Before I get into the nitty gritty of it, I just want to thank every single one of my followers, and anyone who ever liked a post. It really gives me the confidence and push to actually sit down and write. I’m just a stranger on the internet, and if someone goes out of their way to show they like what I’m doing, that feels good. So this post is really directed at all of you who clicked like, or decided to follow me on this adventure.
I’ve been grappling with writing recently, where every time I sit down to write I just… don’t. Most days I don’t even make it to a blank document to even begin and I tell myself that I am wayyy too busy for the stuff right now. But I’m not busy. The truth is I’m just sad at the state of my life. And with sadness comes great responsibility… wait no, that’s power. And it feels as if I have no power over my life. You know what the problem is, though? I KNOW that I have all the power. All of it comes within me. Do you even know how annoying it is having a bad day when you’re as self aware as I am?
First world problems, amiright?
Anyways, even though I haven’t been writing writing, I have been writing down topics. I’ll be minding my own business and a topic will just come to me andI write it down to explore at a later time. It’s nice, because I have a backlog of topics that I’m interested in pursuing, but annoying because I keep writing them in their own document and now I’m hit with a bunch of untitled documents that I have to click into separately to find out what’s contained within.
But this specific one has been niggling me the longest, because I’m getting on in years (I’m seeing thirty in the distance!). I just thought I would be more together by now, in so many ways. The best years of your life. What does that really mean?
Who’s to say what the best years of your life are? Someone who peaked in high school? College?
Have you ever had someone tell you to enjoy high school because they’re the best years of your life? Honestly, I haven’t, but if I had I bet the person would have been a cheerleader, queen bee, the head of the school. Needless to say, I was not any one of those. Let us side track to the sob story that can totally be remade into a hallmark film.
I was perceived as ‘goth’ and for good reason. I hated being there, felt like an outsider, and leaned into my given image by drawing skulls and hands coming out of a grave captioned ‘back from the dead’.
But even if those had been the best years of my life, how sad would that be? Hopefully I’ll live a long, healthy life, and if those were my best years then that would mean it’s all downhill from the very beginning. It’s not even the first quarter! Just because life seems to drag by when you’re younger and zoom by when you’re older, doesn’t mean that time is different. A year is a year regardless of age, until proven otherwise.
So, if high school isn’t the best years of your life, then, is college? What, a time when you’re so broke all you can eat is the classic ramen and you’re so tired and haven’t had a normal amount of sleep in what feels like months? Yeah, you make friends that are great, and sometimes last a lifetime, but I still wouldn’t want to peak when there are still so many years ahead of me.
The truth is, I never want to ‘peak’. I want each year to be a new experience, and bring about fantastic things. I never want to stop and say, ‘Well, I suppose this is as good as it gets,’ because then what am I living for?
So now that I’ve debunked the phrase ‘The Best Years Of Your Life’, I can tell you to just not waste any of them. HA, easier said than done. But I think my biggest regrets that I have in life are looking back and thinking about how much more I could have accomplished during times when I had less responsibilities, or more money, or more friends, and opportunities for adventure came a dozen a minute.
The truth is, I’ve been suffering a lot with that this year because of the pandemic. I’ve had wayyyy too much time to myself, too much time to think and ponder and get in my own head about stuff. And sometimes my head can be a truly terrifying place. I’m working on it, but why does my brain always jump to worst case scenarios and play horror movies for me when I’m not paying attention? Am I the only one? Please tell me I’m not.
But I’ve realized looking back at those times that I always thought it would just get better. Naturally. Like, one day I would wake up and transform from a caterpillar into a butterfly without any of that hard work of breaking out of the cocoon. But then time went on and it just wasn’t happening. I was still in the same place as I was years ago and I had to take a good, hard look at myself.
Oooh, this reminds of a great analogy. Harry Potter, anyone? Skip this paragraph if you’ve never read it (or just read it!). But recall in Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry watches from the trees, waiting to see who casts the patronus and saves his and Sirius’s life. He waits, and he waits, until he realizes no one is coming and he has to do it himself. It’s not a bad analogy, eh?
So here I am, years and years later from the little girl who dreamed of publishing a book, and yet nowhere close to accomplishing that (well, I did write a novel! I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but I’m not going to allow myself to be proud two years after writing a first draft when I haven’t put any effort into the editing process and the consequent next steps). I’m closer to some of my fitness goals, so I can relish in those accomplishments. The truth is, I’m really not a complete failure. I guess I just thought I would have more of life figured out by now, and I’m surprised that I don’t have a fancy job making bank and driving a nice car. I’ve just kind of given up on myself and my dreams, thinking that they’ll happen one day but then being surprised that they haven’t happened yet when I haven’t done anything at all to get there.
I’ve just been wasting every day by not taking a tiny step in the direction of the person that I want to be. And that’s how to waste the best years of your life. Every day is the best, and then the next day is better, and the next day is even better. But if you don’t do something that counts for your life, that makes you happy, that brings you joy, that takes you towards that future and doesn’t keep you stagnant in a smelly, wet, pond of nothing, then of course it’s going to be a waste. I’m sounding intense now, but that’s only because I’m trying to motivate myself as much as you to get off of my butt and take steps towards doing things that can make me the person that I so long to be. That I’m truly dying to be, because every day is a closer step towards death and I’m making moves that will push me towards the end, but where I can look back and say, YES. I’m PROUD of who I am, of the risks I took, of all my accomplishments, and yes, of my failures as well. Because if we failed, at least that means we tried. And that means it was not a waste.
The rest of the weekend flew by, with Brooke avoiding talking to me after the failed pasta lunch. She wasn’t sure what was wrong with me and I figured she wanted to ask but was keeping to herself. It was the first time I was excited to go back to school, to change and be a better person. Mom said if I wanted to be there early on Monday morning I could get a ride into the city with her and Dad so I packed everything up which wasn’t a lot and carefully put my pills I had wrapped in tissue into the front pocket of my backpack. I was going to use them as soon as I got back, that night in fact. I was going to study hard and finish the paper that I was supposed to do over the weekend but I was too distracted to do, and generally be a better human. I was nervous about what I would say to Jenny when I got back. She was sure to be there since she told me before she left that her returning flight was for Sunday night, and I knew she would try to get me to go to a party with her. I was determined to refuse, I would beg off sick if I had to.
Mom and Dad waved goodbye to me, too lost in their own business to realize that I was so distracted by my own problems I didn’t even hug them goodbye. It was all for the best, the quicker I got away from my family and the people who could read me, the quicker I got this whole ordeal over with. Once I had the grades and no incriminating evidence (read: pills) then this whole thing would be done. I dragged my backpack, made heavier by the fact that Mom had stuffed a ton of leftovers in there, to my mercifully empty room. I could tell that Jenny had been back already, the place smelled like her after a shower with her perfume in the air. I figured she was seeing friends, or getting breakfast. It was actually much earlier than I thought and I was surprised that she was out at this time but figured that maybe she had slept out at some guys room last night. Although why she wouldn’t want to take advantage of her own room was beyond me. I lay down on the bed staring up at the ceiling. I had pictures on the wall next to me of Brooke and I, pictures of us doing fun things, having adventures, being sisters. Pictures of us laughing at nothing, sitting on the back porch and looking up at the stars. I missed her more than I had the past couple of months and I think that was because of the big secret I was keeping from her. I stole from my best friend. Was there a way I could be absolved of my guilt?
Class started in a half hour and I was determined not to be late. I didn’t need to eat and so, like the first day of classes, I made my way to the building early so I could be the first one waiting in a prime seat.
Randy was there already, no surprise there, but he did raise his eyebrows at my presence.
“Thought you gave up on passing,” he said to me nonchalantly. I noticed today his shirt had another sarcastic comment with the words in big across his chest: May Your Life Be As Cool As You Pretend It Is On Facebook.
“Yeah, I’m gonna give it another go,” I said back, not really interested in having a conversation with him. Apparently he felt differently.
“How was your Thanksgiving? You went home?”
I sighed. I guessed this is what happened when you arrived to class early. “It was good. Yeah, I did. You?”
“I was here. At the big Thanksgiving thing the RA’s did. It was OK. RiRi dressed as a chicken.”
I couldn’t help a snicker. “What I wouldn’t give to see that.”
“I actually have a picture, here,” he drew out his phone and showed me. “She’s pretty awesome, no? Plus her parents offered to bring her home for the holiday but she said her job was to be here with us and make sure the kids who couldn’t go home still had a good time.”
I was nodding along with him. Everyone loved RiRi. People started trickling in slowly, still ten minutes left before Professor Bowmen would make his entrance. Everyone was in this hushed state as if in a collective hangover. Randy went back to his book and I looked around at everyone, wondering what went on last night to make everyone so groggy.
“Hey! You’re back!” Jenny herself bounced into the room and took up a seat next to me. “Why are you sitting here it’s all the way in the front and next to him.” Her head gave an obvious roll towards Randy.
I was embarrassed at her rudeness. Had I never noticed before how cruel she was to people more unpopular than her? Or maybe I just hadn’t cared.
“Jenny,” I kept my voice down hoping she would do the same. “I just want to try to listen and pass my classes this semester. I don’t want to fail.”
Jenny scoffed. “So just do what I do.” She looked around meaningfully, making sure no one was paying attention. “I have a guy. I-” I stopped her right there. I already stole my sister’s medication that she actually really needed in order to study for my classes. I wasn’t going to risk getting kicked out just because Jenny didn’t want me to be a party pooper.
“Jenny, I’m not doing that. That’s grounds for expulsion, it’s not worth it.”
She shrugged. “I didn’t come here to work hard. I worked hard in high school so I could come to college and have a good time.”
That really made no sense but I refrained from saying anything to her. Where was her future in that? What was she planning on doing? I had never asked her before since it was a rude thing to say but maybe she was coming into money or an inheritance and that was her plan. Or marry rich. She was from the south, that could be something they did there.
I shrugged back at her. “Ok, so good luck to both of us then.” I turned back to face the room as Professor Bowmen dramatically closed the door with a bang and quickly began. Jenny faced the front of the room as well and avoided my eyes. I could tell she was mad at me but there was no reason for her to be. Just because I didn’t want to break any rules doesn’t mean I needed to be penalized for it. The class dragged on so slowly with her sitting next to me, darting glances at me every couple of seconds that could kill. What had she been expecting? A partner in crime? It was distracting to say the least, and I continued looking forward trying not to pay her any attention. I was going to try to get my room switched before the next semester. This couldn’t go on.
The class was finally dismissed and I made my way to the cafeteria, trying to get ahead of the crowd of lunch goers. Jenny went the other way, I assume to some guy’s room to make out while I bought myself a sandwich and sat down.
“Mind if I join?” Oh no. It was Randy. While I felt embarrassed about the way Jenny had spoken about him in class, that by no means meant I now wanted to be friends with the guy.
“I just remembered something I need to do,” I said, wrapping my sandwich up hastily and making a quick exit. I didn’t look back, not wanting to see him looking forlornly after me. I promised my dark self that I would be better and the occasion came straight away.
I pushed my way out the big glass doors to sit outside, even though I knew it was freezing. I took that to my advantage. I assumed no one would follow me. I sat down at a table all the way out of sight of the cafeteria’s windows and reopened my sandwich that was now unappealing. I grappled with the idea of taking a pill. It was just one. It would help me get through the rest of the day. Carefully, I brought out my stash from where I had it in my backpack, giving a cautious and obvious look around to make sure that no one noticed. I swallowed and grabbed my sandwich as a chaser. I nibbled at it slowly for some energy when someone sat down at the other end of the table.
I bristled immediately. There were so many empty tables, why did this person have to go choose mine? I remembered my unfortunate resolve to be a nicer person and took a deep breath and turned to look at them.
“Hello,” I said, rather unenthusiastically. A guy around my age turned to look at me with surprise. He looked around as if expecting to see someone else behind him to whom I must be referring to and I laughed degradingly.
“No, no, I’m actually talking to you,” I assured him. He had the most fascinating blue eyes and was wearing a get up that could only be described as ‘victorian’. A simple dress shirt that billowed in the wind and tight slacks with a fur jacket thrown over it. It was interesting to say the least but it suited him, with his loose curls all over his head and lanky body.
“I’m sorry,” he said, in a slight accent that I couldn’t quite place. “I thought you were referring to someone else. How do you do?” He held out his hand politely for a shake, and I grasped it, surprised at how warm it was when it was so cold outside.
“I’m Parker Palmer, Freshman.”
“Sam Ellis.. Clark,” he responded giving a tilt of his head it
I thought about going back to my sandwich that was now getting stale. Sam Ellis was looking at me pretty intensely though as if he wanted to talk. I wasn’t sure what to say to him though. I just wanted to go up to my bed and go to sleep, but I was sure I would bump into Jenny and I wasn’t ready for that yet. Besides, I had a class in one hour and with my new resolution I couldn’t be late.
“I actually have to work on this paper. Did you take Professor Bowmen’s class by any chance?” I might as well get his help on my homework if he was sticking around.
He nodded quickly. “Yeah, totally. Why, you need help? Want to brainstorm?”
Sheesh, this guy was like an overeager puppy who just wants people to hang out with him. He seemed nice though and I was ready to meet new people. He still seemed surprised that I was even talking to him, although he was easy on the eyes and well spoken. I couldn’t see why he found it hard to strike up conversation with strangers.
“Um, sure,” I shrugged. “I have class in an hour though and I’m freezing here. Want to head to the library?”
He looked worried for a second like he wasn’t sure what a library was, or he had never been inside, or maybe he was scared of books? After a couple of moments he shrugged and said sure.
We walked together to the library, with Sam Ellis offering to carry my laptop bag. I politely refused. I didn’t know him at all. I wasn’t completely sure that he wouldn’t grab the laptop bag and make a break for it. And with that lanky figure he was taller than I was – and most definitely faster. I said I was fine, I could hold on to the bag by myself. We walked in silence, at least for the first couple of moments. Then Sam Ellis broke it by asking, “So, where are you from?” It was a harmless question so I answered him honestly. “Brooklyn. You?”
He looked around as if searching for an answer and then I realized what he was referring to. “Here. all my life.”
“Here as in this block or here as in the city?”
“The city. Growing up on these streets means every block is your home.”
“Really,” I said doubtfully. “I should think it’s the exact opposite. If you live in a place as busy as this can you really know every street like you think you do?”
He nodded, listening to every word I was saying. “I hear you, so I guess it’s just different for me. I feel like I have been here forever and have had ample time to stroll around and discover all that this beautiful city has to offer.”
He nodded at a couple walking past who were looking at me suspiciously.
“I know them from the neighborhood,” he said vaguely to my questioning gaze. They looked hostile towards me and I wonder what I could have done to offend. Maybe Sam Ellis was royalty where he was from. I knew there was a ridiculously rich community in Manhattan – mostly from watching shows like Gossip Girl – but if what they had to say were fifty percent true then they were a tight knit community who looked down on outsiders and loved to gossip. I wanted to ask him but I only just met him. It seemed like a rude question to ask a stranger. Brooke would be proud at my social skills.
We made it to the library only to find the place packed and we edged our way around to sit at a tiny table in the corner. It was the computer section where you were allowed to talk and was filled with students studying, or cramming for last minute tests. The term was nearing its end and there was lots to do.
We sat down but I wasn’t in the mood to work just then. I took out my laptop reluctantly and opened it up. It was dead. I looked around for an outlet and spotted one a couple of feet away on the floor that was available. I pulled out my charger to plug it in, taking care to untangle the mess of wires before they stretched too much. Sam Ellis waited patiently, eyeing the room with a critical stare.
“It’s like you’re secretly judging everyone,” I laughed at him, quietly. “What are you expecting to see that you’re looking around like that?”
He looked abashed. “Oh, nothing, I just don’t come in to the library very often.”
“Oh? You have no work to do?”
“Oh you know,” he said vaguely, waving his hands. “I manage.”
This guy I had met, not twenty minutes ago, was so likeable that I found myself sitting with him and laughing in the corner of the library, feeling more at ease than I had at any moment since entering college. And that included all the times I got drunk and had lowered inhibitions.
He seemed different than most of the other college guys I met. He was more mature, even though he gave off such a young impression I was hard pressed to say he was even eighteen. We didn’t do much work that hour, just sat around pretending so we wouldn’t get glared at by all the people who were working hard. I ignored the haters for the first time in my life, feeling confident that nothing would happen sitting together with Sam Ellis. And then it was time for class but I didn’t want to go.
But what was I to do? I promised myself to turn over a new leaf and not act like the person that had taken over the beginning of the year. Sam Ellis wasn’t a bad influence. He saw the time and hurried me to class, claiming he had one as well in another part of the building. I let him walk me to the room, and felt high school nostalgia in the simple act.
Class dragged on today, longer than usual. There were a couple of people giving presentations and we ended up going overtime. I remembered that I had a presentation due the following week. It was on my calendar but I was so behind I was only looking at things that I had to do right then. Watching everyone stand up there and go at it made me nervous though. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to scrape a passing grade if this was what the requirement looked like.
I packed a bag slowly. Jenny was already gone and having my own room again was nice. Randy stuck his head in to say goodbye, but I didn’t have the strength to have a conversation with anybody just then. I got undressed and put on a comfy pair of leggings and a sweatshirt. The weather had finally turned last week and it was now so cold outside I would need a hat and a scarf. I didn’t bother packing anything nice, I could always borrow something from Brooke if Mom made us dress up which she was sometimes prone to do. I just grabbed a pair of jeans for the weekend, a t-shirt and my laptop bag and got ready to walk to the train.
Outside of my room the hallways were silent. It seemed as if everyone who was leaving was gone already, the only people still here from out of town who couldn’t make it back for the holiday. Randy said they were having their own meal in the lounge, the RA’s who were staying chosen to cook the turkey and everyone else chipping in for side dishes. It sounded fun and if I hadn’t had family on the other side of the bridge I might have considered it but as it was I was excited as hell to get back and see everyone. I barely got to speak to Brooke so I had no idea how it was going in Queens, and traveling there had been out of the question. I had asked a bunch of times the first month of classes she made some excuse how it wasn’t ready and her roommates didn’t want guests until the apartment was set up. I got the feeling she didn’t really want me over and I wanted to question her about it but with school work and then all the hanging out with Jenny I was doing I just didn’t have the time. Now was the perfect opportunity to question Brooke on her distance.
The walk to the train was cold, the wind blowing my hat off my head so that I had to run and catch it before it fell into the dirty gutter. I tucked the ends of my scarf inside my jacket so they wouldn’t whip everywhere and pulled my hat more firmly over my curls. The strands were everywhere, in my eyes, in my mouth, so I tucked them underneath my collar and made it to the train feeling like the three block walk closer resembled the trek up a mountain. The train was empty when I got on, and it was a fast ride into Brooklyn where I transferred to a bus and made it home in good time.
Mom and Dad were already there, and since they took the day off from work they couldn’t drive me back. But they were both waiting for me when I walked through the door, the sweet smell of sweet potato pie baking in the oven the overwhelming scent. I sniffed in deeply the aroma of cinnamon while Mom walked into the front room.
“Parker!,” she called joyfully, opening up her arms. I gave her a big hug. “Sorry we couldn’t pick you up today, did you have a good train ride.”
“It was fine mom,” I said muffled into her shirt. “I’ve missed you.”
“We’ve missed you too honey,” she said back, gripping me tightly. “Come see what I’ve prepared though. Are you hungry, do you want to eat something? Have you been making food there?”
“I’m actually starving,” I said honestly, my stomach giving a big rumble just then. I hadn’t eaten anything today except for my normal breakfast of cereal, having skipped lunch to get ready to come back home. “But I’m not sure if I should bother eating or save my appetite for tonight.” No matter how many people we had over Mom always made enough for leftovers for a week. I was looking forward to her cooking and I wanted to keep an empty stomach for everything. She led me into the kitchen. There was already a table full of things made, green beans, mashed potatoes, a pumpkin pie. The smell was coming from a sweet potato dish that was my favorite that was coming out of the oven in a couple of minutes. The turkey still needed two hours but from experience I knew as soon as it was ready we would all sit down to eat.
“Parker!,” Dad said happily. “Welcome back kiddo.” I ran to him and gave him a hug. He was walking down the stairs looking tired. “I was just napping,” he told me secretly. “Saving my energy to digest all this food.”
“Henry,” Mom called. “I need your help, I told you, can you run to the store and pick up that list I sent you?”
“Sure Honey, I’m going. Want to come Parker?”
“I actually really want to shower.” A shower fully stocked with all the amenities of home. That sounded wonderful. “Is Brooke back yet?”
“Not yet, she’s on her way. She should be here soon.” Dad left and I went upstairs to my room thinking quickly of how to answer the questions that were sure to come. I didn’t want to tell them I was failing school. They would be so disappointed. They were so excited when I got in after working so hard in high school and having no social life. Not that that was by choice. Now that I had more popularity I was realizing that the choices I had made throughout all of my life might have just been based on a deep seated shyness I possessed that once shook off no longer prevented me from going out and partying. I still knew I didn’t want to fail out of college. If I left I wanted it to be my choice, and so far I wasn’t ready to leave yet. So I would just lie through my teeth and tell them how well I was doing and redirect it to Brooke. Hopefully the distraction when they asked her questions would prevent her from noticing what was going on with me. She was always so perceptive to what was going on in my mind but I knew she wouldn’t be happy with my decision.
When I got out of the shower I heard Brooke in her room. I made to knock but heard her on the phone and left it until after I changed.
Mom was in her room and came out to tell me it was a fancy occasion and to put on a dress. Apparently Aunt Stacey was coming, and she would be horrified if I wasn’t looking my best. I rolled my eyes but it was nothing new and decided that now would be a good time to go bother Brooke.
There was a low murmering going on behind the closed door which was almost never closed as far as I could remember, and I knocked quickly, turning the knob to come in. But it was locked. I jiggled it again, confused. Brooke never locked her door.
“Brooke?,” I called. The muttering stopped immediately. There was a pause.
“Hey Parker,” Brooke called. “Do you need something?”
“Um, I wanted to know if I could borrow a dress for tonight? Mom said we have to look nice, Aunt Stacey is coming and I kind of didn’t bring any clothes back from college.” Why was I explaining myself from behind the closed door? “Are you OK Brooke? Can you open the door?”
“I’m fine, hold on!” there was the sound of footsteps and the key in the lock and then the door was open. I threw my arms around her but got a halfhearted pat on the back in response.
“You’re being weird,” I said stepping back. “Who were you talking to before?”
“I wasn’t talking to anyone,” Brooke shot back quickly. “I was just organizing some things. I’m fine, I’m just a little tired, I was out late last night.” She put a bright smile on and I decided to let it go. “So how’s college going little sis? You making everyone proud? Is it hard? Getting good grades?”
I shrugged, trying to look modest. “Oh, you know. It’s alright. I work hard. I’ve become pretty good friends with Jenny. We’re together basically every night.”
Partying but I wasn’t going to say that part. I looked around the room searching for something to ask. “So how is the apartment? You guys finally get everything you need? It has been, like, almost three months.”
“Yeah, everything in order, finally. I’m not home a lot, I’ve been picking up a lot of shifts at the bakery that’s a couple of blocks away from me. I have experience so they hired me pretty fast, but they won’t let make bake anything on my own yet. They say they still need to train me.” She said this all very quickly as if it was rehearsed. I decided to just choose a dress and be done with it. I wanted to have time to do my makeup to impress everyone with what I learned. Hopefully they wouldn’t ask how I had so much time for learning makeup what with all the studying and going to class I should have been doing….
I walked over to her closet and was stretching my hand to open the door when Brooke suddenly said angrily, “Excuse me? What are you doing?”
Shocked, my heart beating fast at the sudden outburst, I turned to her huffily. “You said I could borrow something to wear right?”
“I actually don’t think I did,” she said back nastily.
“Well, can I?”
“Fine,” she said, waving her hand as if she didn’t care. “Go ahead.” She looked at me intensely as I opened the door and took my pick, choosing a black swing dress with lace sleeves. I had some purple tights in my drawer that would look pretty cool with this, and I just wanted to get away from Brooke until she took a nap or something. She was cranky.
“Ok, thank you,” I said shortly and turned to walk out. Behind me Brooke gave a sigh of relief and closed the door practically on my back.
I stalked to my room even though no one was watching me and there was no one to perform for. I just didn’t know why she was acting like such a jerk. We hadn’t seen each other in forever, didn’t she miss me? Maybe she was just tired. I decided to not say anything and wait for her to come around.
Back in my room I continued getting ready, putting a generous amount of mousse in my hair and scrunching it up like Jenny taught me, and then blow drying it slightly so it wouldn’t have that crunchy look and texture. I applied some light mascara and a deep red lipstick and then examined myself critically in the mirror. I wondered if people were going to be weirded out by my changed look? I had always been a huge tomboy, not caring at all about my appearance, but a couple of months of fun with a roommate that fancied herself a makeup artist and voila! I changed. I was still me, I just put a little more effort occasionally into my look. There was nothing wrong with that.
I decided against shoes. I wasn’t going to walk around in heels for god’s sake.
Mom called up to me as I pursed my lips at my phone, taking a selfie for my instagram later, just like Jenny taught me.
“Parker! Can you come downstairs when you’re done please and set the table?”
That was always my job at these fancy dinner events. I tossed my hair over my shoulder, glad that it was keeping its form, and sped down the stairs. I swung around the banister into the kitchen.
“Sure Mom! Fancy china and all? Only Aunt Stacey is coming?”
Mom’s head was in the oven, busy checking the turkey to make sure it was coming out fine. “Yeah, and her boyfriend,” she said brightly, unfolding herself to face me. Her eyes took on an open wide expression. “Parker! You look beautiful! Look at you, all grown up!”
I spun around for her benefit. “Thanks! My roommate finally taught me how to tame my hair and a little bit of makeup advice. You like?” I threw her a kissy face. “I got this at sephora as a sample.”
“Oh, you’re so grown up! Three months away from home and you’re someone else entirely! A woman! Wait until Dad sees!”
“Wait until Dad sees what?,” Dad called from downstairs. Apparently he had heard his name even over the sound of the football game he was watching.
“Parker is coming, Henry!”
I made my way downstairs, feeling foolish that I felt so good. It was just a new look, right? Evidently that wasn’t true.
Dad nodded appreciatively. “You look more beautiful every time I see you kiddo.”
I went to give him a hug and then made my way back upstairs to set the table for six.
There were fancy chargers with the nice china that we had along with glasses and freshly polished silverware. I set a bottle of wine in the center of the table and finished off with the new linen napkins Mom bought going in a roll on the center of each plate. Aunt Stacey was on her way over and Mom said she would be only a couple of more minutes when I finished. Brooke was still in her room, and I was itching for someone to call her down. I had yet to see a change in attitude. I had yet to see her at all. She would have to make it down for turkey though. She loved turkey, and she loved dressing up. Only when Aunt Stacey rang the doorbell did I hear footsteps on the stairs and Brooke coming down wearing an overly large sweater dress that on her looked chic and effortless. Her short hair had grown a little longer and was curling lightly, making a reach towards her shoulders. She smiled at Aunt Stacey and was first to hug her even though I had been sitting in the living room, waiting.
“Brooke! You look beautiful as always. I love your hair. Very in.” She turned to me. “Parker! Wow, you are not the same little girl I saw just a year ago. Little college star now, aren’t we?”
Aunt Stacey was Mom’s little sister, younger than her by ten years and therefore pretty close in age to both Brooke and I. She was extremely tan, as she made her way around the world writing stories for her travel blog. She had a different man every time she came around, and promised that she would never settle. She was a pretty cool aunt to say the least, but she still sometimes liked to act much older than us even though she must have been in her low thirties. Brooke and her were closer when she was younger. Aunt Stacey used to come over all the time to babysit her, and then me as well. But time passed and as I got older, and Brooke and I grew closer, Aunt Stacey stopped coming and found this dream of travel. Sometimes I thought that she only wanted to be a part of the family, one of the kids, but since she couldn’t she traveled as far as possible to get away. We saw her on holidays, though, and for me that was enough. It was as if she resented me ever so slightly for taking away her first and favorite niece from her. None of this was ever mentioned out loud of course. It was all hushed up, family politics. Every family has them.
Brooke gave me a look and motioned me to the kitchen. I followed her in, hoping now there would be an explanation.
“I’m sorry Parker for before. I’m just exhausted and wired and I hadn’t taken my meds….” her excuses rolled on but I was just focused on one thing she said. Brooke took meds. Nothing serious, but she had ADHD and she took ritalin to focus. If I could get my hands on some of that it would be perfect. I could focus and study whenever I wanted and stop with all the things I let distract me. I could pass Professor Ping’s class, as well as all the others I’m sure I was failing but none of the teachers were nice enough to warn me of. I needed to get my hands on some of her pills. Not a lot, not enough that she would notice, but enough for me to pass the semester.
“Hug?” Brooke finished. I caught basically nothing of what she had said but entered her proffered hands and squeezed her back.
We walked back into the living room, Brooke whispering into my ear, “And by the way, you look amazing. Keep that dress, you wear it better.”
I stood up straighter, feeling confident with the compliment.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t ask for help, or how I could steal medication from the person I looked up to most in the world, I really have no answer. I still think about what would have happened if I had just asked Brooke to have it, but at the time I was too embarrassed. I didn’t want her to know how hard school was, how I was barely even trying anymore, and how I was almost failing out. I didn’t want her to know any of that. I just wanted to impress her when I graduated and became something of myself, or when I got a good mark on a paper. She didn’t need to know about how hard it was for me.
She only needed to be proud.
The meal started off fine with Aunt Stacey’s boy toy who was called James delighting us all in some very racy stories involving our aunt. I was feeling a little disgruntled at the fact that Mom wouldn’t let me drink wine even though she let me all the time. But in front of guests she was strict on this. Not until I was twenty one. There was always an image we had to maintain. Everyone else was drinking though and I felt very frustrated. I managed between bringing out the dishes to take a few healthy swallows of the wine Mom used to cook with (read: to drink while she cooked) and felt better with the alcohol swirling around my veins.
They stayed for a while after the meal, Dad falling asleep on the couch and Mom and Stacey gossiping right next to him. I could see James getting bored but avoided entertaining him by offering to bring everything back into the kitchen. Brooke got saddled with babysitting duties.
That night, after Aunt Stacey had said her goodbyes and we were all just slightly drunk and ready for bed, after Mom had piled all the dishes next to think sink begging tiredness and claiming she would do it tomorrow, after everything was quiet and the only that that could be heard in the house was the sound of the ticking clock, I crept to Brooke’s room. I pressed my ear gently against the keyhole to make sure she was breathing evenly. I didn’t know where she kept them so I would need time to search through her room and find any medicine containers. I also wasn’t sure how much she had left. If she was due for a refill soon then I was screwed. I couldn’t take any if it would be too obvious. I didn’t want her to find out about this ever. And if there was a full container of them then hopefully me grabbing a couple wouldn’t make her suspicious. I doubt she counted them out daily to make sure there was a certain amount.
A deep and heavy rhythmic breathing was coming out from behind the door. I breathed a sigh of relief. Ok, she was sleeping, hopefully heavily enough that she wouldn’t hear me creeping around. I slowly turned the knob and pushed the door open.
Except it wouldn’t budge. I jiggled it gently and tried again but the door stayed put. My tired brain put two and two together and I realized that the door was locked.
What the heck? Why would Brooke lock the door? Ever since we were young Mom and Dad had ingrained in us to never lock the door when we went to bed. It was dangerous, if there was a fire and we needed to leave the house quickly then they wanted to know that they could get in and wake us up. It used to scare us so much that when we were kids that we would sleep with our doors wide open and only stopped when we became teenagers and realized it was silly. So why was Brooke locking her door?
I debated going to get a bobby pin and trying to unlock it from the outside, but it would make too much noise as I fiddled around and I nixed the idea. I still had the rest of the weekend to try to steal some, it was only Thursday night. I told myself that I would try again tomorrow. I went back to my room and got under the covers, falling asleep instantaneously. Crime was exhausting work.
The next day the opportunity came quicker than expected. Brooke said she had an errand to run for the apartment, they wanted her to check out some furniture store. She didn’t offer me to tag along and I didn’t ask. This would be a great time to go check her room. I could be as loud as I wanted and take my time. Her bedroom window looked out onto the street and I would get plenty of warning of when she returned home. Not that I thought it would take me that long to find what I was looking for. Mom and Dad were at the office so I really had the whole place to myself.
“Bye Parker,” Brooke called to me while bundling herself up in many layers in order to walk out of the front door. Overnight it had snowed a tiny flurry and while it didn’t stick at all her front windshield was covered in white flakes. She had to spend time scraping it off before she could drive anywhere.
“Bye Brooke!,” I called back, urging her on. I wasn’t going to go into her room before she pulled out of her parking spot, and even then I would wait a couple of minutes to make sure she wasn’t turning back because she forgot something. I’ve seen the movies. I’d rather not get caught with my pants down.
She used a brush to get all the snow out of the way and finally she was out. I finished my coffee in silence, savoring the peace that was denied me while living in a dorm in the middle of New York City. Finally I deemed it safe enough and climbed the stairs to her bedroom. I found myself tiptoeing and laughed at myself scornfully. Her door was closed again and I was nervous it would be locked again as well. I turned the doorknob and felt the catch give and the door slowly creak open. Perfect. I knew I could jiggle the lock and open it myself but I didn’t want to take any time away from the search in case this furniture store escapade turned out to be quicker than I thought.
Her room was tidy as usual, her clothes from last night lying neatly over the back of her desk chair. Her carry on suitcase she had brought home for the weekend was tucked in the corner, empty except for some socks and underwear. That was unfortunate since I had expected them to be there. A terrifying thought came to me just then. What if she had them on her right at that moment? What if she carried them in her purse all the time? I lost my will to keep checking and half heartedly moved around some papers on her desk. Underneath them all was a page full of doodles, and I admired them all. Brooke could draw quite well, even when she wasn’t trying and was whiling away the time, and I saw tiny little fairies and with wings dancing across the page. I put the papers back on top and stacked them back to the position that they were in.
I opened up all her drawers but most were empty. She had moved out, after all. Most of her belongings now resided over in her apartment that I had yet to see. Her toiletry bag was hanging over the closet door and I almost brushed it aside when I saw the notorious bottle in one of the pockets. I opened the zipper and took it out, checking the label to make sure it was what I needed. Across the top it said Methylphenidate, prescribed to Palmer, Brooke. For a second my heart sank but then the smart girl in me did a quick Google search and found out that that was the scientific name. The bottle was clear and through it I could see loads of pills all tumbling around in there, urging to be taken. I eyes them critically. How many could I get away with taking?
And then I immediately felt bad. Brooke actually needed this medication. It was hard for her to focus and while she was no longer in school anymore that was now presented as an issue while she was working. Even sometimes when she wrote songs she would pop one. I didn’t want to deny her her productivity. How much did I really need? I brought up my final schedule and saw which days I had them. If I took only a couple before my math one and my science one I should be fine. I would just have to work extra hard on my other two but those were the ones I was doing slightly better in. They came easier to me. I decided I would take five, since that was the maximum amount that could be taken without being obvious. I shook them out and closed the bottle up again, giving it another look. It didn’t seem as if anything was different. I should be able to get away with it. I placed the bottle back where I found it and hooked the toiletry bag back over the closet door. I walked quickly out of the room, closing the door behind me, my heart beating very fast. I felt relieved that I had gotten them but also a bit sad that that was what I had to resort to in order to pass college. I vowed to myself that I would do better next semester. And never ever would this come to Brooke’s attention.
Brooke came back twenty minutes later and found me lounging downstairs watching TV. It was lunch time and she offered to take me somewhere to eat but I declined. I could barely look her in the eyes, much less spend time sitting across from her at a table with just the two of us. She shrugged and climbed back up the stairs, and I heard pots banging around in the kitchen. She was making pasta, I was sure of it. Pasta with cheese and her homemade tomato sauce. My mouth watered but my stomach flipped over itself with nerves. I knew that if she would take a good look at my face she would know instantaneously what I had done.
I sat downstairs for as long as I possibly could, my eyes staring unfocused at whatever was on the screen. Eventually the aroma of her sauce starting wafting its way down towards me and my stomach gave a rumble.
“Parker! Pasta!,” Brooke’s voice calling down to me. Even though I hadn’t said I wanted any she made extra.
I debated calling up that I didn’t want any but just gave it up. I came into the kitchen and sat down across from her, putting some pasta in a bowl and spooning some sauce over it. She passed me the cheese and I sprinkled some on top. I avoided her gaze.
“Everything all right?”
“M’fine,” I mumbled over my food. “Tired.”
Sleepiness. The best excuse for everything.
“Yeah, me too.” Oh no, now she was trying to get into a conversation with me. I looked down at my bowl. The pasta turned unappetizing and my stomach tied itself in knots. I was in danger of spilling my guts to my closest friend, my confident, if I didn’t abort this conversation, and soon.
“I’m actually not so hungry anymore, I’m going to my room to take a nap.”
I saw her face had a hurt expression on it, I was sure she didn’t understand what was happening but I walked away anyways, the only thing I could do.
Safe in my room I lay down on my bed and thought about my decisions that had brought me here to this moment. I felt alone, so I went out to parties. And then it became too hard for me to balance that and keep up with my classes. But why did I feel so alone? Couldn’t I find people in the school I could hang out with who were also good students? I vowed to study hard but also to stop being friends with Jenny when I got back. She was a bad influence. She made me into this person I hated.
My first month of college went generally the same way. I would get up early and go downstairs to drink my coffee. I realized that if I was going to be buying coffee everyday it would add up and I invested in my own jar and used the hot water urn they had in the lounge. Breakfast consisted of some cereal of which the boxes stayed in my room and milk that I kept in the communal fridge. I wrote my name on the carton, hoping nobody would steal it, and every day I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bottle was still there, just as full as I had left it yesterday.
Classes were every day at different times and wednesday was the only morning that I didn’t have to wake up early. I woke at the same time regardless, on the schedule I had inadvertently created for myself. Mom and Dad came to visit as they had promised but could only stay for a short while before needing to get back to work. I managed to show them my room and we grabbed some lunch before they hailed a cab and hightailed it back to their office. It was fine though, I was much too busy studying. I video chatted Brooke a couple of times and she seemed to be fine. The roommate situation had worked out and she said they were all nice and responsible so far and it wasn’t so bad sharing a room.
Jenny would halfheartedly try to get me to go to parties that for some reason were every single night and I wondered again how these people were planning on making it through the semester. It seemed as if she was always surrounded by rowdy students who just wanted to make noise.
One night after finishing a paper due the next day and finally drifting off to sleep, Jenny crashed in through the door. I sat up immediately. She was sobbing her heart out, her hair a mess, her shoes missing from her feet. She collapsed onto her bed with her head in her pillow and I listened to her crying for a moment, at a loss of what to do. Finally I inched out of my bed slowly and made my way to her side.
“Jenny?,” I whispered uncertainly. “Are you ok?”
“Oh I’m just rainbows and sunshine,” she said, her muffled voice coming through just enough for me to hear it dripping with sarcasm. That was unlike Jenny. She might be a partier but she was always smiling and bouncy, ready for anything.
I tried again. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”
She sat up abruptly and I scooted back, realizing how close I was. She sniffed and wiped her eyes with a dainty little finger. It did nothing to help the river of mascara running down her face.
“I just can’t, Parker. I just can’t.”
“Can’t what,” I asked, not unkindly.
“I can’t do this! Ugh, boys are the worst!”
Ok, boy trouble. Not such a big deal, she was probably just being overly dramatic. I wouldn’t dare say that to her though.
“He roofied my drink!”
Ok, that wasn’t just boy trouble. That was bad.
“Or well, I think he roofied my drink.” Ok, was Jenny now just messing with me? I couldn’t hold back the next big yawn that came upon me and, noticing, Jenny shot up in defense.
“Think I’m lying do you? Yeah? Why would I lie about something like that? I swear, I was drinking and I started feeling dizzy and out of it and Simon almost led me away probably to rape me or something and oh gawd it was horrible.”
“How did you get away?,” I said, trying to console her and also keep her talking. I wanted to get the full story but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it when I did.
“Maddy was standing there as well and she distracted him for a moment while I made my way back here. She realized I was drugged!”
Maddy was perhaps the ditziest girl I had ever met. She couldn’t see anything beyond the next mirrored surface, and I was sure she wouldn’t notice a desperate girl’s plight. Then again, I barely knew her. These were just assumptions I had accumulated from having her live a couple of rooms down and always hogging whatever shower she was using. We didn’t really run in the same circles.
I nodded slowly as Jenny finished speaking. “So what do you want to do?” I said, trying to be practical. “Do you want to report him?”
She gave a big hiccup and took a big shuddering breath. “No. I’m sure it’ll be fine.” She smiled a brilliant smile and then turned over and went to sleep. I was left feeling stupid, crouching next to her bed and waiting on my crying roommate.
The next morning Jenny pretended as if nothing had happened. She woke up late, and me with her, and we got dressed if not in uncomfortable silence than a silence nonetheless. I left the room before her but she made it out soon after me and we waited for the elevators together.
“Listen, Parker?,” Jenny said, when it was just us going down. “I’d rather not tell anyone about what happened last night, ok?”
I shoved down a questioning response to that. It was her life. “Ok, sure,” I replied, nodding quickly. “I won’t tell anyone.”
“Great, want to grab breakfast?”
This was hard for me to turn down but I really wasn’t in the mood to go out and I had some notes I wanted to review. I said as much and Jenny shrugged trying not to look put out and went on her way. I sat down slowly on a picnic bench outside and pulled my sweatshirt around me. We were already having chilly days outside, ones which required you to have warmer layers on hand. Soon it would be boot weather, a season I loved.
A figure came out, braving the weather to sit next to me.
“Hey Parker,” Randy nodded to me as he brought out his laptop. “How you doing?”
I drank my coffee and read over my english notes, really not in the mood. I had to become familiar with the prose we had been assigned.
“Fine,” I replied shortly, hoping he would go away. Sometimes I felt like Randy was everywhere.
“Can I help you with anything?”
“No, it’s alright.”
He shrugged and went back to his laptop, his fingers flying over the keyboard. I got up after a couple of minutes, claiming I needed to make my way to class and realizing too late that he shared the next one with me.
It was fine though, he was busy coding or doing whatever nerds did.
The day went by smoothly, until I made it back to my room that evening. Jenny was in there again, and this time she had brought backup.
“Listen Parker you just have to come to this party,” Jenny insisted. “You study every night, you hand in everything on time, you do everything that you’re supposed to do. You’re allowed to have a little fun you know.”
Her friend nodded enthusiastically next to her. I couldn’t place her face. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“I’m Tasha.” She was almost a clone of Jenny, with the whole tall southern girl down pat complete with cowboy boots with spurs. “I’m here visiting.”
I wasn’t sure what to say. I felt slightly attacked. I didn’t do parties. I studied and kept to myself and got good grades by working hard. Lately it was taking a toll though. Brooke wasn’t available all the time to talk and I was getting lonely.
I thought for too short before I decided that this night I would go. They weren’t giving me a choice!
Or at least that was what I would tell myself tomorrow.
Jenny and my new friend Tasha wouldn’t let me go in my normal jeans and t-shirt ensemble. They gave my closet the once over, and almost settled on the coral dress when Jenny decided she had something better in her closet.
I looked at myself in the mirror after a whirlwind of activity was done on me and I felt like I had just taken part in the makeover scene of a romcom. There had been lots of yelling on all of our parts and some people banged on our door to quiet down but when I caught a glimpse of what I looked like all was forgiven. They had managed to take my long curly hair and turn it into a sexy mane that flowed down my back. I wore one of Jenny’s dresses that must have been so short on her it showed butt crack because on me it came about mid thigh. It was loose but sat well on me and Jenny refused to let me get away with sandals, insisting I try on one of her heels. It all came together in a way that screamed, I woke up this way, and yet also, please notice me please, aren’t I beautiful?
I was sticking to the first scream.
The party was in another residence hall in their lounge and we all walked over together, the cold night air hitting me immediately as we opened the front door.
“Should I run back and get a sweater?,” I deliberated.
“No, definitely not, you’ll ruin the whole aesthetic of the dress!,” Tasha exclaimed, looking horrified. I had learned in the brief time we spent together that Tasha wanted to study fashion. She was two years younger than Jenny and I and was currently working at a fashion magazine part time during her Junior year of High School. I was impressed. It was nice seeing people that knew what they wanted to do with their lives and actually pushing to accomplish it. She was so young but already so passionate, it was a breath of fresh air to be around her. But that didn’t mean she hadn’t severely gotten on my nerves during the couple of hours we had been around each other tonight.
“Um, I think I’m going to go grab a sweater,” I responded hotly. Jenny grabbed my arm. “Let’s just go, I’m tellin’ you, you won’t need one once we’re there.”
I grumbled to myself but let the duo pull me down the block. I wasn’t usually out this late because I was going to sleep early and staying in my room studying but New York City was wonderful at night. All the dirtiness of the day and the loud honking and pedestrians was given away to bright lights and what could only be called quiet, comparatively. Obviously it would never be an oasis of silence but there was a certain calmness in the air, not a lot of cars on the street, and the people that were walking around had a bright eye wonder about the place. We weren’t near Times Square so we were free of that unrestrained partying that takes place there and I felt like I could walk around all night, reveling in my solitude.
Jenny tugged on my arm. We were at the building where the party was taking place, and I shook my head out of my reverie.
“Ready to party,” she said playfully, quirking an eyebrow up and jutting out a hip, ready to get her picture taken. She snapped one of the three of us, making that kiss face that women of this generation tend to do and uploaded it to whatever social media sites she was on.
Tasha looked excited and I figured this was the first party she had ever been to, being so young and all. Heck, this was the first party I had ever been to as well and I was older and already graduated high school. I decided that was going to be a piece of information I would keep to myself and shook my luxurious hair back from my shoulders and walked inside.
All the ceiling lights were off in the lounge, the only illumination coming from a couple of disco light machines set up strategically around the room. The place was packed, wall to wall bodies all dancing to the surround sound stereo system. No DJ, and I wondered if that was only a movie thing or if just this party didn’t contain one. I was nervous before but nowI realized that I was essentially invisible. The darkness and sheer amount of people took care of that and I edged my way around the room, realizing that I already lost Jenny and Tasha. I looked around wildly, then shrugged, continuing my search for a drink. I was wondering halfheartedly if they had alcohol here even though this was definitely open to people under twenty one when I saw a table stacked high with those telltale red solo cups and what could only be described as a giant bucket. I inched my way through the swarm of bodies and gave a sniff. Yep, that was beer alright. I poured myself a generous cup and looked around as I drank it, sticking close to the walls of the room. I didn’t recognize anyone but that could have been because it was dark. The music felt good in my body, my heart beating to its rhythm and I found my head bopping along to the song, hips swinging from side to side. Before I realized what was happening I had drank three cups of beer and that was when Jenny found me.
“Dance with me Parker,” she shrieked over the noise of the room and the bass. I let her pull me in, my cup falling to the wayside. Before I knew it, I was dancing along with everyone else, letting the alcohol speak for me using my hair as another limb. I was screaming along with everyone, and singing my heart out and I when I fell into bed back at the dorm I couldn’t remember how I got back but I fell asleep instantaneously, still yelling happily in my head.
It was my first real college experience, the ones I had expected from the movies and TV shows. And that included the massive hangover the next morning.
I woke up groggy, squinting in the bright light that was streaming into the room. It wasn’t always this bright, was it? My eyelids felt sticky and my head was beating with the tempo of a rock song. There was an insistent beeping noise as well and I realized that my alarm was going off for a solid five minutes without me being aware of it.
On the other side of the room I heard two groans and two sets of pillows were thrown across the room in the general direction of my bed. They come up short but I turned the alarm off to appease them. What time was it? Did I usually wake up this early?
My head fell back into bed heavily and I was in immense danger of falling back asleep if my eyes closed. I let them flutter shut and the next time I checked my phone it was an hour later and I was going to be late for class.
I jumped out of bed and threw on a big sweater, putting on a generous dose of deodorant. With no time to shower I couldn’t be walking through the halls smelling like.. Well, like the floor of the party I was at last night. I grabbed some mouthwash and my laptop bag and made my way to the steps, running down as fast as I could and out the building to my early morning-who-the-heck-picked-this math class. I was smoothing my hair into a high bun to make myself somewhat presentable as I slipped into class, seconds before Professor Ping walked through the door. She gave me a glare, not one to accept tardiness at all, but I pretended not to notice and slunk to the back.
Once there I allowed my heart to slow down to its regular beat ever so slightly and brought my laptop out, ready to listen. From the front row Randy turned to give me a thumbs up.
But Professor Ping had other plans.
“Notebook, computers away. Just a little pop quiz to make sure you were all listening on Tuesday.”
A collective groan from the class but she pretended not to hear. My heart immediately went back to beating wildly and I rubbed my sweaty palms on my leggings.
I hadn’t studied the new material at all last night, having been led wildly astray by my party roommate and her friend. I wasn’t ready for this quiz and I felt as if somehow Professor Ping knew that and was out to destroy me. I brushed that off as foolishness based on lack of sleep but the fact remained that I was going to epically fail whatever she handed out.
Sure enough, I knew nothing of the ten question quiz. Some of it was familiar as I sat in the class only two days ago but I couldn’t remember how to do it or which formulas applied.
My head felt heavy and I cupped it in my palms feeling like this was the start of the landslide. I went to go hand in a blank answer sheet and avoided her eyes, making my way slowly back to my seat.
The class passed in a blur as I was in no state to pay attention and when she dismissed us I didn’t notice until someone asked to pass by me and I noticed most of the class had already headed out. I blinked the sleep from my eyes and wondered if I should go nap again.
I walked slowly back to my room the laptop bag sitting heavily on my shoulder.
Jenny was up by the time I got back, and Tasha was gone. She explained that she had a plane to catch and was surprisingly bubbly for someone who had done just as much partying as me last night, if not significantly more.
“How are you so awake,” I complained, falling onto my unmade bed and snuggling up with my pillow. “My head feels like someone is in there building a house.”
“Is this your first time drinking?,” Jenny asked sympathetically.
I debated lying and just couldn’t right then. “Well, yeah.”
“Oh, no, did you drink any water last night?” Jenny proceeded to explain all the ways that one could avoid having a hangover the next day. Drink water, know when to stop, throw up if you can’t, and in the morning have a coffee with a generous helping of cayenne pepper. That last bit sounded so gross but she swore it worked and offered to go make me one. I declined, deciding that it had passed for now and I would probably be fine.
“Next time you’ll do better,” Jenny reassured me and that made me sit up in bed. I gave her a look.
“Next time? I’m never partying again. I failed a quiz today because of the party last night!”
“Oh, honey,” she said laughing. “That’s what they all say.”
I didn’t like the way she lumped me with all the other plebes, but she did have a point. I would probably go to a party again. It was fun, and I felt like I was part of the college scene and had friends, something I had wanted since I sent in my application.
“Next time it’ll be better,” I conceded reluctantly.
The next time happened just that weekend. Friday afternoon Jenny informed me that there was another party and this one was going to be nothing like the other one. Jenny babbled non stop about how she had heard that there was going to be a DJ there this time, one who went to our school and was studying medicine but was surprisingly good at beats. That sounded exciting, I had never heard a live DJ before and I was feeling in the mood to dance. Last time it was so much fun, cloaking myself in the amount of people and the sense of anonymity that it gave. Brooke called me as I was pulling on another one of Jenny’s dresses, this one a tight bodycon number that I was hoping didn’t make me look like a fifteen year old with no boobs.
“Hey,” I chirped into the phone. “I’m just getting ready to go to a party. What’s up?”
“Oh, a party?” Brooke’s voice sounded quiet and distant and I checked my connection.
“Hey I can’t really hear you, there’s bad service. Am I seeing you Thanksgiving?”
“Yeah, I’ll.. home..” Words got clicked out as the static overwhelmed the phone line.
“I’ll call you later, I can’t really hear anything. Love you, bye!”
I hung up and threw the phone on the bed and pulled on my shoes. Jenny was sitting in front of her mirror as usual, pursing her lips critically.
“Looks ok?,” she asked, tilting her head to the side. I gave her a glance.
“You look great.” She did look great, Jenny could pull off anything, but that lipstick color was especially bold and made her lips look plump and beautiful.
“Do you want as well?,” she said eagerly.
I shook my head ruefully. “I’m good. Let’s go! I want to dance!”
I all but skipped to the party, trying not to show how excited I was to go to another one of these events.
The party was in full swing by the time we got there, the DJ doing his thing on a makeshift stage in the back of the room. He was actually not bad as I felt my whole body ready to start breaking dancing on the floor.
There were less people dancing though and I decided to drink before I got in the middle of everyone.
“Remember,” Jenny warned me. “Drink water and if you feel like you need to throw up don’t stop it.”
“Ok,” I nodded. “Let’s just go get some beer.”
The infamous red solo cups were on the same looking table, the same style bucket holding the same tasting beer as two nights ago. Before long I was drunk, screaming the words of ‘Baby got back’ with Jenny right beside me.
The night was another blur of dancing, meeting people, dancing with them, and beer. I threw up twice but kept going. This time I could remember walking back to my dorm room, getting undressed, and sliding between the covers. Jenny was back as well and as I drifted off to sleep I wondered, Is this who I am now?
Saturday morning was silent, with most people out for the weekend. Jenny and I were becoming fast friends, her bubbly spirit even more nice with all the hanging out we had been doing lately.
Thanksgiving was coming up and Jenny was telling me how her Pa was going to be flying her back home for the weekend, her ticket already booked. She was looking forward to the heat, New York was too cold for her, and I nodded while barely paying attention. We were in the almost empty cafeteria, with just one other student sitting in the corner, eating lunch bought from the vending machines. I had some cheese flavored pretzels and Jenny ate a granola bar. It was three in the afternoon and I couldn’t stop the swirl of thoughts taking over my mind. I had turned into a college party girl, seemingly overnight, and it felt strange. Like I didn’t know who I was anymore. But then again I hadn’t really known who I was before this either. That was why I decided to go to college in the first place. Brooke didn’t need to since she knew who she was since she was five and told my parents in no uncertain terms that she was going to be a singer and make her own clothing line and she had kept to that promise through the years. But I had been lost, and the dancing and letting go, and most of all getting drunk was the most present I had ever been.
“…you doing?,” Jenny asked. I glanced at her and realized I had just been asked a question.
“Hmmm,” I said quickly, hoping she would repeat what she said.
“I said what are you doing for Thanksgiving?”
“Oh, I’ll be home. I’m kind of exiled from the house until then. I’ve never been on my own before and everyone said it was important to stay away until then and learn how to be by myself and stop relying on my family.”
Jenny nodded sagely. “I hear that. My younger brother is the same way. When I was his age I had a job and was buying my own clothes but he just sits upstairs playing video games and having no social life.”
“Maybe it’s a younger sibling thing?,” I offered. Jenny shrugged.
“I wouldn’t be surprised. Good for you though. So it’s just you and that girl who came and helped you with your things the first day, or you have more?”
“Just us,” I replied, surprised that she remembered.
“Hey girls.” We looked up to see none other than Randy standing near our table. Apparently he was the one sitting slouched in the corner in front of a laptop. “Either one of you staying in Thanksgiving?”
I shook my head but Jenny rolled her eyes at me without saying anything to him. It was kind of rude but I ignored it. She was fun to hang out with and Randy was… well, a nerd. Randy waited a beat before heading out, and I pretended his expression didn’t look hurt.
Jenny and I got pretty chummy that day, spending most of our time in the cafeteria eating vending machine snacks and talking about our lives back home. By the time Monday came around I had done no studying to speak of and the two papers I was supposed to hand in were barely started let alone completed. I asked for an extension but was denied and I was informed that that was going to be a major dock in my grade.
I knew I should care but I didn’t. I figured I would study hard for finals coming up after Thanksgiving. It would be fine.
We had a couple of more parties that week. Jenny and I were becoming quite the duo. I came out of my shell a bit, exploring my dancing side and on occasion singing into the mic for everyone to hear. I had to be pretty drunk for that though. But the beer flowed freely, especially for us. Jenny always lent me one of her cute dresses and I became confident in the look I had cultured, even showing up to class on occasion with heels. People started calling out to me on the way to class. Not a lot of people, but enough. I felt like a Somebody.
And then it was time to leave for Thanksgiving weekend. Brooke wasn’t around to pick me up and I was only bringing an overnight bag anyways so I didn’t mind taking the train. It was annoying to drive to the city unless you really needed to because the traffic was a nightmare and there wasn’t any parking anywhere that wasn’t super expensive.
Before the mini vacation started all of the Professors assigned us reading material, threatening pop quizzes and so much homework before Christmas came and the semester was over. I was now so behind I could barely see where I needed to go to catch up. There was a reason I studied every single day, struggling to keep my face above the water. College was hard, and if you didn’t fight against the current you would inevitably drift with no way to get back to where you were.
Professor Ping actual called me over after the last class got out.
“Ms. Palmer,” she said abruptly in her no nonsense tone. We never had a reason to talk face to face before and up close I could see how old she really was, the years of teaching indoors in the pollution taking its toll on her face.
I waited politely and then realized she wanted to make sure she had my attention.
“Um, yes?,” I said hurriedly, smiling what I hoped was an innocent smile. I anticipated a beratement for missing that quiz again, and I prayed it wasn’t that. I showed up late just as everyone was handing in their papers. I knew she noticed me but I kept quiet and made my way to the back which was becoming my new favorite seat. No quiz was handed in on my part but it’s not like I would have known anything anyways. The fact that I didn’t even care was just another list on the things that should worry me but didn’t.
“Failure of my class will result in expulsion from NYU.” I sucked in a breath between my teeth as she continued. “And you will be failing my class at the rate you’re going. As a warning to you I’m letting you know that if you don’t get at least an eighty five on the final you will not pass my course.” No mincing of words there. I nodded rapidly trying to think of something to say but she was already turning around to go to her office, without a backwards glance. “Have a nice Thanksgiving!,” I called out to her but she turned the corner and was out of sight. I turned myself to go back, ready to crack down. I needed to, I wasn’t ready to leave NYU. Everyone would be so disappointed in me, and I’d feel like a failure. I walked slowly back to the dorm, fear weighing me down like falling rocks in my stomach.
I’m back with another installment of my novel! To read Parts 1-3 first, just scroll down. Everything is labeled appropriately.
The next day was an orientation where they explained to us how you signed up for class and showed us around the different buildings. We all got an RA assigned to us and trekked what felt like all over the city. I was hoping for RiRi, but we got someone named Bryan. He was ok, besides the fact that he was made so many jokes you weren’t sure what was true or not. By the end of our tour I was hoping that I knew where the different classes were located and which building I would need to get to, and I planned to print out a campus map that I would keep on me at all times until I got familiar with everything.
I signed up for four courses, the cores that all freshmen had to take. And then I was just waiting for classes to start.
There were a couple of parties that I heard about that night, and Jenny came into the room all excited to go out. She made her side even messier, going through all her clothes and makeup to decide what to wear. I turned down her offer to join her. I had already figured out that I was rooming with a partier, but this girl was intense. As opposed to the first day when she was all sweet south which I am assuming was a cover for her father, the day after she was dressing with more heavy makeup and even higher heels. It was interesting to watch the transition, I was just hoping that I didn’t fall into it. I knew that I was going to need to work hard to maintain my GPA and stay on my scholarship. NYU was not known for being easy and I wondered how Jenny was planning on making it through with all the time she was spending on her social life. But classes weren’t starting until tomorrow so I was willing to wait and see on that front.
The following morning I woke up early, and decided to go downstairs and find myself some breakfast. I was so nervous I wasn’t sure I would be able to eat anything. My stomach felt like a writhing snake and I kept running to the bathroom with the need to throw up. Thankfully I didn’t and I bought myself some coffee in the in residence cafeteria, bringing it outside on the picnic benches that littered the yard all over to drink it.
I had woken up early and I wondered if that was going to be a new thing for me now. I’d always been a late riser, but now that I wasn’t home and didn’t have much doing for me at night I ended up going to sleep early and my fear of the unknown usually woke me to a sun that had barely even risen.
I wasn’t sure what I was nervous about. It was only school, right? I had done school for the last twelve years, I was going to be fine. I took deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth, savoring the coffee and fairly quiet morning for being in the center of the city.
Finally it was time to head to class. The wait was killing me and as I was sitting outside the space around me slowly filled up with new students milling around waiting to start their first day. My first class of the day was an english class, over in the building around ten minutes walk from my residence hall. I started the journey a half hour before just to make sure that if I got lost I would still be on time.
I didn’t get lost and ended up waiting in an empty hall for the lecture to begin. It was one of those big rooms where the seats ascend and you feel like you’re looking at a stage. I wondered if all college classes were like this. It felt so… movie-like, sitting there in the center seat I had chosen – not too far and not too close, since I wanted to be inconspicuous.
There was one other student there besides me who was reading what looked like a thick textbook, waiting for class to begin. I recognized him as Randy, the nerd who loved video games from a couple of days ago. He was probably reading some smart book, and sure enough when he changed position I noticed Advanced Electrical Engineering scrawled across the cover. My mind then turned to the trickle of students making their way in ten minutes before class which turned into a rush two minutes before as everyone tried to find their seats.
The Professor entered, declared himself as Professor Bowmen and proceeded to teach. I already had my new laptop out at the ready and eagerly took in all he had to say, meticulously writing down everything and barely looking up. The class went quickly, the hour and a half passing by in a blur of fingers moving across a keyboard, and then I had a break until the afternoon when I had to be back for Elementary Statistics.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I exited the class, happy that it hadn’t gone as hard as I imagined. I didn’t have any homework nor any studying to do which I was sure would take up all my time in future weeks. For now I decided to go back to my room and read over my notes to be ready for a future pop quiz that Professor Bowmen had mentioned loving to give.
Jenny was still in bed when I made it back, despite it being almost eleven AM.
She gave a grunt as I opened the door, turning over in her bed to give me a glance through tired eyes.
“What time is it,” she yawned, trying to sit up but falling back into bed.
“Eleven oh one,” I replied promptly, swinging my stuff down onto my made bed and sitting heavily in my desk chair.
She gave me a wide eyed look. “Wow, late. I’m happy I only signed up for afternoon classes. I am not a morning person.”
“Yeah, I can see that.”
She struggled up in bed this time making it to a standing position and giving a big stretch. I noticed she slept in nothing but underwear and a thin tank top and looked away politely.
“Listen, Parker, last night was crazy. You missed a Night Before Classes Start rager. Next time you have to come.”
It was honestly so nice of her to invite me but I wasn’t planning on being a partier. It wasn’t in my nature and I had to work hard.
But I remembered my promise to Brooke how I would try and found myself nodding to Jenny. “Yeah, next time. I just wanted to be fully awake for the first day of classes, you know?”
She nodded sagely. “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little bit of fun, right?”
She grabbed a towel and toothbrush and made her way outside. “I’m gonna go get ready, wanna grab lunch soon?”
My heart sang a bit at the invite and I tried to look nonchalant. “Sure, I’ll be here.” I had two hours before I even had to think about getting ready for my next class and I was excited at making my first college friend.
Jenny was a long time getting ready though. She had showered and come back with her towel wrapped around her head and another one skimpily thrown over whatever parts of her body it managed to cover. She stood in front of her closet for a while and then gave a slow turn around the room.
“Clothes,” she said matter-of-factly. “I think I have too much clothes.”
I gave a laugh. “Is this the first time you’ve thought this?”
“No, but especially now compared to you. I mean you’ve managed to fit an entire semester’s worth of clothes in the small space we’ve been given! What, are you planning on wearing the same jeans every day?”
I looked down at the new pair I had purchased as a gift to myself for the first day of college. They were soft and slightly cropped and went with boots or sandals. I kind of was planning on living in them. I blushed as I looked up but Jenny was already sitting at her desk which had been made into a little vanity table complete with a big mirror and makeup jars. She was smearing eye shadow onto her lid and humming under her breath.
The silence got heavy and I needed to get out of the room for a moment just to breathe.
I knew Jenny didn’t mean anything by that comment, but she had already been making me feel insecure by the lack of things I owned. I had never cared about it before, since the only other girl I had ever lived with was Brooke and she sang my praises all the time, always lamenting the fact that she owned too many things.
But now I was living with a bunch of other people, all in place to see how often I repeated a shirt or wore a pair of jeans. I was sure most people wouldn’t notice, but already my roommate had. I tried to put it out of my mind when I got a tap on the shoulder. I was waiting for the elevators without even noticing and they had opened up before me as I was in my own head.
“You getting in?,” a boy so tall I had to crane my head up to see his face said, gesturing towards the open doors. I hadn’t really been planning it but now I felt as if I had to, and I lead the way in to the cramped space, five people following behind me. We went down and stopped on the lounge floor and I decided to get out and sit there for a bit, and then head back up to see if Jenny was ready.
The room was packed when I entered and I made an abrupt about face, heading to the stairwell. I needed to loosen up! Why was I so scared of people?
I returned to my room to find Jenny back in bed, a face full of makeup but wearing nothing else but a bra and underwear. She was casually shaking around something that was making a clacking noise while talking on her phone using earbuds. Her southern twang was more pronounced than ever. I put my new headphones on, trying out the noise cancellation for the first time. I couldn’t hear her conversation at all, and I carefully put my bag I had tossed onto my bed on my desk and lay back down, closing my eyes and listening to some music.
I felt a flick on my arm and turned to see Jenny’s face peering into mine.
“Ok good, you’re not sleeping. Which dress is cuter, this red one, or the white denim?”
I scrutinised both of the dresses I was presented with and decided on the white.
“Hmmm, I was thinking that one as well, but is it hot outside? Denim is kind of hot, I feel like that’s more a night thing. The red one is cooler, I’m gonna go with that one.” she pulled it on and straightened out the hem at the bottom, that only skimmed the top of her thighs.
I felt awkward for her but assumed that she realized one fierce breeze and everyone would see her white cheekies.
She pulled on yet another pair of high sandals she owned and pulled her hair out of the towel, tousling it up and putting in some form of product. I looked down at my very casual pale green t-shirt paired with the jeans that had been bought for this special day and couldn’t help feeling underdressed for a lunch date that I hadn’t even known I was having.
But I wasn’t planning on changing and we left the room, the tall, marvelously dressed southern star, and me, the petite girl from Brooklyn.
I made it to my next class with minutes to spare. Jenny had brought me what felt like all over the city. She was southern, through and through, and thought that everyone she spoke to actually had her best interests at heart. I had to pull her away from so many people who ‘only wanted her picture’ or just ‘asked to borrow her phone’ but I worried they were really planning on either getting her number or stealing the phone. Better safe than sorry .
We finally sat down to eat after Jenny finished marveling at how tall all the buildings were and got about fifty different people’s contact information and by that time I had fifteen minutes to shovel a cheap sandwich into my mouth and run out the door, glad I had the foresight to bring my laptop with me.
Jenny struggled behind me, but I was not planning on letting her make me late and we both made it to class trying not to pant.
It was another room designed like a stage and we were forced to choose between a front row seat or something so far back I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to hear anything. Jenny gestured for me to sit and she would follow and I reluctantly settled in the first row, Jenny taking a seat beside me.
Professor Ping, as she introduced herself, made her way into the room not one minute later and proceeded to teach.
This was math, harder math than any I had done before. It wasn’t beyond my understanding but I knew I would have to review everyday to keep up and I listened for any questions that fellow students asked. Jenny sat through the whole lecture with her legs crossed seductively, a strand of hair being continuously twirled around her pointer finger. She had a notebook in front of her but she was doodling more than note taking. I saw some words relevant to the class scrawled across the top of her page but then it was all little hearts and squiggles. I paid her only the scantest amount of attention though since it really took every ounce of brain power I had to follow this lecture. When it was over we walked out together and then I asked her.
“Are you, like, super smart?” I didn’t mean it to come out rude but the remark had a cutting edge to it. She turned to me and raised her eyebrow.
I backpedaled quickly, trying not to sound super obnoxious.
“It’s just that you took no notes and it seemed as if you were barely paying any attention…” I trailed off, realizing too late that it was none of my business.
Jenny shrugged, and opened her mouth to say something.
“Hey Jen!,” a big guy who could have been a football player came up behind her, discreetly touching her backside. “How’ve you been?”
She spun to look at him, playfully slapping his hand away. “Ha, you mean since yesterday? I’m great, how y’all been?” I stood there awkwardly not sure if I was waiting for her or not.
“Oh, just going to classes. I didn’t know you were in this one.”
“Well maybe next time you could walk me to class.”
It was such an obvious flirting that my head hurt to listen to it. I walked away from them and I’m pretty sure neither of them noticed.
The last week went by in a blur. I didn’t want it to go fast but it seemed to fly by, in spite of the spike in tension in the house.
Brooke had told our parents that she was moving out. She felt like it was time, and with me gone she wouldn’t have much to do at home anymore, since Mom and Dad were always at work. They argued that with me gone they would need her here, and, also, what would they do without her they would be home alone, and, also, their two babies are just going to disappear without giving a thought about their parents? They weren’t at work that much, and in fact, did she not want them to make money to pay for her food?
It was a guilt trip on their part like no other but Brooke was determined. She didn’t need them to pay for her, either. Apparently she had been planning this for a while, ever since I got into college and she convinced me to dorm, to live my own life. Her bakery job she worked at a couple of times a week could cover the rent of her living with three other roommates in a two bedroom, and while she wouldn’t have a ton for food left over there would be enough. She also had enough saved to make it easy for the first four months so she could write more music, maybe take a class and become a yoga teacher like she always wanted, and generally be more independent. They heard what she said and while they disagreed they were powerless to stop her. She was twenty one and she needed to grow up and they couldn’t stay mad for forever.
I was worried that her leaving would mean my parents would make it harder on me to go, but at least that didn’t end up happening.
The night before I was scheduled to move into the dorms, we all went out to eat at a nice place. The relationship between the three of them was shaky at best, but they held it together for me to celebrate my last night of being what they called a child. Apparently, college was the real world and I was becoming an adult tomorrow. They said all this with a pointed look at Brooke as if the fact that she hadn’t gone to college meant that she would never be an adult. It was a topic they had argued endlessly about when Brooke was my age, but she was the same then as she was now- determined and unstoppable. She didn’t see the point in going to college if she was going to create her own music, or do something where a degree would get her nowhere. She didn’t see the point in what she called a ‘waste of four years’. They were scared I would end up like her but what they didn’t realize was it was just how Brooke saw herself. She never tried to push her ideals onto me, claiming that everyone needed something different.
Now, tonight, she was as supportive as ever, volunteering to pay for the drinks, as well as offering to Dad that she would stay on water so he wouldn’t have to drive home. He declined but it was still very nice, and the fancy cocktails the waiters kept bringing out lent a festive air to the whole evening. Our choice of place was very end-of-summer as well, offering wings and burgers and more fries than any one person could reasonably eat. We ended up having a grand old time, and when we drove back and everyone trooped up to bed I barely had time to stay up all night and worry. I set my alarm for early the next morning and crashed.
The bleeping wasn’t what woke me the next morning. It was Mom, with a kiss on my forehead.
“Hmm?,” I garbled sleepily, looking up into her tired face. “Is it time to go already?”
“No sweety, you can sleep a bit longer. Dad and I just have to go into work early. There’s some sort of minor emergency. Brooke said she’ll take you, ok?”
While this wasn’t the most surprising news, since I did already assume that they wouldn’t find time, I couldn’t help but feel just a little irritated. I tried to hide it though, and reached up to give her a hug.
“I’ll see you so soon, ok? Thanksgiving, it’s just family time. I might even tell Aunt Stacey she can’t come.” I laughed and Dad, who had walked into the room just then came over and gave me a quick squeeze.
“Call if you need anything, ok?,” he said in that gruff tone he used when he didn’t want to get emotional. “We’re on the other side of the city but that’s only a skip away on the train. See you soon,” he kissed the top of my head, and my parents turned around and walked away.
I turned over into my bed but it was no use. I was already up and I wasn’t going to be able to fall back asleep.
The time was six fifteen. The dorms were open from noon and then stayed open throughout the whole day with supervisors and dorm counselors walking around ready to help anyone. I wanted to get there early so I could be the first to choose a bed and I would be able to unpack without my roommate getting in my way. But even so, we wouldn’t need to leave for at least another four hours, so I decided I would make some coffee and go sit on the back deck, enjoying the weather before it got unbearably hot again.
Brooke was already out there and I gave a small gasp of surprise as I joined her. My heart rate slowly returned to normal. She was already dressed, but then I made a mental scratch out. She was still dressed in the same clothes from last night. It looked like she had gotten the barest amount of sleep again, her eyes unfocused, looking further off than our backyard.
I wanted to ask her if everything was ok but she hadn’t acknowledged me yet so I let her have her space out and drank my coffee, the most perfect I had ever made so far. It was a cool morning and I shivered slightly. That seemed to wake her from her stupor and she shook her head a bit as if to clear it from cobwebs and gave me a wide smile.
“Hey good morning sleepyhead,” she teased me, poking me in the arm. I reacted swiftly, stretching my mug out of her reach.
“Careful! It’s hot!”
She gave a little chuckle that sounded nothing like her which I blamed on tiredness.
“Are you alright?”
“Fine,” she responded. “Just up all night trying to figure out my roommate situation.”
Two were girls she went to high school with and one of them was an unknown. They had a whatsapp group, she told me, and they were all figuring out when would be a good time to meet with the landlord so they could sign the contract.
“Is it really so difficult to set up a meeting?”
“Well, Abby is in her last semester of college and she’s had some summer classes she’s had to take so there’s working around her schedule. Fee started a new job working as a secretary for a big firm or something so there’s that. And Miranda isn’t even in the state yet. She’s visiting her grandparents in some random place like Oklahoma. It feels like I’m the only one around who can actually get anything done.”
I wasn’t surprised. Brooke was always the one who took care of things. She had a take charge attitude not a lot of people possessed, and she made it look like she didn’t mind doing everything. Most of the time it was probably true. Usually it was easier to do it yourself rather than relying on the masses to get it done for you.
“Can you just go get it signed yourself?,” I asked.
She scoffed. “And what, risk having to pay for everything when we inevitably come up against damages and debts and the like? No thank you.”
“Never mind then,” I shrugged. “Where’s the apartment anyways?”
“Queens,” she said shortly.
“No, I know that but where exactly. I was looking up trains to see how I would travel to you.”
She gave me a sharp look. “You’re going to stay in college and you’re going to enjoy it. You’ll make new friends, you’ll go to interesting classes, and you won’t need me at all. If you keep using me as a crutch, Parker, then you’ll never be able to do anything.”
Her words were harsh and I reeled back from them. It wasn’t like I had been planning to be a fifth roommate or something, it was just nice to know my sister was close.
I ran a bunch of responses in my head but too late I realized she was getting up. I felt like a fool, stunned into speechlessness, rejected by the only person who always had my back.
“I’m going inside to shower. See you soon.” This was so unlike Brooke that I was almost worried. But I didn’t want to let anything ruin this day. It was the first day of four years where I could be anyone. I knew no one that going to college with me, and I wanted to use that to my advantage. Who knows where that could take me?
I took some more sips of coffee and calmed down, the anger dying down to nothing but a sizzle inside of me. Brooke could be a jerk, it didn’t matter, I was leaving.
A little while later though, when my coffee was done and I realized I was hungry I went looking for her. The sun was officially out, and it was too hot to sit there in my light sweater. I needed to go inside and I wanted pancakes. And Brooke made the best ones. I figured she would do this for me since it was our last day living in the same house.
Woah, I hadn’t thought about it like that.
She saw me wiping tears from my eyes as she came into the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?,” Brooke said nicely, and I assumed the shower had washed the nasty off her body and her spirits.
“I just realized that last night was the last night we’d be living under the same roof,” I replied, wiping the tears away with my whole palm. All the emotion was catching up to me, I wasn’t ready for Brooke to be a jerk.
“Oh, Parker,” Brooke walked over to me and wrapped her arms around me.
“Let’s not think about it like that. Let’s remember that we’re both starting new chapters in life and it’s going to be wonderful. We’ll call each other and visit and tell each other all about it.”
“But you said-”
“We’ll definitely talk, Parker. This isn’t goodbye forever. I just want you to have a good start, make some good friends. Leave behind high school and that drama and realize college will give you so many amazing opportunities. Life has so many opportunities! Just you wait, everything will be great. Now, let’s talk about what’s important now. Breakfast? You hungry?”
I nodded shakily and took a big shuddering gasp. “I was actually thinking of pancakes? Your specialty?”
“I don’t even know why I bothered asking,” Brooke said, rolling her eyes and giving a little giggle.
She pushed her wet hair back with a headband and got to work. Miraculously, we had every single ingredient in the house, and neither of us had to run out to buy anything. The milk wasn’t spoiled, and there was enough left over to make another mug of coffee for each of us.
I was set with my caffeine level, but Brooke chugged another one down as if her life depended on it. She wasn’t someone who generally drank a lot of coffee, just the usual one in the morning so I knew that she hadn’t slept well but didn’t comment.
The pancakes were delicious, made all the more better with a drizzle of maple syrup and chocolate sauce Brooke always made herself.
She was a one of a kind girl. I was going to miss her.
The tears felt like they were welling up again, so I quickly licked my plate and tossed all the plastic into the garbage. And then I washed the dishes, because as Brooke always said, if she had to cook everything then I was going to have to clean. It was the least I could do, and I really didn’t mind a couple of dishes. It was better than the flies that would instantly appear out of nowhere, swarming over any piece of food we happened to have left over.
When all was said and done we were still two hours away from leaving.
“Do you want to start packing up the car?,” Brooke suggested, as we lay on the couch inside feeling too stuffed to move.
“In a minute,” I groaned. “I feel like I just ate enough pancakes for the rest of the year.”
“Yeah, and you’ll never be able to eat a pancake again,” Brooke teased. “You always say that. You’ll be fine in a couple of hours, in fact I guarantee you we’re going to grab lunch while we’re in the city.”
I knew she was right, it was just fun to complain sometimes.
We had the car packed within the hour and all that was left was to go over my room and make sure nothing was forgotten. All seemed to be in place and I decided it was time to shower and get ready for my first day!
Brooke gave me a dress for my ‘first day first impressions’. She said everyone should own something that makes them look and feel beautiful so I could choose something from her closet.
There were endless amounts of dresses to choose from, as Brooke was quite an avid thrift shopper, but there was one that I always had my eye on since the day she bought it. It was a tight piece and I had always assumed that since I barely had any curves to speak of that I wouldn’t be able to fill it out. But it was flattering, its color a light coral with tiny stitching on it that looked like sailboats. Starting from the top it was square necked with short sleeves and went straight down, unassuming, doing a little flair out at the bottom as if saying it was not to be underestimated.
Brooke knew I would pick that one and she warned me that I could have it but she would totally be borrowing it if she ever had a charity dinner or was going out clubbing. It was just that kind of dress – super versatile depending on the right shoes.
Today I chose to wear them with a low slingback sandal. As I got out of the shower, I wrapped a towel around me and rubbed away the fog from the mirror. I examined myself critically. I could do this. I was smart, I was a hard worker. And I was friendly. I could do this. I bared my teeth, checking for hidden scraps waiting to embarrass me. All good.
I went to go get dressed.
Rather surprisingly, as almost nothing seems to work out perfectly in life that way, we were on the road at the exact time I had planned to leave. The car was packed and we were both dressed and ready and there was no reason to drag on.
There was no traffic as we crossed over the bridge, and Brooke spared a moment to glance over at me.
“Nervous?,” she asked, noticing my clasped hands and the fact that I wasn’t singing along with the radio.
“Nope,” I didn’t want to talk about it.
We pulled up not soon after, the entrance to the college already packed with people.
Brooke got directed to a temporary unloading zone, and we quickly moved to unload all of my things.
I had two big suitcases and three heavy boxes. I had thought it was a lot but watching other people unload showed me how minimalistic I was. Girls were slinging bean bag chairs out of cars and guys were carrying long rectangular boxes containing stuff I couldn’t imagine. Brooke quickly went to park the car – well as quick as could be done in New York City while I waited. No way was I leaving my things on the sidewalk for any homeless man to lay claim to. When Brooke got back she watched my things while I made my way to the check in table. Despite the fact that there were hoards of people milling about, check in went fast and I made my way back to Brooke with my room keys. Together we each took a rolling duffel bag and placed a box precariously on top. There was one box left which I wasn’t sure how to bring up in this first go. I debated going myself and letting Brooke wait with the rest of it and just make two trips when someone came up behind us.
“Hey, need a hand?” It was a tall girl with ebony skin and black curly hair that encased her head like a halo. She gave a nod over to the box that was left on the floor. “I don’t mind carrying that, I’ve already done my trip.”
“Oh, so you’re early then,” Brooke replied, assuming my shyness had prevented me from answering. I shook my head slightly and mentally berated myself while listening to the girl’s reply. She carried the box with no hitch to her voice, her strong muscled arms clad in a black tank top easily taking the weight.
“Yeah, I’ve actually been here all day helping set up. I’m Gloria but everyone calls me RiRi.” she looked between the two of us. “Are you guys twins?”
Nobody thought that when we were apart, but when we stood together we had similar mannerisms that identified us as sisters.
“No, I’m the older one, helping Parker here drop her stuff off. I’m Brooke”. She smiled and held out her hand as we waited for the elevators. We both shook hands with RiRi respectively.
“So you’re a freshman?,” I asked tentatively, ready to insert myself into the conversation.
“Junior,” RiRi replied. “I’m actually your RA.” RA’s were resident assistants, there as peer counselors, as resources or referral people, as advocates, programmers, policy enforcers, and group leaders. I had gotten that mainly word for word from the NYU website but I still wasn’t sure what their job was.
“Oh?,” I replied, at a loss for words again. She sounded like she was someone in charge.
“Yeah, I’m the one who’s going to get you in trouble if you do something wrong.” Her eyes twinkled mischievously and I knew she was just messing with me. “No, but actually if you need anything, I’m here to help.”
We finally made it into an elevator and traveled up to the fourth floor. It wasn’t too high up, and I wouldn’t mind taking the stairs on occasion, but today with the amount of baggage it was worth it to wait.
My room was at the end of the hall, and I put my bag down to grab my key and turn the lock.
Mercifully, I was the first one there. I was going to be sharing a room with an unknown and I was not ready yet for a new face.
RiRi placed my box down on the desk.
“I’ll be around all of today helping people bring things back and forth. If you get bored and want to help as well just come on down to the front desk and look around. If you get hungry, there are about fifty places to grab pizza or hot dogs or sushi. This is New York City afterall! See you around”.
And she was gone, letting the door swing softly shut behind her.
Brooke made her way fully into the room and looked around. It was a nice size, with two twin sized beds at opposite ends, each with their own desk and closet. The closet had two sides, one with a bar for hangers and the other side with shelves. It was a decent amount of space but I noticed that there were draws under the beds as well.
“Yeah, awesome!,” Brooke exclaimed, rolling them out. “I love these types of beds. This’ll be super helpful for you when you finally decide to start shopping.” She dodged my playful slap and then said, from across the room, “No seriously, maybe I’ll even start keeping things here there’s just that much room!”.
“Oh, shut up and help me unpack,” I giggled, rolling my eyes at her.
We started with the clothes and while Brooke set me up in the neat way only she knew, I unloaded my books and set them up at the back of the desk I claimed as my own. One drawer beneath the bed got turned into a sock and underwear drawer and the other was left empty for the meantime.
Lastly, I unpacked my new laptop. I drew in a deep breath as I took it out from the box, marveling at how new it was. There were no scratches anywhere, the screen clean from smudge marks. It was remarkably light as well, and I couldn’t wait to bring it to classes and take notes. This is what got me hot – the freshness of a new school year, and the ability to take perfect recordings of my courses.
My new roommate still hadn’t arrived yet and we were almost done, Brooke helping me spread a sheet over my bed and put the blanket cover over my quilt.
“Whew,” she said, wiping her brow and sitting down dramatically. “I think we both deserve some lunch, yeah?”
There was nothing more to do, nothing else she could help me with, but I could tell she didn’t want to leave yet. And I didn’t want her to go yet either.
“Yeah, let’s go grab something to eat.”
We made to step out of the room, when just then the door was flung open from the outside.
A girl of Barbie proportions stalked in on high heels, giving us once overs as she came inside. Her legs were clad in the barest minimum of what could be called shorts and her crop top might as well have been a bra.
I could see my shock reflected in Brooke’s face. Well I suppose this is what you got when you chose potluck.
“Jennifer?,” I asked unsurely.
She whipped her massive sunglasses off and turned to face me, having been in the process of giving my hanging clothes a thorough inspection.
“Yep,” she replied in a southern drawl. “Now which of y’all are Parker?”
“That’s me,” I volunteered, her accent making me slightly more comfortable. “This is my sister, Brooke.”
She brought out her hand that I noticed was perfectly manicured and offered a shake with each of us.
We looked at each other. The silence stretched on. It got slightly awkward. I could feel the sweat pooling underneath my arms and beading up on my forehead. I struggled to find something to say and looked anxiously over at Brooke who was determinedly avoiding my gaze, glorying in my struggle. Finally she conceded to look up and I gave her a pleading look. She rolled her eyes and took charge.
“So, do you need any help? Where are your things?”
“Oh, that’s mighty nice of you. Thanks Booke. I’ll be fine, my Pa is just downstairs dealing with admissions or whatever. I just came up to see the space.” She eyed it critically. “Honestly y’all, I thought it’d be smaller, yeah? You find a place for everything?”
I nodded bravely. This girl gave off an intimidating impression but the second she opened her mouth that typical warm southern hospitality seeped from all her pores and she wasn’t so scary to talk to. Of course then she immediately took out a nail filer and sat down on the chair near her desk, looking for imperfection and buffing them to a blinding shine.
Was this girl for real? Brooke decided that it was time we both left, as she had to be getting back for a shift later that night at the bakery.
“Well, it was nice to meet you Jennifer,” she said, grabbing my elbow. “Parker will be back later but I need to get going soon.”
“Everyone calls me Jenny,” she said, waving her hands grandly. “See you later Parker, it was nice to meet you too, Brooke. Hope you’ll be back around to visit.” She winked at her and I winced. Already people were gravitating towards Brooke, it was what she did. She couldn’t help it, but I resented her ever so slightly.
We left the room and I noticed Brooke holding her breath. She made it around the corner before she burst into giggles.
“That girl could have come straight out of a TV show,” she said, smothering her laughter behind a turned hand. With that, my grumpiness shattered.
“But she does seem nice. It’ll be good for you to get out a bit, see the world through some non New Yorker’s eyes.” She gave me a sidelong glance and could see me nervously biting my lip. While my anger with Brooke faded faster than sugar in hot water, I still wanted to know how she effortlessly made people feel good about themselves and gave off vibes of calm, collected, and cool. I wasn’t the best around strangers, it took me a while to warm up to them. I especially wasn’t ready for someone who looked like they belonged on a runway but spoke like they came from The Ranch.
“I just don’t get her,” I replied nervously, looking over my shoulder to make sure she wasn’t right behind us or something. “Like, she looks like she’s a freaking model, right? She could be famous!”
“Yeah, and did you see her checking out your clothes? She totally wants to become sisters with you. Just please don’t replace me!,” Brooke said the next part half jokingly, with a dramatic hand on heart pose. “Either way, you’ll be fine. I bet there are so many people around, if you hate her you never have to interact with her. Now where do you want to go?”
Surprisingly, despite my nerves, I was hungry for food. Ravenous, in fact. I could eat a whole pie of pizza. And that was what I told Brooke. She acquiesced, and we were off to follow the closest one we could find on Google Maps, called Joe’s Pizza. We ended up walking past it and looking for another one as they didn’t even sell fries, and what type of pizza store didn’t sell fries?
We found a chain store and sat down, me ordering two slices and fries with an iced tea, and Brooke got a greek salad. Of course, she ended up eating most of my fries and when it was time to go she held me so tight that I stopped breathing for a moment but I gave back nothing less. She refused my offer to walk her to the parking garage and we parted, me watching her walking away slowly, her hand raised in farewell, the swarms of people quickly swallowing her up.
I walked back to my residence hall feeling rather dejected. Mom called me just as Brooke disappeared from sight and I spent a couple of minutes outside on the phone with her reassuring her that I was fine, that my roommate was nice, that my whole place was set up neatly. She promised to visit some time next week but I had low expectations.
I didn’t see RiRi as I walked into the entrance hall and took the stairs up to my room. The place was even more packed, if that was possible, parents and siblings of all the students making their way in and out of the building, getting room keys and luggage from cars. Jennifer was in full swing when I made it back to our room, the door flung wide open and music blaring out. I walked in nervously, wiping my sweaty palms on the outside of my dress and then immediately felt gross like I needed to wash them. I made an abrupt turn before she noticed me and walked down the hall to the bathroom that was shared with the whole floor. It had six different stalls and four fully separate showers of which I was grateful for, and a row of ten sinks in the middle with five on each side. That would come in handy when you had the whole floor wanting to brush their teeth at the same time. I went to the bathroom and came out, giving my hands a thorough scrubbing and then realizing there was no soap. Ok, step one is definitely to acquire soap, I thought to myself.
I made my way back to my room, knocking tentatively.
“Hey! Parker!,” Jennifer called loudly over the music, in her southern drawl. She nodded over to a tall man who had his head in her closet, hanging up some of her clothes. “This is my Pa. Pa, this is my roommate Parker.”
I held out my hand the man who had pulled his face out and was grinning widely. He was very good looking for someone of his advanced age, kind of like a Johnny Depp type but very weatherbeaten. His face was lined but his body was buff as if he did a lot of heavy lifting.
“Hi, nice to meet you.” It was up to me to make conversation now that Brooke was gone. “Do you guys need any help?”
“Ooh, yes, you wouldn’t mind?,” Jennifer said eagerly. She pointed to some boxes down the hall. “Haven’t had a chance to bring them in yet, would you mind helping me?” She left some letters off of her words and I just knew that this was the girl all the guys would be clamoring to sleep with.
“Sure,” I gave a jerk of the head, and all three of us traipsed down the hallway to bring in the last of her boxes.
She had so many things, I wasn’t sure how she was planning on fitting them until I saw in one of her boxes a pile of shelves.
“Pa’s helping me nail these to the wall,” she said, in response to my gaze which had lingered on the shelves. “I ain’t got a place for all everything I brought.” She chuckled lightly. “Back home I got the place to myself. Never occurred to me I mightn’t have room.”
Her Pa produced a drill and some nails and proceeded to put the shelves up. It was so loud and I needed to get out of there so I gestured I was going out and quickly walked down the stairs to what they called the 2East Lounge. The room was empty, obviously, everyone being otherwise occupied and I looked around casually. It had a big TV, and all the important tables, ie; foosball, ping pong, and pool. There were comfy couches lining the walls and a bunch of tables where I assumed one could play cards or do their homework if they were so inclined. It was a comfortable space and I swung my body down onto a couch and brought my phone out to scan in order to while away the time.
There was supposed to be an activity later that day, organized by our RA’s and I was looking forward to doing something because coming so early had me really bored. I was debating going to find RiRi and offer my help when I got a text from my Dad.
Hey sweety hope you hv a gr8 time mkng frends! Hv fun!! 🙂
I instantly missed him with an ache in my chest but texted back assurances that I was fine. I didn’t need anyone worrying about me and besides it had only been a couple of hours since I was home. Why did I have to act like such a baby?
I decided to get out of the room and go see if anyone needed help. Distractions were the key to homesickness.
By the time our activity came around later that night, I had met a bunch of different people, all of whom I was sure I wouldn’t be friends with in a month. Dave, the Californian whose shorts were almost shorter than Jennifer’s, Sandra, who seemed very type A, Samantha, who wouldn’t let me help her because she was sure I would break everything, Kyle, who made me carry his load when I offered my help, and Randy, who just screamed ‘nerd’ and ‘video games’. No, he actually screamed them from the top of his lungs. It was written on his shirt as well, NERD WHO LIKES VIDEO GAMES, and when I asked him about it he said it was better to own it than be made fun of. I suppose he was right on that front.
The activity that the RAs had set up for us was just a bunch of ice breaker games, joined by lots of non alcoholic drinks. They were forbidden to serve us beer (even though most of the people here would jump on their first chance to join a college party consisting of alcohol) and when it was over I knew only slightly more than I did before about a handful of people. I felt very alone when the organized entertainment broke up and everyone wandered away or stayed there chatting. No one was really talking to me and I was too shy to make that much of an effort. I left the lounge, walking slowly back to my room, ready to just watch a movie and go to sleep. Jennifer – no, Jenny as she had assured me again – wasn’t back yet but her stuff was everywhere on her side of the room. Mine was still clean, and I fell back into my made bed, not even having time to switch my new laptop on before falling asleep after the exhausting and emotionally draining events of the day.
I woke up groggily at what felt like the middle of the night to the sounds of banging on my door. I glanced over to Jenny’s side of the room and saw no change. The moon was casting a bright light into the room, causing shadows of unfamiliar objects everywhere. I gave my body a second to wake up so I could roll out of bed and open the door.
“Thank you so much,” Jenny was there, with a grateful and sorry look on her face. “I left my key. Sorry, did I wake you?”
I assured her that yes she did but it was fine and then I asked her the time.
“Oh, it’s just past one AM,” she replied, glancing down at her watch. She flicked the light on and picked some clean clothes from a newly attached shelf on her wall.
“Just gonna go shower!,” she replied cheerily, opening the door again. Now that I was a little more awake I heard the unmistakable sounds of late night partying happening outside. It seemed as if the whole dorm had decided they were going to get to know each other and had left me out of it. While I knew that was unfair, since I had chosen to go to bed, I still felt left out. I promised myself I would work harder tomorrow, and I texted Brooke to see if she was awake to get a little pick-me-up.
Her response was immediate:
Feeling kind of left out. e/o partying outside w/o me.
Why don’t you go join them? I knew she would give me the encouraging push I need.
Too shy. I could always be honest with Brooke. Tomorrow. Promise.
Ok Pancake remember your awesome and theyd be lucky 2b friends with you.
I went to sleep feeling much better and this time I slept through Jenny coming back from her shower and didn’t wake up until the morning.
Oh, hey there! I’m Shari and I’m a successful author.
Oh, you’ve never heard of me? Well, you will. One day soon.
Oh, you want to read a book that I wrote? Or at least see proof that there’s a book out there that exists? Well, it’s coming. And soon.
I’ve actually just started to post the chapters of a book I wrote right here online! If you want to be one of the first people to get a sneak peek, get to comment, and maybe have some of your ideas end up in my book then stick around. It’s going to be fabulous!
A fun thing happened to me last week. I reached 50 followers! This feels like a nice round number to be proud of, and I celebrated by buying myself a yacht and traveling to exotic places on it.
I hope you know I’m joking. I would like to give a shout out to The Bipolar Writer for being my fiftieth!
Anyways, I spoke a little bit last week about how to change your life for the better. That was before I discovered something new, but it is interesting how much it relates to what I’m about to tell you.
Have you ever heard of ‘The Secret’?
If you’ve answered yes, please, PLEASE share your story with me. It’s fascinating stuff. And if you’ve answered no, well, then, duh. It’s a secret afterall.
The funny thing is, I watched a YouTube video about manifesting your dreams, and the girl who was speaking did throw out something about a book called The Secret. I wasn’t interested in it as much as I was interested in her video, but while on Netflix this week, I noticed a documentary called The Secret. And the cover page looked exactly the same as the cover of the book that the girl showed off, which is what led me to click on it.
And it was mind-numbingly-shocking. Honestly, the type of ideas the rational part of your brain doesn’t believe are true, but there is a tiny (read: big) part of me that definitely believes in magic and I just… bxelieve.
If you haven’t watched it, I strongly encourage it, if you have a rational person in your life that can help you not float off into the clouds. For me, that person is my husband.
I tend to get a little… fanatic shall we say?, about things I see. For example I became a vegan for half a year because I watched a couple of documentaries in the beginning of lockdown. I just believe in the good in people and believe that people wouldn’t lie to me, so therefore they must be telling me the truth.
But my husband thinks I’m naive and I need to think more. And he’s right, mostly. So I’ve been working on it, specifically researching the other side of things and exposing myself to all views while trying to pick the path I think is right.
And yet for this….
Well, by now you must have watched The Secret. So I’ll tell you what it’s about.
The Law of Attraction. Ever heard of it? I hadn’t specifically heard of the term until now, but the concept of it exists in many places. Positivity attracts positive things and negativity attracts negative things.
But it goes deeper than that. Whatever we think comes true because we attract it to us. Our dreams become reality, what we dwell on will come to pass. Essentially, the universe is a catalogue and we just choose what we want from within it’s pages.
On a deeper level, we are made up of energy. The energy that exists in our mind changes the outcome of our lives.
It’s all quite mind boggling, to tell you the truth. Is it really all that easy to just imagine what we want and then it’ll come to pass?
So, knowing my tendency to believe in the crazy, I took it to my husband.
Even though he is someone with his feet planted firmly on the ground and an extremely rational brain that only looks at truth, he said something that kind of shocked me. He’s actually been practicing this in some way since childhood. He always pictured himself as being successful in a myriad of ways, and he vividly sees the things he wants in his mind until today. It’s a concept he’s always understood. But that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to it.
Paraphrasing what he said, “You have to picture what you want, really picture it, and then start working towards it. The trick is knowing it’s actually going to happen. That the future you want is here right now. But you don’t sit back and assume it will materialize around you. You work towards it knowing that it is your future.”
It wasn’t exactly what The Secret says, but I do understand where he’s coming from. The rational part of me understands it like this: if we believe something is going to happen, we see the future as we want it, then we’re likely to grab every opportunity as it comes our way. It’s always on our mind! So everything you see, every person you encounter can be a step in that direction.
It’s kind of similar to only looking at the good in life, and then only good happens. Because that is what you’re focusing on. If you constantly focus on the bad, and keep complaining about everything, then you’ll only see the bad! Also people won’t want to hang out with you. Just saying.
So the concept of the Law of Attraction states that we attract what our mind thinks about and this doesn’t have to be some heebie-jeebyie thing. It can be understood in the factual way of looking for good and opportunity and therefore only see the good and opportunity that surrounds you.
But honestly, I do believe in a little bit of magic. Can it hurt to picture all the things you want, really use your imagination to put yourself in your dream mansion, surrounded by love, and success? Na.
Think positive, and life will be positive.
Believe that your dreams will come true, and look for opportunities to work towards them.
It’s time to put my overactive imagination to more use then just weird food groups that don’t belong together!
It was a random Tuesday, and still a hotter summer than anyone could recall in living history. Everyone walked around grumbling about global warming, but I was outside in my backyard soaking in the rays. I was trying to work on a tan. My goal was to enter college as that aloof and super attractive girl. It wasn’t me, to say the least. I was five foot three, and skinny. Without makeup I could easily be confused as a middle schooler. I went inside to grab more ice for my lemonade that was slowly starting to boil in the heat and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the sink. I screwed up my nose at the multitude of freckles forming there as I rebraided my reddish brown hair. It used to be more red but as the years went on it thankfully darkened to brown. I let my hair grow out long – too long Mom always said before begging me to sit down so she could just trim the edges. Just trim. Please? I’d give in to her demands every couple of months because it did get pretty annoying to take care of- especially in the shower and when I decided to straighten it. But I would never dream of cutting it short for fear that I would end up looking like some version of Orphan Annie- all short and little with my hair framing my entire head like a helmet and too many freckles to count.
I retook my place outside on the deck chair and closed my eyes whilst tilting my face to the sun. Just then I heard a squeak and the back door opened and Brooke walked out.
“Hey,” I welcomed her, my eyes closing again. “I thought you were out.”
“The store closed early today,” Brooke replied, placing her bikini clad butt on the lawn chair next to mine. Brooke worked random days at a bakery around the corner, which is where she learned all the tricks to decorating baked goodies.
She started rubbing sunscreen lotion all over her exposed limbs. Brooke and I couldn’t have looked any more different. Whereas I was small and freckled with my auburn locks, Brooke was pale, like vampire level pale, with thick black hair that she liked to keep short. She was around the same height as me but was way curvier, something I was envious of.
She finally settled down and we enjoyed the quiet for a bit. The sun was starting to get too hot though, and I nudged Brooke wanting to go do something a bit more exciting.
“Parker!,” she murmured, trying to avoid the shade I was purposely throwing on her. “Let me sit in peace!”
“Ok, but soon let’s go somewhere indoors. I’ve been sitting outside for hours already, I’m ready for some AC.”
She nodded and promptly started snoring. Brooke always fell asleep in the sun. It was a miracle she was as pale as she was. I adjusted my bathing suit, pulling the straps to the side so I wouldn’t end up with a tan mark. A bird sang in the distance. This was my definition of summer.
My eyelids felt like they were burning, so I sat up and put on my sunglasses that were chilling next to me on a chair.
Our backyard was a luxury not normally found in Brooklyn homes. The remnants from childhood were scattered all over, with a trampoline and a swingset. A plastic car sat in the corner gathering dust, one that I could only fit in when I was three, and Brooke used to sit on the hood and make me give her rides. It made me happy to look at it all, knowing there was no reason to have it, but still glad we hadn’t thrown it away.
The deck we were sitting on was a new addition. Here we had lawn chairs and a BBQ grill, along with a table and a stack of normal plastic chairs. When the weather was nice – not too hot or too cold, Dad would come out and grill hamburgers and we would all hang out until Mom said she was going to bed and Dad followed her soon afterwards. Then Brooke and I would stare at the stars until we were too tired to keep our eyes open, finally falling asleep and making our way to our beds later on in the night.
Those dinners were fewer, and further in between. Mom and Dad were working on building their marketing business, recently making a few risky choices and hoping the returns would be worth it. I didn’t really know so much about what was going on since I was the youngest. I had a feeling that no matter how old I would get nobody would ever tell me anything, always thinking of me as the baby. I only knew the result which was that they were barely home anymore.
But it was fine. I always had Brooke around. She graduated from high school two years ago and was in the process of being the coolest girl ever. She had nixed college, deciding to follow her dreams which were… well, everything. She wanted to write songs, become a bodybuilder, start her own catering business. She was my inspiration.
I was going to college because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I knew I needed money to do so, and getting a degree seemed to be like a good place to start before getting a job. Brooke encouraged me to leave the house, spread my wings. I was quiet, preferring to stay home and cook a nice meal and then sit down to watch a movie, versus going out with friends.
It was another reminder how we couldn’t be more different.
Brooke had countless friends who wanted to hang out with her but for some reason she chose to spend time with me.
Speaking of spending time with me, Brooke finally opened her eyes and gestured to me to help her up. I swung my legs over and helped drag her into a sitting position. Her body squeaked as it disengaged from the chair.
“Alright, where do you want to go?,” she yawned widely and her yawn made me hungry.
“Let’s go out to eat!,” I suggested enthusiastically. We both ran upstairs to get dressed, not feeling bathing suit attire was appropriate for brunch.
I was downstairs another couple of moments later, my skinny limbs sticking out from a pair of shorts and my favorite tank that said ‘Eat Me’ above a slice of pizza pulled over my bikini top.
Brooke was a little longer to get ready. She was so beautiful that I don’t know why she bothered but she always put effort into her appearance. She said it was important to give a good impression, and therefore was more likely to wear flowy dresses and strappy sandals than shorts and flip flops.
Sure enough when she came downstairs she was wearing a short loose dress in gingham print with ruched sleeves, her feet encased in high espadrilles. I wasn’t sure if we were related.
I grabbed the credit card that Dad always left for us and Brooke and I got into the car.
“So, where are we going,” Brooke asked, fiddling with the radio dial.
“Allow me,” I made her focus on the road and chose an FM station.
“Let’s go get sushi!”
“Sushi?” Brooke glanced at me suspiciously. There was a reason she believed something was up. I refused to eat sushi, anything with fish made me nauseous. I found something to eat when we ended up there but it was definitely not one of my first choices.
“Let’s just go”. I said no more until we got to the one closest to us.
Brooke parked as I jumped out, claiming I was going to grab us a table.
But really I was looking for him.
Brooke made it inside before my eyes adjusted to the dim lighting and I could see behind the counter.
“Come, let’s sit here”. I let her lead me to a table in the corner and we both sat down, my eyes darting all over the place. She watched me for a few moments saying nothing. Then-
“Who’s the new beau? Is it the one making the sushi?” I wheeled around in my seat and glared at her. Joben was the resident sushi chef, known for his specialty rolls and the fact that he must have eaten all of his knowledge. He was a good boss though. At least I’ve heard it said. I blushed and Brooke saw, nudging me with her foot and looking around furtively.
“Cute guy behind the counter?” and I saw he had come out from wherever he had been hiding, smiling politely as he helped a customer with a takeout order.
“Shhh!” I motioned Brooke to look back around. “Stop staring!”
“Oh, but I wasn’t joking! He is cute!”
“Yeah, yeah, he went to my school, he’s been working here all senior year and I figured through the summer as well.”
“Have you ever spoken to him!”
“Of course!” I declared huffily. “I’m not pathetic!”
Brooke’s eyes twinkled mischievously. “Oh, I’m sure you’re not. That’s why you should go say hi.”
My stomach immediately started doing backflips. It felt like a circus down there. Brooke knew she had gotten me.
“Let’s just order”. We motioned a waiter over as I looked down at my menu and chose what I always ordered- fries.
Brooke got her favorite- as spicy as they would make it with extra wasabi. It didn’t matter the type of fish, she liked them all.
Just then, he came to our table with our order.
“Why hello,” Brooke said slowly in her favorite posh drawl. “Thank you so much,” she glanced closely at the name tag, “Jeremy”.
I shook my head frantically, hoping she would notice. It didn’t matter, he just corrected her.
“Hi there! I’m actually wearing Jeremy’s apron today. Mine is in the wash. My name is Scott.”
“Well, thank you then Scott”.
“You’re welcome. Enjoy your food ladies.” Scott gave a little bow as he walked away from our table, barely even glancing at me the entire time he was here. He never noticed me. I was a background fly, barely even giving off an annoying buzz. Especially sitting next to Brooke I had no chance. Not that I was even sure I would want one.
Brooke was eating her sushi daintedly, with the chopsticks held in the precise position and her soy sauce neatly poured into a bowl. She slowly chewed and finished her bite all while I shoveled fries into my mouth, fast. She finally finished, put down her utensils and gave me a look.
“Scott?” she asked scornfully. I wasn’t sure what the question was but it didn’t sound good. “I mean come on, who these days are named Scott? It’s a stupid, full of yourself name”.
I had no response to that. I stayed quiet and continued eating.
“You deserve better. Stop being so… obvious”.
Well, that was a burn that Brooke didn’t so often dish.
“Whatever,” I rolled my eyes, trying to disguise my hurt. “He’s in a couple of my classes and he’s really smart, OK? Of course he’s also all those other obvious stuff, and I know we would never amount to anything, but he does make rather nice eye candy”.
“That you’re right”.
She looked at him almost as if she was studying him, trying to figure out what made him tick. And then, abruptly, she was up and out of her seat, paying at the register, then back at the table placing down a tip.
“Come on Pancake,” she said, coaxing me up. “I have a better idea of how to spend this day”.
I followed her, but not before grabbing another handful of fries as we made our way outside.
We got back into a car that had just gone through a double broiler and a stint in an industrial oven. It was so hot I refused to touch the belt buckle until the AC cooled the place down a couple of hundred degrees. Brooke consented to letting me ride unfastened and drove a corresponding two miles an hour. Eventually we made it to where she had decided she wanted to take me. The mall.
“Um, no”. I did not need another pointless window shopping trip since everything I had was being used towards college next year. It’s not like I was interested in shopping regardless. I wasn’t what you would call a ‘girly girl’. Everything nice I got as a hand-me-down from Brooke and that was good enough for me.
“No, Parker. Turn your eyes. I mean, what’s next to the mall?”
I had no idea what she meant and let her lead me inside to the wonderfully air conditioned interior and cold refreshing Slurpees.
Behind the counter was the most magnificent man I have ever seen. This was no Scott-Boy-Wonder. This was Keep-it-in-the-pants-make-you-stupid-Man-hot. I was hitting puberty all over again at the age of eighteen. This is what it was like to graduate high school and prepare for college. I found myself staring and quickly caught myself and looked over to Brooke. She was browsing in the far left section, still with a perfect view to the front.
I made my way over. “You evil devil! So this is what you’ve been doing all those times you just say you’re out to get slurpees with friends? Well, he is certainly worth it. Has he fallen for you yet?”
“Ha, no. I haven’t spoken to him more than three words, all of which have been where’s my change?”
“But, why? You’re amazing, who wouldn’t want you?”
“I’m just kind of taking care of myself right now. Hanging out with my little sister before she goes to college, you know? Not in the mood for a relationship and you know my view on one night stands”. Brooke had too much belief in the purity of monogamy to do any such nonsense. She was above it all. She wasn’t snooty about it, it wasn’t something she shared with everyone. It was something she told me, her little sister, when she was in her ‘Impart Sage Advice’ mood.
“So you just come here to check him out?”
“Ain’t nothing wrong with that. I also love the Slurpees,” she said deviously, and went to go get us cups.
“I want a large one!” I called after her, knowing she wouldn’t settle for less anyways. What was the point of a Slurpee if you weren’t going to get the biggest size?
We snapped a selfie as we walked out of the store and I remember thinking we looked like a Postcard, two girls with arms linked, heads thrown back in laughter, our faces shining in the heat and not a care in the world.
A week before the semester started had me throwing a hissy fit, tossing all my shoes all over the room.
“Where is it?!?,” I yelled anxiously, turning over a bag that had already been packed with a bunch of toiletries.
“Honey, relax. Where did you see it last?” Mom tried calming me down but I was already gone. Granted, I was super nervous about starting college, but also Brooke had been absent the whole weekend and I didn’t have anyone to distract me from my butterflies. So I had stayed downstairs, clicking through stupid shows, trying to find anything interesting that would deflect my panic.
But tonight my laptop went missing. My brand new laptop I had saved up the past year to buy specifically for college.
I wasn’t even sure why I decided I wanted it. All of a sudden I had a need to confirm its whereabouts and it was nowhere to be found. If Brooke was here she would make me relax and probably find it and make me a meal. But she was refusing to answer my texts and I was getting worried about her, even though Mom said she had spoken to her this morning and she just had bad reception on the road.
A couple of her friends who she sometimes sang with had decided they were taking an end of summer road trip. They were going to hit up a bunch of random bars along the way and offer to play for free to get their music out. I tried hinting to Brooke that I wanted an invite but she had acted purposely obtuse. They left early in the morning, her friend Simon coming to pick her up in his old and noisy truck and she didn’t even say goodbye.
She was only going to be gone a couple of days but I was still upset with her.
Now, trying to find my laptop, I let myself wonder for a second if perhaps Brooke could have taken it. She knew I didn’t need it until the semester started, and she probably assumed that I wouldn’t look for it until she came back. I know sometimes she used one of her friend’s laptops to make her music sound clearer or whatever. I was so angry at her for something I assumed she did that I could barely think of her in a positive light. I was so angry it was like a furnace in my gut and I could barely unclench my fists.
Mom was gone, downstairs I assumed to do some more laundry or cooking and I was left to lie on my bed in despair, pining for something nameless.
Outside I heard a car pull up, one with a distinct sound and engine.
I was determined not to talk to her when she came in, I was going to freeze her out just like she had done to me.
The front door opened and I heard her voice calling out something indistinguishable, and then it shut and Mom welcomed her back home.
I turned onto my side to face the wall so I could pass off sleeping when she came up. I heard her footsteps on the stairs and my heart beat faster and then they walked past my room to hers without even pausing by the doorway.
My eyes squeezed out a couple of tears and I silently pushed open my bedroom window and climbed out onto the roof, a place that had become my comfort since I could manage the act. The roof sloped down, and I had to be careful to stay as near to the house as possible in order to avoid falling off. But it was a nice place to be. Right now the weather had cooled a bit and I could look up at a night sky that was too bright to show the stars and just be. I would never tell Mom since she would immediately say I was never to do something so dangerous and it was something even Brooke didn’t do, since she had a fear of heights. So I was alone for the time being and I could stew by myself.
Stewing got old quick, though, after the fourth mosquito flew around and managed to bite my foot before I had a chance to crush it. I resolutely pulled the window up and climbed back inside, ready to face my sister again.
“Brooke?,” I said tentatively, knocking on her open door.
“Hey! Parker! I was just about to come around and say hi! Sorry I wanted to come in before but I smelled so bad I couldn’t stand another second with the revolting bar stink still on me.”
Sure enough her hair was wet, hanging about her head as if she had tousled it dry.
I wanted to know everywhere she went and all the fun she must have had but it also was an ache in my chest thinking of how she had done all those things without me.
I was tempted to just turn away without saying anything else, the lump in my throat making it impossible and then Brooke said, “Oh, and I got you a present!”
Present? I did love getting gifts. Quickly, I blinked away the tears that had welled up in my eyes as Brooke turned to lean over her open overnight bag.
“Here,” she said, thrusting a box wrapped with newspapers into my hands.
It felt strangely heavy for its size but not so heavy that I suspected books.
I tore it open nonchalantly, showing her I wasn’t so eager to see whatever it was that she had bought for me.
But I wasn’t expecting what was inside. She had gotten me expensive noise cancelling headphones, the kind that are so comfortable it feels like you’re wearing clouds on your ears in addition to the fact that once you put them on you can’t hear anything going on.
“I was thinking they would be perfect for college,” Brooke said, watching my face closely. “This way you could put them on and even if you’re in a packed study room or something no one can bother you.”
“They’re.. They’re,” I was too overwhelmed to say words. They were perfect, and Brooke knew it as well. She walked over and gave me a hug, allowing me to pretend I wasn’t crying by not requiring me to say anything.
“Thank you Brooke,” I said quietly into her shoulder, as she squeezed me tightly.
“This way when you get good marks you’ll have me to thank,” she joked. “Oh and I almost forgot. Mom said you couldn’t find your laptop. Don’t you remember you put it in my closet. For so-called ‘safekeeping’, since you didn’t want to open it up until the night before you left?”
I did remember and immediately I felt stupid. I was just overwhelmed and feeling like I wasn’t ready for any of this, especially without my sister who always knew what to do and led the way.
“Oh,” was all I could say in response though. Mere moments ago I had been so angry at her that I didn’t even know if I would be able to look at her. And now she was reminding me of who she was and buying me presents so I just felt confused. I held onto the feeling of abandonment when she left me to have some sort of self righteousness.
“We’ll talk tomorrow? I’m exhausted.” It gave me a perverse sense of pride to blow her off like that, instead of sitting up with her all night to hear what she had to say. She looked a little put out, but nodded and let me go back to my room where I stayed up half the night looking at my spinning ceiling fan and trying to relax.
I woke up the next day late as usual feeling much better. My temper had alleviated over the night and with a new day came calmer emotions.
Brooke was still not up yet, I had swung past her room to see if she was still there and heard the slow sounds of deep sleep emanating from within.
I decided to make eggs, feeling particularly hungry this morning and in the mood for a big brunch.
I was going to make Brooke breakfast as well. I started off toasting some bread and cheese and cracked a couple of eggs into a big bowl. Then I decided to get very fancy and sauteed some onions and garlic, turning this into a tasty meal. The final cherry on top were milkshakes, each made to order in regards to our preferences. Brooke got double chocolate chocolate with chocolate drizzled on top while I opted for a more subtle mix of pistachio and strawberries. I heard clomping down the stairs as the blender was whirring. Brooke entered the kitchen looking like she hadn’t slept in weeks. Her eyes were ringed in purple, the bags beneath them bigger than any I was bringing with me to college. She held back a yawn as she rumpled her short black hair.
“Wow,” she exclaimed, picking her nose up and sniffing the air as the smell of freshly brewed coffee I had put up last minute wafted towards her. “This is all extremely fancy and unexpected coming from you.”
I shrugged. “I’m feeling good this morning and starving. Come, let’s eat!”
I pointed to the eggs that had just come off the stove. “Those are still hot for the next couple of seconds and the bread is perfectly toasty and cheesy.” Brooke clapped her hands delightedly like a child and grabbed a mug to pour herself a generous dose of caffeine.
“I’m starving as well. And this is delicious!” The last part was said over a mouthful of eggs, shoved into her mouth and washed down with the milkshakes. “I feel like I haven’t eaten real food since I left. I know I was only gone for like four days but it felt like forever. And Simon brought his new girlfriend.” she rolled her eyes. “It seems like every couple of days there’s a new girl that he brings, all ready to party and be part of a band until she realizes how lame he actually is.”
I laughed without being able to help it. I loved hearing her stories and even though I was still dismayed at my being left out of her gang, I conversely wanted to know everything about it.
“We need a picture of all this food!” Brooke grabbed her phone out of the pocket of her pajama shorts and urged me into it, snapping a picture of the spread of food with us at either end of the table, making silly faces and digging in. That was one of my favorite pictures of the summer. It reminded me of our friendship, the fact that no matter how upset I was with her she could always make me laugh, the fact that food was bountiful back then, we were both rumpled from sleep, not showered or dressed and yet looking as beautiful as we had ever been.
Hey guys! Welcome back to Short Story Sunday. Only, this time I’ve decided to do it a bit differently. I’ve decided to post the first chapter of a novel that I wrote recently. Let me know what you think! I’ve been playing with the idea of posting chapters here and if you’d like to influence the work, and maybe end up with your idea in the final draft, leave me a comment! I’d love to hear what you think.
If I had known that the summer before college was the last time that I would truly be carefree, well, I wouldn’t have chosen to squander it away on Netflix. I would have chosen to make more memories, to spend even more time with Brooke. I would have kept her up all night and made her tell me all the secrets of the universe.
I saw that summer as a series of snapshots. It was the only way I could remember what had happened – through all the photos I had managed to snap on my phone.
It was the summer of relaxation. Almost everyone I knew was away, either living it up before college sucked all the life out of them or else escaping the Brooklyn humidity. We never went away. Mom and Dad worked as usual, leaving before Brooke or I had even thought about waking up and coming back when we were deep into our heroic attempt to complete all of Netflix before I couldn’t afford to watch anymore.
Thankfully, Brooke hadn’t had much doing that summer as well. I had a sneaking suspicion that she took time off just to hang out with me, but hey, who cares? I was lucky!
We woke up at around the same time every day – lunch time. The place was hot and my body was sticky on account of the fact that Mom liked shutting off the air conditioning before her and Dad left to work. I know it saved money, but it was really hard to survive with the suppressing heat weighing down on your chest. Every morning required a quick shower – one that only used the cold water, and by the time I was downstairs I was hot again.
The morning of July fourth I made my way downstairs to see Brooke already in the kitchen. It was so hot I was fairly positive if I took an egg out of the fridge it would become hard boiled within a couple of minutes. I noticed the oven was on which explained the high temperatures. But why was it on?
“Good morning!,” Brooke greeted me with a massive smile that swallowed the sweat dripping down her face.
“Ergh,” I replied to her happiness, taking my place at the kitchen table and laying my head down on the cool marble surface. It was too hot. “I’m hungry and what are you cooking? How are you surviving in here?”
“It’s July fourth! Happy Independence Day!” She proceeded to open the oven, checking on it’s contents before closing it back up and wiping her forearm against her forehead. “I’m making a cake.”
“A fancy one?” when Brooke did something she put her one hundred percent into it. That meant the cake was probably going to be fifty layers to represent the stars with stripes all along the sides.
“Of course. You’re going to help me as well. Eat something, we have to run to the store and pick up more ingredients. Everything has to be ready by four for the party.”
I groaned. Every year on July fourth the entire block got together to throw a party. Well, whoever was left here anyways. It was always us at a minimum along with Tom and Delia, the old couple who lived next door. There was nothing wrong with it, per se. There was mostly decent food, if you excluded Delia’s roasted eggplant and bean dish which I hated with a passion. But since Brooke and I were among the only kids on the block we got a certain amount of, shall I say, attention? All the adults wanted to know what we were doing, what our plans were this year, were we dating anyone? It wasn’t so bad, except that Brooke was slowly leaving me behind to accept all the attention on myself alone. I remembered when we were younger and there were more kid centered activities since there were just more of us. But now there was plenty of white wine and beer and tables, so everyone could sit around and gossip.
“Come on,” Brooke said encouragingly. “It’s not that bad.”
“Yeah, but if Mrs. Finer tries to pinch my cheeks one more time I’m gonna scream. I’m eighteen years old!” It was a point I couldn’t help repeating. Ever since turning eighteen, I waited for that revelation one got when they reached adulthood. But it never came. I still felt like a little kid, unable to take the world on by myself. I kept that one close to the chest. Brooke wouldn’t understand. She had always been confident and ready to take on anything.
“Yeah, yeah, we know. I’m going to run up and take a shower, when the timer goes off take the cakes out of the oven, alright?”
“Cakes, plural?” but she was already up the stairs.
I grabbed some ice and poured myself a glass of cold orange juice. I drank it standing inside the freezer, letting the cold air dry the sweat that had already accumulated all over my body. I didn’t want to shower again but it felt like I had to. Closing the freezer reluctantly, I splashed some water over my face and looked around, trying to figure out what I wanted to eat for breakfast. The timer went off just then so I opened the oven door and took out not one, not two, but three cakes! I wasn’t surprised when I saw that one was a blondie cake and the other two were colored blue and red. Really getting into the spirit of it.
I decided on cereal since it was too hot to really cook anything and we had some cinnamon toast crunch left. Brooke came down as I was tilting the bowl up over my head, guzzling what was left of that delicious cinnamon-y and sugary milk.
“Let’s go, Pancake.” Brooke liked to call me that on account of I used to only eat pancakes. I went through a stage. Mom would hide healthy stuff in there, like tuna, or chicken, and I would just pour maple syrup over it and eat. Anything that had the base of a pancake I allowed and I only got over it when my classmates in second grade had a pizza party. Who could pass up pizza?
She grabbed the keys and made her way to her 2003 Pontiac she had purchased at a used car dealership last year. I suspect she knew nothing about the car except for the fact that it was bright red. But she loved her car, and it worked, so I loved it as well. She taught me how to drive in that car.
“Music?,” Brooke gestured for me to play something.
“I left my phone inside!” I grappled with the door handle even as she was pulling away.
“Relax, you’ll be fine. We’ll be back in a couple of minutes, I need to get back before the cakes cool too much.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem.” I settled back into the seat, even as we were turning a corner onto the grocery’s block. That was the thing about living in Brooklyn. You really didn’t need a car to drive anywhere, most things were a short walk away.
Inside, Brooke instructed me to the fruit and vegetable section, giving me a short list, and we were out of the store within 10 minutes. Brooke had hit up the baking aisle and I saw all the buttercream and frosting and white chocolate chips you could dream of.
We made it back with the cakes still sizzling on the counter, and the sun’s rays heating up my favorite spot in the kitchen.
The house phone rang, and neither of us made a move to go answer it. I ran upstairs to get my cell phone that was still plugged in next to my bed.
Three missed calls from Mom. Whoops. That was probably who had called the house and she hated it when we didn’t answer. I quickly called her back.
“Parker!,” Mom always answered the phone at work with a high chirpy voice. She thought it made her seem more approachable and I thought it made her seem more like a bird.
“Hey Mom. Sorry, I left my phone at home, Brooke and I went to buy some stuff she needed for the July Fourth cake.”
“Ok perfect, I was going to ask if you guys went out yet. Did you buy the fruit and vegetables like I asked?” I had totally forgotten, but I saw that as usual Brooke was on top of her game.
“Yeah, we picked them up. How’s work going?”
“Dad’s having a meeting with those people from upstate. We’ll probably finish negotiations and start the job right after you leave for college.”
My heart beat a little faster at that. Thinking of college always made me nervous. I really didn’t feel ready to start that new chapter, but nobody asked me. Age kind of just decides that stuff for you.
“Great, so happy for you guys!”
Someone spoke in the background on my mom’s side and she hung up hurriedly with a, “Love you Parker, tell your sister thank you!”
I trudged back down the stairs. Brooke had all of our mixing bowls out and was proceeding to whip up some blue buttercream.
“Why are Mom and Dad working,” I said as I stood next to Brooke, hoping she would let me lick the bowl.
“They always work,” Brooke said absentmindedly, as she checked her phone again for the recipe.
“Yeah but it’s July Fourth. Are they even going to make it home for the party?”
“Yeah, Mom said they’ll only be there half the day and they should be home by two. Come to think of it,” she wheeled around to look at the clock. “It’s almost 1 so they’ll probably be leaving soon. I need to finish this cake, want to help? And no,” she said that last part whilst slapping my hand away from the spoon she had left lying upright on the counter. “That does not include you licking everything before I’m done. At the end you can but I’m not sure I have enough.”
Brooke always had enough. I rolled my eyes but acquiesced.
Brooke cut off the tops of all the cakes to make them flat and spread buttercream between each layer. She then instructed me to cover half of the cake with red frosting and the other with blue. She finished it off with stars on the blue side and white stripes on the white.
“But now you can’t even see the different colored cakes!” I lamented.
“Just wait until you cut it open though.” And she was right. The cake would be fabulous as usual.
Brooke gently lifted it and brought it to the fridge. She had already cleared a shelf for the big cake and stored it there so everything wouldn’t melt. We would take it out in the beginning of the party and by the time the real food had been eaten the cake would be the perfect temperature.
“GUYS, we’re HOME!,” Mom called as the front door was opened and then promptly closed.
“It’s a furnace in here!” Dad said grumpily, as he usually did at the end of a work day.
“Mom, Dad!” Brooke and I ran into the front room as Dad fiddled with the air conditioner remote to get it up and running and Mom came into the kitchen to get them a cold drink.
“You have to see the cake Brooke made,” I gushed, so excited to show it off. It was truly a masterpiece. They oohed and ahed over it, and then Dad said he had to go take a nap before the party and Mom decided to make some shepherds pie. There was always a BBQ, but she liked bringing food that was ready to be eaten so people wouldn’t be hungry. Brooke and I left to go chill in the basement. It was cool down there even without the benefit of air, and had a massive fan we would put on and oscillate. The fan did good work but it was too powerful to bring upstairs. It would just blow all the important papers all over the place. We relaxed for a bit while skimming YouTube and watching dumb videos. At about a quarter to four Brooke decided she was going to get dressed and I decided I would follow her and raid her closet. This was the best part about having a big sister, who didn’t hate you. That last part was important.
The party didn’t completely suck. Brooke let me wear a pretty blue dress of hers and I tied a thin, white belt around my waist. My red flip flops completed the look and I was appropriately attired for the day.
As expected, all of Mom’s friends came over to ask me what I was planning on doing the coming year.
“I’m going to NYU,” I replied, and for the first time I didn’t hate answering that question. It was an impressive place to say the least and I worked my ass off to get there. I know I deserved it, as well as that hefty scholarship that allowed me to attend it over a community college.
The best picture taken that night is of us sitting on a picnic table. We seem to be talking about something serious, but I know we were probably just goofing around. Brooke’s new short dark hair that always reminded me of one of Rihanna’s hairstyles was blowing bangs into her face. I remember thinking that nobody could possibly pull it off, but she did. And effortlessly, laughing along with everyone and making conversation like a beloved politician. And I mean that in the best way possible.
I don’t know why, but I feel as if I’ve completely changed this past week.
Like, life altering change has occurred within me.
Allow me to explain.
Last week I wrote a post about how down I feel sometimes, and as if I’ll never amount to anything. I compared depression to falling down a dark hole you can’t get out of.
But somehow I feel like someone covered the hole up so I can’t fall in in the first place. And that someone was me.
Allow me to explain further.
In case you hadn’t realized, and have been living in an alternative universe with your head in another dimension completely, us as a society recently passed a huge milestone which was turning 2020 into 2021. With that comes resolutions every way you turn, with people who never take a moment to think about how to be better deciding to completely overhaul their lives and make changes that cause others to raise some eyebrows. As we know, most resolutions don’t last until February (there are many studies that have proven this over time. I found some studies that say only 8% of Americans who make a New Year’s resolution actually keep them all year and 80% have failed by the start of February. The numbers vary but they’re never much higher than that. There was an interesting case study that showed how to be more successful at keeping to your resolutions, read until the end to find out more!).
Well, I made a resolution not in January but a couple of months ago to be more confident (don’t wait for a temporal milestone to start to change!). This only consisted of one thing. Literally one thing. To be positive. To not be self deprecating. Basically to change the narrative in my head.
The narrative in our heads is so much more important than people realize. Every time you say something about yourself you’re pouring cement on that feeling within you. Over and over and over again. Just more and more cement until it’s literally packed in there with no way out.
Obviously there is a way out because while I’ve spent my entire life being self deprecating like this, I’ve also managed to slowly change.
By the way, slow change is the only way. Anyone who promises a fast fix isn’t giving you something lasting. This is most obvious with health, when ‘they’ (who is this ominous they?) say ‘one week to flat stomach’ or something silly like that and it DOESN’T WORK. And whatever results you get won’t last unless you take slow and steady steps towards your goal which means changing your lifestyle.
Changing the way your mind thinks and the way your body works takes time. We’ve lived in it for so long that we’ve already put in place roots which are hard to pick up. Because they are cemented in there.
Ah, there’s my cemented analogy. I was wondering where it had clunked off to.
So how do we uncement ourselves? It’s literally just chipping away at it over and over and over and OVER until it’s gone.
So instead of being negative you’re just being positive. Over and and over again.
In the beginning it honestly feels so weird. So confusing, and, well, fake. But then it starts to shift and you almost don’t even notice it until you look back and are like waiittt…. What just happened? I’m not that person anymore.
Around two weeks ago I noticed the change. I saw I was quicker to jump to say something positive about myself as opposed to the switch I had to consciously make when saying something negative to turn it positive.
And I felt better. I felt more surer of myself and my abilities.
Is that really all it is? Changing the words in your head?
I believe so. I believe so so much that I’ve decided to do a massive life overhaul and start thinking differently. Start thinking I’m already successful instead of wondering where my life is going. Start thinking of myself NOW as the dream person I’m going to be one day instead of just waiting for that one day to occur. It’s already here!
I notice specifically that I do that a lot. I have special things for special occasions, always thinking of my future self instead of the self I am right now. I hadn’t noticed but it was taking a toll on me because I wasn’t valuing myself as I currently I am.
But with that decision to make that change sees a whole new person.
Get ready world because here I come.
Here’s a more succinct version if you want to be the best you that you can be now and start that self loving that is so important to happiness:
Change the narrative in your head. Every time you say something negative about yourself (and if you’re me that happens too often) say something positive. It doesn’t have to be something you really feel. Just say it to yourself. Say it out loud. Say it to a mirror. In fact, say it even when you don’t say something negative. Just express something good about yourself as often as you can.
Treat yourself to something special. It can be a silly thing like using those new bath salts that were supposed to be for ‘a special time in the future’, or wearing your favorite dress even if there is no occasion to dress up. Because there is an occasion. It’s you being freaking awesome.
See I told you I would figure everything out AND make everything better AND show how being an adult can suck less. I’m just that fantastic (see what I did there? No more self deprecating jokes!)
I hope I helped to change your life just like I changed mine. Even if you don’t think it’ll change your life, just humor me and try it (and let me know)! I guarantee you’ll see results. And it can’t hurt, eh? The good news is that the case study that I mentioned earlier showed that people who were given social support while making resolutions were more likely to be successful in them, than those who were left to fend for themselves. And we’re all here to support one another! Let this be your year, your life, and the manifesting of your dreams.