I had already cried that night, but now I gasped for air filled with laughter as the tears ran down my cheek. We surrounded each other, me and the people I loved most — from the boy in the strapless dress to the girl in sweatpants that pooled at her feet. The goodbyes had rung through the air, but our bubbling giggles had soon smothered any traces of sadness they’d left.

We piled into the car, with the promise of bubble tea and fries filling our veins and pumping us with adrenaline. I ended up in the back, a shoulder pressed against mine and a leg slung across my lap as the music began to blast, bass pumping and screams of “fuck yeah!” and “I love this song!” filling the car.  We circled through downtown, the sunroof open and the windows down. There was a charge through the air; graduation was tomorrow, finals the next week, but now was just the time to live

I was floating, high on a cloud of pure dopamine and the rush of air in my face. There was a pleasant heat that surrounded me from the bodies pressed against me and the sticky air of the summer night. My heart beat in a rhythm off-kilter to the song, but there was something in the way it clashed that untangled the knots in my gut.

Suddenly she was through the roof, torso waving like a blowup in the wind and shrieking into the open air. I’m certain that passersby gave her strange stairs, but she couldn’t seem to care, waving her arms and letting her hair blow back behind her. She seemed to glow, streetlamp-gold light enveloping her and her laughs cutting through the music that shook the small car. 

We pulled up to a stoplight, laughter still filling the air around us, and a sudden rap came through the shotgun window as a man on a bike, no, a police officer on a bike, had pedaled up to the car and fixed us all with a stern gaze, his helmet riding comically low on his brow. The girl retreated from out of the roof as he moved his eyes to her, eyebrows raising as she slowly lowered the window. 

“Do you guys think that that was safe?” He asked, leaning his overly reflective bike to the side and placing a foot on the ground. I exchanged a look with another one of the backseaters, and we had to put a hand over each other’s mouths to stifle our laughter. 

“No,” said our driver, voice slightly shaking due to a covered smile. “I’m sorry, Officer, it won’t happen again.” We made eye contact in the rearview mirror, and I bit down on my lip. 

“I sure do hope so,” he replied, pedaling away as we all burst into laughter, even more tears spilling out as we clutched our guts. A hand slapped my knee and I leaned my head against the cool leather of the seatback before me, howling and snorting because it felt like the funniest thing I’d ever seen. Choked out gasps of “we just got pulled over by a bike cop” fell from all of our lips, and someone reached to text a group chat as the light turned green and we continued on in the night. 

The moon held high and bright as we danced around a parking structure, meaningless arguments about who would sit where tossing back and forth, “my legs are longer,” “I’m a senior,” “fuck you both I call dibs.” The air felt lighter and we would occasionally fall into giggles, laughing about nothing and looking up at the stars, the nighttime breeze cooling our flushed cheeks and filling our tired lungs. We pulled each other close, limbs tangling and hair a mess, as we watched the world go by, content in our little circle that truly felt like home.