Of All These Yesterdays
Burned into my mind’s eye upon every return trip, a residual image lingers over footsteps retraced.
Few malls retain such a pointless shape to them. This one, is almost carelessly molded into a square, ushering any consumers with too much time into a void of shops, stretching endlessly around into a four-sided labyrinth of lights and sound. Long, strips of carpet are pulled almost angrily at the walls, until all that is left is a confounded heap of material; wrought with patches of discoloration from the constant buzzing of security on a segway. Seemingly since the dawn of time, a disgusting azure shade has complimented the messy floor design, peppered with particles of peach, lime, and fuchsia; all of which tend to give the same impression that the interior decorator of the mall was either colorblind, or tasteless. However, for all of its faults and disorderly appearance, it invokes a sort of pathos in me; this attachment to a horrible myriad of color and dust that makes me cling to early days of my childhood and adolescence.
Depictions of christmas lights, tinsel, and swarms of crowds fill my mind as I remember this mall was how far my father and I once traveled to purchase perfume for my mother during the holidays. The rush, and almost unfailing procrastination that only father can portray are crystal clear in my mind as he hands me a small, crumpled paper list of items my mother desires. While I don’t understand the relevance of such items of vanity, I can only surmise my mother will welcome my choice with beaming expression and her unforgettable chuckle. My innocence of childhood can always revive my memories of trailing mere steps behind my parents, like a duckling who wishes only to not be left behind in this cruel, heartless world of tall people and long faces.
Beads of sweat begin to form on my brow, as I climb out of my SUV. With food in hand, I make my way up to the garage door. As I gaze back towards the street, my eyes scan down to the opposite end of our lane. Distinguishing lines of blatant heat waves form freely in the air, hovering feet off the ground over a poorly laid concrete driveway. My mind travels once more, and places me within the confines of an itchy red suit.
This suit, packed to the brim with sequins, buttons, and zippers, hinders not only my movement but my ability to breathe free air as I’m obligated to endure the stench of ten years of marching band members, all of whom reside in the suit like a bodily fluid sarcophagus, trapping only the most putrid odors as a punishment to the current wearer. This straitjacket, a bondage of choice that I’ve compelled myself to embrace as I pine for scholarly excellence, is one of many factors that chain my enthusiasm firmly to the foundation of sanity. This ridiculous, flamboyant uniform, conveys not only the frugality of my band directors, but summarizes the comprehensive attitude of my school district’s confidence in our band’s ability to succeed. While girls in my instrument section fight an incessant battle for meaningless chairs and favoritism of individual directors, I avoid the entire display of trench warfare. My silence, regarded as insubordination and a lackluster disposition ensure only that I will remain at the back of the pack. In this struggle for nothing at all, I truly am the “last man alive” in a sea of arrogant estrogen, whose tragedy is rivaled only by the irony; that being the title of zero credibility in a school where electives matter little.
As I drive northbound, towards my home and my final destination I gaze out my window. With a cool night breeze billowing through my tangled hair, I stare at the long, poorly laid asphalt surface of my high school’s massive parking lot. Being the grave site of many of my memories, a broad slide show of years surges through, filling me with a nostalgia for ages past. Reflections of driving lessons, to marching practice, to bike rides, all of which took place so close to home. In retrospect, this lifeless wasteland of concrete and white lines carried so much of my past that it was possible to possess its own pool of relevance in my heart.
Leaning back against the shoddy car-seat covers of my friend’s tiny Mazda, I unscrewed the cap of my soda and took another swig. Exhausted, and sides aching from constant laughter, I grinned at my friend in the driver’s seat. His face, a look of satisfied comfort stood shining in the reflection from his rear-view mirror. Both of our girlfriends were resting in the backseat, as we reached this point of tranquility; a silent concurrence that our recreational trip for Halloween was an example of “the good life” we so desired. Awesome times with close friends, this road journey we returned from marked a milestone in our trekking far from home. As almost innumerable pairs of headlights passed by like comets, we enjoyed nearly an hour of uninterrupted peace, where our thoughts and our company formed an everlasting connection of solace between us. While fun, and pointless from what I understand now; this act stood as a precursor to something I can only share with the one I love now. Perpetual calm, a force that remains customary in my relationship, is of the same comforting sense as sitting quietly in my friend’s car so many years ago. She brings with her, the joys of my past; a distinct happiness I have long considered lost. As I return my attention to the road, the parking lot shrinks in the distance, as does my fond recollection.
I sit with my face buried in my palms. This smooth, yet horribly uncomfortable wooden surface urging me to move out of the room, to leave this scene of nightmarish finality. I lean back in the pew while straightening my jacket. This unnerving, pastel room taunts me as a symbol of all things I’ve come to peg as hypocritical, immoral, and useless. This chapel serves no purpose, and the comfort it brings to these family members surrounding me is fleeting. An uneasy pause as people begin to rise sends an unwanted, clutching fear of reality that my grandfather is beyond my reach. His passing, one more depressing portrait to paint over the canvas; an already abysmal collage filled with dead family members, scenes of discrimination, and intolerance to everything that its tenets accepts. Revived depictions of old, cruel ladies giving me smug looks in my infancy, all the way up to clubs in school, all of whom held a pseudo-moral of exclusivity about their social interaction, as if you were a lesser being for believing in what they would deem a lesser faith. A political party who views people such as myself as radicals, and friends whom have been shunned for their honesty in revealing their beliefs to their so-called families. An entire paradigm of hypocrisy outlined by lunacy, I was compelled to allow as acceptable throughout my childhood; never again will I allow this same treacherous thought to plague me again. I exit the main lobby of the chapel, striding quickly out to the parking lot. My nerves at ease, I breathe deep the smell of moisture as raindrops cascade down over the canopy of the front drive. Nature, more comforting than the finest sanctuary devoted to worship, will forever remind me as an escape from the prison in which free thought suffocates in.
My memories, etched heavily into me like calligraphy in sand, remind me of the road I’ve taken up to this point. They give me peace of mind; allowing me to reflect on not only my mistakes and actions of the past, but present me with a beacon emanating hope for my future. My memories reveal to me that I’ve learned so much in such a small fraction of time that I’ve been alive; an inspiring collection of knowledge and errors that represent the epoch of my ambiguous existence.