When I did a study of all the coming-of-age movies that meant a lot to me, whether it was 'The Graduate' or 'Rebel Without a Cause' or 'Dead Poet's Society,' they all had that timeless feel. None of them were completely married to the details of their age. They felt timeless in their treatment of it. That's what made them resonate with me.
I sat down and tried to write a story. "Ian MacArthur is a wonderful sweet fellow who wears glasses and peers out of them with delight." That was the first sentence. The problem was that I just couldn't think of the next one. After cleaning my room three times, I decided to leave Ian alone for a while because I was starting to get mad at him.
So, I looked up, and we were in this giant dome like a glass snowball, and Mark said that the amazing white stars were really only holes in the black glass of the dome, and when you went to heaven, the glass broke away, and there was nothing but a whole sheet of star white, which is brighter than anything but doesn't hurt your eyes. It was vast and open and thinly quiet, and I felt so small.
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I didn't feel like reading that night, so I went downstairs and watched a half-hour long commercial that advertised an exercise machine. They kept flashing a 1-800 number, so I called it. The woman who picked up the other end of the phone was named Michelle. And I told Michelle that I was a kid and did not need an exercise machine, but I hoped she was having a good night. That's when Michelle hung up on me. And I didn't mind a bit.
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I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that day, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report due on top of that. Or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why.
I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those little kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss someone someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn't.
Girls like guys to be a challenge. It gives them some mold to fit in how they act. Like a mom. What would a mom do if she couldn't fuss over you and make you clean your room? And what would you do without her fussing and making you do it? Everyone needs a mom. And a mom knowns this. And it gives her a sense of purpose. You get it?
I don't know if I will have the time to write anymore letters because I might be too busy trying to participate. So if this does end up being the last letter I just want you to know that I was in a bad place before I started high school and you helped me. Even if you didn't know what I was talking about or know someone who has gone through it, you made me not feel alone. Because I know there are people who say all these things don't happen. And there are people who forget what it's like to be 16 when they turn 17. I know these will all be stories someday. And our pictures will become old photographs. We'll all become somebody's mom or dad. But right now these moments are not stories. This is happening, I am here and I am looking at her. And she is so beautiful. I can see it. This one moment when you know you're not a sad story. You are alive, and you stand up and see the lights on the buildings and everything that makes you wonder. And you're listening to that song and that drive with the people you love most in this world. And in this moment I swear, we are infinite.
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My sister said Mary Elizabeth is suffering from low self-esteem, but I told her that she said the same thing about Sam back in November when she started dating Craig, and Sam is completely different. Everything can't be low self-esteem, can it? My sister tried to clarify things. She said that by introducing me to all these great things, Mary Elizabeth gained a "superior position" that she wouldn't need if she was confident about herself. She also said that people who try to control situations all the time are afraid that if they don't, nothing will work out the way they want.
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Once on a yellow piece of paper with green lines he wrote a poem And he called it "Chops" because that was the name of his dog And that's what it was all about And his teacher gave him an A and a gold star And his mother hung it on the kitchen door and read it to his aunts That was the year Father Tracy took all the kids to the zoo And he let them sing on the bus And his little sister was born with tiny toenails and no hair And his mother and father kissed a lot And the girl around the corner sent him a Valentine signed with a row of X's and he had to ask his father what the X's meant And his father always tucked him in bed at night And was always there to do it Once on a piece of white paper with blue lines he wrote a poem And he called it "Autumn" because that was the name of the season And that's what it was all about And his teacher gave him an A and asked him to write more clearly And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door because of its new paint And the kids told him that Father Tracy smoked cigars And left butts on the pews And sometimes they would burn holes That was the year his sister got glasses with thick lenses and black frames And the girl around the corner laughed when he asked her to go see Santa Claus And the kids told him why his mother and father kissed a lot And his father never tucked him in bed at night And his father got mad when he cried for him to do it. Once on a paper torn from his notebook he wrote a poem And he called it "Innocence: A Question" because that was the question about his girl And that's what it was all about And his professor gave him an A and a strange steady look And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door because he never showed her That was the year that Father Tracy died And he forgot how the end of the Apostle's Creed went And he caught his sister making out on the back porch And his mother and father never kissed or even talked And the girl around the corner wore too much makeup That made him cough when he kissed her but he kissed her anyway because that was the thing to do And at three a.m. he tucked himself into bed his father snoring soundly That's why on the back of a brown paper bag he tried another poem And he called it "Absolutely Nothing" Because that's what it was really all about And he gave himself an A and a slash on each damned wrist And he hung it on the bathroom door because this time he didn't think he could reach the kitchen.
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She also keeps talking about the Billie Holiday record she bought for me. And she says she wants to expose me to all these great things. And to tell you the truth, I don't really want to be exposed to all these great things if it means that I'll have to listen to Mary Elizabeth talk about all the great things she exposed me to all the time. It almost feels like of the three things involved: Mary Elizabeth, me, and the great things, only the first one matters to Mary Elizabeth. I don't understand that. I would give someone a record so they could love the record, not so they would always know that I gave it to them.
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Maybe he didn't really encourage me to do things, but he didn't prevent me from doing them either. But after a while, I didn't do things because I didn't want him to think different about me. But the thing is, I wasn't being honest. So, why would I care whether or not he loved me when he didn't really even know me?
To tell you the truth, I've just been avoiding everything. I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they're here. If they like their jobs. Or us. And I wonder how smart they were when they were fifteen. Not in a mea way. In a curious way. it's like looking at all the students and wondering who's had their heart broken that da, and how they are able to cope with having three quizzes and a book report on top of that. or wondering who did the heart breaking. And wondering why. Especially since I know that if they went to another school, the person who had their heart broken would have had their heart broken by somebody else, so why does it have to be so personal? And if I went to another school, I would never have known Sam or Patrick or Mary Elizabeth or anyone except my family. (Pg 142)
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