Tag Archives: goodbyes

"It's warmer in the water."

The future is 34 pushpins pressed into a map of the United States.

It’s hiding somewhere beneath the precision with which each was pinpointed. The future is shy and unforgiving and anticipatory and oh so unknowable.

“Probability says California,” Brooke, my roommate, tells me, cupping her forearms around a cluster of pins.

I nod, trying to imagine her in California. Me in New York City. Our other roommate in Washington, D.C.

I can’t.

It’s funny how one home transitions into another like that. Looking back, it’s seamless. But when you’re at the edge of each cliff and you’re ready to jump, it’s like the first time you realize the world is in constant motion. For three years and eight months, it’s pushed to the back of your mind. But then someone pulls out the big G word — graduation — and suddenly it’s everything.

You feel it rising up from the pit of your stomach like a sudden sickness that washes over you, forcing you to stop and sit down. To regain a sense of balance and stability. To find yourself on that map of pushpins.

Where will I be in the future?

I wonder.

“You’ll live on the lake,” I tell her. “I can picture it.”

And I can, now. The forestation rising up on three sides. A vast expanse of cloudy water in front of her. The sounds of her children’s laughter rising up in the background as she stretches out on the shoreline, digging the tips of her toes into the grass and dirt. She stops reading her book to crane her neck, motioning for her daughter to come to her.

“Do you want to go for a swim?” she asks.

The girl, whose hair is as white-blonde as Brooke’s, nods vehemently and starts tugging her t-shirt over her head.

She reaches the edge of the water, lifts up one foot, and frowns.

“What’s wrong?” Brooke asks.

The girl shakes her head and starts back toward the spot on the grass where my roommate’s stretched out.

“It’s too cold,” she says.

Brooke sets her book down. “How do you know?”

She shrugs her shoulders. She doesn’t.

“Come on.”

The two of them walk to the edge. Holding hands, they take a deep breath and wade, gently, into the murky water. A fish swims by on one side and the little girl squeals, latching onto Brooke’s leg.

After a few seconds, she releases her grasp. She wades out further and, without warning, dives under the water. When she emerges, she brushes her hair back and giggles.

“Brrr,” she says. “It’s warmer in the water.”

It’s the first moment that will make up a thousand others. The initial shock of icy water filling up her lungs grows into a comfort. It’s warmer in the water. What once was cold and scary and new becomes familiar and true.

Only one of those pushpins will become home for Brooke. Probability says California. But wherever she is, there will no doubt be the lake with the icy water. And try as she might, she won’t be able to emerge without shivering a bit. Because it’s warmer in the water.

You taught an antsy group of girls in leotards how to one person can change the world.

day 11 – a deceased person you wish you could talk to

Dear Mr. Dave,

We both knew this letter was coming. As I’m sure most anyone who knows me did. The easiest part was deciding to write to you. The hardest part? What to say.

When I look back at my thirteen-year-old self, cataloging the series of events that encapsulate the last seven years of my life, I can’t imagine it without your influence. How did I go from spending 20 hours a week with someone to having trouble remembering his voice?

The worst part of grieving is watching it slip away. Watching the person slip away, as you grow farther and farther away from That Girl You Were When They Were Still Alive.

Now, I look back and wonder if she would be happy with who I’ve become. If you would be.

You were the first person I lost whose death really shook me up. Challenged my faith in God, gymnastics, and myself. In the cold winter that followed, I gave up on myself and let the voices in my head override yours.

How do you justify taking someone away, removing them from the hearts of thousands of people across the globe?

After I calmed down on Thursday and drove my car back onto the road, I continued to focus on driving, but occasionally slipped back to the past. With each passing ambulance, each car accident, I was transported back to that cold December afternoon, standing in line at practice, shivering. Knowing with each whispered phone call that something had gone terribly wrong. Then, though, I couldn’t yet imagine the worst.

The words black ice freak me out. My heart rate skyrockets and I have to reassure myself that thinking something doesn’t make it happen. That I have met my car spinning out on I-81 quota for the year (twice).

And then I remember how much you’ve done for me. How much you’ve taught a group of antsy girls in leotards, too energized to stand still and listen. Too young to appreciate the lesson that transcended the sport.

You taught us to believe in ourselves, to be better people. You taught us to compartmentalize, to focus on one thing at a time. You taught us how our love can change the world by showing us how yours already did.

As we sat huddled in a packed funeral home, staring up at those older than us reading testimonies of a life cut much too short, we learned you had already changed hundreds of lives. That you were passionate about just about everything — coaching, your wife, and the sport of gymnastics.

We cried for days straight, leaning on each other for support. In part, we feared we had lost someone so great we couldn’t even yet comprehend it. And when all was said and done, we shared your love and lessons with the world.

Love,
K

Spreading love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast.

I am not a quitter. It’s a word I struggled with one February night as I pulled apart my slice of cheese pizza in a dimly lit kitchen, taking my frustration and angst out on the soft crust, the saucy, cheesy mess. I punctuated each word with another tear, another rip of bread.

But sometimes, you have to acknowledge that holding off on one thing might make everything else better. When you’re being sucked down, you have to figure out what the anchor is and reel it in.

When I was thirteen and frustrated, that anchor was competitive gymnastics. A year or so ago, that anchor was the person I’d become. Right now, that anchor is the reverb challenge, taking away from all the other posts I could be writing. All the other words you want to skim through. This world, this blog, is not about me. It is about all of you, and all of the wonderful people I’ve encountered. I don’t want you to forget that.

Having said that, this is my letter to my ex-boyfriend, as coinciding with the letter challenge. This one is going to spread some love like butter and cinnamon sugar on a slice of toast on a Sunday morning.

via weheartit.com

Dear Juan,

On any given month, I waver between whether or not I made the right choice. Not in ending our relationship, but in allowing you to start it. It’s the million-dollar question, the one that nobody ever wants to ask, but the one so many keep coming back to. Would it have been better, in the beginning, to just be friends? Hold onto that friendship and still be able to talk like nothing happened now, or to give it a shot?

I can honestly say, with certainty, that I made the right decision. If I had to go back to that night in your car, idling in my driveway at two a.m., I wouldn’t change my answer. Because I believe we’re completely different people because of it. I think we were two kids—me barely eighteen and you barely nineteen—who thought we owned the world. Fresh out of high school and not yet freshmen in college.

And we did own the world for a while, like all naïve high school kids do.

I believe that you forced me to grow up. If it weren’t for you, I probably never would have let myself love anyone. Not until I was at least thirty. I probably would have been just fine wasting away my money on fast food milkshakes and sundaes at the diner. I would have been just fine never going beyond that.

But after everything fell apart, I hit rock bottom. You hit rock bottom. We spread our love like cinnamon sugar on buttered toast. So sweet and never enough but rough and bitter after a while. We were all highs and lows with no middle. We sort of headed for it well before sophomore year, but didn’t really admit it. And plenty of other people would have stuck it out, but neither of us would’ve done what we wanted. We would have suffocated each other with our own agendas.

You wanted to be in LA in a tux on the set of a movie. And for a while, that seemed like a wonderful idea. But I love NYC. I love being quiet sometimes, writing by myself. You’re the boy with more friends than a girl can keep track of.

You’re a great friend, but a lousy boyfriend. I didn’t figure that out until a few months ago, but you always had this idea of me that didn’t measure up to the Actual Me. The Kaleigh standing in front of you.

I hope I didn’t break you. And if I did, I hope you heal back stronger. Because if you love some girl half as much as you thought you loved me, she’ll be lucky. Just don’t try to change her. This is your life. Accept it and take hold of it.

Love,
K

You are my sunshine. You are my laughter, my noise, my chaos.

At eight o’clock this morning, I wanted to sleep. I pulled my covers over my head, trying to drown out the cackling coming from the other side of the wall as my little sister and her three best friends laughed about everything under the sun.

And then they were running into my room, screaming with excitement.

“Where’s YouTube? Where’s YouTube?”

I looked up, half groggy from sleep, to see two of them hunched over at the other end of the room. They hijacked my computer, typing away to find some “lax bros” video.

And then the laughing began again as I resigned to the fact that I wasn’t sleeping anymore. Not until the four musketeers said their goodbyes.

Three hours later, and I long for the noise, the laughter, the chaos already. It’s a lifestyle that I cannot undo, a constant flow of energy that I willingly tie myself to. I crave it like a drug, letting it consume me and fill me up with goodness. And now, for the first time in eighteen years, I cannot hide from the facts.

My little sister is not a kid anymore. There will be no more dinner table conversations in which she forces us to converse about our day, round robin style, so that everyone has a turn. There will be no more music battles across the hallway, no more YouTube sensations to share, no more laughing when I listen to Eminem and play Bejeweled simultaneously. I won’t have to worry about her showering when I want to, or forgetting about her laundry in the washer for three hours, or stealing my clothes.

She will be in another state, another phase of her life, and we won’t live together. But we’ll be closer.

I know in my heart that we will be closer. We are fewer miles apart, both far from home, and we are both there. We are College Kids. For another two years, we are in the same stage of life, and I hold onto those years, because soon they’ll slip away, and it will become harder to understand each other again.

I’ll graduate, get a real job, and start making a living. And she’ll roll out of bed, go to class, and treat every day like it’s Friday. We’ll both be nine to five. Me, during the day and her at night.

But she’ll never again bother me while I record audio for Spanish class or study for a Psychology test. We’ll never get to do that again.