this was never meant to be forever

There is a fragility here I cannot hope to describe. The words turn and run whenever I approach, seemingly ignoring me because no, no. This can’t be right. You haven’t finished. You can’t be done. This isn’t over yet. No way. 

Except, of course, it is. These days are numbered, one and two, and slipping slowly from my grasp. I tried ignoring them; I tried laughing at them; I tried not to cry over them; I tried to be excited about them; I have tried, even, to hold them tight and not let go. Not yet.

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Time, unfortunately, is not a particularly good listener. She rolls on as though we weren’t even here, weren’t even trying to gather our scattered thoughts and pack them into bins and boxes without the promise of have a good summer or until next year. Sometimes, it seems, she’s leaving us without that usual promise of until next time and I am left wondering how many of these people I will see again. I try to avoid thinking like that.

I have tried refusing to pack. My room is a mess of blankets and clothes and books and notes and pictures and shoes and thoughts. I stand here with one foot rooted in denial and the other stuck in nostalgia, trying to sort through the material and the memory. I am proud of what I’ve done here–all I’ve learned, the friends I’ve made, the person I’ve become–but I am not quite ready to take my leave.

This last week has been one of laughter, of fun with friends and enjoying the sun and ignoring the goodbyes that tangle in my throat. I will see you soon, I tell myself (and sometimes, it’s even true). These familiar faces and familiar places are slowly, slowly leaving–packing their bags, moving away. I would not deny them–I’m excited for them. They are headed for beautiful, big things and I cannot wait to see what happens next.

But through it all–ignoring goodbyes and packing and thinking about graduating and leaving–I am having a hard time remembering that this?

This was never meant to be forever. This was only ever just for now.

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So I’ll pack my things. I’ll organize my books. I’ll throw out my notes. I’ll wear that cap and gown hidden in the back of my closet. I’ll show up for the ceremonies and even smile for some of the pictures. I’ll write letters to my friends, send them pictures from wherever I end up in the next few years, and hope they do the same.

And on Tuesday, with all of the pomp and circumstance concluded, I’ll leave. I will look at these dorm room walls for one last time, lock the door, and head onto the next adventure with tears on my face and butterflies in my stomach.

That next adventure is still a bit unknown, after all. I just hope it’s a good one.

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“I have to know–what are you reading?”

tumblr_n3p24mzzDd1qkudy6o1_500We were sitting at the edge of the restaurant, lurking by the empty chairs and waiting for our take-out orders to be ready. My phone nearly dead, my socks soaked through, my raincoat ten shades darker than when I ventured out of my building–I was just happy to be inside, happy to be sitting on a stool waiting on burgers for me and Basia, happy to be reading and out of the rain for a few gloriously dry minutes.

He had smiled at me twice while we were in line, looked back at me from behind his Ray-Bans. He ordered lemonade with his burger. I ordered sweet potato fries.

“What book are you reading? I’m so curious.”

I glance at him slowly, reluctant as always to ignore a book. I wonder briefly why my face seems to always invite questions. Perhaps it’s genetic–my mom and brother certainly share the experience.

The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman.”

“Ah.” He settles himself more comfortably on the stool, scrunching his nose a little as he thinks. “I’ve heard that… what was it… American Gods is his best work.”

I shrug. “This is the first book of his I’ve read, so I really don’t know. This one is wonderful, though. My friend found out I hadn’t read any of his work, ran to her room, grabbed this one, and thrust it into my hands.” I smile at that memory. Basia had practically thrown the book into my arms, that much was true, but her roommate, my friend Stacy, did much the same with a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo two years previously. Both books proved marvelous reads, but I had expected nothing less: I trust their literature taste implicitly.

We talked about friendships like this in my lit class last week, how saying you trust someone’s book recommendations speaks volumes (literally). Those two, they are certainly on the list of friends whose bookshelves I intend to raid for years to come.

I mention my lit class, now, that this children’s lit course is not covering much genre lit although my professor encourages us to go for it if that’s what we want to write, to read.

“Are you an English major?” He asks.

I laugh at that. How many times have I been asked that question in the past few years? Too many to count, I suppose. “No,” I say, “no, I am not. I’m a pre-med anthropology major.”

“Oh.” He pauses. “I’m majoring in… nothing.”

“Noth–what year are you?”

“Me? I’m a freshman,” he answers.

“Ahhh,” I sigh, still smiling. That explains much: his interaction with me, his smiles, his rather flippant attitude towards his education. “You have so much to look forward to,” I say. I wonder what my freshman-self would think of me now, waiting on burgers and talking to a stranger. She’d probably wonder where Priya was.

So much. Three more years, in fact–and as much as I loved my freshman year, the best was yet to come. I wrote a letter to myself just the other month about that.

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I spent a solid hour hanging out with my writing professor later that week–partially because we all had to meet with her, partially because there are few things in this life I enjoy more than bonding over words. This shared language of reading and writing means more than I could ever say.

What’s that saying? Youth is wasted on the young. I wanted to tell this kid that, to say that people aren’t kidding when they tell you college is the best. It is, truly. I’ve loved my time here, enjoyed every year. Some more than others, sure, but each has had its high points–laughing through freshman year with Priyanka, getting free movie tickets during sophomore year when the fire alarm went off during the midnight premiere of The Avengers, watching the sunrise from the rooftop lounge all of junior year, spending four months in Ireland.

He introduced himself before he left, saying he was certain we’d run into each other.

He was wrong, of course. I have not seen him since we met all those weeks ago. I almost hope we do, at some point. I want to talk to him, see if he learned the truth in my words:

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that college goes quickly, but it’s an adventure well worth enjoying.

mother’s day

There are many things I do not know.

I do not know my mother’s favorite color.

I could not tell you her favorite food, or the name of her
favorite dog as a child. I do not know
which subjects she excelled in, but hated,
or the classes with which she struggled, but loved.

I do not know the name of her favorite teacher,
or what she did for fun in college. I do not know which books she read
spoke into her soul and shaped her very existence,
which authors penned words that she devoured time
and time again;
I do not know which stories buried into her heart and made her
laugh and cry and grow.

I could not tell you if she broke her arm trying to fly
off the roof, or falling out of a tree, or if she twisted her ankle
playing basketball after school or running
that one time she did cross country.

I do not know if she lost her favorite earrings after prom, or
ruined her favorite shoes running through the rain or ran a red light
because she was late to a meeting or if she cried
on her wedding day.

Here is what I do know.

I know the way
her voice cracks when someone
does something to show how much they love her.

I know the way she held me tight whenever I was sick,
the way she let me skip writing and only do math that time I fell
off my bike and skinned my elbows so badly
I could barely move my pencil across the page.

I know that she loves hymns, loves the fourth and fifth verses of
Amazing Grace—the ones we never sing. I know that her mouth
quirks a little more when she sings those lines from Crown Him With Many Crowns,
the ones with phrases like potentate of time and creator of the rolling spheres,
ineffably sublime.

I know she reads. I know she writes.

I know she has hung a black and white picture of Bob Dylan on
our wall of old family photos, and I know
she laughs when people notice.

I know she lives selflessly. I know she paints rooms
efficiently and effectively. I know she makes meals for friends
and drives them places—even if that place is the airport
and she is tired
and it is early, early morning.

I know that sometimes she likes
a small taste—just the one—of cookie dough
before it comes together, when it is simply butter
and sugar,
and sugar.

(just one.)

I know she taught me physics by helping me to make
a spud gun
from a plastic pen
and letting me shoot potato pieces across the driveway
to mark trajectories and track their falls.

I know she challenged me to read,
to read much and to read well—and I know she taught me how
to write, as much as I hated it at the time.

I know she drove hours out of her way—more than once—
just so I could spend time with my best friend.

I know she knows me better than I know myself at times,
I know she loves me well,
and I know I can ask her
almost anything.
I know that she will always, always make a space for me.

There are many things I do not know,

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but her favorite colors are coral and teal.