It was the first time in two years that Harlow was by herself in the world. Unattached. Just her and her ’93 Toyota, classic rock blaring out her windows, and the wind whipping through her long brown hair. She thought about cutting it when she finally got to wherever she was going—which was something she was still trying to figure out. Right now all she could do is stare ahead at the road in front of her and drive. Drive as though on autopilot. Drive until it all made sense again.
For a moment, she snapped out of her daze and was able to notice the sky dancing with color all around her; fiery red, blood orange, bright pink, and deep shades of blue were smearing and blending, smearing and blending. It made her think of Luke. How their lives somehow smeared and blended together. She couldn’t remember how it all started, kind of like how it was unclear where the sky ended and the ocean began, as the dividing colors of the horizon joined together for their night time ritual.
It was something they always did together, watch the sunset. Then again, the entire cycle of the sun and moon was something she had grown accustomed to experiencing with him. From waking up next to him—the soft glimmering sun shining in her eyes, serving as a natural alarm clock—to falling asleep by his side with the moon as their night light. Spending day to night together became second nature and any other way seemed unimaginable.
A loud clank comes from the backseat, a reminder that she must now accept that the unimaginable has become reality. She thought about how she was able to fit her whole life into boxes and bags and stuff it into her car, it seemed like so much more when everything was spread out and crammed into their apartment. Now the items seemed small and pointless. She used to spend so much time hanging this and moving that, for what? She drove over a bump and another clank came from the backseat. She glances in the rear-view mirror to see that it is those damn vases that are clanking, instantly she remembered how she used to fret over them all the time. She was always moving them around, trying to make them fit in. Sometimes she liked them on the coffee table, sometimes in the kitchen, sometimes not at all. It was kind of a running joke for her and Luke. He’d come home from work and say, “So where’d you decide to move the vases today?” Well, today she decided to move them into a box, to her car, and down PCH. Another clank. She reaches back with one hand and moves them to a different box so the persistent clanking of the two will stop. So much time and effort put into something that now seems pointless.
She’s caught up on that word right now: pointless. As in, was her love with Luke pointless? Did she ever love him? She hates that she’s even asking herself these cliche questions, but her mind can’t help it. She switches her car lights on as the sun takes its final dive into the ocean and the moon takes her place as keeper of the night.
The moon was especially comforting to Harlow tonight, for with the moon came the ease of darkness, which poured in through her windows, wrapped around her like silk, and held together her fragile heart. She did not want to face the day, with its bright blue skies and intimidatingly happy orange sun rays. She wanted to remain in the dark, in the cool air, where she wouldn’t be reminded of the heat. Their heat.
For like the afternoon sun, their love was blazing. Passionate. It melted their hearts and bodies together and molded them into one being. Too passionate. Only passionate. For the last few months of their relationship she had realized that all they had for each other was an immense desire to take off each other’s clothes. She wanted more. She wanted debate over religion and to have talks about literature. She wanted to try new things and go to different places. He just wanted to go to parties or stay in bed. She tried to stay and she continuously had to convince herself that this was just a phase he would soon grow out of. Then life happened (or almost did).
One day the phases of the moon did not come with the gift that it usually brought for her, like clockwork, every month. She envisioned her whole future and she did not like it. Still in the same tiny apartment, stuck caring for a child she was not yet qualified to do, and with a person who was even less qualified than her. That’s when she realized she did not want a future with him. Their love was not a real love, it was a lust.
“Babe, why do you like me?” she asked. It was night time and they were sitting in the backseat of his car. They reclined the backseat to get a better view of the sky and were now staring up, mesmerized.
“What do you mean?” he broke his gaze with the stars to look upon Harlow’s face. His eyebrows furrowed and eyes darkened.
“I mean, what do you like about me? You say you love me and I just like to hear why.” Harlow had also broken her gaze and was staring at Luke in his dark eyes with a serene and curious smile. Luke turned his attention back to the sky, as if asking God for some kind of help with this answer.
“I don’t know babe, I just like you. I like your smile. I like kissing you and hugging you. And when we make love it’s amazing. You’re just so beautiful.”
“Okay so you’re attracted me…but I mean like other stuff.” He turned to her and placed his right hand on the left side of her face, his dark eyes stared into hers, and he leaned in slowly for a kiss. His warm lips touched hers but she could not feel them. He pulled away, but remained close to her face.
“I like you because…you’re you.” He stared into Harlow’s eyes and she had this sense that he truly believed what he was telling her. She turned her head back to face the moon.
That was seven months in. She should have known then.
When she finally told him that she was late, he sobbed. He didn’t want a future with her either. She took the pregnancy test while he was at work—negative. An immense feeling of relief and freedom came over her and she knew she had to leave. She packed up what was hers and did exactly that.
The stars above her were blinking furiously now and she was the only one on the road for miles. Normally she’d be nervous about that, but the loneliness was peaceful and yet gave her a wonderful sense of adventure. The road was wide open, she drove faster and faster. No one to stop her. Eighty miles per hour, ninety miles per hour. She blasted the radio and sang “Free Bird” at the top of her lungs, releasing all the stress that was boiling inside her. 100 miles per hour. The world around her sped up as she did. The stars became lasers of light and the moon sprinted to catch up. She was running from everything but didn’t care. Faster and faster she drove until she felt like she was flying, she was a bird soaring through the glittery abyss of the night. The smell of the ocean intoxicating her mind and taking her higher into the sky. She was by herself, yet did not feel alone; she had the world.