golden arches

The car is traveling down the road. A straight road with no twists or turns, no meanders or curves, just going on and on in the same direction forever. Snowflakes latch onto the windows and snow dances on the ground, made visible by the warmth of the headlights. The road is covered in a wrapper that, come spring, will be opened to reveal the life underneath. Darkness engulfs the surrounding and it’s like you’re in a rocket ship floating in space, where all you can see are soft flickers of light now and then. The car rocks gently along the road and the heater is doing a poor job keeping its passengers warm. You cuddle up against the window, careful not to stick your cheek near the freezing pane, your legs curled up in a tangled bunch of blankets and jackets. The wool of your cardigan fits comfortably around your body and it reminds you of fireplaces and embraces, when you were safe and sound from harm.

Niall’s song “This Town” plays quietly from the old MP3 you have gripped in your hands. The sadness of the song transfers like a drip through the earbuds plugged into your ears and you think about the love you have just lost, how you would give everything to go back. Tear drops form at the corner of your eyes like an untightened faucet; the more you try to hold them back, the harder they try to stream down your face. Swiftly, you wipe them away with the cuff of your cardigan—now damp—before anyone sees (they would ask questions you do not want to answer).

The car keeps on bumping like an a wooden horse, and even the squeaks of the tires mimic the old age of the rocking horse. You try to doze off into slumber several times but the cold is creeping up your neck. Soon, when you finally find a suitable position to keep warm, your consciousness starts ebbing away, bit by bit… piece by piece… as if there was a black hole sucking them away along with the pain.

Just as your eyes were about to close completely, you see a permanent shine of light. There it stood in the middle of the pitch black sea, and you fixate upon it—the golden arches. You scramble to sit up straight, eager for a clearer glimpse for fear that your eyes had tricked you, but there they were—unmoving, shining warmly in the dead of winter, welcoming you home. Of course, real home was cozier than this and homier than this, but you decide that the golden glimmer would suffice for now.

this is a flashback to 2016, when I spent the year in the United States. my family and I were driving down an endless road in the winter and everything was darkened and chilled; suddenly, in the middle of it all—and I kid you not— a McDonald’s sign came into sight.