I’m on a couch that smells like someone else’s house. It’s a good smell, homey and fresh at the same time. I slide into the corner seat with apprehension, and my nervousness forms weights my ankles and wrists, manifesting itself in the awkward placement of my hands. I can’t get comfortable here quite yet, even though the seat supports me perfectly. I can’t get too relaxed quite yet. The canvas rolls out, and I feel another memory forming in the atmosphere of the dimly lit living room as strongly as if there were a temperature change.
Eleven girls lay on the floor next to me in a perfect row. The dim light cannot stick to our skin with anything stronger than a subtle orange glow. My eyes trace over the girls like a piano player would trace the keys of the piano; we both know the harmony of this unseen but understood order. They are all incredibly immobile, but their arms and legs are sprawled out in different directions, implicating a kind of motion that restlessly holds the moment still.
Through the air sifts Vivian’s voice reading to us. Bags lay empty, and we lay with them either lost to or claimed by the night. Empty and crumpled in the corner, I feel shadows from the deep creases in the deflated fabric under our eyes blooming like sunflowers. Through the shadows that bloom in the early hours of today, Vivian found her copy of the 3rd Harry Potter book. It is missing both covers, and the page corners are softened by frequent turns. Vivian reads without her glasses, but she reads without missing a word. The girls lay still in their active poses on the couch, like a piano holding out a note at the end of the song. Vivian’s story takes us to another world: a world beyond the party, a world that runs to its own music. I lose the lyrics that play in loops in my head in favor of falling into the waking dream of the post-party bedtime story that fills the air.
Made-up stories are caught in books, in lines that run straight on paper, in lines regulated by rules and managed by fonts. I want to catch this one, right now, somehow. The juxtaposition of these stories, the atmosphere’s power to transport us, and how motion is held prisoner by sleep and some softened pages. The piano keys so alive have finally fallen silent, and only an echo of us remains lingering in the solidifying air. Through the gaps, the story of our generation reaches all of us individually, I think. I don’t know if anyone else is awake and hearing this too. I don’t know if anyone enjoys this as much as Vivian and I do. But I do know that my wrists feel unbound, and I sink into the couch with a kind of belonging that I would not have felt otherwise.
But just when I think I am alone, one of the girls rings out with a smile at one of the story’s jokes. Then, another one rings out in harmony; she is smiling too.
I don’t really know what this all means. These mature girls have let this story take them as its own. Their confidence just hours before comes beaming back to me in the unspoken tongue of memory, and I wonder if this is the side of the girls that I will see when we wake up. Will we be docile or dauntless in the daylight?
The footsteps I left come back to me, shouting in the unspoken tongue of memory. They leave patterns like how-to-dance floors that become the tapestries of the night. They remind me of what happened through their brush strokes made with the remnants of motion. Memories that resonate with me fall to my fingertips, finding their place in an eternally expanding database hidden behind my locks of thick, tousled hair. Somewhere between an after party and Harry Potter, I discover I am very glad to be right where I am.
I inhale the smell of a house unfamiliar that has become familiar. I know that my last footstep of the night has become one of my favorites. I smile as my sleep-starved eyes close, and the notes of Harry Potter cloud my head and put me to sleep like they always did when I was younger.
Marimac McRae is a rising senior at Harpeth Hall, an all girls school in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has been featured on Teen Ink and on the RunSmart blog of Olympian runner Malindi Elmore. She enjoys Cross Country, Track, Swimming, and other types of cardio-related pain. She also has worked as an executive editor for the literary magazine Polyphony H.S..