This is going to have to be done in parts. Because it's too long. But I really want to write it down because I'm starting to forget about it, and that is a problem. When it all happened, I wrote stuff like this and this. Vague, stupid, little puzzle pieces. I just sort of feel like a good story deserves to be written down, and that's exactly what all of this is.
And I feel like this blog is a story book blog, so I'm allowed to write about it here.
I thought of this all tonight, completely out of the blue, and couldn't toss it from my mind.
CAUTION: I am using names. It might be dangerous, but hey. Sometimes journalism is messy. Ha! "Journalism".
And the designer, oh. Who was the designer? One time, my friend, Kelsey, told me, but I can't remember it now. She said she knew because she asked him once, back when she had a crush on him, sophomore year, and he told her. It might have started with an 'A', but maybe it didn't. Anyway, if you smell a cologne whose designer's name starts with an 'A', maybe you'll know the peppery smell. Maybe you won't. But he wore it, and I was a fan.
After graduating high school, June 2010, I was relieved. I remember that feeling like it's stenciled to my palms.
I was late for that activity they had on the patio of my high school... the one that's all cliché and "Call me this summer". I had to work a shift at the hot dog stand because my manager was full of herself and refused to work Thursdays.
At the doors, I reached for my wallet, attempting to pay the five dollar fee to get in, when the vice principal interrupted, demanding I change my dress-code-violation-shorts before entering. I nodded and hopped the fence around back by the bleachers, avoiding any sort of fee or authority. As I came around the building, there they all were: the people I'd known since, basically, infancy. Caitlin Johnson still had red hair, though now, weirdly, she was balding. Shelby Dixon was there, too. The summer before she transferred from our rival high school, we toilet papered her lawn and wrote "WELCOME TO HELL" in shaving cream on her front porch steps. We promised never to tell anyone that, but I guess I'm sort of breaking that promise by pasting this proof to the internet. Oops. Sam Lloyd had been smart since the first grade. I noticed him to my right in a tight-knit circle with his Model UN club, exchanging numbers. Lily Wu brushed past me in a hurry. This last year of high school was the first time I'd realized she didn't have a twin. There had always been only one of her. She was just Asian and everywhere. I waved to Blake Ziser, the boy I'd had a crush on for a solid ten years. From ages six to sixteen, I was pretty sure we were MFEO. We were in the same classes, same church events, ran with overlapping groups of kids, and our parents knew each other. We were always good friends, Blake and I, but up until about two years ago, when I confessed my angsty once-upon-a-puppy-love story to him in a letter, I had no idea that he'd once felt the same. I stopped writing him after that because the thrill was gone, you know?
After I waved to BZ (doesn't that sound like the sort of character that would be in The Outsiders or something?), I spotted three of my best girlfriends. We found each other junior year and bonded over ditching school, driving up Cottonwood Canyon, and binging on French bread, Dove chocolate, and Pepsi when we were depressed about our stupid lives. Today, they stood in a line, waiting for me to come over. My year book was in Emily's hands.
"So, we got this for you," she said.
"Good. I was going to tell you to do that since I was going to be late."
"Look inside it. We already had a few people sign it," she smirked, a laugh escaping her lips, "Well, we had one person sign it..." I tilted my head. "Don't be mad. We passed him, and couldn't resist."
Suspiciously, I opened the book. Inside, I found a messy inscription that I recognized instantly. It was from the same hand that had previously written me love notes and stuck them in my pockets. This note, however was cold. Staccato almost.
Have a good life.
It hung flat on the page, but it hurt heavy. After all that time: the lemonade ice cream, the children's books in the library, his confidence in me to listen while he told secrets about himself that no one else knew...
"Oh," I laughed, but it wasn't real. It was a laugh like powdered sugar: pretty and suffocatingly light. "You shouldn't have."
"But we did," said Haley, "and you're probably mad, but you shouldn't be. Because it's good for you. Maybe it'll help you see how pathetic he is."
"No," I breathed, ignoring the last bit of her response, "I'm not mad, I'm just wondering how you got him to do it. He hasn't spoken to me all year."
"Haley did it," McKenzie blamed. I believed her. Haley and Daniel had remained friends the whole time. Haley was good at that. Sometimes, Emily and I resented her for it. This was one of those times.
"I just went up to him, told him it was yours, and asked if he'd like to give you any last words."
"Haley, we're graduating high school, not entering the afterlife," I tried to make a joke.
"Well, it was either that, or nothing at all. Because I guarantee he won't have anything to say to you after this week." Ouch. My breath caught in my chest. "I'm sorry. I just know you. And I knew you never got closure, so this was the best I could do."
I scratched my head, tangling the hair in the bun on top of my head.
"Thank you," I swallowed, "that was thoughtful."
"Are you going to go talk to him?" she asked.
"What is there to left to say?" She shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. I felt as though anything that I might've said would've made me appear to be still attached. Which, I was. And I was pretty sure he knew that. "I'm going to go over here," I motioned to a patch of grass where others stood.
I traded books around with another group of friends, laughing at inside jokes and inappropriate jokes, too. As the last of my classmates filtered out, I stood with two boys who'd been in my English class that year. One of them, Connor, I'd known since the sixth grade. The other boy, I knew by association, mostly. I mean, we talked, sure. Occasionally. Usually about the classes we shared. He had always intrigued me, though, and we'd been in the same group of friends all throughout high school. Same dance groups, the same Friday nights at Marcus Peterson's house... His name was Hayden. Hayden was handsome and a baseball player.
"Sign my year book, Court?"
"How could I not?" Connor was witty, intelligent, and a touch pushy, but I had always liked him.
"So, Mrs. Wolverton... how happy are you to be done with that class?" He was personable and good at making conversation.
"I can't even put it into words." It was a college-level English class that I didn't get credit for because I got sick with Mono. She could've worked around it, but she didn't. Mrs. Wolverton was that teacher.
"Seriously. Me, either. What about you?" Connor looked at Hayden, and I did, too, ceasing for a minute to write my farewell.
"It was okay," he said.
"You've got to have more of an opinion than that..." I pushed.
"Well, truthfully, other than that time she yelled at me for interrupting her, I really didn't mind her class." I handed back Connor's book and retrieved my own.
"That is a bold-faced lie."
"No, it's not!" he laughed, "it is the honest truth." We both smiled shyly. Connor gathered his things and moved on to another cluster. With him gone, the empty space between the two of us got quiet and lovely. I swept the hair in my eyes out of my face and looked up. "Hey, since we're just standing here..." he handed over his book.
"Of course." I signed something that today, I'm sure, would greatly embarrass me. It was something that probably had to do with that English class and the way we exhausted the subject there on the lawn, though, I distinctly remember his message:
I don't know why I don't know you better.
I'm planning on changing that this summer.