Vi’s family did not like her. I say this bluntly because there is no way going around it. It’s not the kind of thing where you can beat around the bush or sugar coat it. It’s brutally true. They don’t approve of her, they’re not proud of her, she’s just generally not “acceptable” to them. They always ask her to change as if her purpose in life is only to please and entertain them and be impressive to every one of them. But she’d done that the first 19 years of her life and she was exhausted of being everyone else’s perfect creation.
Of course, since she gave up being dough in everyone else’s ever-changing cookie cutter molds (because nothing seemed to be perfect enough), she was judged and belittled by each of her kin and felt estranged in her own home. By all but her grandmother, and maybe her mother, but only those two; and she pitied them, because they carried all the love for her on their shoulders. And neither of them spoke a word to anyone else, nor defended her, so she honestly was never sure where she stood with them, either. Seeing how willing everyone else was to be outwardly, backhandedly passive aggressive and rude to her, she was sure she wasn’t the light of their lives, in the least.
A dinner, which she tried to avoid but went to for her father’s benefit—to be a socially acceptable daughter—went downhill into the judgement she learned to expect. Her soul was tired and worn out and she finally said, “If you think I am worthless, then I’ll give you one gift: my absence. Don’t ever say I bother you, again. You will never see me beyond this day.”
With that, she walked out of the house and drove away. Not home, but away. She thought about things as the trees zoomed by on the highway. There was only one person she’d ever felt she was worth anything to…Echo.
An overhead road sign called for the last exit to Ellindawe, the city where Echo lived. With a hard turn, she made it onto the exit ramp, her heart beating out of her chest. She’d not seen Echo but a few times, mostly “meeting” her over the phone. She’d heard her voice and seen her face in photos, but only three times in person. Vi smiled; the three precious, rebellious times she snuck out to meet Echo. They’d meet over a chain-link fence, Vi would prance up and pull her chin above the top and smile. They’d kiss and then she’d climb up and over and they’d share sandwiches or mac n’ cheese under a nearby tree.
Echo had lost interest when she found a girl in her town, who—obviously—lived closer by. They’d moved in together for a short while, according to Vi’s memory. That was two years ago, though, and Vi didn’t know how Echo was doing anymore, or if she was still with that girl, or what she’d been up to all this time.
She drove out to her thinking spot. Her favorite spot. Not far from Ellindawe, but she’d claimed this spot before she knew Echo, and had only ever shared it with her. She sat beneath its tree, in its wooded spot next to the small clearing, which was sandwiched on the other side by a field beyond which lie the highway. Very nearby was Dee’s Tea n’ Biscuits, which she’d pop into to grab a bite to eat when she’d get hungry from all her thinking, or hours gone by.
Her phone had rang several times in the past two hours. Her family was trying to contact her, but she’d let it ring. She was done with their pity and judgements and apologies that served no one and changed nothing. She wasn’t going back, she was making a new life; her own, where she didn’t have to impress anyone or be what everyone wanted her to be, or be everyone else’s achievement. She didn’t want to attain everyone else’s dream life or version of perfection; she just couldn’t wait for the end of this long “golden” road, and she was fine with her dreams. She was fine with her life being the way she wanted it: boring, unimpressive, and unconventional. She didn’t want recognition or accolades, she just wanted to get by each day in one piece and sane and make it to the end with the least amount of depressing days as possible.
Sitting under this tree, she missed Echo, but she had no energy to cry about a laugh she’d not heard in forever or a perfectly smoky voice or beautiful moon-jewel eyes. She had no energy at all, her life felt spent—everyone else took her funds to support their own life banks. She was running on empty, and not monetarily.
It was 7 p.m., and getting dark outside. She decided she’d find a parking lot nearby and sleep in her car tonight, so she went to Dee’s and bought herself some take-out: a steak biscuit with potatoes and gravy, steamed vegetables on the side, and of course a slice of chocolate mousse pie to finish it all off; and a peach pie for tomorrow. A small, tight smile formed over her lips, a single tear ran down her cheek, and there it was, she still loved Echo, and this was Echo’s favorite.
She drove for a minute to park her car on some asphalt to stay the night. Something about empty parking lots with the orange glow of street-lamps makes one emotional and empty and numb, nostalgic and hopeful and feel meaningful yet small, all at the same time. Her car was a sore white dot in the dark parking lot of a Food Lion. She leaned her head back against the head rest, tucked a knee up to her chest, and tossed a foot on the dash by the driver side window. Her stare was long and blank. She watched a raccoon dart out of the trees beside the parking lot and climb into a big green trash bin. All this played as a movie in her numb mind. She wasn’t even sure she felt real, she wasn’t sure she’d even remember coming here when she woke up in the morning. But of course she would; she would recall it all, because this was all real. All too real.
The next morning, she was woken by a knock on her window at 5:58 a.m. by a manager coming to open the store. She groggily looked around to get her bearings and then let her head fall back onto the head rest. She heard him say through the glass, “Hey, I’m gonna need you to leave the parking lot. Sorry.” She nodded and dragged her foot from off her dash and let it kerplunk onto the floor of her car, and felt for her keys to start up her little, white sore-thumb.
At the street feeder, where the lot turned into the street, she pulled out her peach pie and a plastic fork while she waited for a chance to join the other nobodies driving on her side of the double yellow line. She was driving back to her spot to watch the sunrise and listen to the birds because she felt like they were somebodies; somebodies who understood how meaningless all this life seems. They watch people go about to and fro and back again to repeat it all the next day; certainly at least half of their songs were melodies of woe of the stupidity of the human race. All the capabilities and the breath of God they are inspired with and they sit in nine-to-fives and waste away every day of their “blessed” lives. The birds had to console with her, because they must be seeing all of this ridiculousness, even from above, even from the clouds.
Behind the scenes and how the names were derived:
The name Vi comes from the pronunciation of the letter, and Echo is the letter “E”s nickname.