So where do I even begin to start with all of this?
"You could take us to the library first!" one of the kids from near the front of the group whose name I couldn't remember says. There's so many of these kids it's hard to keep track. Way more than were in my class that's for sure. This school is gonna be huge pretty soon.
"You know what that sounds like a great idea!" I said. "There's a lot of history there."
I don't know how I got stuck giving tours of the high school for the incoming freshmen. Not that I didn't mind doing it. All these kids are so well behaved after all. I'm just confused as to why they would pick me. But I guess I should be grateful. It at least means I get to miss class.
From behind me I can hear all the ooh's and aah's from the kids looking around at all the school has to offer. Which really isn't much but it's a considerable step up from the middle school. After a while I find myself looking around with them. Seeing everything in fresh eyes for the first time in forever. Homecoming to Christmas felt like a blur. I'm not entirely sure when it happened but i feel like everything went back to being...surprisingly normal? I'm friends with all of the usual suspects again, although things are still a bit awkward. I don't even know how to begin to rebuild friendships with anyone. We mostly just don't talk about it anymore.
Suddenly Panda is behind us just now walking into school. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
"You're coming to Rebecca's after graduation tomorrow right?" he says
"Yeah of course! I wouldn't miss it for the world." I say "We should take some pictures later! I brought the kodak I got for christmas!"
And then he gives me the biggest hug and hurries off to class. I get lost in thought again but only for a minute because there's someone tugging on my shoulder.
"Hey miss did he just say you're graduating?" says the same little kid from before. I feel a bit ashamed I really can't remember their name. Kinda? Keena? Something like that.
"Yeah I am. The ceremony is tomorrow!"
"Are you excited?"
"I don't know honestly. It's all a bit bittersweet. I'm excited but I'm scared. There's just too much to process right now. I bet you feel the same way?"
"Yeah maybe a little. This place is pretty intimidating. You have any advice for me?"
Any advice? How am I supposed to give any advice. I'm not nearly qualified enough for this. But luckily I'm saved by the library. I push into the doors to let everyone in.
"I think I'll have to get back to you on that one" I say. She grins like she understands and then joins the rest of the group.
"Alright everyone!" I say in the loudest whisper I can muster. "There's a lot to explore here so I'm not gonna be strict here. Just find something you like but please don't leave the library. And have fun!" And with my directions all the kids began to spread out all over the library.
"Hey Molly." Says a voice from behind me. I turn around and Franklin is standing right leaning against a desk right behind me. He looks like he wants to smile but he's not quite sure if he's allowed to. I can see how uncomfortable he is around me. I wave back at him, give him a big smile, and then quickly turn around. No need to make any of this anymore awkward.
"Listen" he says in a low tone right behind me and much closer than before. "I'm sorry for being such a dick."
"What do you mean?" I say turning around to face him.
"I mean I acted like a dick. I was being way too selfish and insecure."
"I don't understand franklin. But it's fine i'm leaving and you won't have to to worry about it."
"I miss when we used to be friends and watch anime and all that. I don't really know what else to just say but I'm sorry. "
And for a second I let myself be taken aback by this confession. I don't really know what to say either. And I can't look him in the eyes but I can feel that he doesn't know what to do either. I can feel how bad he wants to be near me. But then from across the library i can see some kids have gotten into the board games. Playing the same games we used to play. Some kids look at books. They all do different things but they're all having fun. And I snap back into reality. My reality. Not his or theirs. One that's mine. Isolated from all the things I've done or all the texts i've let go unanswered. And you know what? It's not scary anymore. Being by myself that is. Being lonely.
And we just sit there in silence for a while.
I look out over the Library. Jim and Isol are already here and they know a couple of the eighth graders. I've never seen them look so at home. I've never seen this place look more alive. Everything is gonna be just fine without me.
"Molly, I'm kinda upset you didn't ask us to pregame with you not gonna lie" Rokin said
"Ha ha Rokin. This really isn't the time."
Picc rubs my back and holds all my hair in a ponytail behind my head while i throw up all my guts in the handicap stall of the bathroom right outside the gym. "You okay Molly?" she asks
"Yeah. I'm fine. Just a little nerves." I reply
"That's strange the Molly I know hardly ever gets nervous" Picc says
"Maybe the Molly you know Hasn't ever given a speech like this infront of the entire school like this before."
"You're gonna be fine Molly. Relax. You earned this" Rokin says
I earned this. I earned this? That's a weird way to phrase it. I go to protest Rokin but i'm interrupted by another pull of my intestines. Picc is there again to rub my back and pull all my cords out of the way. I earned this.
Suddenly there's a knock on the door.
"Everything okay in there?" Panda asks
"Yeah everything is fine guys come on in." Picc says
"So I see Molly has decided that everything is way too easy again so now we're throwing up 45 minutes before her graduation to make it a challenge." Panda says
"Panda please." Dude says. "Molly can we get you anything?"
"Nah I'm good everything will be fine." I answer.
I earned this.
"I'm gonna go find you some water anyway. I'll be right back." Dude says. As he turns to leave I hear a couple more people enter the room. Some whispering goes on and then finally voices speak.
"Hey Molly." Naps says
"You okay?" Hammer asks
I earned this.
"Yeah uh I'm fine." I say. I'm standing on my feet now.
"Well uh goodluck with your speech. I can't wait to hear what you're gonna say!" Naps says.
"Yeah me too! And I'm excited for the party at Rebecca's later!" Hammer adds
I peak out of the stall and there is everyone. Panda, Rokin, Naps, Hammer, Picc, and Dude who cracks open the door and hands me a water bottle. I earned this
But did I really?
Did I really earn all these cords around my neck?
Did I really earn Picc's hands still rubbing my back?
Did I really earn having all these people here for me watching me throw up?
I haven't done any work or even really tried. And all these people. They've worked so hard and I just have it.
Maybe I did earn all of this in some backwards twisted fate.
But i sure as hell don't deserve any of it.
"And now I'd like to welcome to the stage your valedictorian. Molly Roth Caesar!" Mr. Frog says. I walk up to the stage and everyone claps for what seems like forever. And then I finally take my place at the podium. And I look out at everyone. So many faces we're looking at me and smiling like somehow they knew me. And maybe they did. From stories and tall tales told about me. Maybe they knew me better than I knew myself. They definitely know me better than i know them. Like from here I can see Naps's parents. And I imagine they know so much about me but I know nothing about them. And suddenly everyone is quiet and waiting for me to speak. I wonder if they already know or think they know everything i'm about to say.
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts. I'm sure a lot of you will recognize this quote from William Shakespeare's famous play As You Like it. You can ask a lot of people about what this means and you might be surprised at all the different answers you get. Today I just wanted to give you all my interpretation. As we all go into this next act of our lives we're gonna be faced with adversity. Sometimes we're gonna feel like our fate is unavoidable. Like we're actors in a play written by a cynic. Or characters in a story that is told without an omniscient narrator. As we make our entrances and exits I think the thing we need to remember is that we earned this. Maybe we had some stepping stones in front of us or a script to read off of. But we're here. We did this. Alone. Nobody got us in these seats but us. We're merely actors in a story we didn't write but remember the show can't go on without us. Remember without your dark night of the soul you can't get your happy ending. But also remember without a reader your story doesn't continue. So yes the whole world is a stage. College is a stage. High School is a stage. Friendship is a stage. And the director comes an hour early to practice everyday just to remind you how late you are. And the script is long and heavy and the lights burn bright. But just know there aren't or never have been any stage directions. Thank you everyone. And congratulations seniors you guys deserve this."
Lime brings a cake out and sets it in the middle of the big table that's been prepared just for me in Rebecca's. Hammer, Naps, And Franklin are all fighting over the iPod dock so they could Dj. TK and Isol set out plates for everyone. Picc, Panda, and Rokin all are rearranging the gifts on the couch that's been pushed off into the corner.
I'm still in my car in my cap and gown watching this all go down. I don't think any of them have realized I've been sitting here watching them for a while now. It's kinda cute though how they're all scrambling around to do this. Just for me. And then suddenly a car pulls up to the front door and Extra gets out. He waves to his parents as they drive back down the dusty road in the center of town and then i must catch his eye or something because he comes right over to my car.
"Hey Molly! Sorry I'm late!"
"Oh hey Extra! It's no problem I haven't even gone inside yet myself actually."
"Oh okay. Well I really liked your speech!"
"Really? I thought everyone hated it?"
"No no no!" it was awesome. Very T.S Eliot of you."
"You think so?"
"No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be; Am an attendant lord, one that will do. To swell a progress, start a scene or two, Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool. Deferential, glad to be of use, Politic, cautious, and meticulous. Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse. At times, indeed, almost ridiculous Almost, at times, the Fool."
"And you just know that off the top of your head?"
"Don't question it."
"Anyway my point is it was really nice. I'm not even graduating but i've never felt more free."
That sounds really nice
"Well thank you Extra. Hey could you do me a favor?"
"Yeah what is it?"
"Just don't tell anyone you saw me out here okay?"
"Uh yeah sure but is everything okay?"
I Smile. "Yeah Extra it's never been better. I just wanna make a dramatic entrance you know?"
"Oh okay fair I can do that for you! I'm gonna go inside now actually before they see me. I hope you have an amazing rest of your day Molly!"
"Thank you Extra. You too!" And he turns around and leaves. And I wait. And wait. And wait. And he disappears somewhere into the crowd in Rebecca's. And they look so happy to see him. And they all look so happy. Dancing and singing along to the song Naps finally got to play. Some song about love being their drug. Someone finally decided to cut the cake and I can tell from their faces that it must be really good. I look into the room and I can't really find anything missing. Everyone looks so complete. So effortlessly idyllic. It's warm and friendly and it's just everything in this moment. I reach up and turn my keys and feel the pur of my car as it shakes to life. I take another look and I don't think anyone noticed that. Good. I reach to my gear shift and drag it over to drive. I can't go in there and ruin this. They've earned it. My car begins to carefully roll forward and out the back of the parking lot so they don't see me. And I want to cry but I know they would be wasted tears and this was no moment to cry. I'd let it all out later. But for now. Right in this second. In this eternal moment i just listen to the sound of the wind colliding with me. And I feel the broken rays of sunshine that seep through all the corn. And I drive fast. And the car gets louder and louder. And then after a while there's nothing. No corn. No music. No rebecca's. No me. No sound of wind of engine. There's just this numbness that comes from nowhere and everywhere. It's freedom. It's earned freedom. I earned this.