For English class this year, everyone had to pick a book to read independently and then do a project on. After reading John Green's Paper Towns—which by the way is the funniest book I've ever read and very awesome—I decided to choose Looking For Alaska as my project because it was supposed to be even awesomer than Paper Towns and I couldn't imagine anything by the same author being boring, even though I was a little iffy about the plot summary I found. In the end, though, it was AMAZING. So we had a bunch of options we could do for our project, and one was to write an interior monologue for one of the characters at a certain point in the book. Doing Pudge would be stupid, because the whole book is pretty much an interior monologue from his point of view. So I chose a more morbid subject: Alaska in the car on the way to her death. Hope I get an A. And enjoy.
I really screwed up this time.
I already failed my mother once, when I was just eight years old. She was convulsing on the floor, writhing and shuddering, and I just stared at her, keeping my distance. I looked at Mom's face, at her body, and down at the floor, everywhere except at the phone. I could have called 911. I could have ran next door and gotten the neighbors to help or done something. But I just stared at my mother's face as it slowly turned pale and lifeless, until she stopped flailing her limbs and lay still on the floor. I was sobbing. I was hysterical. I had no idea what was going on and I wasn't thinking straight and I had never been so scared. But it wasn't because my I knew that my mother was dead.
It was because I knew that I had killed her.
That's when my father came home. I don't think I've ever seen him so furious as the moment when he glared me in the eyes and shouted, "WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL 911?" I couldn't answer, because I didn't know myself. I felt so, so helpless. And even though Dad would never forgive me, I set out to redeem myself in my mother's eyes. Each year on January 10, the anniversary of Mom's death, I got Dad to drive me to the cemetery and I would lay flowers on my mother's grave. I gave her white ones, like the kind she loved so much when she was alive. When I was little, she used to put white flowers in my hair and tell me that I looked beautiful. My dad used to tell me too, almost every day, that I was beautiful. Then Mom died, and he hasn't said it since. But he tells me about Mom. He says that she was the most beautiful woman he ever saw, and that he could never, ever forget her even if he wanted to.
Well, I screwed up, all right. This year I forgot the flowers.
It started out as such a great day. My ingenious plan, devised to extract revenge for what Kevin and the Weekday Warriors did to Pudge, played itself out perfectly. At eight o'clock this morning, bright-eyed and early, I saw Kevin storming down the hallway outside Pudge's room, sporting bright blue hair and looking not all that pleased with it. My oh-so-brilliant scheme—depositing permanent blue dye into Kevin's shampoo—hadn't let me down, and neither had the two henchmen who had carried it out for me. So tonight, Pudge, the Colonel, and I had a celebratory party in their room. It was nothing unusual, you know how it is—I broke into my secret supply of wine and the Colonel and I had some fun. Of course, goody-two-shoes little Pudge just sat there with his bag of pretzels, not even tempted to touch the huge bottle of alcohol in front of him. I think, now that I analyze my life's contents, that's what drew me to Pudge in the first place. When the Colonel arrived at Culver Creek in freshman year, he was innocent as a newborn, but bursting with curiosity and longing for the things that adults do. Pudge is so childlike and naïve. When Pudge first came to the Creek, I doubt the idea of drinking underage would ever have even crossed his mind.
So we were drinking after hours, and I was in a boys' room, which is breaking two rules of the Creek right there. And I thought, why not, maybe we should break another one. So I suggested the three of us play Truth or Dare. Pudge surprised me when he picked "dare" on his first turn. I'd have thought he would be afraid. But I misjudged him. Pudge maybe be naïve, but he's not a coward. I stood there, half-drunk, wondering what I could dare him to do, when all I could think of was how small and cute he was, and how vulnerable. So I dared him to kiss me. And he did.
I don't know if it was because I was drunk and tired and confused, but in that moment, I really thought I was in love with Pudge. But hey, I've got a boyfriend, and I'm pretty sure I love him, too. I'd already made out with Pudge, but it was on a dare, and though I wanted to go further, I restrained myself. I promised Pudge we would continue this—whatever "this" was—later, though I didn't specify how much later. It could have been after I broke up with Jake. It could have been when we were fifty or a hundred. Pudge didn't care when it was, as long as it happened eventually, and he just smiled and agreed with me. And I left to go and call Jake from the pay phone outside Pudge's building, because I was feeling like a bad girlfriend at that moment and I wanted to make up for it. Pudge and the Colonel went to sleep.
Jake and I chatted for a couple of minutes. Neither of us really had anything to say, but we both wanted to talk, so we kept up a meaningless little conversation. My reason for staying on the line was that I didn't want to let him down. I hate letting people down. I don't know why Jake stayed on the phone. Maybe he just liked hearing my voice. One of my favorite things about Jake is that it doesn't matter if I'm drunk and it's three in the morning and I just made out with another guy. He'll answer the phone no matter what time it is. Or if he's at Culver Creek, and not with his family for the weekend like he is right now, he'll let me climb in his window. So we were making small talk, and though I was glad for it, it was pretty dull stuff. A little bored, I started to doodle on the wall of the phone booth like so many people do. I wasn't paying attention to my drawing at that point, so when I looked up and saw what shape my pencil was resting on, I was in for the shock of my life.
I had drawn a flower, like the kind my mother used to put in my hair. What was the date today? It was January 10—no, it was three in the morning. January 10 was already over.
I missed the anniversary. I let my mother down again.
I hurriedly told Jake goodbye and scrambled out of the phone booth as fast as my legs would take me. How could I have forgotten? What could I do, what on earth could be great enough, to make it up to my mother for letting her fall twice? I was in a panic and wasn't being particularly quiet about it, so it wasn't long before Takumi heard the noise and came outside to find out what was wrong. I was so relieved to have him there beside me that I told him everything, even the details I'd never mentioned to Pudge or the Colonel. Takumi always helps me with this kind of thing, when I'm broken deep inside. Pudge is wonderful, but he's so small and fragile that I can't bear to lean on him in a moment of weakness. The Colonel would never take me seriously, and even Jake I doubt could have made me feel better at that moment in time. I counted on Takumi, strong Takumi, to tell me it was okay, that my mother didn't need her flowers, or something. But Takumi, for once, had nothing to say. The boy who never let me down, who could always make me feel okay, couldn't help me now. I was alone, so incredibly alone. There was nothing I could do to clean up my mess. I was a failure. I had failed her again.
Horrified with myself, I ran back to the Colonel and Pudge, and I woke them up and told them just what they needed to know—I was leaving, this was very important, and could they set up a distraction for me so the Eagle wouldn't hear my car drive away? The two of them agreed and stayed true to their word. With all the confusion of the firecrackers they set off in the forest, the Eagle never guessed that anyone could be scooting off campus at the same time. In a moment of genius, I remembered the flowers Jake had given me just days ago for our anniversary, the anniversary of us as a couple—not the other one, the anniversary of Mom. The flowers are white. So I threw them in the back of the car and took off into the night.
I'm driving down the highway, and though I was hysterical and anxious and miserable just moments earlier, I now feel a strange blanket of calm settle over me. I screwed up again. There's no way I can right this. Why do I always screw everything up? I'm driving slowly, but it doesn't matter, because there's no one else on the road. I barely have to look where I'm going. I let my mother down again. I kissed Pudge when I'm going out with Jake. Come to think of it, isn't Pudge going out with Lara? That means we both broke the rules. We both let someone down. Only for Pudge this would be a first, as apposed to me. I always let people down. I always let her down…
There's a cop car in the middle of the road. I could avoid it, but do I want to? I'm a failure, right? If I swerve and move along on my way, I'll still be a failure. I'll have done nothing to fix it, just like I did nothing for my mother, just watched her die, like they'll all watch me die. If I don't swerve, I won't have saved my mother, but I'll have at least done something.
I don't swerve. The police lights are flashing in my face and the sirens are blaring in my ears and my car is crashing into the cop car and I'm dying.
I'm so sorry. I'm sorry to you, Mom, for all the things I couldn't do. But I'm sorry to you, too, Pudge. I love you. But I guess it's not "to be continued" after all.