In middle school, I was in a friend group with all girls and sometimes I think that was the happiest I’ve ever felt and sometimes I think those were the best friends I’ve ever had.
We did everything together: went to Palm Springs, got ready for stupid dances, cried together, more often laughed together, and sang together.
Everything we could do together, we did.
I remember being so sad when they graduated and went off to high school because I was left behind without the people I have grown so close to. I was also sad because I knew that we would never be as close as we used to be. I was right.
After middle school, some of us went to public school, some of us went to the expected high school, some of us started at the expected high school and switched, and one of us didn’t even go to high school in the same town.
Fast forward three years, I am a sophomore and they are juniors. I knew we would be different, but not this different.
Don’t get me wrong, change isn’t always a bad thing. It’s just different, and, more than usual lately, it’s been scaring me.
I don’t want to lose my people, but sometimes i’m afraid I’ve already lost them .
Sometimes I worry about them a lot and sometimes a little less.
Sometimes I get sad when I hear one of them did something big I had no idea about.
Sometimes I make myself so nervous I start shaking.
Sometimes I realize how selfish I am, but, sometimes, most of the time, it all comes down to: I wish that in a room full of people, we would still go to each other first.
Thirteen years is a long time for a seventeen year old – and I have been here for thirteen years.
I’ll be honest there is certainly a dissociative sense of gladness that I’ll finally be seeing a change of scenery, a change in pace. It is easy to say, “God am I glad to be moving on,” it is easy to think that I’m ready and really don’t care all that much. It is easy to look at these past thirteen years and think of only the things I’m ready and willing to give up.
It is not easy however to look back on the past four years, the past seven, all the years and think of all that I’m leaving behind. It is not easy to leave with honesty, with neither hell nor rose tint. I won’t say that the past years, high school in particular were perfect – I have nothing to compare them to, I won’t say they were terrible either – they weren’t.
It’s odd to think about, even odder to try to put into words the sort of feelings I have about moving onto the next part of whatever future awaits me, because in part there is a sort of cold readiness to just leave but in equal part there is a desperate need to hold on, to dig my heals in, to continue to put my nose to the grindstone so I don’t feel the inevitable sense of loss.
It is undeniable that who I am is inescapably tied to these past years and I wonder everyday if I have the strength to untether myself from that. All my heart strings are tangled up and confused as to what to do in these last days – run as fast as I can home where I can rest and pretend like I’m already gone or stick around and grow melancholy realizing that it is the last time that I will be as I am where I am – realizing that these are the last moments for me to see my teachers as the teachers whose classes I used to know I would inevitably show up in again next year, sleep deprived and more than a little black-mooded.
Is it strange that I feel so much and nothing at all? Is it weird that I can’t find it in myself to reminisce like a bad made for TV movie with an even worse soundtrack? Is it weird that I can’t find the strength to tell my friends that I love them now in case we naturally fall into radio silence? Is it weird that I can’t find the ability to say thank you to the teachers who have built me?
I’m not sure how to put it all together. How to show the the people who deserve my thanks and love just how thankful I am and how much love I have for them. I’m not sure how to say goodbye to the place and people who have been my entire world for 76% of my life. Thirteen years is a lot of “stuff” and people to say goodbye to and I don’t think I’ll ever really be ready for that, but in three days I will have to anyway.
It is not a goodbye forever but it is a forever goodbye to the safety and essence of what those years have been.
I almost inevitably will cry June 1, I’m not ready for that. On June 1, even if I don’t say it outright, I hope that everyone from the past thirteen years understands that I am eternally thankful and that, selfishly, it may hurt me too much to try to say it to their faces.
So let me say it now, in the likely event that I can’t say it later:
Thank you for all the years, for the good, the mediocre, the not so good, for everything.
The light filtering into the kitchen was the type of gray-white light that made her glow like a goddess. She was fastidiously picking through a bowl of cereal for the fruit, too focused to really care about the food. He came and placed a hand on her shoulder, stilling her arm, he tiptoed his fingers across her collarbone to her other shoulder and pulled her in, his bicep laying gently across the top of her t-shirt, his hand idly playing with the hem of her sleeve.
It was still chilly outside and he could see a mist drifting by the window, the grass looked like blades of pure emerald. Rich and dark, sharp in comparison to the fogged and blurred weather. He glanced down into the grass under the window, he could just see the tale of a garden snake, he had begun to think of it as his pet this last month, disappearing into the grass. He tapped her twice on the arm.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the right words,” she hummed.
As the weather had warmed she had grown colder and colder. The spread of tingling embers that always started in her ribs and shoulders, that radiated out when he was near her, faded into cool pinpricks, like rain or snow. The clock had ticked out the final seconds: tick, mine; tock, mine; tick, mi– and then it was gone, the ticking of the clock was gone. They were no longer tied together, something no longer felt right.
So she found a way to say goodbye.
He knew he shouldn’t. But he did.
He couldn’t help it. He had to look at her one last time, to look back on her like he always had, if only he could have walked the road in time, he could have let the music of what tied them together play as a reminder that she was there, she was real, she was his. But he had to stop — look.
Today she was in white — she never wore white — mourning. She was frozen mid-stride, a raindrop stopped just upon impact with her nose. He reached out and hugged her fiercely, angrily. Wildfire’s searing nails dragged down every nerve in his body. If only he hadn’t looked. If only — he stared at her eyes: cool, unwavering, timeless. He bent down to her —
He was back in the doorway his back to her, turning away. He tried to spin back, feeling like reality had finally slowed to meet him. He turned just in time to watch helplessly as she slipped away, pulled by an unseen force.
She placed the mug in front of him, she was warm just looking at him, it had been like that since the beginning. She could still remember all the steps to the dance that got them here: all the cups of coffee, all the late night fry runs.
She could still remember what he was wearing the first time they had brushed hands and it felt like a powerline had hit her. He had been in a pair of well fit light-wash jeans and a plain white t-shirt, next to her heavy boots his were stylish and sleek.
She could remember the first time she realized that just looking at him could make her blush. Just seconds ago, she had been staring out the window at him thinking she was going to burn up just knowing that he was hers.
As she sat down though, everything ran cold, her blush fell from her face faster than a spring thunderstorm. It felt as if all her blood had sunk into her feet, leaving the rest of her shivering and pale. She looked away from him, a cold finger running down her spine. Her heart jumped as if just shocked back to life, sluggish and uncomfortable.
In an attempt to warm herself, she brought her mug to her lips and the steam felt cool. Looking over at him didn’t warm her; that molten flame in her chest was guttering. She pressed her lips together as she gently placed the mug back onto the table with a small tap.
She could feel the breath in her chest jump and stumble a little, it wasn’t the normal hitch she got being near him. She lifted her mug again and let the warming steam brush its hands, like his, across her cheeks and nose. She took another sip of her coffee — bitter. She looked up at him — sweet.
She put the mug down again, warmth returning to her fingers, wondering what he would look like come rainy season in the spring. Would he wear that pair of soft, fit-as-if-tailored-specifically-for-him jeans with the tear in the knees? Would he wear that black sweatshirt she so desperately had wanted to steal, would he wear the sleek black jacket, that she loved on him, over it all?
She didn’t know how they were going to reach that point, but she knew they would. Her heart beat a little faster just thinking about it, but then it skipped like it hadn’t quite been beating in rhythm. She was still cold.
He murmured something, pulling her out of her thoughts, “Hmmm?” She responded.
He looked bashfully introspective. She watched him glance up again, with a warm glow in his face, following the trails of steam, a spaceship, into space, finding her eyes in the dark of space, staring at him cooly, like frozen stars.
“I love you,” he whispered across the planet, with oceans of coffee, beneath them.
She blushed gently, the flame in her ribcage sparked and gained strength slowly, an ember being coaxed back into full warmth.
“I love you too,” she whispered back. An umbrella offered against the snow.
She grinned at him then, content to just look at him as the clock ticked away the seconds somewhere within the cafe. She watched the easy fluidness of his movements as he leaned forward to grab his coffee mug. She watched and painted the angles of his arms as he took a drink, she followed his gaze as he looked past the awning.
He was staring at the pale sun just beginning to show its face through the cloud layer, the snow persisted in small delicate wisps that turned to messy slush on the pavement. She couldn’t help but wonder what went through his head, as he watched the sun slowly appear as if dabbed into existence on a pale, gray background.
She looked away from him then, and looked back into the window of the cafe toward the clock that was adding up their time. Adding up the time that he was hers, another second, another minute, another hour, all hers.
She didn’t even need to look at him head-on to know how the light shining through the clouds lay on his face, making his skin look soft and downy; to know how the bridge of his nose, the center and peaks of his lips, his chin, the very tips of his eyelashes, his gently sloped forehead, and his cheekbones, sloped up, were all glowing with snowy light, like painted lines of adoration.
She looked at him then, at those lines of Olympian light tracing his face like her fingertips. He was looking at her, though, out of the corner of his eye, not at the sun, not out at the world in front of him, he was looking at her.
She placed a steaming mug in front of him on the chipped mosaic table. He could see her hips, just at table height and just below the bottom of her large jacket. As she moved to slide into her seat across from him, her scarf drifted away from her body, offering a silvery black contrast to the white atmosphere.
He looked up, taking advantage of the frozen moment. Just behind her, outside of the awning, the snow hung suspended and the people braving the weather were stopped mid-step, mid-word. The steam curling out of his mug was frozen, cloudy glass.
Thinking back in this pocket of non-time, he could not quite remember the steps he had taken to reach this point. How exactly had he begun a conversation between the two of them, or had he not started the conversation at all?
He could remember they had met in a pocket of Indian Summer, he could remember what song had been playing, “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” — Arcade Fire, he could remember what she had been wearing, a pair of cuffed denim shorts and a burnt-orange t-shirt, a messy ponytail and a pair of well worn sneakers. He couldn’t remember, however, most of the rest of it.
He started at her feet. She was wearing heavy-soled boots, that despite their size did nothing to make her feet seem clownish. Her socks barely peaked from the stiff tops, a light grey knit line-break between the black boots and the black jeans, undoubtedly worn over another layer. He could see her blue-black sweater peeking out below the hem of her jacket, flaring out a little bit.
He continued upward, taking in the puffy jacket that dwarfed her, her hand – frozen midway to her pocket. He paused just a second longer to take in the fall of the jacket, the stolen movement of her arms, the way that her fingers curled around her own mug, the uneven crescent moons of her fingernails.
How had he gotten here? How had he gotten to the point where he could just stare at her and that would be enough? How had he moved from point A to point B? From seeing her serve coffee in a small hole-in-the-wall cafe, to not wanting to miss a single minutiae?
He looked over the folds of her scarf, piled high on her neck, he watched the shadows fall rightly. He followed the fuzz of the scarf upwards to her neck where a flush had crept up toward her face. He followed her jawline from right to left. Her lips —
She slid into her seat and her scarf fell back into place against her torso. The snow fell, again. All the frozen mid-steps became the movement of the next. He jumped a bit, a shiver riding up his spine. The milky glass above his mug had once again become nothing but vapor. She brought her mug to her lips and stared out from the awning. Now he could see her breathing, there was a small furrow between her brows.
With time now moving he could feel it, a warmth spreading from his heart outwards, a soft tingle from his eyes was working its way down to his toes, while sparkishly light fingers wound around his shoulder blades and rib cage, he would stop time again just to enjoy the sight of her, to will her to understand everything he felt.
“You are everything,” he whispered, testing how it flew from him into the corporeal world.
“Hmmm?” She hummed.
His words, like ducklings pushed from a nest, fell into the mugs between them, unheard and on their own, paddling away from him. She turned to look at him. He was stunned. Her attention was like a blow to his chest. Her eyes, it was all in her eyes and the small grin that dimpled the left side of her face.
How did he get here? How could so much of him rely on her? He looked down at his mug, at the dark coffee there, the light steam curling out of it. Like coffee and steam: warm, rich, and velvety, that was how they were. Coffee and steam, energy and complement, she was warmth in the cold.
He looked up again, “I love you.”
His words this time flew gently across the mosaic table to land in her mug as she brought it up to drink again, to hopefully bring the flush back to her face.
It’s been a couple months, a lot has changed. In approximately 30 hours I will have to plunge headfirst into your world, ready or not.
I told you before that I have bent, folded, and shaved off the idiosyncrasies, made myself two dimensional, and now — now you’ve figuratively and physically slapped me in the face with a decision that has so many facets to it I don’t think it belongs in the three dimensional world.
Every time I try to settle my heart and think about this I feel ill. Like I can’t think straight, like I’m drowning.
Explain to me how you chose me, so that I may choose you. Explain to me how I can possibly know what I want. Explain to me how I can barely stand to look at the name of college, imagine myself at college, without feeling like I’m buried alive with fear of making the wrong decision and hating myself for it.
I feel as though I am still stuck as two dimensions and that this decision requires at least four dimensions to be safe but actually in reality somewhere around six.
I am in fact more terrified now, the future now rests in my hands, not yours. What if mine aren’t big enough, what if they shake too much, what if they go to pull the wrong lever?
I have never been so scared in my life. I am so incredibly scared to make a decision that I won’t be able to live with, that I will close a door that would have been perfect.
I don’t know what I’m going to do, the hours are passing by, I have finals and APs coming but all I can do is sit and stare into space wondering what the hell I’m going to do with myself. Which in turn makes me more nervous because if this is how I’m handling it how am I going to handle the actual stress of college?
I’m left with the ultimate feeling of: if I feel like I’m pulling apart at the seams now, college is going to break me, and I don’t want to be broken.
Everyone else seems so able to say: “F**k it this is where I’m going.” They seem so okay, I can’t see if they feel like they’re dying inside, they all seem impervious to the nerves and the fear that they won’t live up to what they have told themselves they can do.
I haven’t lived nearly as much life as you, college reader, so what do I have to decide with, a handful of microbes in my gut that feel like they’ve just gotten off the teacup ride ready to vomit?
I don’t know what to do, who to be? Do I have the strength to rise in adversity, to swallow up those things that would make me sink? Do I have it in me to carve out my own path and people? How do I decide between totally different things that pull on me the same?
So, college reader, I told you who I was, apparently you liked me and now here I am.
There was a certain amount of comfort to be had in overheating, he thought, it was a constant of summer and reminder that he was alive, he supposed.
Looking through the windowed roof of the day room with the comforting presence of her head on his stomach he couldn’t help but wonder at the heat, even indoors with the overhanging shade of the trees above the day room, it was stifling.
He felt her shift against his bottom rib on the left side, the small huff of breath that almost said: what to do? but then she settled back down and closed her eyes.
What to do indeed, heat washed over every thing in his head. It was sluggish and he watched the shadows on the panes of the roof sway with shadows from the trees that swayed lightly in the humid breeze. What to do?
They were wasting time he knew, but he couldn’t bring himself to move. He let his hand idly bush through her hair, burning up from the sunlight it had absorbed. He was glad she had stuck around, it was a good feeling.
When she was around he could pretend it didn’t feel like he was falling apart. Laying there on the floor in the heat it felt like the brittle glue holding him together had melted again into place, whole.
In the sun it was perfect, her hand rested lightly on his ribs, the knuckle of her middle finger skimming the patch of t-shirt over his heart. Time was passing by him at an alarming rate, it made his heart race — there wasn’t enough time to begin with, why was he squandering it?
A bell sounded from further in the house and his blood recoiled, the hand in her hair tensed and pulled at the strands, he could hear footsteps approaching. It had reached the hour, he should get back to work but his hand stayed in her hair.
He placed his other hand over her upturned one on his chest and closed his eyes, sunlight warming his eyelids.
It was oppressively hot but that was okay for him, it was okay for her and the footsteps receded almost as soon as they were heard.