Humming to herself, she sat up out of her bed, allowing the fluffy gray pillows to fall to the ground. She pushed aside the quilted comforter that laid ever so delicately on the bed to reveal not regular sleepwear, but instead faded denim jeans with a hole in the back pocket. She paused for a moment thinking of the day when she came home with the rip from climbing trees. Her mom had insisted that she patch up the shorts or throw them away, but she refused. She felt the tear carried a part of her life and that she didn't want to patch over a memory. She guessed that was another difference between her and her mother. These days it seemed they disagreed over a lot of things. She just didn’t fit in with her family. Her older sister, Camilla, was the perfect daughter, always got As, did everything she was asked of, dressed proper and engaged in adult conversations. But what's the fun in that? She had concluded that her sister had no free spirit. She bent down and laced up her light yellow high tops littered with paint stains in varying colors. Camila had called them atrocious. She didn’t care. She loved them dearly. She stood up swiftly then straightened out the crease in her burgundy “Yellowstone National Park” graphic tee. She pulled her blonde hair into a sloppy ponytail that wilted on top of her head, giving it a final tug and pulling her unruly golden locks into place. She then grabbed her backpack and headed for the window.
Cracking open the window, she felt the August breeze hit her just slightly. The hot, sticky air from the daytime had shifted into the perfect summer night’s breeze. She took in the view of the skyscrapers and heard the faint honks of the midnight taxis. Midnight in the city had always been underrated, she decided. Maybe that's because it didn’t have all the glamour, the hustle and bustle that is expected. She slipped through the window, shutting it gently behind her and climbed down the fire escape, allowing the feeling of the cool metal to guide her down ten stories until her feet hit the pavement. She began to walk down the street, passing by the few stragglers still out. She passed dimly lit pizza places, groups of friends who stumbled along after having maybe too much fun, and suitcases of business people catching a red-eye. She kept walking, taking in all the humdrum sights that she had such a deep appreciation for. That was the one thing her mom praised her for, always boasting to friends: “Rubina has an eye for art, I’m telling you. She finds beauty in anything—even that old coffee filter.” She shuddered at the use of her full name. It was much too formal and completely unfitting. She was named after her great-great-grandmother. She preferred to be called Ruby, and everyone she knew called her that. Except for her mother, of course, who grimaced at the name, claiming it was too childish. That always perplexed Ruby—she was a child. Since when did everyone get in such a rush to grow up anyway? To Ruby, growing up just meant losing the part of yourself that was most spontaneous and unique. She knew it sounded cliché, but she didn’t want to grow up and conform to the mechanical world that the rest of society lived in.
After about 30 minutes, she had finally reached the outskirts of the city. She stopped and looked around until she heard a familiar voice.
“Ruby! Psst! Over here!”
She looked up and there he was. He had on a matching backpack, cargo pants with an excess amount of pockets, and his lucky silver dollar around his neck. She raced up to him, and he smiled, the moon bouncing off his hazel eyes. He ran his hand through his dark mess of hair that almost covered his eyes.
“You ready?” he asked eagerly.
“So ready,” she responded.
He grinned. “Okay, so take my hand, and trust me.”
She rolled her eyes before replying, “And why would I do that? Remember the last time you told me to trust you?” She motioned down to the scar on her knee from a biking incident gone wrong.
He shoved her playfully. “Oh, come on, Rubes. You love that scar; now let's go!”
She sighed and grabbed his hand. The next thing she knew, they were running—no, flying. The world around her became a daze. She felt the ground underneath her transform from hard concrete into green grass, fresh from the rain yesterday. After about the blurriest 10 minutes of her life, they stopped. She had to catch her breath for a moment before looking up to see where they were.
They were on a hill outside the city. She looked behind her and saw the skyline of all the buildings coming together to form a modern day Starry Night. She could see all the life that was embedded in the lights of the city and couldn't break her gaze.
“Woah! It's incredible.”
Jackson chuckled. “I know Rubs, but I didn’t drag you 30 minutes out of town at 1 am to show you a skyline you can see from any window in New York.” He paused and smiled to himself at how easily fascinated she was. “Ruby, turn around.”
She shrugged, “Okay, but I don’t care what you say. That view is breathtaking, and I think you ought….”
She turned around, coming face-to-face with a sky covered in the brightest, most brilliant stars she had ever seen. Her sapphire eyes grew to the size of saucers. Living in the city, she had never experienced anything so natural, so raw. To add to the sight, a streak of light beamed across the sky, and then another.
Ruby turned to face him: “I-i-it’s, I-I….”
He smirked. “I know.”
He took her hand again, and they laid down, backs against the damp, plush earth, facing up and letting the night sky consume their vision. Jackson pulled out his old music speaker and started playing their favorite artists like the Bag Raiders. He started pointing out different constellations, and they laughed and talked, just basking in the glory that was that moment. After a while, Ruby stood up and began to dance, run, and jump around on the grass. Not long after, Jackson got up and joined her. They probably looked insane, but neither cared.
It was that night, that view, that moment amidst the laughter and music, illuminated by the stars above, when Ruby experienced true enlightenment for the first time.
And although she knew she would have to go home at some point, go back to the mundane world of her mother and eventually grow up and assimilate into the world she resented, Ruby was okay with that. Because she would always have right now. And right now was pretty damn great.