Life is the tragedy,' she said bitterly. 'You know how they categorize Shakespeare's plays, right? If it ends with a wedding, it's a comedy. And if it ends with a funeral, it's a tragedy. So we're all living tragedies, because we all end the same way, and it isn't with a goddamn wedding.
To Cassidy, the panopticon wasn't a metaphor. It was the greatest failing on everything she was, a prison she had built for herself out of an inability to appear anything less than perfect. And so she ghosted on, in relentless pursuit of escape, not from society, but from herself. She would always be confined by what everyone expected of her because she was too afraid and too unwilling to correct our imperfect imaginings.
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And that was when I saw what Cassidy had done to herself: the gold and red ribbing on her sweater-vest, the matching stripes on her tie, the gray uniform skirt, and the navy blazer draped over her arm... "Is that a Gryffindor tie?" I asked. "And an official Harry Potter Merchandise sweater-vest, " she confirmed smugly.
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We have all been fooled into believing in people who are entirely imaginary-made-up prisoners in a hypothetical panopticon. But the point isn't whether or not you believe in imaginary people; it's whether or not you want to. "I think I'll stick with reality, " I said, handing Cassidy back her phone. She stared at it, and then me, disappointed. "I'd think you of all people would want to escape." "Imaginary prisoners are still prisoners.
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In AP Bio, I learned that the cells in our body are replaced every seven years, which means that one day, I'll have a body full of cells that were never sick. But it also means that parts of me that knew and loved Sadie will disappear. I'll still remember loving her, but it'll be a different me who loved her. And maybe this is how we move on. We grow new cells to replace the grieving ones, diluting our pain until it loses potency. The percentage of my skin that touched hers will lessen until one day my lips won't be the same lips that kissed hers, and all I'll have are the memories. Memories of cottages in the woods, arranged in a half-moon. Of the tall metal tray return in the dining hall. Of the study tables in the library. The rock where we kissed. The sunken boat in Latham's lake, Sadie, snapping a photograph, laughing the lunch line, lying next to me at the movie night in her green dress, her voice on the phone, her apple-flavored lips on mine. And it's so unfair. All of it.
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Sometimes I think that everyone has a tragedy waiting for them, that the people buying milk in their pajamas or picking their noses at stoplights could only be moments away from disaster. That everyone's life, no matter how unremarkable, has a moment when it will become extraordinary-a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen.
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Oh come on, 'Pheobe continued. 'You're asking for it. Pale skin, black clothes, no lunch and that whole brooding thing? It's hilarious. You should get body glitter and go after an unsuspecting freshman.' 'You should!' Cassidy agreed. 'Tell her you're a dangerous monster. And mention how good her blood smells.' 'Wrong time of the month on that one, and I'm getting slapped, ' I muttered, and everyone laughed.
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Here's a secret, " I said. "There's a difference between being dead and dying. We're all dying. Some of us die for ninety years, and some of us die for nineteen. But each morning everyone on this planet wakes up one day closer to their death. Everyone. So living and dying are actually different words for the same thing, if you think about it.
Words could betray you if you chose the wrong ones, or mean less if you used too many. Jokes could be grandly miscalculated, or stories deemed boring, and I'd learned early on that my sense of humor and ideas about what sorts of things were fascinating didn't exactly overlap with my friends'.
Steinbeck wrote about the tide pools and how profoundly they illustrate the interconnectedness of all things, folded together in an ever-expanding universe that's bound by the elastic string of time. He said that one should look from the tide pool to the stars, and then back again in wonder.
I still think that everyone's life, no matter how unremarkable, has a singular tragic encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. That moment is the catalyst - the first step in the equation. But knowing the first step will get you nowhere - it's what comes after that determines the result.