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Between Tomorrow

by Jovi Aviles


I sunk into the wrinkled seats of Mack’s Passat, let my ears rub against the cracked leather and listened to the rubbery crinkle and pop of his hand-me-down car. My eyes were heavy with a high I wasn’t able to shake that night. Partly because of the way the hot-boxed air lingered—swirled and curled into smoke spirals that clouded his fucked-up windshield—and partly because I didn’t want to let that faded, fleeting feeling go. 

I met Mack as soon as he sputtered into town, at the tortured age of fifteen. With an awkward bump and stumble through a fluorescently-lit Krauser’s convenience store. 

I grabbed a sweet tea from the fridge that reeked of mold, and when I turned around, I was met with an impish smirk I’ve only ever witnessed from stoned-out losers. 

He chuckled before speaking to me, before blurting out a very loud…

“Can you spot me a five?” 

I suppose that sentence, both clumsy and spontaneous—like our short-lived friendship—summed up the type of boy Mack would ever grow to be. He was never mature—or serious—enough to earn the title of a “man”. 

At least in the traditional sense. 

I thought Mack was always a real cool dude, suave in his 16-year-old-swag, how it seemed to melt and emit off his olive skin. I saw in him what I always wanted to see in myself, care-free and destined to live a short, whirlwind life. Sweet with clumsiness, rich with one-night stands and messy hangovers from the night before.

And for a short while, when all of my other friends from freshman year had fizzed out throughout the summer months, when Mack was the only real friend I had, I wasn’t far from that reckless existence. I would jump into the front seat of his beat-up clunker, kick my ripped vans up on the dashboard, and follow the roads and the Northern California skyline as my eyes would grow more and more weight, until I felt like a feline.

I had forgotten all about the friends I had abandoned, with their pin-straight hair smelling of processed coconut, each hair on their body starchy and prim. Getting lost together in the hot, sweet world of teenage boys. Their knees knocked together like bony skeletons, porcelain and light like the clouds of perfume spritzed in every moistened crevice of their muted skin. 

They were classic, wild west coast girls. And I was glad to be rid of them.

But that night, when my gaze became blurred and clouded with the smoke that clung to the leather seats, Mack had become mute. We had parked at one of the many waterfronts we deemed “our spot”, where our plainly platonic shenanigans always came to a shuttered stop as we dragged our attention to the summer sunsets. Reflecting over the water like the quivering puddles back home.  

It was the summer before my senior year, and Mack was fresh out of high school. I was naively seventeen, and since this had been the first summer he hadn’t gotten a restriction on his license—from driving too stoned to tell which light was red or green—we went everywhere along the prevailing shore of California. From Malibu to San Francisco, across every bridge connecting one balmy, cloudless land to another. 

Mack had just shifted gears when parking the car as it clunkered across the pavement. We were alone—just us and the rusted railings—and had I known what our routine loneliness would have brung that night, I would have hitchhiked back to Auburn. 

“Can you roll this time?” He asked, quietly, as he handed me the papers he stashed in the junky glove compartment. 

“Uh, yeah. Sure.” I looked back and forth a few times, from him and the salmon-colored papers, trying to figure out why he was staring at his calloused hands. 

“I took my senior pictures the other day,” I said. Attempting to spark a conversation. “I tried to bribe the guy to let me see the photos before he sent them out.” Mack wouldn’t look at me, he just stared down at his palms that began to grow clammy. 

“Of course, all I had was a grinder and three dollars in quarters.” I laughed with a smile that felt pitiful. But Mack wouldn’t have noticed, I couldn’t even tell if he had heard me. He seemed to be somewhere else entirely, within a world of his own skin, buried beneath the scarred flesh of his hands. 

After I finished rolling and switched out the CD, Mack took the joint and exited the car. I followed. He leaned over the edge of the waterfront railing and took a long drawl from the pink paper. He exhaled the smoke coolly—unusually slowly—like a villainous movie character, savoring each briny hit, sucking it all the way through his body. Until the smoke dissolved like the sea foam below. 

I waited until he had smoked the whole thing, until the joint was nothing but crumbled ash on another simmering sidewalk. 

“Charlie’s parents are out of town. He’s having a few people over, so I told him we would go,” He said, coughing.

“I thought we had other plans tonight,” I huffed.

He blinked at me. “Well, I didn’t think it was much of a problem if I changed the plans.”

“Well—I guess—it’s not, but I would have liked to know.” His eyes were empty, his head droopy and melty, it seemed like if he would trip his brain would spill like a left-out Mel’s milkshake. 

“But I just told you.” His eyes crinkled. 

“Whatever. It’s fine. You don’t get it, so let’s just go,” I stepped off the lifted sidewalk and stomped right onto a spider, crunched it beneath my boots and didn’t look back, even after I felt his gaze watch me walk away.

He was brewing up something with anger in his mind, I could feel the hostility like it was heat, engulfing me from the soles of my feet.

“Well, help me understand,” Mack pleaded as he crawled back into the car, desperate and anguished like most guys tend to never be. I just stared straight ahead, watched the clouds roll in like liquid. 

Mack was already half-dazed, half-disoriented and half-way given up with the conversation, the weed already pouring over his system, synching his nerves and emotions shut like a pulled drawstring. 

I let him stare through me as Mojave 3 hummed through his speakers, even with the music the silence was engulfing, overbearingly deafening. 

“You need to tell me when things are bothering you,” I breathed, the silent treatment shattering as my words dribbled out. “Instead of me sitting there like an idiot babbling when you’re obviously somewhere else.” I turned my head and stared at his falling eyelids. 

He swallowed, bit his chapped lip that was bleeding from salty ocean spray. Nodded gently. “Okay. Fine.” 

I paused, ran my hands down the fabric of my faded jeans. Itching, seething, desperate and ready to pounce. 

“That was the last of our weed.” I blurted, my voice blew sharp. 

Mack cleared his throat. “Oh,” I heard him swallow, rough and fidgety. “I guess it was.”

“Don’t act like you didn’t know, you didn’t even fucking offer me any of it,” My tongue was spitting syrupy insults that rested at the back of my throat.. 

“I’m sorry, Vi, I just don’t think you should be smoking too much,” I chewed on my lip, bit until I tasted metallic blood swimming between the rim of my lips. “You know, considering…”

“Don’t even fucking start, Mack. Acting like you’re all fucking high-and-mighty cause’ you stick to getting stoned before working your fucking shift at In-N-Out. You smoke like it’s gonna get taken away from you…” I shook my head back and forth, prattled on about his loser lifestyle. “Maybe I should keep the stash from you, see how bad your fucking withdrawls are—”

“Stop it.” His voice was quiet, desperate. But I couldn’t hear, and wouldn’t care. 

No! You sat there staring at your hands like there was a fucking riddle on them and then you smoked the last of all of our fucking weed—”

Our? OUR weed? You can’t even pay for the shit!” Mack screamed, flailed his hands like he was on a tarmac waving down some foreign plane. 

The car suddenly started to feel hot, like I had grown an extra layer of skin. I ripped off my hoodie and threw it in the backseat. My eyes lingered out the window. It dripped in bird shit.

“Just drive to the party.”

“Violet—”

“Just fucking drive, Mack.” My voice grew quiet, agitated. He understood my frustration, felt it on the same level he stooped down to. He started the car and we began to roll out of the lot, sped down the sandy back roads until we merged into one of the main highways. Lone at dusk. 

The one thing about Mack is that he could snap out of a high no matter how much he had smoked. I guess he was mature in that one, isolated way. 

… 

High school parties are this weird phenomenon that no one really addresses unless they’re reflecting on the sour, regretful days of their teenage-riot youth. Each high school party I had been to—outside or in—always had a heap of humid, adolescent bodies stuck together in a crowd too oversized for whatever suburban lot it partook in. I never really believed in cliques before, and my school didn’t necessarily have those groups like you see in the movies, but we did have a handful of broken cliches. The white girls who were either on the dance team or the cheer team, both equally filled with their own drama that made my head spin and my throat want to hurl from the sheer dramatics of it all. We have the stoners who are always breaking a planter's pot or decades-old garden gnomes from these cookie-cutter houses. And there’s always that one guy—who you’d never expect to—but would be there with a broom and pan, scraping up the remains of his friend’s sobriety, scattered and splashed all across the soiled cement.

We all downed beer or twisted teas, and smoked those plump, salty-tasting joints that we all scored from one of the two dealers that would sell to our age group. And everyone’s eyes were forever, frantically fading into the night.

Every time I went to one of these parties, I felt like a ghost that’s embarrassingly translucent. An outcast that’s being passed through the eyes of all the kids who have always been seen. And I didn’t fit in that scene, my shoulders tensed and my smile turned straight as I walked through the fleshed halls of the party, walking past drunk make-outs and people zeroing whatever smoke they were able to get their hands on. My friends hijacked their other friends as I succumbed into present fomo. 

Wishing I was anyone else in this big cosmic joke of a world.

And this was exactly what Charlie's party had been like. Full of people with faces too familiar to remember the names of, and too humid to do anything else but mosey around and drink next to veiled strangers. 

But ever since Mack and I had met, I was able to cling to him throughout every single one of these outings. Since he knew every dealer within a five-mile-radius, our stash would always be dirt cheap, even if it came in ziploc bags. And when the time was right, when there was too much puking or crying or police sirens for our liking, we would dip as elusive as we had come in. 

Mack parked further down the street than usual, since the zoned asphalt was already littered with cheap clunks of junk.

“I thought it was supposed to only be a few people.” I said, noticing the cars whirr past the window.

“Is this going to be a fucking problem the whole night?” Mack barked. His lips were tense, clenched as if he was about to peck something.

“Nevermind, let’s just get out.” I whispered, and opened the door.

He cleared his throat, brushed the hair out of his eyes. “Vi,” he started, “do you ever think…”

I huffed an impatient breath, my leg sticking out of the car door.

“Do you ever think about us?” I stared at his eyebrows. They looked cartoon-ish.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

… 

We walked the sidewalks for a while, dragging our shoes and scuffing the soles in an effort to make the most noise possible, without having to murmur a word to each other. 

Mack’s hair wasn’t tied into a measly man-bun like it usually was. Instead, he let it down, and it was shorter than I remembered. His hair was light, muddy with a brown color that fell about an inch below his shoulders. 

I’ve always thought that Mack was the type of boy I could fall in love with, if I ever got the chance to learn how. He let girls swoon over him, especially the drunk, slobbering ones. Who couldn’t even get out a sentence without slurring so bad you would think they were having a premature heart attack. He would always brush them off, though. Resisted their attempts even if they were the types of pretty you only see in foreign models and celebrities who died too young. I always knew he could find any girl who would love him as tenderly as his dreams. They would smother him with all the love, all the sex, all the affection a guy could ever want. 

But he never allowed them to. 

I kept thinking about Mack, about his tactics and his ways with women. I was looking at him the whole walk to Charlies. Sort of analyzing his mannerisms, the way he licked his lips, the way his feet stumbled over each-other—no matter how fast he was moving—and the way his smile grew wider and wider with each hit he took of whatever he could smoke. 

I emerged from thinking so deeply once we reached the doorstep. Charlie's house was all black and white, clean and proper, except for a blinding red front door. I stared at it.

“Are we going to be like this the whole night?” He asked, with a defeated sigh, and looked down at his shoes. 

“We don’t have to be,” I replied, facing him now. 

“Vi–” He was cut off by Charlie whipping open the door, and ushering us in by shoving two glass beer bottles into our hands. 

Charlie was already slurring his words, they melted into each other like a string of alphabet soup, and as he was serending Mack with his drunken song, I sneaked off to escape Mack’s company. Something I hadn’t done in two years. 

Throughout the hours where I had lost Mack, I had managed to find the group of girls I had once spent all my time with. They noticed me from across the pool, and all flocked towards me in the sandals that clucked like peckish chickens. 

As their clacking grew more near, I plastered my face with a strained smile. Their greetings were lame, processed and plastic. It was hard to believe I spent my whole freshman year with these girls practically conjoined at the hip.

“Vio-let Colt!” The brunette elongated each syllable, rolled off her tongue like melting candy. She reached out her arms to embrace me.

They all crowded around me as if nothing had changed, as if we had plans the next day to pollute the local mall with our deathly cloud of perfume. 

I wish I had forgotten their names. But the memories of them had sunken into every crack and crevice of freshman year, and they made an impression that was unfortunately ever-lasting. Even though we had grown into completely different people. 

The brunette, I learned, had dabbled in cocaine this summer. It’s probably why she coddled me so, buttered me up with an embrace too tight. My chest felt as if it were constricting to her touch. She had the nose for it, sniffling every few seconds. It seemed the others hadn’t latched on to her new-found addiction, but from the way they were huddling around her it was obvious they weren’t far from her own fate. 

“We saw you walk in with Mack Walls. Can’t believe you two are still…bumpin’.” The blonde one smiled, smacking hard on her bubblegum.

“Bumpin’?” I probed.

“Ya! You know, makin’ the nast.” Their slang made my head hurt. 

“Oh..Oh no, no, we’re just friends, Lor. It’s really not like that.”

Their threaded eyebrows raised all at the same time. Each one of them clenched a red solo cup filled with liquor so strong the smell was left to simmer on my tastebuds. 

“Well, that’s..urm..surprising.” She giggled a painful smile. “I mean…the way he turns down every girl…” Her face was pulled with regret, like she had said too much. The brunette gave her sinister looks. “Well, he’s either gay or misogynistic. I swear we thought you two were together!” She smiled as if that settled the storm brewing in my stomach.

I stayed silent, waited for them to continue the conversation for me. They proceeded to rant about how every girl had tried and failed with Mack, and each time he would get violent, aggressive towards their flirtations. And after the way he had been acting towards me a few hours earlier, I no longer found those accusations hard to believe. 

“One time,” The brunette started, leaned in real close, “My friend—Laura—went up to him after a party. You had just left and he seemed like he was in an alright mood,” I remembered that night, I had left at twilight, the sky was a deep blue and Mack had begged me to stay. My head had begun to hurt, and I was dealing with a withdrawal, something I wasn’t crazy about making public. “So she had gone up to him, you know not in a desperate sort of ‘I have to have you’ way. But he got supper stand-offish and, after she had talked to him for a few minutes—I mean, I swear it was only five minutes or so, couldn’t have been that long—he went batshit fucking crazy. Saying he wasn’t interested and threatening to call the police for a harassment report.”

She took a swig out of her mysterious liquid, licked her peached lip-glossed lips and continued like it was an interrogation.

“Laura ran off crying, of course. I mean, she wasn’t trying to sleep with the guy, just thought he was cute and—you know—wanted to talk to him or whatever. But after that she swore off guys for months. I think he even gave her a bruise from holding her arm so tight…” The other girls had drifted off into other conversations, about senior trips after prom, sales at the Beauty is Pain Supply Store, and whatever other topics were used to captivate their small attention spans as short as twizzlers.

“He never told me that,” I murmured, my hands between my knees. She nodded and sucked her teeth, as if her sympathy was genuine. 

“So we had just assumed that you two were together, because of the scene Mack had caused with Laura. I’m surprised you haven’t heard about it.” She tilted her head like a cross-eyed puppy, and licked her lips to savor the bubbly beer foam. “So…you’re single?” Her eyes trailed along the lining of my lace top.

I stood up, disoriented and dazed, refocusing my eyes over the shimmering pool, noticing the full moon bouncing off the complexions of people I had grown up with my whole life. They were all smiling with sunshine emitting from their teeth. Pierced goths rubbed shoulders with jocks, and I felt at ease when I saw all of them partake in routine high school shenanigans such as pool parties like these. There were groups of sweaty guys, already drunk on the thought of this night, lingering around a beer keg, waiting for someone to yell chug

Observing this movie-like night, I wanted nothing to do with Mack’s scene any longer. His life seemed suddenly sad to me, as I stood around people who were peaking and seething with the flourishing nostalgia simmering between their euphoric bodies. 

I spent the rest of the night wavering between doorways, lingering around talking topics and hijacking smoking circles, partaking in whatever I could that night to feel unreal. To feel like my body wasn’t ever mine, that I was just on the brink of consciousness, and whatever I had felt that night was a feeling that wasn’t my own. It was a borrowed, shared melancholia. A betrayal that had unmasked itself from a boy I thought I knew better than I had ever gotten to know myself. 

I don’t know what melted into my system that night, what I boiled or shot up or snorted was a topic of its own. It had done the trick, softened into my skin and spread over every cell in my body, numbing whatever felt sinister, evil and cruel. Whatever made me forget those hazy memories of that stranger with the pink papers. 

I stumbled out of the house, tripped over my vans that were falling apart at the poorly sewn seams. My smile was permanently upturned, I tried to moosh down the lines of my face to create something that merely resembled a neutral expression, but failed as I walked straight into a dusty BMW. 

It was sometime between three and four in the morning, where the earth was warming and the party-goers were storming out into the dusted sullen streets. I had laid, sprawled my hands against the doors of the car, feeling every physical crevice and imagining a shaky wave slithering between the cracks. My legs were giving out, and only then did I notice the droplets on my bruised knees. It had begun to rain.

My skin was laden with mud, I must have trudged through it at some point during the night. I followed the crowd of people rushing into their crappy cars, my hands were dry and smelled of soy. My teeth felt brittle, rubbed against my tongue. And miraculously, my stubbed toes had led me to the back end of Mack’s car. Cerulean blue and pattered with the soft fall of sultry summer rain. 

I climbed into the backseat, looked at the passing of faces that had morphed with the blurry, wet glass. I felt sad, inexplicably so, as the warm bodies of teenagers fled from around me, like numerous herds of cattle stomping off into the distance. 

Just as my eyes were closing to the harsh patter of raindrops against metal, Mack threw open the door, looked at me with anguish in his battered blue eyes. My head rested against the window opposite of him, and without speaking, without pestering me about where I had been or scolding me for breaking my year-long break of hardcore drugs, he threw his damp body on top of mine.

If I was anyone else in this party, I would have thrown his lanky arms off of me. I would’ve felt the needle scars up and along the fragile skin on his bones and ran out of the car and away until my chest was breathing borrowed air. Until my throat burned and clawed for fresh air and my legs broke and sunk into dusty potholes. I would have kneeled his nuts and pulled his hair until he gave way under my touch. I would have tightened and cupped until he had succumbed underneath my fingertips and melted into the muggy seats beneath our steaming bodies.

But I didn’t do all the things I wish I could have done. Mack was just a boy, fragile and broken in his juvenile ways, and I was a girl morphed as a crumbling woman. 

And so, on the day of Charlie’s summer blow-out, as the last of our innocent youth was dissolving into the humid air, stained with sunrise watercolors, Mack had bore into me between the dwindling hours of tomorrow. My innocent virtue fading with the night, as the golden sun rose and flickered between brewing storm clouds.


 

Jovi Aviles is a teen writer from Northern New Jersey. She is an aspiring author with big goals. Her work has been recognized by PWN Teen and Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Her favorite authors are Sylvia Plath and Donna Tartt, whose work inspired her to start writing. She is often found writing in her bedroom and listening to 90s music.

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