Candace looked over at the passenger riding in her car. Her best friend, Ivory, had the same long blonde hair as she, but thinner, prettier features. Candace’s round face had never been something she liked, but rather caused her to watch beauty tutorials on how to apply shading to give her a more defined jawbone, making her look less young and cherub-like.
As if Ivory could read her mind, and maybe she could after all these years, she looked back at Candace and bit the inside of her lip before saying, “Why don’t you think you are pretty?”
“I don’t know. I mean, there are times I do. But, I’m overweight. My feet are wide. My front tooth is fake. My face is too round. My hair is too thin.”
Ivory laughed. “Do you think there is only one type of pretty? Like, have you ever met someone overweight who was also pretty?”
“Well, yes. But it’s different for me. Like, those girls know how to dress. And I haven’t seen them try to be sexy, or be naked. I bet if I saw them naked, I wouldn’t think they were pretty anymore.” Candace checked the rearview mirror – a habit she had learned from her dad who told her to always been aware when driving. She caught Ivory’s profile with her deep in thought, as she often was.
“Girls that are overweight aren’t sexy?” Ivory questioned.
“No, I guess they aren’t.”
“They are just lucky to be loved? The desperate sacks that are with them are just depraved?”
“Well when you say it like that, it’s shitty.” Candace shifted in her seat.
“What makes people love these fat girls?”
“I guess they have good traits too. Like more than just their body.”
“Are you loveable, Candace?” Ivory prodded.
Candace sat quiet. “Can we talk about something else?”
She was starting to wonder if it was the length of this particular trip that was having Ivory be so chatty and philosophical. It wasn’t meant to be a therapy session. It was just a drive to check out a college they were interested in. A long drive, past vast farmlands and through small towns, some which had gas stations and others that offered nothing more than a small circle on the paper map they had.
When her dad gave her the map, it seemed silly- after all, they had the Map App on their iPhones. However, the map did come in handy when the phones were out of range and the app wouldn’t load anything more than the blue dot that represented them. A useless blue dot on a nameless grid, or even a white background without a single line to show the road they traveled.
Ivory began to bite her nails. It was a disgusting habit, according to Candace. It was mostly done when deep in thought. The click-click sound of her teeth knocking into each other when they slipped from her fingertip made Candace cringe. “Can you stop?”
Ivory sat up, pulled from her trance. “Stop what?”
“Your noise. That noise you make when you bite your nails.”
“It’s no more annoying than when you pop the spit bubbles in your cheek,” Ivory retorted.
“It just bugs me.”
“Then put on music, Candace.”
“Why can’t you just stop?”
“Why can’t you just put on music? There’s more than one way to solve a problem. There’s more than just your way.”
Candace punched the button on the radio and remembered why she turned it off in the first place. The scanner just spun, from the lowest numbers to the highest, not picking up a station, or at best the disjointed beats and scratchy melody of a song that just wouldn’t get through.
She pulled her hand back when she saw her short, stubby nails, chewed down in anxiety. The polish she had applied was worn down, making them look childish rather than sophisticated, like how she wanted them to be. She hated being anxious. She hated being scared.
“What are you most scared of?” Candace asked Ivory.
“Not knowing what I think I need to know. Failing. Never being successful. Never making a difference or positive impact. I’m scared I’ll never be in love. That no adventure will make me happy. That passion is a lie.”
Candace sighed. “I don’t know if I’m more afraid of feeling or of not feeling. Do you think that way?”
Ivory turned to look out the window. “Yes.”
Candace hated that about Ivory. She hated that Ivory couldn’t just turn to her and give her a pep talk. She hated that Ivory, only in moments, would show this wild, warrior woman and rise up and pull Candace up with her. She wished she was always confident and full of hope and faith so she could be too.
In fact, it was Ivory’s hot and cold – so hot you would follow her into battle, sword on fire, dinner warming on the stove for when you returned, as you would surely return – so cold you wondered if all she was a glitter-throwing, mirror-bending, sunshine-making fairy who would disappear in the rain like dust on an unpaved road – that made Candace question everything. Was she real, alive, impassioned or was she aloof, disconnected, a liar and imposter?
In all these years, she had come to the conclusion that she was indeed both, but she liked the wild Ivory better. She loved being sparked into dreaming big, believing she could create anything she put her mind to. She loved being scared and on the lip of a boundary others talked of but never went towards. It was why she kept Ivory around. Those moments seemed to be the climatic highs that balanced out the daily low Candace felt.
She didn’t know if it was depression, or just being bored, tired, unhappy, or if it was just life.
“Do most people think about dying?” Candace asked.
“Yes. But not daily, like you do.” Ivory said flatly. “Not everyone thinks that at 7am the world is good and at 7pm they pray they don’t wake up the next day.”
“Are people really happy, or is it a show? Does everyone wear a mask?”
“I don’t know. I’m not everyone. But, I would guess, based on how many people are alive, and not just sitting around killing themselves…”
“But they are!” Candace interjected, “They smoke cigarettes they know are killing them. They take drugs. They are addicted to porn and Facebook and work and have affairs and abandon their kids in search of living. They are killing themselves in order to live. At best, they are numbing themselves to not feel the bullshit they feel in living.”
Ivory sighed. “Again, with your negativity!”
“And how is that working out for you?”
Candace blinked, unsure what to say. “Well, I’m still here, aren’t I?”
The car was silent for several minutes.
“How much further?” Ivory asked.
“I’m not sure.” Candace answered, looking once again in the mirror, but this time Ivory wasn’t there. Only Candaces own eyes looked back at her.
This prose was inspired by a long drive I took while traveling in my RV. Road trips can be a time for a lot of self-reflection. I often found myself “arguing” with my inner thoughts and in this prose thought about what it might be like if our inner self sat next to us, just as a real person would.