I had nerves like blunt pins in my chest, neck, and mouth. Because I was “going out” to a new place. Out in the world—at night. It had been a long time since I’d stepped out into the darkness, and there was no way of knowing what I would find there.
I made my bed, turned off the lights, kissed Dad goodbye, and hauled my overnight bag to the car, then my mum gave me a lift to my friend Kate’s* house. The whole way I was chewing gum nervously, holding tension in my jaw.
As soon as I got to Kate’s house I dyed my hair purple. I hadn’t planned to, but suddenly I found myself leaning over her bath with mulberry water dripping from my head. I felt infused with magic—with spontaneity and mischief and everything I haven’t let myself enjoy for the past few years. My hair felt like a barometer for the rest of my night.
Kate and I called a taxi and waited outside. Through the car’s steamy windows I could decipher only pinpricks of light. By the time we got to our destination, the whole world was shrouded in a thick mist, like we were held inside our own special sphere. Our world was adorned: cocktails, disco lights spraying circles over the dance floor, the lights reflected in people’s eyes, Kate’s and my freshly dyed hair—all were jewel coloured. I danced and got lost. Only occasionally would I realise where I actually was, and how I was.
A boy was there: Donald from my college (aka high school), who lives nearby. I had told him he had to come out so he could walk me to my grandparents’ house, where I was spending the night. We left the party just before midnight. The streets were majestically quiet. The yellowing streetlights illuminated the thick patches of mist, making the whole scene look like a film set. It was impossible for our voices not to be too loud; our conversation must have sounded, to people in their beds, like snatches of alien speech. Donald is really cool, and I felt safe.
When we got to my grandparents’ house—all three storeys of it—he seemed impressed. I didn’t want to go inside just yet. We both knew of a certain bench on the street, and we sat on it for a little while. Apart from the occasional passing car lights, the world felt empty except just us two. I could have talked to him all night. But I said, “I am so tired.” He said, “Do you want me to walk you to your door?”
Lying in an unfamiliar bed, I couldn’t sleep, despite feeling heavy tiredness through every limb. My eyes would close, but my brain was on fire, still excited and, on reflection, glad to be alive.
I didn’t feel like a fraud at any point in the evening. My fun wasn’t faked. I was me—but a new me I hadn’t met yet.
* All names have been changed for reasons of privacy.