The Best Time of Day

Nicole Barrera

Morning is the best time of the day. There is always inspiration in the air. When I wake up the sun hits my face in such a way, that if I took a picture of myself I could show the beauty of my plain brown eyes. I’m not a real photographer, but the morning always makes me feel like I could be.
I get ready in a matter of minutes, my clothes are the same every week. Monday through Thursday I have about four to five t-shirts that I cycle through, and then Friday is spirit day so I always wear our school colored t- shirt. Since it’s Friday I don’t have to worry about clothes today. Standing in front of my mirror I look at my wet hair and run my fingers through it. I remember how I had to beg my parents to get bangs. I was the only girl in school who didn’t and the boys always called me five head. It wasn’t until I cut my own hair in the 5th grade and did it so poorly that my parents were forced to take me to the salon.
Ever since I’ve taken very good care of my hair. Once I detangle my hair with my fingers then I switch to a brush. Dad walks out of his room which is just across the hall. He is fixing his collar as he heads downstairs, and his cologne wafts into my room making my head hurt. I fix my hair and leave it down as I clip a bow on the right side of my head and go downstairs.
“Buenos días,” my dad says to my grandma as he grabs a cup of coffee and a Concha.
“Buenos días, Ignacio,” my grandma says from the kitchen shuffling to the living room to take a seat. I come down the stairs. I look around the bottom floor and see my dad sitting at the table to my right, and to my left I make eye contact with my Grandma who is sitting down.
“Buenos días abuela,” I say as I make it down the stairs. She looks over and nods her head. I turn my head the other way and see my dad finishing his coffee with only crumbs on his plate, where the Concha used to be. He looks at me and waits for me to greet him first. I’ve learned my lesson from the last time I didn’t say good morning to everyone. “Buenos días,” I mutter to my dad. He nods as he gets up to leave his dishes in the sink. I head over to my backpack, and the books inside make my biceps flex as I lift from the straps. I must have at least thirty pounds of books in there, or maybe I’m just weak.
The jingle from my dad’s keys signal that we’re about to head out. My dad has always been a punctual man. He doesn’t like to be late to work, so if I wanted a ride to school I had to leave on his time. I’ve gotten used to it because it’s been this way since middle school. Getting up early became routine and whenever I was late dad would get really mad, and when he gets mad at me he just ignores me. I hate it so much; because, he’s very stubborn. My mom tells me that I’m just like him in personality, and I feel like that’s an insult. We get along well, or at least I think we do.
I hear the jingle from the keys again as he walks in front of me. I snap back into reality and grab a sweater, since it looks like it might rain later. I can smell the moisture in the air as he opens the door. He’s at the threshold, and does the sign of the cross then mumbles a few words and steps out with his right foot forward.
I remember a few years ago when he was dropping me off at school, he told me this was the most important part of the day and I needed to make it routine in the morning. He said that I needed to do it every morning to be safe in the outside world. Back then I was very impressionable, so being the God fearing child I was I would mimic him perfectly. I always made sure he would see me do it correctly, waiting for him to turn around and lock the door as I outstretched my right leg.
Lately, however, the action became more habitual than purposeful. If there is a God out there, I’m sure he’d be okay if I put my left foot out instead of my right one first. I walk out with my left foot, passing my dad and heading towards the car. He unlocks the car door and I sit down with my backpack in between my legs. I see him walk like a man with a ruler glued to his back. He gets in through the driver’s side.
I love days like today when the sun only came out to wake me up, but then gets covered by the clouds that look so plump. I always thought it was difficult to cool off but it’s always easy to get warm, so winter was always my favorite season. Our drives to school are always a little awkward because we don’t initiate conversations with each other. I’m still working on it, but today he caught me off guard. “Did you finish applying to the local university here?” His voice pierced my core. I still have not told him that I applied out of state. He didn’t look at me, but kept his gaze forwards on the road even though we were are at a red light.
“Well yeah,” I said trying my best to get the next half out. I try my hardest to keep talking and just praying that the rest would come out. My hands are messing with the frayed strings hanging off my sweater, “but I also applied to others you know.” I winced, that’s not very Straightforward I think to myself.
“What other ones?” He is always so direct. Never giving me time to think my answers through. I make some up in my head but I really want to throw out New York.
“Well some other ones in California,” I say as I look over at the radio that was playing music at a soft volume, acting as the white noise between my thoughts and my dad’s reactions. He turns the volume all the way down to zero.
“Where in California? How far away? Be specific.” His fingers go from the dial on the radio to the steering wheel again. Even though it’s cold outside I can feel the heat emanating from me, and making the car warmer. My attention is on this frayed string, now wrapped around my finger, cutting off circulation. I pull my finger hard and hear the satisfying break of the string.
“I mean does it matter how far it is? Shouldn’t it being a good school be good enough for you?” I look out my side of the window. Then I look at the string still wrapped around my finger.
“Como que does it matter?” His voice mocked mine as he repeated my words. I could tell he was angry. He would do this all time, but I swear he only did it with me. “When I ask you a question you answer it.” He is done with my games. Not that I am doing it on purpose, but he is getting worried. Worried that I have aspirations outside of his.
I am still confused from his voice change, so I face forward and try to answer as clear as possible, so as not to upset him too much. “I did apply here but I also want to go to New York.” My voice was soft. If he didn’t mute the radio there would have been no way I would have been heard. There was a long pause. There was no white noise to help me feel more relaxed. The deafening silence makes my ears feel like I am in the middle of a flight, while my body shakes with turbulence that is threatening my safety.
“What do you mean? You don’t want to live with us anymore?” He spoke in a tone to match mine, soft and quiet. I actually never get to hear this one too often. It always catches me off guard. “Did we not give you everything?” He continued, raising his voice a bit more. I know I am throwing a wrench in his plan of living comfortably and me taking care of him and my mom. That’s just his traditional way of thinking, but I want to see what I’ve been missing.
“Me wanting to get a higher education somewhere else, doesn’t mean you guys have not given me everything.” I say this a little louder. I try not to yell, but I need to stand up for myself. “Besides, I want to pursue Photography. I think I can be really good at it.”
“Your brother didn’t leave us. He did everything right here.” He said as he started talking with his hand. His finger is pointing to the floor to emphasizing the ‘right here’. “Since when did you want to do this Photography? That’s a waste. You’re too smart to be making such a dumb decision.” His words are jabs to my heart and soul. Every sentence that comes out of his mouth is another round of boxing I have to endure. At this point all I can do is wait for someone to ring the bell.
I hate being compared to my brother, he’s older by 9 years and we are definitely not the same person.“He wanted something different. He’s okay staying here, but I’m not.” This time I looked over at him. “I can do it.” I somehow manage to get this out. At this point I’m wondering if perhaps there is a God I can ask to help me make my dad understand my potential.
“I don’t want to talk about this anymore. If you choose to leave you won’t get any help from me.” He drops his volume back down. Lighting flashes in the distance, and after three seconds comes the crashing of thunder. The rain falls softly at first, then harder. I look away confused about what just happened, the feeling not yet hitting me. We arrive at the school’s drop off point. I am always here early so there is no one outside other than the security guard that stays outfront.
I look out my door and see the rain falling down hard, “I love you dad.” This is my final blow before I am saved by the bell. I open the door and get out, with my backpack and sweater in my hands. I close the door, not waiting to hear a response, and hear him drive off behind me.
I stand in the harsh rain and look down to see the frayed string on my finger. Still wrapped and clinging to my wet finger, and I remember everything that happened in the car. I now feel an overwhelming wave of emotion come over me, enveloping me, smothering me. I take the string and throw it on the ground with the force of a baseball pitcher trying to get a quick strike. I watch as it gets swept away by the rain. I watch it drift away, into the street, until I lose sight of it.
I am soaking wet. I feel heavy, yet I walk to a bench inside the school. I sit down and lean forward with my arms and sweater cushioning my head. I imagine someone taking my picture right now, and getting an award winning shot of a person that no longer knows what to do. I would be giving someone their morning dose of inspiration. They will realize that they have a knack for Photography. At least someone else can.
If mornings are the best time of the day, today might be the worst day of my life. The rain continues to fall, giving me a new white noise to focus on. My head is turned to the right, and the noise of the rain is lulling me to sleep. The rain hushes everyone as it guides the people inside. I watch them all pile in as I forget that I’m soaked and slowly close my eyes. Hopefully I can have another try at the morning, this time I’ll put my right foot forward.

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