& all its broad history crossed out. an estimated travel time of thirty-six minutes to get home & the windshield swallowing up the tapering road, the sprawling hillside, California’s spine. summer stirs in the throat. from the backseat, I watch high tech company buildings & late night employees & reflective green guide signs made otherworldly by distance slide into darkness--in two hundred feet, exit right, and keep right—goldenrod
moon. tonight, the low moon cranes its neck over blackened concrete & a river of white headlights. a single star twitches above hills choked in brittle grass. we pick up speed. the landscape
picks up speed. everything washes away faster, with all the polish of a summer breeze—only minutes away from being tossed into flight. the pavement, smoothed over in speed. from the backseat, I lean my head against the window with my earbuds in, trying to chase a violin melody with my voice. all the sound dissolving in the stagnant car air. when I was little
I fell asleep every night to piano concertos that tasted like evening wind emanating from the radio my parents placed in my room. bars of orange streetlight, sectioned by the blinds, thrown in sharp relief against the wall. by the time I first heard the pieces again, years later, I’d forgotten all their names, the edges of the melodies so worn they seemed part-dream. the act of rediscovery almost as foreign. and the years, always flooding away faster. for now: the deepening blue sky fashioned around the highway the way an ocean meets the bay. how we still can’t seem to pull the scent of those sticky summer evenings off our skin.
Alena Zeng is a junior in high school from the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has been recognized by the National Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found playing the piano or singing in her local choir.