This One Time, My Neighbor Told Me My House is Haunted…

You may recall that until a few months ago, I was living by myself. I enjoyed the usual luxuries one does without roommates: drinking from the container, letting the dishes pile up for a week, using the spare bedroom as a giant clean/dirty/smells good enough laundry basket, going entire Saturdays without pants…it was pretty wonderful. Without anyone around to judge me or suggest that maybe I make a meal instead of eat cereal for the fourth night in a row, I turned my focus elsewhere: reading, crocheting, avoiding dishes and writing blog posts. At night, I found I had to learn the sounds of a new neighborhood. Trucks with loose metallic cargo seemed to favor my bumpy road for cruising after 11. Dogs barked. On the early summer evenings, youths held campfires long past my 9pm bedtime.

I wasn’t surprised to hear creaks on windy nights because my house is quite old. My landlord said the bathroom originally had a clawfoot tub. The woodwork is worn and grimey – no amount of orange oil will make it shine like it probably once did. The doorbell doesn’t work. There are about a half dozen phone hookups in the hall and no outlets. Most of the windows are drafty. I can confidently say that this house was built sometime between 1900-1990, assuming ten years of error.

I got used to living on my own. Though at night my ears strained, I didn’t hear strange sounds. While I unpacked, I had passing thoughts like: “I bet more than one person has died in this house. And I bet none of their spirits wants me living here.” I’m a pretty rational person, but sometimes my imagination does sprints. I call them sprints because it’s just a quick idea that is dismissed as quickly as it arose. A loud pop in the middle of the night isn’t the spirit of a widow telling me that she is the only person allowed to crochet within these walls. It’s just the house – its materials expanding and contracting from the temperature and humidity fluctuations. The darkness I saw in the corner of gaze when I directed my attention to the other side of the room isn’t a ghost, it’s just a shadow. Basically, I’m able to tell my imagination to chill out.

For the most part, I really enjoyed living on my own, but eventually I came to a crossroads. When the weather got nicer, I was less inclined to work more than 40 hours. No longer working 50-60 hours each week, I found that I could afford to do one of two things: continue living on my own and maintain a life perfecting the art of isolation OR clean up the giant unorganized laundry basket and find a roommate and enjoy life outside my living room. My best friend had been searching for a place to live, so it didn’t take long to find a roommate.

Andrea arrived on a Sunday evening, and right away we started crocheting and watching Netflix. Because I had moved in alone, I figured my very observabt neighbor downstairs might question a strange girl entering my apartment. That Monday after work, I came home and Emily was sweeping the driveway.

“Hi Emily!” I said. “I just wanted to let you know that I have a friend staying with me for a while. She might be moving in, but it’s not set in stone.”

“Oh okay,” she said. “Thanks for letting me know. The more the merrier!”

“Yeah, she’s filling out an application and we’ll find out soon. But until things are figured out, she’ll be staying here for a while.”

“Was she here last week?”

“No, she just got here last night,” I said.

“Oh okay. Well I was just wondering because sometimes when you’re not home, I hear footsteps upstairs. Do you believe in that sort of thing? I hear things like that all the time here.”

Three things: First, when you said that, my first thought was not “OMG MY APARTMENT IS HAUNTED.” My first thought was “WHO THE HELL IS IN MY APARTMENT WHEN I’M NOT HOME?” Second, why did you jump so quickly from a friend couch-surfing to spirits who stomp around in the middle of the day? Third, why did you not wait for my answer before reporting that you’re constantly hearing weird shit in the house we share?

I sort of stammered. “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really believe in that stuff. When I hear something at night, I’m usually able to talk myself down from being scared.”

“Well, I’ll tell you,” she said. She got that look in her eyes like she was teaching me something and I ought to listen. “One night, probably about three months after my husband died, I woke up in the middle of the night and there were three white figures standing next to my bed,” she told me. “It was a mother, a father, and a little girl. The were very benevolent and seemed to just want me to know that they were there.”

WHAT THE HELL, EMILY? YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE MY SWEET ELDERLY NEIGHBOR WHO LEAVES THE BACK HALL LIGHT ON FOR ME AT NIGHT – NOT THE WOMAN WHO GIVES ME NIGHTMARES.

“You’re giving me goosebumps!”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said. “You know, it was probably just a dream or something. It was probably nothing.”

I laughed and rubbed my forearms, despite the warm sun.

“Anyway, thanks for letting me know about your friend. I won’t be worried if I see somebody coming and going during the day then.”

I imagine the ghosts preferred my apartment empty.

I imagine the ghosts preferred my apartment empty.

I told her to have a nice night and went up to my apartment. Andrea was gone, so I couldn’t tell her what happened. To distract myself from visions of white figures and heavy formless footsteps, I turned on some music and read a book on the couch. About an hour later, the album had ended and I was immersed in my book when I heard footsteps. They were in the attic. All those cliches happened: my heart raced, I wanted to scream but couldn’t find the air.

“HEWWOOOOOO!”

No, that wasn’t a toddler ghost’s greeting. It was just Andrea. Somehow, her footsteps on the front porch reverberated to sound like they were directly above me. Or maybe the ghosts were playing aural tricks on me. It’s anybody’s guess, really.

For about a week after Emily told me that story, I was afraid to open my eyes at night. I frequently woke in the middle of the night, confident that three alabaster figures would be on the other side of my eyelids. A few times, I ever reached to turn off my bedside lamp with my eyes closed. Why does my anxious subconscious believe that ghosts flee when I twist the switch of my lamp? Probably because there’s never been any ghosts there when I turn on the light.

It’s strange, isn’t it? I spend the majority of my existence rationalizing the world around me. I appreciate that most things can be explained. Cause and effect creates a beautifully consistent environment. What would life be in a world without consistencies? Houses would be creatures, the pops and cracks in the night just gurgles of their digestive systems. Sweeping a driveway one day made it clean and dirty the next. Sounds wouldn’t travel in waves, but violet clouds of varying density, the volume based on the intensity of the purple. Life wouldn’t be based on things like pumping blood and brain oxygenation, but the mood of people who remember you, and your appearance would vary, a la Dorian Gray’s portrait. And just when you had one of these things figured out, another would change and throw your understanding of everything.

I like my world of reason and not many things fool me. But in the middle of the night my imagination allows stories like Emily’s to make me reconsider everything that has made me feel sane. 

Painting the walls and getting an air conditioner probably pissed the ghosts off too.

Painting the walls and getting an air conditioner probably pissed the ghosts off too.

Later that night, Emily called me to apologize. She told me that she should have kept her mouth shut and that she was probably bothered by grief and lack of sleep. I told her that it wasn’t a problem and that I would be just fine. “I haven’t heard anything strange since I moved in, so I’m sure I won’t hear anything tonight.”

But really, I was like, “OH NO, LADY. There are no takebacksies in this game! You said you hear footsteps when I’m not here. The seed has already been planted. I won’t see pleasant dreams for weeks, thanks to you.”

When my sleeping returned to normal, Andrea told me that supposedly Emily had gotten out of the shower to find DON’T BE AFRAID written in the steam on her bathroom mirror. THANKS, NEIGHBOR. Emily lives alone. The only explanation is ghosts. Or her grandchildren playing jokes on her. Or Emily is a liar.

Food + beer + jazz = friendship

A few nights ago, I went over to my friend Matt’s house for dinner. Matt is a relatively new friend. We met this winter during the Nutcracker in the Castle, where he made me laugh at the most inappropriate times: during performances (by doing an improv session consisting of either glissando-like scales or half note scales), at the clumsiness of children (one fell over for no apparent reason), epic pigtails (on 70 year old women), and terms whose definition I’d expect to find only on Urban Dictionary.

I had been over a few weeks earlier when he invited my brother and I over for a few drinks. He told me to wear the girl equivalent of a suit. I toyed with the idea of wearing a pantsuit just to be snarky (I don’t actually have a pantsuit, but I do own black pants and a black blazer), but I decided to go with a dress and red lips instead. We spent the night drinking beers (one was so dark it looked like motor oil), wine, and whiskey over his homemade bar. At one point, the group migrated to his bedroom where he had his collection of instruments.  If I’m remembering correctly, he has several guitars, a banjo, a bass, violin, viola, cello, and an accordion, which was stashed under his bed. I played Twinkle Twinkle on the cello before realizing I had no idea how to hold the bow and my fingers tend to press down in increments made for a violin rather than a cello. After I grabbed the violin, we started playing from his Real Book.

My ex is a drummer whose passion lies mostly in jazz, so I had seen a Real Book before, but I had never really looked through it. It was one of those things that I let exist in his realm. He was so passionate about it, it was a bit intimidating even trying to learn about it. Though I’m a musician, performances rarely amaze me. (Clearly this is different if we’re talking about literature. Give me a good Nabokov story and there’s a good chance I’ll tear up at the ending.) It’s not that I’m unimpressed and think I could do better. Believe me, I can’t, and I know it. It may be a jealousy I’m not willing to articulate, or it could be a decided apathy; I’ll never be as good as Joshua Bell or Mark O’Connor, so I won’t waste energy thinking about it. I could be alone in this, but I think that somewhere in admiration of art or music, there is at least some amount of drive to emulate. This could be why I don’t play violin as much as I could. It’s a completely unveiled self-fulfilling prophecy: I’ll never be a master violinist, so I don’t practice often. I play enough to keep my basic skills up, but I’d be embarrassed for any of my music professors to hear me play Bach.

We played a few tunes that night. Though I had a stout-cloudy mind and screwed up plenty of simple rhythms (a few times, Matt started singing what I was supposed to be playing), I think I started to understand why small ensemble musicians keep performing. It’s not the free drinks at bar gigs, it’s that feeling of creating a moment that is utterly unique. I’ve always loved that feeling of combined singularity (ignore that nonsense term and just go with what I’m saying) that comes a good performance, but this was different. Classical music has always made me feel like I was interacting with the music in front of me, but this was more like interacting with the music around me. I’m sure my musician readers will say you’re supposed to do both, but I’m usually just too aware of the fact that those around me are way better.

After the last Nutcracker gig, the quartet went out for a drink and Matt told me there were levels to his friendships – you could tell where you stood in terms of his acceptance. “If I give you a hug, I probably like you,” he told me, sipping a beer. “If I let you drink my beer, I consider you a friend. And if I cook for you, we’re probably gonna be in each other’s lives for a while.” That night, he gave me a hug. A few weeks later, he shared a favorite stout (the motor oil one), and on Tuesday he cooked for me. So I guess that’s it. We’re gonna be friends for a while.

Matt

Thinking about hiring him to be my personal chef. Let’s hope he accepts payment in blog posts.

I’m always a bit envious of good cooks. I can usually follow a recipe, but I’m disproportionately proud of myself when I throw a bunch of things in peanut sauce and call it a stir fry. It won’t surprise you to hear I was impressed by his ability to make a mostly vegan meal without a recipe in sight.

Cooking

I know. Coolest spatula ever, right?

Sitting down to a meal completely void of leftovers and preservative-soaked “food” was an excellent treat. We had portabella sandwiches on homemade sandwich rolls with homemade hummus, onions, pepper, and burnt garlic; spinach salad with tomato, avocado and a balsamic dressing; red bananas, and an imperial porter (Flying Dog’s Gonzo Imperial Porter, whose label was an ode to Hunter S. Thompson).

Holy yum.

To quote the genius Liz Lemon: “I want to go to there.”

It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while, and it was extremely nice to sit and talk with Matt in a non-Nutcracker setting. He’s full of entertaining stories like early college days spent drinking and cooking on roofs, dealing with students’ masturbation while teaching at music camps for handicapable children, and being chased by stripper dungeon basement guards at 3am in Budapest. I left his house that night with rolls, hummus, a full stomach, and a new friendship.

Dishwasher

Who doesn’t love passive-aggressive notes on a dishwasher?

I told him I’d invite him over for a meal sometime, but not to expect anything more than a frozen pizza and a randomly-chosen pick-six from Festival. I figure that way he’ll be blown away when I make my signature peanut sauce stir fry, consisting of ramen noodles (sans season packet) and whatever happens to be in my cupboard and freezer.

Also, this is the second time this week I’ve used the word ‘masturbation’. I’m sorry, Mom.

You’re wrong, Facebook.

This probably isn’t as topical, since the feature was released like a week ago, but whatever. The other day, I tried Facebook’s Year in Review. Supposedly, it takes the 20 most important moments of 2012 and condenses them into a delightful thread of pictures and posts, allowing you to reminisce over what you chose to share with the internet.

Well, according to Facebook, I had a really lame year. And they’re right – but not for the reasons they chose.

1. February 29: 67 friends posted on my timeline on my birthday. Okay, it was pretty cool that I actually had a birthday this year (I’m not being ironic. I was born on Leap Day so I only get a real birthday once every four years), but seriously. A bunch of people I barely talk to took five seconds to wish me a happy birthday by typing a handful of words? Yeah, that’s one for the scrapbook. Score so far: 0/20

2. March 5: I shared an inaccurate and pixelated Someecard about the Mayan apocalypse coinciding with Snooki’s due date. Ten likes, three comments, and two shares. I thought it was hilarious and was actually disappointed to learn that Snooki’s baby would be born months before the apocalypse. Since I posted this on March 5, you’d think I’d have taken three seconds to do the math and realize that December 21 was more than nine months  in the future. This is appropriate since I have a tendency to laugh before it’s appropriate. However, this is not one of my memorable moments of 2012. Score so far: 0/20. 

3. March 21: I show what it’s like to party in Oklahoma. I was visiting my boyfriend at the time in Oklahoma. We went to the grocery store – probably to buy glass bottle Coke and ingredients to make flaming salsa, since that’s what we did at least three times whenever I visited. I’m pretty sure it’s from the last time I visited him. Seeing the picture reminds me how much fun I had visiting him. It was like vacation squared: I didn’t have to work or worry about responsibilities, and we were able to slip into a distinct sense of denial we carried whenever together. I don’t know what we were denying, only that it was a blissful and willfully ignorance. We existed in our own little world, free of responsibilities, pants, and any semblance of a healthy diet. It was wonderful. Score so far: 1/20

OK Party Time

4. April 24: Selfie in ridiculous sunglasses. I took this a few days after breaking up with my boyfriend. My days were spent with Cake’s cover of “I Will Survive” on repeat and me seesawing between belting it out and sobbing. I  was able to find three seconds to put on sunglasses to cover my puffy eyes and make it look like I was looking fearlessly to a new life on my own. My caption for the photo was inspired by Radiohead, probably from one of my many sobbing sessions:  “New shades. New life. Everything in its right place.” Score so far: 2/20

Selfie

5. April 29: I’m tagged in six photos of Katie’s Winter/Spring 2012 album. We did face masks one night and shot guns another time. This is half appropriate for the year in review. This was my first time shooting a gun, also right after the break up. One of the rifles had a kick that reminded me I was alive and capable of murder. It was pretty exhilarating. The face masks? Yeah, I just looked like a weirdo who wears super-high ponytails and likes to cover my face in tar. Score so far: 2.5/20

GUNS

6. May 23: I share a link via Esperanza Spalding. I told people they should spend $2.99 on her Radio Music Society album. Two likes, eleven comments that are essentially an ironic and passive aggressive fight (the passive aggressive on me, entirely) with my friend Sam about the moralities of purchasing music on Amazon versus Bandcamp. I blame my explosion of passive aggression on the breakup; Sam is a boy. A boy hurt me, so I’ll slay him words and just SORT OF accuse him of being a communist. Score so far: 2.5/20

commie

7. May 28: I embroider a really hilarious door decoration. This is so right. I’ve spent a lot of time making hand-made crafts this year – between cross-stitch projects (I made a Jenny Lawson-inspired “Knock Knock, Motherfucker” sign for Andrea), scarves, and attempted afghans, I don’t even want to calculate the time I spent weaving yarn in a methodical way. Without me articulating it, Facebook knew I was beginning my transformation to a sad lady who spends her time crocheting. Score so far: 3.5/20

Cross Stich

8. June 20: I check in at the public pool. What? I went here three times over the summer. Each time, I just read and drank vodka lemonades I snuck in with my Nalgene bottle and read 50 Shades on my kindle. Ugh. You are so wrong, Facebook. Score so far: 3.5/20

9. July 7: I become friends with Logan. Sure. This is significant, Facebook. Aside from the fact that we’ve been friends since 2006. But yeah, let’s just say July 7 was the day it REALLY became friendship. Score so far: 4/20

10. August 1: I post a video of Andrea asking Siri why she’s a bitch. I think we spent this night drinking chocolate wine and crocheting, then laughing about Siri’s response (“I try to be good”) for fifteen minutes. Yes, this was a funny moment, but not one I’d consider significant in 2012. However, it is indicative of mine and Andrea’s friendship: crafting and laughing way too much about stupid things. Score so far: 4.5/20

11. August 6: I’m tagged in a silly photo of Olympic divers’ faces as they fall. What? Just because I was tagged with six others and 20 people I don’t know liked it? YOU’RE WRONG, FACEBOOK. This was not a significant moment of 2012. Score so far: 4.5/20

12. August 12: Sam posts a photo of a compressor with Russian labels. I translate the best I can, though neither of us know exactly what “hammer” means or what the “discreteness” knob is supposed to do. While I’d like to pretend I was able to pull these translations straight from my Russian vocabulary, I really just used my Cyrillic keyboard and Google translate, so yeah, vaguely entertaining, but not very significant. Score so far: 4.5/20

Russian Compressor

13. August 28: Status update. Hilarious. Goddamnit. I’m hilarious – even if I forgot a word in the update. I found my box of journals and spent a few weeks flipping through my teenage psyche. It was such an enlightening experience. Score so far: 5.5/20

Soulmates

14. October 4: Status update. This really meant a lot to me. Towards the end of summer and early autumn, I found that about half my family regularly reads my blog. This includes aunts who comment, an uncle who comments & gifted me wine when I was Freshly Pressed, and relatives who greet me at family get-togethers with “YOUR BLOG IS SO HILARIOUS! I LOVE READING IT!” This is a nice snapshot of my family’s support. They might not always agree with what I have to say, but they accept me for who I am, and that means more than I can express. I’m so lucky to have them. Score so far: 6.5/20

Grandma

15. October 16: I’m tagged in a someecard post. The ecard reads “I work too damn hard to be this poor.” Apropos? Apropos. Score so far: 7/20

16. October 28: I’m tagged in 10 photos in Kaleigh’s Untitled album. Halloween pictures from a great weekend. I remember this weekend fondly as some of the few nights I went out in 2012. Both Friday and Saturday nights, I was with great friends, had good drinks, and met some wonderful people. This was a great weekend. Score so far: 8/20

Halloween

17. October 28: I’m tagged in a post with Andrea. This exemplifies our friendship perfectly: unabashed laughter. For the first time since high school, I have a best friend. Score so far: 9/20

Andrea

18. October 28: I’m tagged in Andrea’s Instagram album. More from this friendship including our curry dinner night, the Christmas party in October, and Halloween weekend. You’re so right, Facebook. Andrea has been one of the most important parts of my year. Score so far: 9/20

Friends

19. December 16: I changed my profile picture. Last weekend, I had a small get together with some friends. It was a nice night, but I don’t have the luxury of time to tell if this was a significant part of 2012. Katie is moving to Madison soon, so it might be one of the last times we get together before she leaves. We took a group photo in front of the Christmas tree near the end of the night and that became my profile picture that will ride into 2013. Score so far: 9.5/20

Friends

20. December 20: I’m tagged in five photos from Ashley’s mobile uploads. Ashley and I work together. We try to get together once a week for lunch – where we usually laugh about coworkers, complain about daily meetings, and catch up on each other’s lives. It’s not uncommon for people to CC the wrong Ashley on an email or to confuse our last names. Since I got a promotion and my first adult job with a benefit package and vacation, work has been pretty significant this year. I’ll give you this one, Facebook. Final Score: 10.5/20

Okay, so just over 50%. Better than I thought it would be. I’m curious to see what algorithm Facebook used to figure this out. Sure, some of the posts are the ones that got a lot of likes, but some – like my friendship with Logan – didn’t get any. Still, my friendship with Logan was a pretty significant part of my 2012 despite the lack of Facebook posts on it. (Is Facebook in my text messages?) I wonder how I would have reacted if Facebook had summed 2012 perfectly. What would be necessary?

The beginning of the year with some dark family problems I don’t care to air here, the bliss of my relationship with Bill while he visited for winter break, Andrea’s moving back to the area, my blog post when Bill and I broke up (and subsequent status updates about crying to Gotye and Taylor Swift songs), moving into my new apartment with Carissa, being Freshly Pressed, my promotion, Halloween weekend, and…what else? The numerous scarves I’ve crocheted this year? My New Years eve that will consist of dancing in Milwaukee? My obligatory lyric-quote of Death Cab’s song?

All I know is that I’m totally okay with leaving this year behind to greet fresh things in 2013.

Brighton Beach

The following is an essay that I am currently revising in preparation to share with my writers’ group. Enjoy!

We ripped off the top of my rusty Geo Tracker and hopped in, not sure of the destination. Heather, Carissa, and I took turns choosing songs on my ipod, each one full of adolescent lust – an ache for attention with the dull throbbing of discontentedness. As we listened and sang, we fell more in love with the night.

It was a clear night and the sky reminded me of sailors in the fifties – navy uniforms that made hearts thud in anticipation. The stars were brighter and dustier than I had seen in a year, full of the promise of summer’s arrival. The evening air had traces of the day’s earlier humidity and we welcomed it as it pummeled the bare skin of our arms. It was the night of my high school graduation and the three of us ignored the loud houses we passed, containing my red-faced peers sucking down cheap beer. The city was full of kids ready to move on to the next step. It didn’t matter what came next, as long as it didn’t include the dingy, noisy lockers of high school. Before any of us had felt the crazed spontaneity of a drunken night, we were content with our innocent endeavors. The most toxic thing about our Friday nights were the lattes purchased at the coffee shop while we wasted the gas money our parents had given us, swirling around the tri-city area.

As the engine churned away miles, we passed memories back and forth. We agonized over lost relationships and slid gossip across an unseen table. We wondered what would happen in three months when I left for college and they stayed behind to finish high school.

“Ashley, don’t worry. We’ll visit every other weekend,” Heather said. “It’s not like there’s anything to do in Menasha.”

“Yeah,” Carissa said. “You can show us around the big city that is Stevens Point and tell us what it’s like to be in college.”

Smiling to myself, I imagined a cramped dorm room and the idea of big pit classes with cranky professors in argyle. I was looking forward to the independence, though the idea scared me a bit.

“Heather, remember the time we were camping with my family and we stole my mom’s wine coolers after she went to sleep?” I changed the subject.

“Omigod that was so funny!” Heather shrieked, then told Carissa the story.

We talked about our first kisses and blushed, remembering the faces of those boys. We pondered how eye colors changed and tried to define what it felt like to be in love.

“It’s exhausting,” Heather said. “It’s beautiful, but I hate feeling like I depend on Jim, it makes me feel crazy.” She paused, watching her hand grabbing at the air. “It’s overwhelming – obsessive and time consuming, but it smothers you just right.”

Carissa was staring beyond the car, watching a couple walk lazily with fingers intertwined. “It’s perfection. It’s like you have all the puzzle pieces and you can accomplish everything.”

I paused to think of what I knew I love. I knew enough to know I had never been in love. I had dated a few boys, nothing very serious, but each time I let myself get carried away.  “I think of an hourglass,” I said. “My brain empties, but my heart fills up.”

After driving around for an hour, Heather decided she wanted to go swimming. “It’s frickin’ hot,” she said. “Ashley, take us to the beach.”

“Heather, you do realize that the beach is probably closed, right?” Carissa asked.

“Well screw that. I want to swim.” Heather was the youngest of us. Spunky and stubborn, she was never afraid to mouth off to her mother or to tell her boyfriend he was being a moron.

So I drove to the beach, which was, in fact, closed. It was ridiculous to think that a lake could be closed. A chain link fence was all that blocked us from the cool water. Heather jumped out the back seat of the car. “I’ll meet you in there.” She walked over to the fence and found footing in the links. “The beach is open when I say it is.”

Carissa and I stood behind, waiting for Heather to leap off the other side before climbing ourselves. While we fumbled over, she stood impatiently.

“Imma beat you there!” Heather exclaimed, running and pulling her shirt over her head. Carissa skipped out of her jeans. I peeled off my tank top. Thundering into the water, we let out girlish squeals, not expecting our skin to be met with such shocking coldness.

In a few seconds, we grew quiet as our bodies adjusted to the water. Eventually it felt warm and didn’t seem to mind that the three of us were in nothing but bras and panties. It welcomed our splashes as we floated on our backs and looked at the stars.

“When I was little, I used to think stars were crumbs from the moon, “I said, breaking the silence.

“Ashley, you sound like a crackhead,” Heather said.

“Shut up, Heather.” Carissa pushed her underwater.

“Ya bitch!” Heather spat when she surfaced.

While we splashed and laughed, I paused momentarily. Remember this moment, I told myself. I tried to soak in everything about the instant – the far off blinking buoys, early summer’s sticky yawn, the sandy clinging to my ankles, and the shimmering laughter of my two best friends. Soon, adulthood would be upon me and I would no longer be able to enjoy childlike moments deserving to be cast in porcelain. I wished suddenly that I had an album full of the last year: the Friday nights spent in party dresses, eating pancakes and crepes at IHOP, disgusted by the taste of lingonberries, exchanging Christmas gifts while pretending to be drunk off of sparkling grape juice, groaning with laughter as Heather sang Disney tunes and danced with her cat, the night we painted Heather’s room, only to have the project turn into a colorful fight, with us hurling fistfuls of paint that left flakes of green and yellow in our hair. I inhaled as deeply as I could, as if I could savor the flavor of adolescence and girlhood all in one gulp.

An hour later, we stepped out of the water drenched with moonlight. We picked up whatever clothes we could find, not bothering to give the right shirt or bottom to the right girl. When we came to the fence we threw the heap of clothing to the other side, pausing for the moment when the heavy jeans and t-shirts were silhouetted in the streetlight. We climbed the fence, no longer talking or laughing. All I could do was breathe in the summer air and smile to myself. In the car, I turned on a song that we all knew the words to. Together we sang out, “Someday you will find me caught beneath the landslide, in a champagne supernova in the sky, a champagne supernova, ‘cause we don’t believe that they’re gonna get away from the summer, but you and I will never die, the world’s still spinning around and we don’t know why…