Rolling Suburbs

Home by the Sea, Devon Butler

There are nights when I think I won’t wake to see the morning. The days leading up to these nights are not awful, not terrible in any particularity. They are the days where my ribs begin to separate and let the air in until I cannot breathe; not when the sky takes residence in the center of my chest and there is no room for me to stay. It passes, usually, no more than five or ten seconds after it occurs, and it becomes hard to remember why it completely devastates me.

There is an entire existence living behind me that I cannot get back to. I think it is this idea of our family and where we used to live that perverts everything, and makes me forget I was ever sixteen. We lived in unchartable spaces back then, when the streets would sing us to sleep. We would awake and forget that the sadness of a solitary street light made us dream in hazy yellow. I cannot remember how many of us there were; they fight for space in my head. On the days when the grass smells freshly cut from the window in my apartment, they win. I cannot count them, but I count the ribs that splinter and open up.

When you are fifteen, you don’t realize you can never go back. It is not a matter of time travel, but of feeling that there is an indefatigable, endless amount of days that do not wear numbers and months or indicate that soon, everything will change. There is a hole in my chest that was once filled by the completeness of a family who had an inexhaustible amount of time ahead of them. When we are fifteen and seventeen, and a father is in the backyard cutting the grass, and a sister is out with her boyfriend but promises to be back later, and a mother watches television and smokes cigarettes; they are inextricably bound. They will never be as much as a family as they are in that exact moment. Each of them living, embodying time and not knowing it, not realizing it is ticking, waiting to detonate into smaller moments that cannot bring them back to this time in whole pieces, while the rest can only be fragments.

I find myself waiting for them. I wonder where they are, if they’re okay, if they ever realize the way I do; that I can’t ever get back to them. They can live only in an endless cacophony of memories. They all make noise, distract me.

It is an existence wholly unremarkable, one filled with an infinite amount of pine trees and rolling suburbs. There is a hill covered with cement that I used to know, and a line of dead, toppled trees we used to climb. I haven’t figured out how to reconcile it with the fact that I can no longer remember the names of streets or the surrounding towns. It belonged to me at some point. It was unextraordinary but it was mine, and I have no idea if it ever really happened. I have no real way of proving it, except a moment inside my chest that promises we are all but for one instance utterly unremarkable, fragile and precious to no one but our own dying photographic decadence.

It makes it hard to prepare for class, and be proactive when there are endless moments of time living inside of you. All of them competing, trying to take precedence over my ability to add to the pile. It makes it hard to sleep at night and put on makeup. It makes me forget.