She sat on the hood of the car watching the night sky explode into color and felt like something was missing. She had the radio on with the Academy Band’s Medley blaring out the open windows, the flannel blanket was tucked underneath her as she rested against the windshield, her box of sparklers was close at hand for her to light up at the finale. But somehow, still, something was missing.
She went over the checklist in her mind, ticking off each item she’d specifically packed. She realized the cheap bottle of fruity wine she’d purchased was still sitting on the passenger’s side seat. She groaned to herself, slipped off the side of the hood and felt the blanket slide off with her. She walked around to the window, leaned in to grab the bottle, and saw it.
Just for a split-second, before her conscious mind could invalidate the vision, she saw his hand sitting there on the gear shift where it’d always been, as if waiting for her to get in and drive. It was so real, so clear of a vision that she bolted upright and hit her head on the ceiling before pulling out.
“What the-“ She stopped, blinked a few times, then jumped up to look again.
He wasn’t there, but she knew that already. He hadn’t been there before, of course. The seat was empty except for the bottle which she grabbed angrily, cursing herself for what she perceived as actual psychosis in response to her out of control emotions.
She stood there, looking at the now empty seat, reminding herself that she was not, in fact, insane. And then she remembered. That’s all it was- a memory. From the thousands of times that he’d sat next to her, shifting the gear in response to the engine’s effort, sensing the need for change. She’d always loved that. Such a simple exercise transformed into such a symbiant exchange.
But then she hadn’t thought about the fact that she would need to drive herself again, that their life together would end and all the activities they’d done together would now have to be done alone. She laughed at the analogy and how painfully appropriate it was now.
She jumped back on the hood, ripped the aluminum wrapping off the wine, twisted the cap off and took a swig. It tasted like cheap, fermented fruit punch. She took another swig and smiled.
This was, of course, what everyone had told her to do. That’s how it works, after all. Make new traditions out of the old ones. Come to the same places, engage in the same activities that you enjoyed, but put a new spin on it. This was her new spin, the “girly” wine he had called it, instead of the “real” beer he preferred. It was a simple change, but she’d hoped it would hold a greater meaning.
Her friends had invited her out of course, to a group excursion to the field below. But this place had always been their secret and she didn’t want to give it up. He couldn’t take that from her as well, she wouldn’t let him. So she sat there on the hood of her now single-driver car, without the weight of him evening out the dip in the hood and sipped her cheap wine. She told herself this was hers, her celebration, happy on it’s own, without him.
She wondered if she would have been better off going with her friends. But she’d wanted so much to make a statement to herself. She was strong, she was independent, this show of light and fire was for her. She listened to each boom following the flashes and told herself it was the breakdown of the wall she’d built out of him. The wall which had separated her from her life. She told herself she would do all the things he’d never wanted to do. She would be selfish, she would be free, she would be herself without the restraint she’d imposed on herself in order to fit his preferences. She would be, unapologetically, her.
So she sat, watching the lights in the sky and willed herself to feel everything this holiday had once represented. At least in theory. As the booms grew louder and more rapid signaling the finale she pulled out a sparkler and lit the tip, waving it around to the rhythm of the music coming from the car. She waved her sparkler high into the air, as if she could touch the brighter colors exploding in front of her and celebrated her independence.