Moonlight

Having lost her friends to the sea of frilly tutus and neon body suits shortly after arriving at the warehouse-turned-dance club, Lila lost her need to be there. After a few fruitless (and unenthusiastic) moments of turning her head from side to side, in hopes of catching a glimpse of them, she left. She had never enjoyed the same music as her friends, and while this usually didn’t bother her, there was something about this particular show that no amount of cheap, watery beer could solve. And besides, she desperately needed a cigarette.

With her fingers itching to pull one of the American Spirits out of the pack in her back pocket, Lila decided to make her escape outside. As she opened the heavy metal door that bared her way out, a burst of stale air pushed Lila out of the warehouse and into the empty street. The sweat that had begun to pool underneath her bangs instantly evaporated as she moved out of the dank and dismal warehouse party and into the refreshingly cool night. With her back leaned up against the wall, one leg straight out, the other bent with the sole of her foot placed firmly against the wall, Lila thought she looked cool in her leather jacket and skinny jeans that rested perfectly above her high-top Chuck Taylors. Her hair had that perfect two-day-old grunge look to it and as she leaned over to light her cigarette, she couldn’t help but realize how out of place she was.

And with that, Lila stood up from her perch against the warehouse wall and began to walk. She knew that her apartment was somewhere to the right of her, but just exactly how far, she wasn’t sure. At that point, she didn’t really care either, just so long as she was out of that goddamn place.

Lila just kept walking. Block after block passed her, each one looking nearly identical, so much so that she lost track of how many back the warehouse was. She wandered through the streets of the city, going through almost all of her cigarettes on the way. The pack was only missing a few at the beginning of the night, and to get through that rave-warehouse-dance club had taken at least five. As she fumbled with one of the few left, she just hoped she wouldn’t run out before she got home.

There was no way of telling when she would get home, and without a charged cell phone, she had no way of telling either. Feeling a bit hopeless, Lila looked up into the night sky. It wasn’t as dark as it was at home; the lights pouring out from the city spilled out into the darkness, the orange glow mingled with the dark purple of the sky right at the horizon and all of the stars, the constellations that she had learned in high school were lost to the lights. Only the moon, a perfectly circular orb of glowing white stood out from the night sky. Lila stared up at the moon reminding herself of summer nights at home — not her apartment in the city, but the small seaside town that she had grown up in. Lila thought herself to be too big for that small town, that she was destined for greater things than what it had to offer. But it was on nights like these — nights when she found herself alone in that big city she thought she was destined for — that she missed it the most.

Staring up at the moon, Lila lost herself in the city and in her mind. Wandering through the streets and alleys of her memories — the moon, her only guiding light through the darkness — she explored the corners of her memories, stopping and admiring the moments of serene happiness, of joy and laughter, of time spent with her friends and family. It was in these recesses that Lila sought refuge when the busy city got too lonesome, these same recesses that she found herself exploring on her way home that night. Closing her eyes as she walked along the sidewalk, the light of the moon sneaking through her eyelids, Lila longed for the nights spent out on Michael’s screen porch, the pale light of early evening washing over the hostas and tiger lillies, of riding around the quiet town on her bicycle, everyone asleep in their homes except for her.

Lila found herself racing down Cove Hill. Her green beach cruiser gliding over the freshly laid pavement, and the air — refreshingly cool now that the sun had set — rushed through her hair and made the back of her shirt flutter behind her. The chrome handle bars reflected the light coming off of the full moon. She had begun at Michael’s house, easing herself into that first hill, drifting through the bend in the road that passed the golf course. She looked to her left, hoping to spot a lone coyote or deer in the empty green. Nothing. When Lila got to the next hill, she pedaled hard, adjusting her gears as her feet urged the bicycle to go faster, hoping to gain as much speed before she got to the top of Cove Hill. Just a little bit more. Almost there.

Lila wanted to beat her record. Ever since the town had placed the new sign that flashed one’s speed when they passed, her new game had become to race as fast as she could down the hill. Racing her bike down the hill was always the highlight of any late night out. There were no cars or pedestrians to ruin the perfect straight shot down into the center of town, past the darkened storefronts, past the beach, the moon reflecting off the inky ocean, the masts and lights of the sailboats in the harbor, bobbing back and forth with the waves. Now, with the sign there, it became exhilarating — each trip down, a competition to beat the previous record. Before then, she had only ever hit 25 or 26 MPH. A sane number, something she could hit in her car and not worry about getting a ticket. But she wanted more, she wanted to go as fast as the wind rushing through her hair. And with a bit more liquid courage in her than a normal night, Lila thought that tonight, she could do it.

At the top of the hill, Lila leaned her body forward — elbows bent by her sides, back parallel to the street, the air rushing underneath the neck of her shirt and out through the bottom, the edges of the cotton tee fluttered in the wind and tickled her back. As the descent increased, so did her gears — feet pedaling harder, the momentum of the bike slowly overcoming the power of her pedal, until it became fruitless to pedal any harder. She relaxed her legs, letting her bicycle glide down the hill and towards downtown. Lila’s long blonde hair, bleached from days spent outside in the sun flew about in the breeze, blowing in front of her face and whipping at the back of her neck. Everything around her became a blur in the speed; the big old mansions and tiny seaside cottages, the tree lined sidewalks and cars parked on the side of the road were all lost as she raced down the hill.

And just as soon as she had begun her descent, Lila had to remind herself to look up at the sign as she saw the bottom nearing — 36, it flashed. She blinked, unsure if it was just her poor vision tricking her, and as soon as she had opened her eyes again the sign was far behind her. She closed her eyes again, the flashing orange numbers flashing behind her closed eyes — 36, a new record.

As she neared downtown, and the hill began to straighten itself out into the main road of the small town, Lila eased off the pedals letting her bike coast through the empty street. Straightening her back, she threw her arms up into the air in triumph — a new record. She wobbled a bit, a bit unsteady still from the beer, and moved her hands back down onto the handle bars. Drifting through the center of town, she smiled to herself. She was at ease in the silent town, and, now, untouchable — nothing could go wrong, this was where she belonged, riding along those empty roads at night, with the salt air and stars shining down — unadulterated by the lights and bustle of the big city. As she moved towards the beaches, Lila tilted her head up towards the sky, howling and hooting at the full moon in victory. In the distance, she could hear the coyotes deep in the woods howling back. She lost herself in the moonlight, the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. The rush from racing down the hill still inside of her, carried Lila through the rest of town, over the old granite bridge, all the way home.

As she opened her eyes, Lila found herself again lost in the big city. She looked up at the moon like she had on that summer night racing down Cove Hill. It was the same moon, but somehow it was different here. Not as bright or luminous as it was at home — but that she blamed that on the lights and pollution that dirtied the air here. She wondered if she would ever feel as at ease here in this big empty city as she had riding through the silent, sleepy small town.

Fumbling to get the cigarette pack out of her back pocket, Lila looked down only to realize that there were none left. Dismayed, she looked back up from the empty pack, hoping to gain her bearings back. Then, she saw it — there, bathed in the only ray of moonlight that had snuck its way though the wall of apartment buildings and skyscrapers was her apartment.