An old personal narrative from the Composition 1 class I took back in 2018 during my first year in the Oakland ACE program. Uploading here for posterity*, since Google Drive seems to have mysteriously eaten quite a few of my documents. Not sure where the copies I saved from my high school account went...
*with minor formatting changes to account for the space-erasing powerpoetry does.
Date written: 12/11/18
(To anyone who reads this, pardon the wacky usage of hyphens. It was a bad habit of mine until very recently.)
A reflection on friendship, determinism and the passing of time.
If there was one thing that I had begun to learn during my brief time on planet Earth it was that things often failed to turn out the way I expected them to. It was a truth that showed well enough in the little hiccups that would occur throughout my daily routines, minor and yet aggravating enough for me to curse them when they struck and to feel terribly inept for my lack of foresight. They smugly showed themselves in the mornings when my Rice Krispies pulled away in an avalanche from the box and went all over the floor instead of the bowl, in the afternoons when I forgot where my homeroom was and dashed around the school in a flurried panic, and on the days in between when I spilled water on myself in the halls and slipped in the puddle that had pooled on the floor beneath my feet. “That’s too bad,” they seemed to say. “Life’s got you by surprise again.”
Despite these upsets, I continued to go about my life with the dim sense of equilibrium that most other people I knew did. At times it was as though I were passing through my own existence, possessed by an unwavering, unconscious assurance that all the variables defining it would remain constant - and why shouldn’t I have? As plain as my disruptions were, the greater elements of the world were much more obvious in their sameness. The planet would keep revolving around the Sun, the rain would always come to greet us in the springtime, the little scarlet clover mites would hatch and grow and spread their offsprings everywhere in the summertime, the leaves would carry themselves somewhere more important than the prison of suburbia in the autumn wind, and my best friends would always remain my neighbors.
Though I had always felt the idea of a best friend - or two - to be a rather clumsy one, I had no qualms with my vital attachments to the pair of brothers who lived across the street from me. We had been in each other’s lives ever since they had arrived fourteen years ago - though the ambiguous blessing of childhood amnesia made their presence feel lifelong - and we shared no shortage of moments ensconced in the sun-baked comfort of a typical well-to-do childhood. We shamelessly hogged the nearby school playground on weekends and occupied each other’s houses for hours on weekdays; on breaks we made amateur films that never saw the light of a YouTube upload (I have no doubt that half of my life rests in the memory card from my old Canon digicam). In the bitter winters we sheltered ourselves in ice huts and split our allegiances in neighborhood snowball fights, and in the summers we eagerly awaited the rare arrival of an ice-cream truck and guffawed over the ruins of dessert that slipped from our sticks and splattered onto their driveway pavement. Ceaselessly throughout the seasons, our presences mingled, and the next ten years of our lives grew into each other’s so richly it must have shocked the neighbors that our houses, too, did not cleave our street in two and join into a single entity. We had entered our own little cycle of sorts, one so regular that I believed nothing short of a cataclysmic event could break the bond we had forged over the years. A lifelong companionship between the three of us was not a mere possibility, it was an inevitability. Like the fall turning of leaves and the revolution of the Earth around the Sun, our friendship existed on a plane of time untouched by whatever forces existed in the great world around us. They were one of life’s constant variables - that little word I learned in fourth grade science class applied so neatly to the situation it was almost funny. The only thought I dedicated to our dynamic was another sort of dim unconscious understanding, one that declared the laws of change and free will to be a non-obstacle in the face of our quasi-brotherhood. So it went.
The first glimmers of a disquieting new forecast began to show themselves on the eleventh year of our friendship. I had never been much good with people, oftentimes slipping into aimless tangents or rambling episodes of enthusiasm that irritated my peers. I routinely fell into quiet, melancholic bouts, isolating myself into an impenetrable chamber of thought and keeping a comfortable distance from the possibility of new friendships - if I even realized they existed. Although my near inability to properly analyze people and their behaviors shortchanged me nearly all of the time, I had maintained a relative degree of fluency in my interactions with Ben and Jack for a long while, and knew them well enough to develop an intuition that told me something wasn’t quite right. I knew it would have been unreasonable to expect contact at all times, for all involved would have found it exhausting, and our bond would quickly have soured. Even with my runaway ideas of a lifetime friendship I realized there would be some distance wedged between us as we grew. That knowledge did nothing to assuage the stark and sudden realization that there was a steadily increasing disparity between the three of us, spreading beyond that reasonable limit and into the shadow of a possibility I had never expected to appear. Shortly after this revelation I received the news that they were moving.
I managed to surprise myself for the first time in a long time when I found myself both questioning the nature of our friendship quite heavily and feeling no sense of devastation after what was to be considered an uprooting of a lifelong friendship. I was no stranger to the somewhat episodic nature of my life’s events. Experiences came and went in equal proportion, with an eerie linearity, leaving me with the same odd sensation of detachment that I felt after hearing about the move. Most of them had been expected, but this one had honestly blindsided me -- so why didn’t I feel anything?
Perhaps, I reasoned, my chronic sense of detachment from other people kept me from properly interpreting my own feelings, even for my longest-standing friends, and any day now I would throw myself into a fit of some sort for being struck by one of the largest disruptions I had encountered thus far. Maybe the “two’s company, three’s a crowd” rule I had heard of had come back to bite me, or we would simply remain in contact forever, or maybe I somehow never even considered them friends at all. All of these ideas seemed to touch some ghost of plausibility, but the one that dawned on me with the most clarity was the possibility that this unexpected turn had no impact on me because I had, at some point, decided to surrender myself to it.
In a somewhat roundabout way, I realized, parts of my assumptions about life had been correct. They, too, had entered into this strangely cyclic timeline, and in that way remained as constant as they would have if they had stayed. I had, perhaps, quietly accepted the inevitability of it years ago, when I decided that life didn’t turn out the way I usually expected it to. Knowing this meant that it wasn’t a matter of if something unusual would happen, but when, and this nature of surrender to time was as inevitable as two and two making four. All things came, and all things went, whether I wanted them to or not. This was the true constant of life, not the shedding trees or mites or melted ice-cream or the snow beating down on our brick houses or spilled cereal or any of those sorts of things. Though to think of it, and their absence, brought me a deep sense of resignation, that realization was the essence of what it meant to grow up.
Things came, things went.
And that was all right.