The cool, crisp air brushed across my face as I walked briskly toward my car. The leaves crunched and rustled under my quickening footsteps. I reached into my coat pocket and pulled out my keys. Quickly pushing the unlock button as I approached my black sedan. I put one foot on the running board and tossed my bags onto the passenger seat as I swung myself into the car. The wind picked up as I pulled the door shut. I shivered as the autumn air danced and moved with the stale, warm air of the car. I glanced around at the empty parking lot with a feeling of nostalgia.
I remembered like it was yesterday. The feeling of the sun on my cheeks as I slowly walked through that same parking lot. I was happier then. Especially on one particularly hot humid day. It was like any other day except it’s engrained in my memory. The way the sun bounced off the pavement into my eyes, the way the wind blew our hair into our eyes, our slow steady pace towards my car. We didn’t have anywhere to be. It was one of my favorite memories. We didn’t have a care in the world. We both left our stresses behind us in that big red brick building. We had the weekend ahead of us. She said something funny and I threw back my head and soaked in the sun. It went all the way to my toes. I remember thinking that some day I’d want to feel that exact way again. I knew I’d be in the depths of sinking. All too soon the world around me would be dark. I’d struggle to find the drive to put one foot in front of the other. I knew I’d muster up the courage, somehow I always did. I thought that next time it would be different. Next time, I told myself, I’ll think back to this happy memory. I’ll close my eyes and bring myself back to this place. I’ll feel the sun on my arms, the summer breeze on my legs, and the sound of my sandals as I walked across the pavement.
I blinked and I was back in that empty parking lot. There was an autumn glow of orange as the sun set behind the building. I put my keys in the ignition and slowly turned it on while methodically putting on my seat belt. It was all second-nature. I’d done it so many times over the past 15 years. I took one last glance around to make sure it was really gone. The building was locked and no one was around. I put my car in drive and watched in my rearview mirror as the big red brick building faded away into the distance.
I barely remember the drive home. Two stop signs and a stop light. My foot moved back and forth from the brake to the accelerator. There was a steady stream of traffic that seemed to know I was in a different place. The slow pace matched my heavy heart. Dread filled my chest and it became harder to breathe. I rolled the window down and felt the crisp air slap my face. It stung. My eyes watered and my breath caught in my throat. I instinctively turned the radio up. I don’t remember the song. It didn’t matter anyway. I needed a distraction. I needed something to pull me out of the deep valley of my soul. I needed something to give me the will to go on. I heard the distinctive sound of my phone ringing. I searched through my pocket and pulled it out to see her name in bold letters on my screen. I muted the radio and put her on speaker. “Hey!” I said with a mix of excitement and sorrow. “Hey, friend! I miss you!” That was all it took to pull me out of that dark place. Five little words helped me shake the cobwebs from my head. I rolled up the window and put a smile on my face. “I miss you too!” I said. “I was just thinking about that hot summer day last year when you were in town. We had so much fun that weekend!” She chuckled as I turned the car onto my street. I flicked the button on the garage door opener and pulled into my spot. I turned the car off and sat with the keys in my hand. I don’t know how long we talked. Maybe it was a long time or maybe it wasn’t. All that matters is that she pulled me out of the darkness once again. I got out of the car and open the door to my house, I was ready to face my family once again.