Red Light City

April 1, 2017

“My dad calls it that because the stoplights change so quickly from green to yellow to red,” he said to me, pulling up to an intersection. “Like, if you blink, you’ll miss it.” His right hand hung limply over the top of the steering wheel as he turned to look at me sitting in the passenger seat.

We’d just finished his senior photography shoot and decided to stop by a local shake place/cafe I’d discovered during a pep rally I attended while I was still in high school.

The cafe was situated on the corner of the street, furnished with old wooden table sets, secondhand street signs and posters on one wall, shelves lined with jugs and tall shake glasses all the way to the ceiling on the other.

He told me that, only a few years ago, this town had just been one gas station, one daycare center, one elementary school, one stoplight, and underdeveloped roads without streetlamps. It was an intimately remote area, but you’d have to travel half a mile to find your next door neighbor outside of the town proper, but he called it home.

At the cafe, he and I sat atop the barstools while I absently prodded at the enormous scoop of vanilla ice cream hanging off the side of the jug of Coke.

He reminisced, realizing he’d be graduating high school soon. He told me his mom used to take him and his sister to the secondhand store to get clothes, and every Saturday, early morning, his whole family would go to the laundromat to do the week’s laundry. He told me when he started high school, he could’ve attended the private school his mom had in mind for him and his sister, but things happened and he ended up at the same high school as me instead.

I’m ever-grateful for it.

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