He could not escape the feeling that he had often heard described by actors: that he was merely a character in a movie in which everybody else was starring.
He had no speaking lines. The camera never focused on him. He was the unpaid extra in the back of the shot; the actor whose facial expressions are incongruent with those worn by the other, more skilled thespians.
Audiences would only notice him after repeated viewings of the film began to sand the edges off of their captivation. Their eyes would drift away from the stars and land on him. They would wonder why he looked so out of place. Had he wandered off of another set? What is his story?
Then the scene would change and the anxiety his presence had caused would subside as the memory of him faded.
Dreaming of X caused her trouble. She would awake to a kind of altered reality in which they were together not here, but in a very familiar version of here. X was gone – maybe off to work – but their paths would cross soon enough.
Her manner of speech would change to suit this new reality, in the same manner it tended to change when she spoke on the phone to clients. The edges of her accent softened, her tone became warm and accommodating. She assumed an air of self-assurance and it drew others to her but she rejected their advances because she would soon be reunited with her love.
However, the day would unfold with no messages from X. No emojis blowing digital kisses. No sweet nothings. The power of the fantasy depleted like a draining battery as reality crept into her psyche and took command once again. They were not together. The romance was a fantasy.
She would return home to find the apartment empty. The only bric-a-brac belonged to her. She had only sleep to look forward to.
Asleep, she would see X for sure.
X’s lips tasted the sweetest in dreams.
It was hot enough outside that all I could think about was taking off her jeans.
… my jeans.
The signal changes but I’m not on board. The train moves ever forward but I remain standing. At the end of the line friends will meet at a cafe and enjoy the breeze that always rolls through the suburb at four o’clock but the air here is still. They will reminisce about other afternoons spent in the breeze but I cannot participate.
I am nostalgic for a place I have never been.
She had only noticed how little light there was inside the car when two headlights appeared down the road and illuminated the entire front seat. Stray beams of light made it all the way to where she was strapped into the back seat.
“Look at this clown,” her dad said. She looked around but didn’t see any clowns. Surely all the clowns were still back at the fair.
Grace had never driven a car or paid much attention to the motion of cars other than the ones being confidently coaxed along by her father. For this reason the headlights of the oncoming car didn’t appear left of centre and even if they had it wouldn’t have struck her as odd.
“Honey!” came a shrill scream that could only belong to her mother but it was hard to tell over the terrible shriek of rubber grinding on wet asphalt.
The beams of light that had found their way to the back seat now ran away in an unnatural manner and there was a long moment of calm that Grace would never be able to forget. It was a calm that spanned generations and transcended all linear perceptions of time. It was a black hole of silence and still that absorbed all energy before regurgitating it back in the form of a loud percussive smashing thud on the side of the car.
The whole car lurched sideways and Grace became aware that the tires were no longer humming on the road. All momentum pulled her body to the left and then she felt the same weightlessness she had experienced on the swinging pirate ship earlier in the afternoon after her second orange soda. Her third orange soda was splashing in her face but she didn’t know why.
She felt her weight pulling on her seatbelt as the can of soda slipped from her grip. The entire car groaned. She could see a tree out the windshield but it was upside down and that didn’t make sense to her.
After the sight of the tree there was only dark.