I switch the radio over to my mix CD from high school, boy bands and sad country songs, as I pull off the highway into my hometown. It’s not small or anything. It’s a suburb. But it’s called the Island. For the most part people grow up here and stay here. That won’t be me.

With the windows rolled down, I pull off onto the back roads. They’re paved. I didn’t grow up in the sticks.

My high school is the same brick that it was when my parents went there. Marching band music floats into my car from the football field. My throat tightens. It’s been two years and I still can’t look that way without remembering. By the time I reach my childhood home, I can’t breathe.

Nostalgia hangs in the humidity. Ghosts of memories pass up and down the road: playing kickball with the neighbors, selling lemonade, riding my scooter. I block it all out as I go up to the front door. The doorknob is silver instead of gold. Some things do change.

But the little things aren’t big enough. It’s the same street with the same people. I could start a game of kickball again. I could jump off the garden wall with a plastic bag as a parachute. It would be like nothing’s changed.

***
I’m not a child.

I refuse to feel like a child.

***

I load up my car for my last semester at college. The panic settling on my chest has been building for a year. What am I going to do after I graduate? I have a plan, but doesn’t everyone?

I don’t care if you’re going into the medical field, there’s no foolproof plan for your life.

Pulling onto the highway, I blast my radio to drown out the screaming fear in my chest.

Fiction

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