There is no feeling like finally getting to walk back out of those enormous wooden doors, into the bright, beaming sun. I can breathe without the callused hands of Jesus wrapped firmly around my neck.
I kiss my mom goodbye, “I’ll see you at home,” I say, “Love you.”
Then I take my sunglasses out of my suit coat pocket before taking it off and hanging it over my forearm as I walk to Kevin’s black Audi convertible, which he loves so much that he feels the need to call it ‘Savannah.’ He looks over at me with thrill in his eyes, “Ready?” he says, excitedly.
I just shoot him a grin. He slams his finger on the button that puts Savannah’s top down and then accelerates dangerously out of the gravel parking lot of the church, spewing dust everywhere.
We take the parkway, which is essentially an enormous tunnel of trees and a seemingly endless highway. The leaves fall, doing their yearly dying slowly but surely as we fly through. The flimsy branches hang all over one another like drunks at a party or like acrobats swinging and swaying. I close my eyes, tilt my head back and pretend like I’m floating while Kevin yells, “WOOHOO!”
I like to think that in another life, Savannah was a bird. I like to think that I was too. And we were friends. And we liked to sit on the acrobat branches together, watching foolish humans fly through the parkway, wishing they were us.
Finally, as we come to a stop at a red light at the end of the parkway, I open my eyes and sit up. Kevin takes out his pack of Marlboros, offers me one, and then takes one out for himself. It’s not long after we reach the end of the parkway that we reach our destination: Lucy’s diner.
However, before we get out of the car, Kevin puts Savannah’s top up and we both pull down our sun shades to look in the mirrors and tame our hair from the mess that the wind made.
You wouldn’t know by looking at us that Kevin is my brother. Kevin is more of a bean pole whereas I am about average height with just a bit more meat on my bones. He has thick black hair that sits in waves on top of his head and hazel eyes. I, on the other hand, have messy caramel colored hair that bleeds over onto my forehead and just barely into my blue eyes.
People always make a huge deal about blue eyes and I’ve never understood why. Blue eyes simply lack the melanin that gives brown eyes their pigment. And I’ve always admired how Kevin’s eyes look when the sun hits them just right.
Lucy’s is bigger than most diners. There is a small stage in the front and a bar on the left side as you walk in. Booths line up against each wall while tables with chairs reside in the middle area. The booths have brown leather benches. And the wall with the front door is made up almost entirely of glass.
When we walk in, Kevin goes to his friends while I make my way over to the booth in the front, right corner, beside the stage, where my friends, Bryce, Aaron, and Oceana sit. They already have my usual burger sitting there waiting for me.
I’m still not used to Bryce and Oceana being a couple. I’m all for it but I have to adjust my eyes when I see the skin of his arm around her neck through her thick, bouncy, dark brown curls.
“Dude, it’s not that I don’t like the movie, okay? I just think that you’re reading too much into it,” I hear Aaron say as I get closer. Aaron and Bryce are mid-argument about the underlying meaning of some fictional character that Bryce loves, as per usual, when Aaron gets up to let me inside the seat.
“Thank God,” Aaron says, putting his arm around me, “Dylan, please make it stop.”
Before I have time to answer, a french fry is hitting him in the face. “Jokes on you,” he says as he picks the fry up off of his white button-up and throws it sloppily into his mouth. Oceana laughs breathlessly, throwing her head back like she always does when she finds something funny. “Look at your shirt,” she says through snorts, pointing at the massive grease stain that the fry left behind. Aaron just shrugs and continues to shovel Bryce’s fries into his mouth. Then, out of nowhere, as I am about to take a bite out of my cold burger, a fry hits me in the face. My jaw drops as I look down to see a ketchup-covered fry stuck to my tie. Oceana gives me a smug look. So, I stand up and reach across the table to grab a handful of fries and I sprinkle them over her like confetti.
So...we’re going to have to find a new place to do our annual Sunday lunches. I wave Kevin goodbye as my friends and I walk shamefully out the doors of Lucy’s, covered in ketchup, grease, and God knows what else.
“Well...where to now,” I ask, putting my arm around Oceana as we walk down the sidewalk.
“The park?” she says.
“No, there’s no school, the kids are probably there today,” Bryce says.
“Who says we can’t coexist with the little kids?” Aaron says.
“I guess we could go,” I say.
By the time we make it to the park, I have about two cigarettes left and my armpits are visibly drenched with sweat. We plop down on the freshly mowed grass patch next to the park to give the smaller kids room to play. I lie down to look up at the sky. The bright blue is beginning to slowly but surely be swept away in waves of gray. But we stay here. Bryce lies down too, placing his head in Oceana’s lap.
“Why do we never think to bring an umbrella anywhere,” Oceana asks, looking up at the shifting clouds hovering above us. I sit back up and cup my hand around my cigarette as I light it.
“Umbrellas are for pussies,” Aaron says, chewing on a piece of grass.
“At least the rain will wash all of this shit off of us,” Bryce says.
“Bryce, you’re the one who started the food fight,” I say.
I tilt my head up at the sky and I feel a single drop of water hit my forehead and slide its way down my nose. I stick my tongue out to catch another drop as a bunch of them gradually start to sprinkle down. All at once, all of the little kids are scattering from the park. And my friends and I, we’re racing for the swings.
“Screw umbrellas!” Oceana says, perfectly content with becoming drenched as she swings as high as she can.
I close my eyes as I swing and as I listen to Oceana’s contagious laugh. My family moved in next to hers when I was two and Kevin was three. It didn’t take me long to start imagining the color blue at the mention of her name or to think of her when I listen for crashing waves through seashells.
She’s so alive swinging in the rain.
And so am I.