When I was in high school, I cared about my social status, but I didn't care enough. I didn't care enough to take the time to figure out what it meant to have good hair, a good wardrobe or good make-up. I didn't really care that I didn't quite fit into one particular clique, but rather certain percentages of various cliques. I remember being awfully frizzy as a highschooler.
Will used to call me "Jugs". But I can't remember exactly if that had anything to do with my boobs. I don't remember them being very big in high school, but I'm surprised at how big they are now and I'm almost thirty. I don't pay attention to a lot a lot of the time. I think the nickname had more to do with the fact that I was the only Jew in school and Will and I hugged each other a lot. Gimme a hug. Jew. Hug. Jew. Jug. Nah. It probably did have to do with the boobs.
I had a moment the other day when I could feel high school all over me like a heavy wool coat in the middle of summer. Oddly enough, it was memories of summer that did it.
I worked in a generic Dairy Queen in my small town for most of my high school years. It was my first real job and it was a beautiful tapestry of colorful characters with the added bonus of a measly paycheck that felt like millions when you don't have bills to pay each month. I often wish I could put my small town experience into words. But I haven't found the words yet. In that little ice box of a building I didn't just swirl together soft serve and broken pieces of candy bar but fell into a family that I only now realize I've lost a lot of.
I can still feel the stickiness that came with working there. The sweat from the hot, humid days when the air conditioning couldn't stand up to the steady flow of small towners who wanted slushies and hot dogs and ice cream cones. I can still smell the bleach Kim would pour into the mop water and feel the steam from the hot dog cooker. My job there was so intoxicating. So high school. So small town. So delicious.
I used to scribble soap opera style diatribes on the dry erase calender where our schedule was written in each month. A whole world existed for me when I went to work there in the afternoons. I picked up every hour that I could. It felt so exhilarating to be in that building rather than in my room where I was bored and scribbling into my sketch pads. At work, I was the nerdy intellectual one compared to everyone else who lived real lives with boyfriends and sex and drugs and alcohol. But I never seemed to mind much.
I can still feel those days. You know the times of your life that you can feel - even in memory. I can feel them there. I think I stopped feeling them for the most part when Lynne died. She was the boss of us all, the mother of one of us and a friend. And I wish I could have known her as an adult. And when she died I think a piece of me tucked that part of my life away and stopped being that nerdy girl with the big aspirations.
And when I saw Punky's mug shot in the paper - it all came flooding back to me. A stark, stinging slap to the face. Over ten years later and this is where we all are. I'm still watching old black and white movies wishing I were living somewhere else, Kim is a mother with a house and a husband and a life that is still heavy with tragedy and happiness and Punky is busy finding herself amidst recklessness...of which I wonder often her mother's opinion - had she lived til today. The memory of it all weighs a lot. The reality of it. I can feel high school and adolescence the way you can feel the cool water in a pool on a hot and humid day. Immediate.
I used to write and draw insanely. I can't even remember what I wrote about, but I do remember not thinking so much about it. Stories and poems and paragraphs of thought just went on the paper until my hands were cramping and it was past midnight. I miss that. The lack of self-consciousness of it all.
And I don't feel as original or individual as I did back then. I'm just realizing that now. I am loved by many for who I am. I know that. But I don't feel that quirkiness that I had once been so proud of. And I'm just wondering, as I wonder if I really do have something worth saying as a writer - if I've ever had that originality that is so blessed in adolescence. If I am an individual.
In New York, as I sat across from my Aunt Darya on a seemingly calm Saturday afternoon, she asked me if I had passion about anything. My answer was no. I've lost all passion. Passion is what fueled me to fill sketchbooks with drawings, what led me to fill notebooks with stories just for the story's sake. I miss passion. Passion is what led me to apply to Columbia and make the drive to orientation with Kim, buy a coffee mug and books from the bookstore even though I knew I wouldn't attend classes there and what led me to request information from Johns Hopkins. It's what led me to apply to Sarah Lawrence.
I always knew that even if I didn't always feel as though I was able to breathe on the streets of my small town, my passion for writing would keep me afloat.
Yet when Darya asked me if I had passion for anything going on in my life at the moment. All I could say was no.
I wish I had the words.