It was raining. It usually was nowadays. The atmosphere above my head was colourless and so was the sensation underneath the sweat and tears. If i could just go back a few hours then maybe i wouldn’t be in this state. In this condition. In this mind set.
In light of recent years, maybe this was the way forward. Staying here with my family, helping them in anyway possible. But another minute in this town could actually be the death of me. My enthusiasm was already way past death anyway.
The rusted bike trundled up the hill beside me, each step i took it groaned in objection. As each wheel turned the flat tyre bumped and jolted the bike a few centimetres from the ground. The sigh that escaped my lips was inaudible by anyone, i was alone anyway. The roads were uninhabited of any cars or life, no doubt because of the recent storms here.
‘Here’ was Whitmire- a town lost in the mix of South Carolina terrain. With a population of 440 it was a typical southern town; 7 different churches, 1 high school and the local market store ‘The Pop-In’, the public swimming pool about the size of a dining table, Thomas’ bakery, the DIY shop and a few other extras but nothing that exciting for a little town like this one.
Everyone knew everyone and everyone had a noticeable inquisitiveness about them. The citizens of Whitmire were always the first to know about your business even before you did, normally any broadcast would be around the whole town within 20 minutes. Not the best place to have a deep dark secret and certainly not the place to go around telling your friends. Too many years in Whitmire had taught me to not go around making this point to any newcomers. Not that there were any newcomers. The last fledgling we had in town was in 1978, my mother.
I neared the spot i was heading to with surprising velocity. Maybe the thought of being out of the rain was motivating me to move quicker. Each individual drop which fell from the heavens seemed to touch my exposed skin, soaking deep beneath the outer layer of my body.
As i dragged my battered and threadbare trainers against the cracked asphalt i remembered what my mother had once said about her move here. About why on earth she decided this was the place for her and exactly why everything she hoped would happen didn’t.
“What did i think was here?” She once asked aloud whilst making dinner. “I was looking for a new life, a change of scenery. Instead i got a husband who left me when i fell pregnant with you and lifeless town filled with prying old gits.”
She finished with one side look in my direction. The image of those broken eyes often burned into the back of lids and pained me on a daily basis, we both knew how much of a mistake it was to move here.
My mother, who was a woman of few words, never let any of her emotions out of the tight seal of her mind. In a town like Whitmire i suppose that was the wisest judgement she has ever made. I specifically recall that time out of all of them because she never spoke a word about my father since that day. Or before it either. I couldn’t blame her- who would want to speak a word about a sour, lowlife airhead like the man who made me possible? My mother claimed that she had given up on love, that it was worthless.
“Love is a dead end for anyone. It distracts a women from any job that she should be doing. It burns like an open flame amongst tinder but it all too quickly disappears and is replaced with darkness. Love isn’t real and everybody is too delusional to understand how much damage it’s doing. Don’t ever fall in love, Maia. It isn’t worth your time.”
As I climbed that dreaded hill I realised that I believe her. In all the movies it almost never worked out for any of the couples. Titanic for example; that end was so tragic and so heartbreaking that even the 1 in a million chance of that happening to you wouldn’t even be worth the risk. Plus there is always one in the relationship that is more selfish than the other; lets be honest- there was enough room on that bit of wood for two people wasn’t there?
So my chances in love never really blossomed and i didn’t really have the usual teenage urges to go out and do those crazy 18 year old things like cliff diving, skinny dipping or throwing up all over your best friend after too much cider at 2am in the middle of the woods. Anything other than reading or writing was too much out of my comfort zone. It was because of this i ended up having the nickname “Solo”.
I took a well deserved seat on the nearest curb, split of course. These roads hadn’t been resurfaced since they were built.
As a 18 year old it seemed that i didn’t have any talents, any features worth noticing, anything that gave me the ‘it’ factor. Tall and lifeless brunette, grey, cloudy eyes and a slump to her shoulders whenever she walked. That was me.
The rain was just easing away from torrential by the time i grew the enthusiasm to get up and proceed. The fall of water shattered onto the outstretch of road and bounced up, back the way they’d come down. I was almost there now, about ½ a mile away.
I glanced at the streets ahead of me with the strange feeling of inquisitivity filling my veins. I knew this towns every nook and every cranny but looking at it now seemed different. Like everything had changed in a couple of hours.
If i looked at the world like this everyday would it be better? A better place to be? I scanned the area around me and to my disappointment i realised that absolutely nothing was going to make Whitmire a nice place to be. It was Whitmire.
Up on the viewpoint the rain was just a pathetic drizzle, not even classed at rain- more of a heavy mist. Instead of lightly placing the bike on the floor i shoved it away from my side so it toppled clumsily into the grass and splattered wet mud all over the tarmac. Not bothering to pick it up, i took a seat on the wooden bench.
Any moment now the sun would set, one of the few things i would actually stay here for. It was always spectacular. All shades of colours would spread out across the sky and aluminate my dull features and the grey atmosphere of this quiet town. Crimson reds, plum purples, baby pinks and burning oranges would light the town like a circus and it always was the only thing that ever really took my breath away.
The small gap in the clouds let a small stream of light and it seemed to sweep across the valley in a narrow warm glow. It reminded me of a spotlight falling against the only thing on stage worth noticing.
Was i seeing the world differently from everyone else? Anyone here could see the beauty in anything. I had no such ability. Everything here was ugly, it was hideous and anywhere else was better than here. Anyone else was better than me.
Little did i know that all that was soon going to change. Maybe i just needed someone to open my eyes for me.