I got on one, Metro Rapid as it were, and payed the man. I found a seat and sat down trying not to draw attention to myself. I looked around the interior of the bus, earphones securely placed in my auditory canals, and examined meticulously, yet in a nonchalant manner, the people sitting in all directions of me. There were, to my surprise, only a few riding the bus that day; a homeless man, beard and all, and two Hispanic women, both 40 years of age, lips pursed, chins up, makeup on, and grocery bags in hand. They were so expected, so cliche, that my memory may have produced the extra lady out of bored necessity. We simultaneously rocked back and forth, as one with the movements of the locomotive, the homeless man looking out towards the streets. We passed by a million parks, a million corner liquor stores, a million people walking along on their afternoon commute. The Metro air conditioning felt so splendid on my cheeks, as I had just gotten in from scorching close-to-100 weather. That was California for you. Hot as a cast iron skillet, yet not hot enough for you to stay indoors. I love it. I tilted my head back and rested it on the chair, quietly looking at the moving images of life racing along in the window.
About fifteen minutes later, I found myself to be the singular entity inside the lonely bus. Thankfully, my stop was the one I was currently at so I promptly got up and exited the vehicle, leaving the mindless drone of a bus driver all to himself. They probably like being by themselves. The pavement let out cries of agony as I jumped off the bus steps to the cement. I didn’t say thank you to the bus driver, and in retrospect I probably still wouldn’t have. He probably looked at me in discontent as he pushed the button to close the bus doors. I felt the last of the cool air waft through the pores in my clothing, and in a swift jumping motion I fixed my backpack neatly on my shoulder. The theatre was two minutes away from the stop, and I saw the bus heading off in the opposite direction. Having no business or interest at the beat up park I was dropped off at, I promptly started the short trek to the rendezvous.
I don’t remember the initial point where my friends and I met exactly, although little snippets still stay with me. For some reason the theatre was extremely full that day, and that certain analogy of sardines in a can quite perfectly fit our situation. For this reason we had to stand very close to each other on the escalator, as everyone else had to. I felt cramped but it wasn’t really weird or anything. As we were riding along to the theatre, I vividly remember my friend’s thickly brown hair flowing back at my face, softly riding the winds produced by the slow speeds of the escalator. It flicked my face like a feather falling from the sky. There’s no perfect way to describe what someone else’s hair feels like on your nose, but it felt like I would imagine that aforementioned feather falling from the sky would. I smelled her shampoo radiating towards me, a sure sign she had only recently gotten out of the shower. What an intimate thing to know. She was wearing a blue shirt; well, rather a turquoise. I could clearly see the contours of her bra line cutting through it. I could only imagine how I looked, speculating upon these things, to an onlooker. Someone on the opposite escalator of ours probably thought to themselves critical things of me. Who knows. Who cares.
I remember sitting in the middle of my two friends during the movie. I was scared of the previews for the horror films, so I promptly turned to my left and started squeaking to my friend about how stupid those kinds of movies were. We both laughed the entire length of the previews and a few men in front of us sneeringly told us to “please shut up.” We dismissed them as we dismissed every negative thing that happened to us in those days. The movie started and I nestled into my chair. To my right, my other friend was munching on popcorn. He offered it to me throughout the entire movie and like gluttonous, ravenous cows we satiated our hunger as if there were no tomorrow.
The feeling you get when watching a movie in general is such a good one. You feel as though you have full ownership of the viewing experience, and the movie on the gigantic screen is playing exclusively for you. You don’t wonder how the guy two rows in front of you thinks of the movie. You don’t wonder what the interesting, somewhat smelly food the family adjacent to you is eating tastes like. You are your own persona. You feel the soft theatre chair on your arms and neck, and you feel the lights from the movie almost beating your face to a pulp. Your legs or hands are crossed, eyes are glued to the screen, and that is all that matters. Sharing this experience with people you know, though, amplifies this almost religious experience to a more euphoric state. I felt safe, warm, comforted, sitting in between my two closest comrades. We were doing the most passive of all activities and yet the enthusiasm and fervor we put in to the experience almost makes it hard to believe.
One feeling that makes everything awkward is the feeling you get when the beautiful film that was displayed on screen for two hours is suddenly gone, only to be replaced with tiny text and names of people you will never meet in your life. You look around to make it less awkward, because you don’t want to be that last person who stays to watch the credits. At least that’s how my friends and I felt. Awkwardly, we laughed at each other and with a hasty hand gesture my friend signaled us to get up. We hurriedly tiptoed across the aisle of chairs and popcorn, and exited the theatre. What makes the end of a movie even more awkward is how different real life seems from what you just experienced. From dark rooms resplendent with exploding colors, you must migrate to the outer word, enveloped in a chaotic frenzy of people darting past you to get where they need to go.
It’s an awkwardness that we don’t pay attention to, in order to extinguish it as soon as possible. Whether it be extinguished with the aforementioned cacophony of adults and children alike screaming and laughing to each other about how great the movie was, or with your own laughter and screams about how great the movie was, the awkwardness soon dies out, and it dies out quickly.
Departing from the theatre we all decided to get some food for ourselves and we stopped by a Mexican restaurant in the same shopping center. It was very blue inside for some peculiar reason. The walls, the chairs, the tables; they were all one shade of blue of another, just slight enough to differentiate the furniture from the very floor. We made our way to the counter to order and I can’t help but think we looked so cool doing it. My friend hopped on a chair and spun his way around to the cash register. My other friend skipped her way over to the yellow counter, and I, in a (what I like to think of as) cool fashion, walked up to the counter and rested my elbows on it to order. My friend got cheese sticks and I ordered nachos. My other friend shared with both of us. Sitting down on the sickly-colored decor, we discussed the movie and chomped on our food like the 14-year-olds we were. A short while passed and, for some reason, I wanted to play on the Pacman game they had in the back of the store. We adjourned the meal and headed over to the machine. It had graffiti splattered across the back of it, and the screen itself was emblazoned with words we couldn’t decipher. My friend went to the bathroom. Only a duo now, my other friend and I continued to play on the almost defective machine.
The memory of that day is a fuzzy one, as they all are, but I feel as though it shouldn’t be. I feel as though I should remember it like it was yesterday, because I spent it with two of my best friends of the time. But alas it’s not. I don’t remember what we did after we ate. Not a single vague clue. I just remember it was one of the best days of our lives. And now four years later, I find that I no longer talk to the girl I hung out with on that July afternoon. We stopped talking to each other for some stupid reason. I barely even remember it anyway. My other friend oftentimes still talks to me about those days. This particular story finds itself in our discussions beginning with “Hey man, remember when…”
I wish I could go back to those times. I honestly wish I could. But what’s the good in wishing for something that could never come true? The realities of today remind me of that.
As I lay here reminiscing of my naive years, I wonder where my future will take me. But then I remind myself that I’ll only find out in the future, so I stop thinking about it. What a cycle.
It’s 12:47 in the morning as I’m writing this. My room is pitch black, and I’m laying listlessly across my futon. The crickets outside of my window are at their prime. My neighbor’s dog is barking incessantly, probably in response to the firecracker that just went off a few blocks away. A dozen or so exclamation-point-filled shouts just filled the air in response to the firecracker as well. What a firecracker. Some lone guy riding a skateboard just zipped by my house; the sounds of his transportation device hitting the cracks in the cement are slowly, slowly fading away. Doppler. I wonder where he’s off to at this hour. Probably heading home after a Monday spent with friends like I did those many years ago. Probably.
The quiet city around me is sleeping, memories are floating aloft houses like balloons. The calm summer night envelops me and my memories, my wishful youth. It’s telling us to go to sleep. Like a baby, I heed its order.