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Sinking in the corner of a squishy brown couch, I watch six older girls stand by the opposite wall and practice singing. Most of them are related to each other either by blood or marriage. The girls’ high voices are spot-on in tune and confidence. At the end of the first run-through, they laugh at how they can make a verse sound squeaky, then turn to the girl in the middle to hear her ideas for the song’s improvement. Those girls have a special bond. They trust and love each other. Their mom stands in the doorway, listening. What does she feel hearing her girls’ beautiful voices?
At the kitchen table, the cat paws two butterfly hair clips. My mom swoops them up and clips them to the top of my head and continues cutting my bangs while I hold a paper plate under my chin to catch the trimmings. My cheek itches from the tiny strands of hair. “I don’t know about this technique; your bang’s all mismatched lengths. Let me even them out a bit, or else people will be asking, ‘Who cut your hair, your mom?!’” I laugh, the force of my breath blowing cut hair from the paper plate onto the floor. We move outside.
What constitutes a best friend? Length of time you’ve known each other? Events that happen within that time? A combination of both time and happenings? How much should you reveal about your darkest thoughts? When is the right time to do so? How should you hope the other reacts? How should you react to hearing them? What if someone you thought was a friend sends mixed signals? Listens but doesn’t offer much support? How do you cope if a friend disappears? Is the joy now worth the pain in the end? How do you move on?
a year of school a summer of friends can i put them both together draining assignments draining classes will i have energy left for fun my schedule’s in the morning hers in the afternoon it doesn’t look like ours will mesh been four months since proposed walk whose to say it will ever happen just have to settle for three minutes at a time but those days will shrink in my upcoming schedule who the hell knows what’s going through her mind sometimes warm sometimes distant i wish there was more communication and less silence
“Did you take singing lessons?” “No, I’ve been singing since I was little. There are some people who I’ve sung with who just couldn’t hit the notes, and it turns out they don’t sing around the house.” Maybe kids are born with a natural musical ear, and singing as toddlers helps them develop it. But if the kid is discouraged from singing, they don’t practice, and their musical ear fades. When they’re older, they have to work harder to learn music than someone who has been singing since birth. Her singing is spot on tune; it’s astounding she hasn’t had a single lesson.
I walk to the back room to get blueberries for the bunnies. My little cousin follows me, but stops at the open door. I lift my head from the fridge to look at him standing at the doorway. He smiles. “So you’re staff?” he asks. I nod. Not so long ago, he would have barreled into the back with me. Five minutes ago the front room was crowded with little kids wanting to pet the snake, and he patiently waited at the back of the crowd for his turn. When did he become so mature? I hand him two blueberries.
“Did you know Hercules beetles are 40% protein? That’s double the amount of chicken,” she shares from her computer. I look down at the female Hercules beetle climbing on my t-shirt. At first glance she looks vulnerable, but her prickly legs against my arm banished that impression. The two naturalists Google Image the difference in Hercules and unicorn beetles. I stand behind them, shifting from one computer screen to another. The three of us eat take-out from Panera. I nibble a chocolate chip cookie and hold my free hand under the beetle, just in case she falls from my shirt.
“Shall we move it over there?” I gesture toward the pavement. She nods and reaches to hold the lattice at the top of the tent. I stand on tip toe to do the same at the opposite end. We lift the tent and walk it a few feet forward, then begin lowering the metal legs. I help her bring the rest of the stuff to the car. We laugh as a foldable table refuses to stand straight in the trunk. At the end, she holds both hands above her head for a double high five. “We make a good team.”
“Do you want to be in charge of ordering the cookie?” my mom asks me in the order line at Panera. When I stand at the counter to place my order, the lady moves on to my sister’s request before I can mention the cookie. My mind freezes. It took all my gusto to tell the cashier the first thing that I have no bravery left to speak again. My mom sees my frozen expression and orders the cookie. I feel so incompetent; can’t even go to a restaurant without freaking out at the prospect of talking to strangers.
The four visitors reach out to pet the yellow rat snake I’m holding. “How can you tell a poisonous from a nonpoisonous one?” the grandmother asks. At last, a question I can answer! “You see how this snake’s eyes are round? A poisonous one would have a vertical pupil. And poisonous snakes have two nose pits, and their heads are more triangular.” This is the first time I’m comfortable talking to a stranger. I know what I’m saying, I’m in a place that feels home, and I’m comfortable in my roll as a naturalist-in-training. This confidence feels amazing.
My high school science teacher texts, “If you go outside, you can see a comet called Lovejoy, to the right of the Pleiades.” Frustrated with a drab school paper, I don’t care about a fuzzy blob in the sky. I don’t even know what Pleiades is. But I want to tell my teacher friend that I did it. I Google the shape of Pleiades, don on a coat, dig out a pair of binoculars, and head to the porch. I scan the sky for Taurus and look to the right of his horns. There’s Pleiades, a tiny cluster of bright stars in the shape of a spoon.
How could such tiny stars be that bright? The Pleiades stars’ close proximity to each other makes them look like tight friends, whereas other constellations’ stars are dimmer and miles apart. My neck hurts gazing up while holding heavy binoculars against my eyes, but I’ve switched from feeling frustrated to peaceful. I remember why I’m outside and scan for Lovejoy. My friend’s right: the comet does look like a fuzzy gray blob. I move the binoculars back to Pleiades. When my neck can’t stand anymore craning, I go inside, feeling much calmer than before. “Thank you for telling me about Lovejoy,” I text my friend. “Pleiades is beautiful.”
I shake a handful of Lucky Charms into my hand. My mom sits down with a whole bowl of cereal. She looks at the back of the cereal box at the story with blanks in it. “Wanna do the MadLib?” Pen in hand, she asks me to supply adjectives and nouns. “Friend’s name,” she states next. My mind scurries through a list of friends, wondering which one to pick. Most of the names have been recently added to my mental tally. It feels so good to have more than two possible names to choose from.
“Good morning. Pussy cats sleep on top of you?” Why can’t you ever say anything new? Anything worthwhile?? “Nope.” “So what times are your classes?” Why do you care? You were never around, that’s why she left! “I can only remember what times they end.” “When I was in school I had classes from 8 to 12.” That was eons ago, stop talking as if you know everything you walking Wikipedia you know absolutely nothing. Nothing! “Mm.” “Well, I’m going to climb into the shower.” Wait! Don’t go! I don’t want to be alone! “Ok.”
“This is the... chore... that never ends,” she sings with a laugh, holding a cloudy plastic container at her waist and mopping it clean with a chemical wipe. She continues singing slowly, “It just goes on and on myyyy friendddd. Somebody started singing it, not knowing what it was.” I join in. “And now they’re very sooorrry beeeecaaause.... This is the song that never ends.” We pick up speed, “It just goes on and on my friend, somebody started singing it, not knowing what it was, and now they’re very sooorry beeecaaaause....” I really hope this song will never end.
Pop music shouts from the overhead speakers of the ice cream stand. Most of the lyric’s messages are positive. Our group of six sits down on a circular blue picnic bench. I can’t hear the conversation over Taylor Swift; I’m more interested in watching the other customers anyway. In line and on benches, people stand and chat with their clusters of friends. Little kids smile while they dive into bowls half the size of their heads. A few adults look solemn. What brought everyone to the ice cream stand? A celebration? End of summer fun? Something depressing that needs to be filled with dessert?
Flashing lights beep along the outlines of the ice cream stand’s sign as the sun begins to go down. People from newborns to 80 year olds stand in line. A man carries an orange dreamsicle cone that’s about one and a half hands tall. A little girl catches my eye and smiles, blinding blue shaved ice covering her lips and teeth. The loud pop music and friendly customer chatter create an excited vibe. I’m sad this happiness is centered with ice cream. Could we create this much excitement for healthy food? Set up a little stand with delicious concoctions and turn up the radio.
Sitting out on the back deck again while my mom cuts my hair. Without my glasses, the trees’ different colors are more pronounced. I can see the dark green in the shadow, light green in the sun, and silver/green in between. My mom’s hand moves to my right. I see her bronze bracelet with a yellow stone. Her hand is in focus while the trees in the background aren’t. It’s a picture-worthy sight. Are photographs beautiful because one object is in focus while the background is blurry, just like imperfect human vision?
“Reestablishing lost connection,” writes the black bar on top of facebook’s newsfeed as my phone searches for the internet. How ironic is this phrase? I friended people on Facebook because I felt I was losing or not getting enough time with them. I hoped Facebook would help me feel more connected to them. I was trying to reestablish a waning connection. Seeing friends’ pictures and comments from Facebook does provide a jolt of happiness, but it’s short lived. Those pictures are targeted to many people, not just me. Facebook connections are not as meaningful; it’s a supplement. You could lose a connection.
“You want to see our library?” She opens a closet door filled with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. “Do all of these books have a religious theme?” I ask. “Eh, mostly,” she answers with a shrug. Lots of the books in the adults’ section are series with the same look to their spine. Not much variety. Recognizing a spine in a messy kids’ shelf, I exclaim, “Anne of Green Gables!” “Yeah, these are mostly wholesome, safe books.” This is a limited library. Books are not meant to be safe. If they aren’t thought provoking, they aren’t doing the reader much good.
a fork in the road are they both the same road? no this one has a different name shoot this isn’t where i want to be i can’t even read road signs no this is still not the right road darn it i hate the uncertainty of new places! oh this is actually the right road after all stop tailgating me i don’t know where i’m going good this road goes on forever like the map said yes the gps seconds my thoughts aha! i know this light! ok you can shut up now gps i know where i’m going shut up now shut up
walking through campus the buildings tower and i remember how suffocating they felt -- i remember the hollow feeling that settled in after being overwhelmed ran its course -- walking down hallways remembering seeing students chatting with friends and wishing i wasn’t as lonely -- and people wonder why i’m dreading the start of school -- greeting teachers they seem so excited for the start of a new school year and ask about my courses but i want summer to go on forever i’m tired of all work and no play that’s how it’s always been i want to play i want balance
cat’s on porch probation what the hell how could you not think the cat would scratch a post he gorges monster claw marks in everything what’s so special about the screened in porch why does the porch have to be screened in for it to be used--when i was five i used to think ‘i’ll understand when i’m older’ whenever something didn’t make any sense now i think ‘i’m never going to understand’ i never want to be an adult not the workworkwork boring kind i want to still be playful and muddy when i’m thirty
“Did you know lefties have shorter life spans? It’s because of accidental deaths, cuz everything is made for right handed people.” Why is modern american society adamant about conformity? Is it possible for objects to be manufactured in a way that both right and left handed people can use? “Everything changed in a heartbeat.” Is this true? A person’s life can defy gravity in a second, but there were events that led up to that powerful second. Events lead up to the impact of a heartbeat. Everything in time influences something else.
watching twilight movies with my cousin and sister they ooh and aaah over the little girl renesme i think she looks freaky with her too perfect potentially computer generated face my cousin swoons over jacob then my sister agrees and brings up her attraction to peeta from the hunger games what on earth i’ve never heard her admit to liking boys before this is a whole new territory what do they see in jacob and peeta i don’t see anything special did biology skip me i have no interest in motherhood or marriage so what’s my role in life if biology won’t influence it
He slows the blue minivan as he passes me on the grass. “School starts pretty soon. Get your nose to the grindstone. Nose to the grindstone!” he says with mock seriousness, driving away to the main road. The girl in front of me continues packing up and sings, “That’s riiiight! We’re all gonna hold you accountable, so do well in schooool.” I’ve already had my nose grated raw from that grindstone. I’m too serious of a student, too much of a perfectionist. I’m going to make this year different. I’ll find a balance between work and play. Because working all the time is a killer.
Quotes from English class: Enjoy what you read. Is Hemingway’s For Sale a short story? Maybe. It depends on your imagination. It’s your job to complete the work the author has started. A writer is writing for a reader who will complete the story. Every time you reread a story, you are a different person. Different things will be meaningful; different things will hold your interest. If a rational and irrational person get in a fight, the irrational person will win. Faulkner is making us, the reader, part of the gossip too. The structure -- design, organization -- of fiction assists its meaning, if the writer is any good.
The rock cycle is like a human cycle. We emerge as a burst of lava and cool over time into an igneous rock. We become worn and crumble. Eventually these pieces are glued back together into sedimentary rock with gentle pressure and mineral water. When heat and stress return, we become metamorphic rock. Add more stress and we become lava. In any stage of the cycle, weathering can break us down and eroded us into pieces. We get revved up in life, break down with wear and tear, someone/thing picks up the pieces and glues us back together, we heat up and become stronger, but heated too much we liquidate, and the cycle repeats.
During the first class, I didn’t freak out when the teacher said that she expects us to share our opinions on the stories out loud. In both of today’s classes when the class went around telling our names and years, I was mildly nervous but didn’t freak or blank out (though I did get my words mixed up but not noticeably). When I stopped by a faculty’s office to chat, she said I looked more confident. I felt more confident. I felt optimistic, which is the opposite of what I felt the last time I saw her just a few days ago.
The teacher calls on quiet students to read quotes from the powerpoint. She makes eye contact with me and nods. I stare at the first word of the quote and take a breath. Nothing comes out. I try again. I read the whole quote from the top to the bottom of the screen. This time last year it took three tries for me to speak, and even then I stuttered and fidgeted and felt awful. Today I still can’t be brave enough to offer an opinion on my own accord, but at least I can read without freaking out.
there’s something comforting about these keys sinking down every time my fingers press them, i like the rhythm of it, it feels orderly. when i was younger my mind automatically spelled out every word i heard on an imaginary keyboard; i think i was preparing myself for typing on the keyboard. i’ve heard that there’s nothing like the kinesthetic feeling of pen to paper and i get that for taking school notes but i really love typing for journaling or writing papers-- anything with a big important idea. my fingers can go faster on the keys than they can holding a pencil
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