Sad Songs on Road Trips – A J Flanigan

A young woman, staring. Not at anything in particular, not up, and not too deep into nothing, but staring with blank, unfocused eyes somewhere near an open door. Spotlights flashing across her eyes, shifting, pulsating, shine against the rest of her, which is darkened by the night time, by the rest of the bar’s lights, which aren’t on. White, red, green, red. She stares for just a minute. In between conversations, in between the nodding and smiling and laughing, the storytelling, she has this little moment to herself. Voices blend into murmurs. Her fingers tighten around the bottom of her glass, her teeth slowly gnawing on the tip of her straw. Why, every night, is there a moment like this? Why, her mind a little muted by the alcohol, the whatever else she might’ve taken, does she try to latch on to something, to some picture of her childhood, to something concrete from the rest of her life?

Her dog ran away. When she was eleven, her dog ran away. She sees the last speck of white from his tail as he rounded the street corner. He was so happy, free to explore the neighborhood, while she was so anxious, because it was her fault. She left the front door wide open. She left the front door wide open because she wanted to carry in the groceries as fast as possible. She wanted to impress her mother. They found him three hours later, covered in mud. There was a drought going on, but he was covered in mud, somehow. She sees the white of his tail.

And her hips sway to the ambient noise. Involuntarily, they move left and right to the beat, the spotlights still changing. She’s raised her eyebrows a little bit. Her forehead scrunches. Not because she’s surprised about anything, just as a result of not thinking about putting on a facial expression, her cheeks raise up and four wrinkles sink into her forehead. The straw’s starting to sog.

There was the trip to Six Flags. All the people floating in the wave pool. She stood in front of them all, looking at their faces. She felt so small, then. So many people in one spot, and then her, and then her father. She squeezed his hand, tight, then looked up. He was sunburnt. The tip of his nose, burnt red.

And her right ankle stiffens up. She’s been standing one foot on top the other for quite the while, stretching her right ankle every time she sways to the left.

Softball. She can’t remember much about softball, except for one summer. Standing in the outfield, staring at the clouds, fidgeting around, she dropped her glove. She dropped her glove, then picked it up. Nothing else happened, but the grass looked so crisp then. So sharp. It looked so sharp, like little teeth.

A white tail, a red nose, and some green teeth, each flashing across some nondescript section of the wood-panelled wall. Why do these feel like dreams, or movies? Why can’t she see herself in those memories, but someone else? A little someone else.

A hand on her shoulder and a cup around her ear.

“Do you want another drink?”

She does. She and her friend walk to the bar, where they wait in line.

“You alright?” She nods. A good song starts playing. She shimmies with the music, putting on a grin. She’s having a good time, she thinks. She’s pretty sure she’s having a good time.

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