my baby aspen is graduating [‘:
and look! she’s wearing all chanel whilst doing it!
and look! another 50 items exactly set!
and look! this story is peerlessly late!
and look! i love this story because i listened
to “shake it out” by florence + the machine
while writing it and it fits so perfectly it hurts
and it makes me cry and go
aspen blair chanel > > > FU
sunday, june tenth.
mood: anxious, nervous, scared.
style: school spirit, clad in school colors (and chanel).
hair: like doll’s.
with: graduating class of 2012.
venue: // tenth. – graduation.
the families of graduating seniors emptied out of cars,
sheepish in uncommon splendor,
like milling clans at the origin of a parade.
there is something spent about the families of teenagers;
perhaps we need to tire and differentiate, leave and adapt.
the highschool students, though, all seemed quite excited to be here,
like they were finally getting a glimpse of this magical new world they assumed was adulthood.
as if adults regularly got together in football fields, all dressed up in caps and gowns.
on such a liberating, important day in my teenage years,
i suddenly felt very choked.
my robe felt heavy,
as if it were chains;
i was clad in chains
a curtain of chains.
and yet i stood in a gathered circle,
my head raised high,
with the people i have grown to love.
“we’re graduating…” i murmured under my breathe.
Darcy gave a squeal as a response.
“/we’re graduating…/” i told myself,
as if it just hit me.
i adjusted my cap,
which had constantly
wanted to fall of my head
since the moment i put it on at home.
i took it as the universe sending me strong signs of disapproval.
“yeah, isn’t it great?” asked Darcy,
she showcased her gown and honor stole.
i tried smiling,
but it just didn’t fit,
which made me frustrated,
but most of all, scared.
i tried not to show it,
but i had been plagued with anxiety.
this day—wasn’t it suppose to define our adulthood?
this day—wasn’t it suppose to be the highlight of our adolescence?
this day—wasn’t this day the day we spend four long years working for?
everywhere my eyes landed,
i saw people with wide smiles.
i tried to blend in,
but my smiles weren’t genuine.
they were stiff,
apathetic, shattered, and
would quickly fade from my lips.
especially when another graduate passed me.
Darcy tapped me on the shoulder.
“hey, you okay?”
“yeah… i just…” i drifted off. “i’ll be right back.”
i stalked up the sidewalk.
and my mind drifted backwards.
and my heart became still; very still.
in a place far away from anyone or anywhere,
i closed my eyes and drifted into the black,
and it got brighter and brighter. it wasn’t black at all—it was red.
warm, vibrant, brilliant red… i floated into the red benediction.
but through the haze i heard a familiar voice.
“Robert,” i chirped.
it was nice to see a familiar face in
the sea of strangers.
“you came…” i sounded surprised, but i was anticipating this moment.
my cap slowly inched off my head,
making me stop to straighten it.
it made me irritated.
“i wouldn’t miss my oldest friend’s graduation.”
i stayed silent.
“are you excited?” he asked with a supple smile.
my eyes dropped.
my breathe became silent.
my teeth found my bottom lip.
“to be honest, more scared than excited.”
i could tell from the “hm” that escaped his mouth that
he went through this before and was genuinely concerned.
i peered up,
finding Robert’s eyes glued to the ground,
like he was lost in deep thought.
“i’m going to new york this september,”
i said, the words flowing out louder than expected.
his eyes flew up to mine. i
caught the small sliver of
surprise trapped in his eyes.
but he stayed solemn, silent.
then his eyes met mine.
they were the same gentle,
calm, easy, delicate, eyes that
i recognized from my childhood.
“you’ll do great things in new york,” he said with a smile.
my lips curled slightly, but not enough to make a smile.
“were you scared for your graduation?” i asked him.
“i was more concerned with keeping my cap on my head.”
Robert’s eyes were glazed, in a way,
and he took off my graduation cap and laughed,
and tucked a strand of hair behind my ear,
and placed the cap back on,
and smiled at me;
a smile i haven’t seen for awhile.
i chuckled softly.
“i hear superglue is a good remedy.”
“who do you think thought of it?”
he quipped, pointing to himself.
my eyes trailed to my heels after a light laugh. and the moment faded.
“i just wish i felt ready, or sure, or prepared.”
the smile ran away from his face and his voice tightened.
“that’s life, aspen, you’re never ready, or sure, or prepared for it.”
“but what if i make a mistake?” i asked.
Robert threw back his head and laughed.
“a mistake? one mistake? then you’re really lucky.
you’ll make dozens! i made four or five on my first day alone!
of course you’ll make mistakes. just don't make any of them twice.
if you do mess things up, don’t try to hide it. don’t try to rationalize it.
recognize it and admit it and learn from it.
we never stop learning, none of us.”
Robert’s eyes glittered with harsh concern.
“adulthood isn't black and white—it’s a thousand shades of grey. or taupe. or hot pink. it’s not where you are, it’s who you are.
so i’ll be there watching your brilliant, beautiful life unfold.”
i looked at my oldest, dearest friend,
and finally felt happy that he was
here, and we were friends.
because maybe being an adult wasn’t crossing some arbitrary age line into wisdom.
maybe it was like anything else—training wheels and mistakes, trial and error,
and now and again that feeling that you might have wings.
there was an ocean of blue caps and gowns surrounding me.
anxiety littered the air, but it was mixed with excitement.
i reached up to wipe the tears that i hadn’t noticed.
because everything i knew
was going to change.
but maybe this time,
i didn’t have to be scared.
i repeated the words Robert had told me:
we never stop learning—
none of us.
and a renewed confidence washed over me.
Darcy stood beside me,
her eyes were invested on the dean,
their glittering admiration sparkled with
the tears that were now pooling in her eyes.
i gave her hand a squeeze and her breathes turned even, calm.
she didn’t say anything. she just squeezed back tightly.
and that was enough.
then, with an extended, falling glissando of relief, i took a deep breathe,
my smile slowly becoming genuine.
“this is our moment.”
and suddenly the dean was saying goodbye.
and suddenly the class of 2012 was holding hands.
and suddenly a million flat hats were soaring into the sky,
disappearing into the atmosphere as they turned the color of the clouds.
i started to laugh.
i laughed for the four years,
i laughed for my freedom,
i laughed for my future,
i laughed for fun.
tipping my head back to the jagged, fringes of the sky.
i said nothing, but simply stared upward, floating,
watching, with bittersweet eyes, the
slow dance of our flat caps.
and suddenly i was no longer a high school student.
snapshots, moments, mere seconds:
as fragile and beautiful and hopeless as a
single butterfly, flapping on against a gathering wind.
“I’VE GRADUATED!” i screamed running down the lawn,
waving my diploma madly in the air.
Robert came charging toward me with unmatched excitement.
i lit up and laughed.
there was a fresh, cool wave of
relief that washed over me as
i ran into Robert’s arms.
and when he lifted me into his arms
and spun me around,
my heart lost my breathe,
leaving it suspended in my throat.
it was like a million butterflies were flapping and fluttering and caught in my lungs,
trapping the words with their wings.
a camera would’ve missed it—
a magnificent picture worth it’s thousand perfect words:
me and Robert.
you should always take a picture, if not with a camera, then with your mind.
memories you capture on purpose are always more vivid than the ones you pick up by accident.
and when i finally caught my breathe,
Robert placed me down, and respired deeply.
“you did it,” he told me.
i nodded into his chest.
even if Robert wasn’t always with me on my journey in highschool,
it was understood that i wouldn’t be who i am today without him.
he changed me, made me a better person, the person i never
knew i could be, a person /i/ could rely on; be proud of.
a butterfly rolled out of my mouth
and released the words,
there was a jolt of happiness that ran through my body
and something went boom in my stomach,
making me lurch forward even
though i had let go.
a head of ringlets came bounding in, camera in hand,
squeezing her McQueen-blonde locks between
our bodies for a quick snapshot.
the picture probably looked like a modern Picasso.
“oh my gosh i can’t believe you’re here!” Darcy chirped,
turning to give Robert a big hug. “you have no idea how good it is to see you!”
he laughed and hugged her back tightly.
“you too! and i can’t believe you’ve graduated, you old giraffe!”
she grinned and displayed her diploma proudly.
he scanned it quickly. “you survived!”
“WE SURVIVED!” i shouted, falling over Darcy.
“and it only took a sh/it load of all-nighters, advil, and anxiety!”
“BUT IT WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!” i howled as
Darcy and i raised our diplomas into the air.
she squealed and began to take pictures with the two of us.
silly pictures with exaggerated, childish, and whimsical poses.
every now and then i’d burst into laughter,
or Darcy would erupt into a flurry of giggles,
or Robert would tip his head to the sky in hysterics,
and then the three of us would find tears streaming down our eyes.
tears of laughter,
tears of joy.
because this was the day reserved for tears.
as i caught my breathe, i watched Darcy and Robert continue their silliness.
my head cocked,
my smile ran away,
and i just stared at Robert.
because it seemed like nothing had changed.
only, there was a two-year gap between us.
something fluttered and twisted.
at that moment, a strange sensation engulfed me;
i felt restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, redeemed.
everyone had somewhere to go,
some thing to attend,
some place to be.
except me and Zac.
we took his old convertible and parked on top of a hill.
it was our safe place,
our safe haven.
even the dreaded future couldn’t touch us,
we were shielded in possibility.
we sat on the hood of Zac’s car, on
the hill where seniors used to tell
us they could do things better
than us and then laughed.
but most importantly,
the times that make you go “ahhhhhh”,
the times that make you wish they never passed,
the times that make you nod your head because those
were so fleeting, and so precious, that all you could do now is remember.
there was a comfortable silence that ensued.
because words would spoil the memories,
and all we’d be left with were two
people who couldn’t remember.
“aspen blair chanel,” he said my name like an incantation.
i laughed. “what do you want?”
“i just haven’t said your full name in a while,”
Zac trilled in a plummy tone.
i laughed and punched his arm playfully.
he seemed to flinch.
he glared at me
and i stared at him.
“why do you keep staring at me like i’ve killed your goldfish?”
he simply laughed.
“do you feel any different now that you’ve graduated?” i asked.
he stiffened like
i had struck a
i was ready to leave it at that,
but then he continued,
“i feel like i have expectations to live up to now,” he said. “so now, every time i think i’m getting smarter i realize that i’ve just done something stupid.”
my face scrunched in agreement.
“dad says there are three kinds of people in the world:
those who don’t know, and don’t know they don’t know;
those who don’t know and do know they don’t know;
and those who know and know how much they still don’t know.”
Zac’s face contorted in confusion.
“heavy stuff, i know. but i think i’ve finally graduated from the don’t-knows that don’t know to the don’t-knows that do.”
“yeah, totally, me too,” he said monotonously.
i turned to him and punched his arm. “you ruined the moment dou/chebag!”
he laughed, deep and throaty. “be a lady, kitty-cat!”
i whipped around. “don’t ever call me that,” i snapped.
“it’s better than calling someone a dou/chebag, isn’t it?” he replied smugly.
“you know, you’re right. how wrong of me to call you a dou/chebag. because a dou/chebag is too nice of a word for you,” i said, smiling sweetly. “you’re a di/ckhead.”
“a di/ckhead?” he repeated. “how charming.”
his voice, the very sound of rolling eyes.
“aw c’mon, Zac. /laugh, it’s funny/.”
he teasingly pushed my head away with a defeated grin.
i laughed before flipping Zac off.
“what do you think the future has for us?” i asked.
there were a few moments of silence.
i could tell he was thinking because when he answered,
the playfulness had left his voice.
“Asp, i think i’ve finally graduated from the don’t-knows that don’t know to
the don’t-knows that do.” he said with a fleeting, fearful whisper.
there was a sharp twinge of disappointment in his tone. “but
i felt like once we’d graduated, we would know.” he
held out his arms to showoff his blue robe.
“that’s just another part of life, Zac. on
the flip side of everything we think we absolutely
have pegged, lurks an equal amount of the unknown.
understanding is but the sum of our misunderstandings.”
i turned to him and smiled. he held his hands in mine tightly.
“it’s dumb, actually. how they throw us out in deep water,
and expect us to learn to swim. to float or sink.”
his voice struck bitterness.
“you have to accept that sometimes that’s how things happen in this world.
people’s opinions, their feelings, they go one way, then the other.
it just so happens you grew up at a certain point in this process.”
somewhere within the last 30 seconds,
i felt stronger, calmer, and wiser—
somewhere within the last 30 seconds,
i grew up.
he was quiet again—
racking his brain.
“and i know you’re scared. i am too.
i think we all are. but you can’t live in fear.”
he gazed at me skeptically, like i was either saying something
profound, or absolutely crazy.
i clasped his hand tighter, suddenly feeling excited and sure.
“this is the magnificent world of a picaresque novel.
just brace yourself and enjoy the smell of it.
we’re shooting those da/mn rapids.
and if you go over the falls,
do it in a grand style.”
silence fell on us again, but then he
turned to me with beaming, booming, eyes.
“trust me when i say—
there are great things coming for you, Asp.
and if you want them, you’ve got to move down the sidewalk of life.”
my eyes filled.
“promise me you’ll come with me.”
“i never left your side, if you think about it.”
and i smiled back.
that’s when i saw it, behind him.
“i was gonna give these to my mom,” he said,
handing me the flowers. “you know, for giving me life and sh/it like that,”
i smiled again
“but you can have them before i accidentally sit on them.”
i took the flowers.
“pink roses signify friendship,”
i said, digging my nose into the bouquet.
his eyes shifted around. “okay… that was a random fact…”
the playfulness reentered our atmosphere.
we lay on our backs on the hood of Zac’s car parked on top of a hill,
watching the sky and making a list called “never.”
all the things we would never do:
let’s never get married.
let’s never get fat.
let’s never stop being sarcastic.
let’s never get dull-eyed and ironic.
let’s never get stuck in a rut—or trapped in a life we didn’t choose.
let’s never grow bitter.
let’s never forget.
we were both rather precocious, and like many precocious young people
we found it hard to grow up.
there was a time we laughed at the old guys up on the hill.
the ones who graduated a couple of years before us,
and who hung around the school and the ballpark,
and would sit on the hoods of their cars and tell
us how when they were seniors they did it
better, faster, and further. we’d laugh,
because we were still doing it,
and all they could do was talk.
if our goals were not met,
there was next year,
but it never occurred to us that one day there would not be a next year, and that
the guys sitting on the hoods of their cars at the top of the hill, wishing
they could have one more year, willing to settle for one last game,
could one day be us.
but for one moment in this magnificent, ambiguous, picaresque novel,
we are not failed tests and broken condoms and cheating on essays;
we are crayons and lunch boxes and swinging so high
our sneakers punch holes in the clouds.
and everything feels better.
> > > aspen.