IV. Grieving Period

I remember learning in eighth grade that you could be alone without being lonely, and enjoying many nights of watching Freaks and Geeks in my parents’ bed, zine- and collage-making materials at hand, soft yellow light coming from the lamp on the floor in the corner.

I remember sitting in social studies with the lights out and a movie on the projector. The boy I liked sat right at the front, backlit against a bright screen, so although he was turned around and facing in my direction, I couldn’t tell if his eyes were looking at me or not. This still drives me nuts.

I remember being in a play freshman year that brought an unexpected group of people together, prompting the, yes, Breakfast Club question of, Will we all still talk to each other in the halls on Monday? We didn’t really, but that turned out to be OK. We helped one another change, and then we moved on.

I remember sleepovers with Ella, the shadows in their white guest room as we lay on our backs, able to share secrets only when staring up at the ceiling.

I remember a family trip where my two tools of escape were a mixtape called Tomorrow I’ll Be 16 and a novel called Girl.

I remember the school’s music festival, knowing deep down that it was hopelessly lame but reveling in the opportunity to feel part of the pimply, heaving organism of the student body as it moshed in the cafeteria to a band that may or may not have actually been any good.

I remember twirling Emily to the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” that night and letting go upon realizing that she was like Angela and I was like Rayanne, this comparison generously heightened by Emily’s floral dress and red hair.

I remember walking home from school with Amelia, asking her about that boy I still liked, excited by the realization that I was like Angela and she was like Rayanne, this comparison generously heightened by Amelia’s colorful wardrobe and impossible charm.

I remember meeting Claire. She was a lot nicer than she had been that time I followed her into the school before first period, drawn to her Doc Martens and teal hair, only to be met by a suspicious scowl. We realized we liked the same music and disliked the same people. A few weeks later we’d visit a psychic to learn about our futures.

I remember sitting in biology and imagining myself getting a hall pass, suddenly looking like Audrey Horne, and tracking down that boy I still liked. I remember going to his house a few months later and watching a reality show about a rifle competition. Things did not work out, but I got what I wanted out of it: a deeply emotional experience with the song “Thirteen” by Big Star.

I remember the way Chicago looks from the top of an Oak Park parking garage, a cluster of Lego buildings against a sky orange from the city lights, a soundtrack of gossip between two kids I only kind of knew but already decided I really liked.

I remember sophomore year, sitting on the walking bridge over the Eisenhower the night Claire told me everything. An elderly man went by one way and smiled, and on his way back, stopped in front of us and said, “If I don’t see you again, I hope you have a happy rest of your lives.”

I remember liking a new boy, and thinking he liked me too, and then he didn’t, and I decided that this was better, because now I could listen to Heart and Carole King records and light candles and gaze out my window and feel sorry for myself.

I remember my 16th birthday, dancing to my favorite songs with my new friends under the pink balloons and silver stars that clouded our dining room, eating waffles made of cake batter, and then taking a communal clothed bath at Claire’s (my friend Claire’s house, not Claire’s the store). We fell asleep in a pile and woke up dreading the walk home, because even though it was a beautiful spring day, it meant the night was over.

I remember when Petra visited with her camera and I realized just how special the suburbs could be.

I remember Anne’s birthday when we went to the cemetery, a wacky adventure for a bunch of people who are too young to realize that they’ll end up there, too. Most of us chickened out and went to the strip mall across the street. Claire claimed they saw a ghost inside. We then went to an elementary school playground and were promptly asked to leave.

I remember junior year, liking a new boy, and changing my hallway route so it would coincide with his. It never did, because, as I’d later find out, he was trying to do the same.

I remember walking down Anne and Lizzy’s alley with Galaxie 500’s “Here She Comes Now” on my headphones, each garage’s sensor light going on in sync with the song as I went past.

I remember the New Year’s Eve when I finally, officially met that new boy I liked, looking for him at a dank basement show we were all at, the room filled with red light and cigarette smoke that followed me through a narrow hallway and turned it into a tunnel of love. He stood alone in the crowded room at the tunnel’s end. His conversation starter was: “If you got married, and your husband went bald, would you be mad?” I said no, just in case we ever got married or whatever.

I remember the roller rink on Claire’s birthday, and Anne’s roof on Siobhan’s. I leaned against Anne’s lipstick-covered mirror and smiled as everyone sang along to “Satellite of Love” by Lou Reed. They would all graduate weeks later.

I remember seeing Petra in Toronto a few weeks ago, listening to all our favorite songs and crying on a mattress in the center of her living room because we could feel the end. She gave me a book of her photos of me and of our time together throughout my adolescence. The cover reads “Nothing Lasts Forever.” We woke up the next day and learned that Lou Reed had just died. I came home and wrote this.

I don’t remember prom or homecoming. I don’t remember being very involved in my school’s community or extracurriculars after freshman year. But I do remember Rookie prom, and other Rookie events, all these amazing gatherings of the kinds of people I would LOVE to populate a school with. I remember getting to watch them all meet and bond, asking two girls how long they’d been friends, and them answering, “Just now, right here.”

Since I started this thing, lots of people have asked me if I feel like I lead a double life, but my Rookie memories have fit in so seamlessly with all the others described here, and I feel incredibly lucky for that. Thank you so much for reading our website and our books, for supporting us, for coming to our events. Thank you for creating the most inspiring community. Thank you for being part of my Forever, and part of one another’s. I know this one doesn’t end here.

Enjoy this month of valentines, BFFs, and fuzzy nostalgic holiday feelings. And really, seriously, thank you again.

Love always and actually forever,