“Headlights” by Sophia Sun


(Silver Key, memoir) 

I step in, turn the key, and feel the engine rumble under my feet. I pull my seat close to the wheel, holding on while tucking my elbows. Life in the Midwest taught me to hide from the icy needles that the Wisconsin night brings. The engine turns and the tires roll, crunching fresh snow in the otherwise still air.


I narrow my eyes at the beams cutting through the night. My vision flutters and my pupils run from the light, retreating into the whites of my eyes. I feel like Lin-Manuel Miranda stepping on stage as the spotlight swings and throws the audience into shadows; I can’t see the other driver but I know that he’s there. As if they are over-eager med students operating on their first cadaver, the lights desperately search for something to dissect in me. But the shine of my own headlights mingle with every oncoming ray, and my glossy windshield deflects the stray beams that aren’t trapped by my protective lights already. The oncoming spotlight only reveals my steady steering and the cheery glow of my headlights.


What the approaching headlights don’t see are the frayed ends of my shoelaces and the mess of my tangled earbuds. They don’t hear the dancing remnants of autumn under the cover of my hood. They don’t witness the grease from my bacon deluxe, smudged against the faux leather on the steering wheel. They don’t smell the faint odor of stale Starbucks lightly perfuming the air. They don’t hear the loose Nike golf balls in my trunk, rolling at every turn. They don’t feel the eternal kink in the side of my neck. They don’t remember the Polaroids of the Gulf of Mexico lost underneath the floor mats or the letter from my best friend, torn and stuffed behind a mess of receipts in the glove box. This light alone is not enough to breach my windshield. Not enough to shuffle through my playlist, not enough to see the size of my jeans, not enough to judge the pigment of my skin.


With every car that passes, my desire to discern the face behind the shadow subsides. The importance of forming an immediate opinion about the other diminishes. Like Newton’s law, we are two bodies in motion, drifting past each other, never crossing or colliding. Like positive ends of a magnet, our paths never need nor desire to obstruct one another. We are simply lights illuminating the way; separate, harmless, and passing no judgement.


The Scholastic Art Competition recognized Sophia Sun (’18) with a Silver Key for her memoir, Headlights.