We stayed silent in the aftermath of the fireworks, listening to the “pop” they created as their echos burst through the neighborhood.
Smoke lingered in the air— both from the fireworks and from the cigarette hanging between my aunt’s fingers. My brother sat on the hood of the car next to me while my cousin drank straight from a bottle of Fireball whiskey.
Rambunctious laughter from drunks also celebrating the Fourth of July occasionally shattered the silence. But still, we sat there, heads tilted toward the night sky, enjoying the few seconds where we felt untouchable as the heavy weight of responsibility left our shoulders.
Hours passed as we sat on the car, skin sticking to warm metal and hands swatting at pesky mosquitos, trading jokes and telling stories. My aunt was still stamping out cigarettes, only to replace one with another. The bottle of whiskey grew lighter. My brother’s jokes became cruder. Yet, sitting under the moonlight, I had never felt better.
It was three a.m. when we came back to the world we live in— or rather the world my aunt and cousin lived in. I was miles away from my comfortable one-story townhouse in a gated community, but sitting there, surrounded by battered trailers, I experienced freedom.
There was no bedtime, no heckling from my mom, no reminders that I was leading a life unlived. There was only the stars overhead and the light that the moon provided.
I should have been home hours ago but none of us were eager to go. When my aunt asked if we should go to Checkers, there was a unanimous yes. Even while eating two dollar fries, I knew that this—living without a care in the world— was happiness.