My mind is running on two things: my lost job and Mom.
“Before it even happened, you said goodbye
Did I even know that I could cry
Oh, how have I even tried….. This is Fire Pop Radio with your host Alic-”
I turn the radio off. The lyrics of this song are too overwhelming to hear at this crappy moment of my crappy life. The words of the day replay themselves in my mind over and over again like a broken tape recorder: “You are fired.”
The Three Words that no human on this planet would want to hear. The Three Words that leave you feeling desperate, and empty, and hollow.
After those words came out of Marianne, my boss, my mind completely abandoned the office. It flew to the reactions that my mom and my friends were going to have. Then, my thoughts ran to my desk, and the unfinished phone calls and clients. That desk would no longer be mine. No more lunch breaks. No more conversations with my coworkers. Of course they’d say that they’ll keep in touch, but everyone knows that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I checked the time on my phone: 10:55 PM. I threw it back into the console and listened to the pitter-patter of raindrops hitting against the rear window. I’m part-driving, part-thinking— about everything all at once. My mind is a whirlwind of emotions and colors, and it’s as if fireworks are going to go off in me at any moment. I’m not sure if these feelings are because of what happened, or because my car is so stuffy. My car, a 2008 Toyota Camry, the perfect definition of a hand-me-down. The black leather seats are moist; my upper thighs are like sticky hot glue as the sweat pools out in puddles. I wipe my wet palms on my t-shirt as I continue driving.
Beep. Beep. I slide open my console and check my phone. Crap. Two texts from Mom. One says call me and the other one says where are u? I scroll to my contacts, dial her number, and she picks up on the first ring. My fingers immediately stiffen up, and my heart almost drops to my stomach. She’s never picked up on the first ring before. This can’t be good.
“Where are you, Layla? I thought you were at work?”
“M-mom?” I whisper.
The words were almost impossible to say out loud, as if they’d been stuck to the sides of my throat like sticky golden syrup. I gulped down forceful breaths, remembering to steady myself.
“Y-yeah u-hm. I got f-fired f-from work t-t-today. I’ll be h-home in f-f-five.”
“Nice one Lay. April Fools is in like three months, so could you please tell me where you are so I know you won’t be late for work tomorrow?”
“No m-mom. I a-actually got fired from w-work. M-Marianne sent me home w-with p-papers to f-fill out so I can c-c-claim my benefits and i-insurance and s-stuff.”
The silence on the other end was so loud my ears began to ring. I could feel my heartbeat pounding at triple speed.
“I can’t believe it! I’m SO proud to have such an amazing daughter who gets fired within the first month of her fucking office job as a receptionist! Well done, sweetie!” She laughs, her voice rumbling like a thunderstorm.
“M-mom I-”. She hangs up. My throat bursts into flames.
My eyes blur as I throw my phone on the floor of the car. They burst open, tears spilling down my face like water from a leaky faucet . My chin trembles like a child, and I hiccup taking in deep breaths. My white tee is wet with sweat and tears; it makes me look and feel like my Camry. Why can’t I be heard for once? I can’t stop crying. I dig my nails into the steering wheel, and it shakes. Everything that comes out of me is raw— my tears, my emotions, and my pain. I can’t stop. Why can’t I stop crying?
I wipe my face, push my curls out of my face, and sit a bit taller as I wait at the red light. The rain is getting heavier, and the sky has faded to an eerie black, stars twinkling like gems in a treasure chest. Living in New York makes star-seeing all the rarer. All I ever see is pollution, snowflakes, and the needle-tips of skyscrapers.
If I were a star, life would be so euphoric. Magical. It would be my own.
The light turns green as I pull away, dashing through the roads. But then everything becomes one big blur. I see nothing at first, but then something so dark and huge it shielded all the light from the window. Everything is happening but time is still- frozen in its place.
But I hear them. I hear the sounds.
A crash, like every chime and trumpet and horn colliding into each other all at once. Splintered glass, like stars exploding into dust and ash. A scream, a holler, and a moan. A crunch, like stone and bone and so many horrible things moving in ways they shouldn’t. Something crumples with the force of impact. The windshield implodes, showering the insides with deadly slivers. I see splotches of mahogany red, the exact shade of mom’s Cherry Wine. Everything compacts into one mangled mess. The lines between the past and present blur into one, as I fall farther and farther into a black void.
And then complete and utter silence.
Photo credit: EVOX Images