I was still a little amazed that this was happening. That this, the
thing that had seemed so impossible, so terrifying, so utterly beyond
me, was happening. I was having fun. And that I was the one who made it
Before we waste anymore time, I need to say that this is the PERFECT
book to read the summer after high school, the summer before college,
but also just a perfect summer read in general! So shoo! Go read it now!
There are only a few weeks of summer left...
- Kiss a stranger.
- Go skinny-dipping.
- Steal something.
- Break something.
- Ride a dern horse, ya cowpoke.
- 55 S. Ave. Ask for Mona.
- The backless dress. And somewhere to wear it.
- Dance until dawn.
- Share some secrets in the dark.
- Hug a Jamie.
- Apple picking at night.
- Sleep under the stars.
This was the list Sloane left for Emily. We all write bucket lists. I wrote one for this summer and the summer before
that too. But my attempts at writing a bucket list are a lot more
heartfelt than my attempts at actually crossing things off of them.
They're there for me when I'm bored of being bored.
The progress I've made on this summer's bucket list is minimal: write
resume, blog collab/interview, learn four songs on the guitar, learn one
song on the piano, 14% fluent in French, midnight McDonald's run. My bucket list is very... practical. Except for perhaps the midnight
McDonald's run (sans parents FYI), my bucket list very clearly misses
the element of adventure. Sloane would never approve.
When you move as much as I have, you know how it ends. You promise to
stay in touch with people, but it doesn’t work out. It never does. And
you forget about what the friendship used to be like, why you liked that
person. And I hated it. And I just didn’t want to do it again. Not with
I've thought about leaving Beijing completely behind me. I'm still wondering. Most of my
close friends aren't here anymore anyway. All
summer I've just wanted to hang out with my friends from college, and I
know I don't have to choose [between my friends from high school and my friends from college], but I feel like everyone [from high school] is in a different place now, and I don't mean just physically.
It takes so much effort. I'm really bad at keeping in touch, but I thought, maybe it won't be too bad; at least we'll have something to talk about. Not having anything to talk about is my sole source of social anxiety. Anyways, since I've been back, I can't remember how many times I've had to recount my past year for people. At first it was really exciting because this past year has been really exciting for me, but after the nth time listing my activities and the cool people I've met, it was just exhausting.
I was tired talking about the past but I didn't have anything about the present to say.
And that's a scary feeling, especially with people who you used to talk about everything with. And in that moment I understood why Sloane left leaving nothing but a list. Because then you could keep your memories intact and live in them. You could pause it right there, unmarred by time.
Maybe I can give them a part of me to live on with. A postcard with an adventure they can tell me about one day. And it wouldn't be a part of their life they lived without me. It would be our adventure.
And real friends never have to tell you that they’re your friends.
There was a piece of me that was still hoping to find this had been a
very realistic nightmare, and that any minute now, I’d wake up.
But that was my best friend, the kind of girl your eyes went to in a
crowd. While she was beautiful—wavy hair, bright blue eyes, perfect skin
dotted with freckles—this didn’t fully explain it. It was like she knew
a secret, a good one, and if you got close enough, maybe she’d tell
But it always felt like nothing had really happened until I’d talked to Sloane about it.
Then, to my astonishment, she started waving at me—but not the normal
kind of saying hello waving—the kind of waving castaways on islands did
to flag down passing ships.
It just felt like I’d seen the first five minutes of a movie, and I had to know what happened next.
As I looked in the mirror, I realized I still felt like myself, but a
new version of myself, one I’d never tried out until today.
And she smiled, like that was just the name she’d been hoping to hear.
He was looking down at his sneakers, and I felt like I was seeing
something I absolutely shouldn’t. And I somehow knew that, however bad
this was for him, it was worse because I was there to witness it.
The girl nodded and gave me an incredibly bad version of a smile, one that turned wobbly and collapsed after a few seconds.
Sloane gave me a tight, quick hug—one of her specialties; she somehow
managed to make her hugs feel meaningful but also efficient.
Nothing worth doing is easy. Especially not in the beginning.
It was actually nice, running next to Frank but not feeling the pressure to say the right thing or keep the conversation going.
Frank went on, apparently thinking we were just having a nice
conversation, not realizing that I was on the verge of an aneurysm.
Sam just laughed again, and I noticed, maybe for the first time, that he
used his laughs to score points, like a punctuation mark, not because
he found something funny.
“Sure,” I said, giving her a smile I didn’t quite feel, wondering for a second if she’d be able to tell the difference.
I suddenly understood what he was saying. That he was staying here
alone. And even though my parents were still physically in our house, I
knew what it was like to come home and have nobody be worried about you,
or asking you about your day.
It was beautiful. There were many other words for it, whole reams of
adjectives, but at first glance, that was all I could come up with.
Before I knew it, the conversation was just flowing without me having to
try and guide it, or be aware of its every twist and turn. I was no
longer thinking about what I should say. I was just going with it,
letting the conversation unfold.
I think it’s harder to be the one left behind.
I thought about telling him how it sometimes felt like I was only half
there, without Sloane to talk to about what I was experiencing. How it
felt like someone had chopped off my arm, and then for good measure
taken my ID and sense of direction. How it was like I had no idea who I
was, or where I was going, coupled with the fact that there was a piece
of me missing that never seemed to stop hurting, never letting me
forget, always reminding me I wasn’t whole. But instead, I just looked
at him, somehow understanding that he knew exactly what it was like to
feel these things.
We’ve been friends since we were little. One of those friends you can’t even remember making, you know?
Were horses one of those animals that could smell fear? It seemed likely, after all, their faces were practically all nose.
“Hello,” Collins said, a wink somewhere in his voice.
But as soon as I put it on, I realized I didn’t want to take it off. It
was floor-length and black, with a high neck edged in gold and a
plunging, open back. It was the most sophisticated thing I’d ever worn
and I somehow felt different in it, like I was a person who had places
to wear a dress like this, and exciting adventures to recount afterward.
Sometimes, you just needed to run.
I closed my eyes only to open them once more, and make sure it was all
still there—the riot of stars above me, this whole other world existing
just out of reach.
You’re so scared of things sometimes, and for no reason.
There was something about Lissa that made me want to sit up straighter, and made me wish I’d read a newspaper recently.
Gideon didn’t ask these questions just to be polite, and never wanted to hear that everything was fine when it wasn’t.
The moonlight was so bright that it was casting our shadows onto the
asphalt, and we walked in silence that felt totally comfortable, like
maybe we didn’t need to talk just then.
Maybe she didn’t do something big. Maybe she just told someone
something. Something they’d been needing to hear. I don’t think you have
to do something so big to be brave. And it’s the little things that are
But I was just thinking about that first night at the Orchard. You just
seemed so... diminished. Like you were hoping nobody would see you...
[and now] you’re the brightest thing in the room. You shine.
Even though we weren’t looking
at each other—even though we both seemed to be working very hard not to
look at each other...
But cold or not, the water felt amazing, and I realized just how
different it was from swimming with a bathing suit on. It reminded me of
sleeping under the stars—with nothing between you and the elements.
My hair was in tangles, and the wedding makeup I’d worn was half washed
off, half smeared under my eyes. But my cheeks were flushed and even
though I looked like a mess, I looked happy. I looked like someone who’d
had a night, and had a story to tell about it.
But now, every trace of her was gone. It was just an anonymous room, one that could have belonged to anyone.
Frank glanced over at me for just a second, but that was all that it took.
And I thought, for some reason, of the spec house—the structure that was perfect only from the outside.
She had reacted just as I’d hoped she would throughout. She’d been
responding at the right moments, making me realize how much I’d missed
telling her things—her enthusiasm, her complete lack of judgment, the
way that, even when you were wrong, she was on your side.
I know things might not work. And I know it’s scary, but the things that are worth it are. It feels right.
It was like swimming under the stars, like sleeping outside, like
climbing a tree in the dark and seeing the view. It was scary and safe
and peaceful and exciting, all at the same time. It was the way I felt
when I was with him. “Like a well-ordered universe.”
I was going to miss her—I knew it. But somehow, I had the feeling that we were going to be okay.
I somehow knew that the particulars didn’t matter. She was my heart, she
was half of me, and nothing, certainly not a few measly hundred miles,
was ever going to change that.
This felt like the way you get nervous right before something exciting
happens—the moment when you’re balanced on the top of the roller
coaster, the hush before the surprise party, the second after the diving
board but before the water, when you can close your eyes and imagine,
for just a second, that you’re flying. The feeling that good things were
coming, almost here, any moment now.
eleanor & park
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