How It Goes

This is how it goes.

You’re 12 years old and sitting in the corner of a 6th grade classroom next to that freaky skeleton your teacher keeps putting clothing on. You’re in Science class, learning about periodic elements or relativity or animal kingdoms, but you haven’t been paying attention. You’ve got a spiral bound notebook open in front of you, but instead of taking notes you’re writing elaborate stories about dragons and princesses, inspired by the book you had been reading inside of your desk during math class. Every third word is spelled wrong and the margins are covered in doodles of hearts and stars. Your teacher calls on you to answer a question you never even heard him ask. You shrug your shoulders and promise to pay closer attention. You never do.

You’re 18 and in an empty Red Line subway car early enough in the morning that most of the commuters haven’t even started to brew their first cups of coffee. The sun is slowly rising and you’re slowly waking up. You spread out over the seats, taking up more space then you need, and watch the tops of apartment buildings fly by, precariously close to the elevated tracks. You’ve got your cell phone in your hand and you type and retype the same 5 sentences over and over again. . You want to make them perfect.

You’re 21 and sitting in a friend’s apartment, using his laptop to tap out your thoughts before they disappear. Your laptop is broken—it’s always broken—and you just have one more line, guys! Or just a couple more words, promise! before someone closes the top of the computer and forces you to interact with the world outside of Microsoft Word. It’s not that you don’t want to be social, you do, it’s just that sometimes the sentences sound so right in your head that you feel like if you don’t get it down you’re going to burst—explode in a whirlwind of metaphors and phrasing—a firework show made from  thesaurus pages and dictionary definitions.

You’re 16 and you’re in the bedroom with your music turned high. Something angsty, probably, something that isn’t meant to be blasted, but you crank it up anyway because you feel mean and defiant. You write so hard that your pen rips the pages of your black and white notebooks, your knuckles turning white from the strength of your grip. What you’re mad about isn’t important, really. Just the rage that you feel and the strength with which you feel it. The words spill out of you—out of your heart and out of your hands—in to the notebooks you keep in your desk, in your bookcase, in your backpack, in your locker and anywhere else you spend energy and time.

You’re 20 and in an airport where the wi-fi is free and the voice over the loudspeaker is slow and warm, in that perfectly cozy Midwestern way.  Your backpack is on the ground and you are curled up in a fake leather armchair that seems out of place in a building so utilitarian. There’s a TV on, showing news headlines and news anchors with immaculate clothing and hair so shiny that it almost seems fake. They laugh at their own jokes, and the weather man draws arrows on the map—connecting the lines between the place where you sit and the place where you are headed. There’s a laptop on your lap—there’s always a laptop on your lap—and you slowly type out how it feels to come and to go, to leave and to arrive.

You’re four  and learning to make letters for the first time. You trace the lines on your worksheets, so proud of the shapes that form. Soon those letters will be words, those words sentences, and those sentences stories. You’re learning how to put your life down on paper.

You’re 22 and in a weird place in your life. Not a lot is making sense, and everything feels like it’s changing. The view out your window is different every time you take a look, and you aren’t really sure who your best friend is. You have a shelf of notebooks on your desk, and a handful of folders on your laptop, dedicated to the things you commit to memory. The stories about middle school, and the night you had this week. The stuff you tell your parents and the things they could never hear. You’ve written all of it.

You always have.

You always will.

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  1. Love this one, too, especially this line: "It’s just that sometimes the sentences sound so right in your head that you feel like if you don’t get it down you’re going to burst—explode in a whirlwind of metaphors and phrasing—a firework show made from thesaurus pages and dictionary definitions." All of this.