Hot July nights were never made for sleeping. It was always sticky sheets, humid air, the feeling that some friends might come along throwing stones at the window, saying it was time for a midnight dip. We were restless kids, always driving somewhere, wasting gas, chasing down suburban boredom with a club to make us feel like we were doing something with our lives. We were the asphalt king and queen, our kingdom spanning over the 24-hour grocery stores and empty parking lots that populated our forgotten town.
I spent the summers watching his eyes light up as the sun went down. We’d sit on the dock of the lake we pretended to own and talk about things bigger than ourselves. His lips would move and his mind would race and I’d sit back in awe that fate let us wander into each other’s lives, wreaking havoc and magic alike. Fifteen, floating through the slipstream. We’re gonna get out of here, we’d always say. He was pure light, salt of the earth, home in human flesh. You only get that once: someone who knows you inside and out, someone with a mind more cunning than your own, someone who colors your life with moments and memories so potent, they mold a part of your soul. I didn't know we were malleable, I didn't know we had the capacity to change. Better, he said. I held on much too tight; my one-way ticket out of this dystopian bubble, littered with dead beat dreams and houses that never changed.
We took planes and trains and taxi cabs to bigger cities with prettier names. I told myself to never feel sorry about not saying goodbye. And when we left, I missed it all: the driving in circles for hours, the cigarettes we smoked at the drive-in, the path around the lake we'd traced a million times, the feeling like we were on the brink of something great. I’ll never forget the way we used to feel, like we were both made of gold in a black tar abyss of washed out dreams, like he always knew we’d be just fine, like whatever it was between us would somehow still last forever.
The asphalt king and queen abandoned the suburban kingdom. The satisfaction of denying everything about the place we once called home was lost when I learned our sleepy town stayed alive in my soul, long after we ran away to the coasts to find better lives. I can feel my spirit wandering at night, knocking on the doors of abandoned houses and cities fenced in by barren fields, asking my heart ever so gently, are we home?