Dani California ((NOT YET FINISHED))

"Are we there yet" was never a question on Dani's mind. All she knew was the open country roads, the cheap drive-through meals, and the smells of cigarette smoke and alcohol. The road changes her, and not for the better. But going on nothing but adrenaline and the advice of an old wannabe rock star, Dani gets the chance to prove that your upbringing doesn't always have to foreshadow your future.

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4. Thoughts Shine Brighter

The stars seemed to shine brighter every night as I walked alongside the road under the open umbrella of sky. 

I was on my own for weeks, walking from tiny town to tiny town, hoping to find somewhere to rest and be safe. All I had was a few extra cents I had taken from between the pick up truck's seats, a mocha-brown leather satchel I had found tucked under the driver's seat, and an unopened bottle of pills that Mama had left in the change compartment. I wasn't sure why I took the satchel, but I knew what the pills were for. Selling them could get me enough money to survive for a few months, since most of the contents of the pill case were illegal drugs that Mama had gotten from Lord-knows-who and Lord-knows-where. 

Every day I imagined what Mama was doing. Had she found out what I had stolen from her? Was she looking for me? Did she love me still? Where was I going? And these thoughts ate away at me for some strange reason, giving way to things I had never considered real thoughts before. The outer questions about Mama and my life opened away like curtains, revealing chaotic questions that dizzied me. Fragments of the past pulled away at me, as if I was an old quilt torn apart for generations by little hands and lain out in a sunny window to pale. Simple questions turned to multi-faceted self-inquisition: 

Had Mama ever loved me, or had I been the only small piece of hope left for her in that desolate house with my father? Had she only taken me along on the road so she wouldn't feel as alone as I did now, wandering through grassy valleys with nothing and nowhere and no one to call my own? 

Where was I going to go and what was I going to do? How could a fourteen-year-old girl with no money and nothing to show for her fourteen years in the world survive? 

And eventually, these wonders gave way to pessimistic mental ramblings.

I'm going nowhere, towards just more nothing. Mama's gone and I'm done with that portion of my life, which isn't neccesarily  a negative thing. Maybe it's good to move on. Or maybe moving on is just something they tell us to do because they don't know what else to tell us. Because even though moving forward might take you to a worse place, staying stationary gets you no where at all. So should I stay and play it safe, wandering with no ultimate goal, or should I do what my heart was begging for but my brain was warning against - take the parking lot stranger's advice and make something of myself? 

I had never wanted to "make something of myself." At least, not anything special. The other kids back in the little town daydreamed about becoming movie actresses or the president or a mansion-owning doctor. The teachers and the old ladies on their even older porches would pat the little children's heads and look into their dreaming eyes and say, "Oh, what a wonderful wish! You can achieve it if you work hard in school and be good to your Mommy and Daddy and follow the law!" And the little children believed them, because they didn't realize that not everyone could be a movie actress or the president or a rich doctor. But I knew better, because Papa had drilled reality into my brain. Once, I teetered towards home from kindergarten as fast as I could on my tiny little legs, excited to tell my family about the video we had watched in class. It was a short film about old-time actresses and actors like Audrey Hepburn and James Dean. The women were so beautiful and the men were so gentlemanly and handsome. Amazed at their performances and the sultry clothes they wore and the red stains on the lips of the women, I rushed into Mama's room and painted my face with all of her make up and tried on her best black evening dress. When Papa stumbled into the bedroom, I gave him my best Grammy-award-winning smile and waved like a princess. He took one look at me and told me that I looked like some worthless money-grabbing slut parading up and down a city street, and that no daughter of his was going to be any actress. According to the words of his infuriated rant, he was already frustrated enough that he had been delivered a worthless daughter and not a strong, strapping son. Angry and with hot tears flowing down my cheeks I told him that it wasn't my fault God had chosen to give him a daughter, and he screamed that God was a lie and that dreams were a lie and that I had better learn my place. And I've never been beaten so badly in my life as I was then. 

So, any dreams I had of being something extraordinary were abandoned in that darkening bedroom when I was four years old. But now, what choice did I have but to be something extraordinary, something new, something unique? My heart throbbed with excitement now when I thought about picking up a guitar and singing. I had never felt this way before, and I wondered if my first romance would be with the lights of a stage and the smooth guitar in my hands and the echoing sound of my voice through a microphone. For some reason, whether it was the threat of a wandering existence forever and a day on the open road or some instinctive want that had come awake like a hibernating beast from inside me, I had no idea. Whatever it was, I knew that the right choice was to stop just walking along a straight path and waiting for the next stop. I needed to start traveling the turns in the path. 

 

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