I’ve been thinking about this journal. I know, I know—you can’t tell by looking at it. I am a very bad journal-keeper.
But here’s the thing: I wasn’t always.
There was a time in my life when I recorded my thoughts and observations with an enthusiasm bordering on obsessive. It sustained me. It kept me from melting into a puddle of boredom during high school.
I can’t be sure that other people like journal entries and scrapbooks the same way I do, because I also like liverwurst and that Swedish salt licorice that’s shaped to look like little fish, so this is going to be kind of an experiment. megancrewe has been talking about adolescence, posting journal excerpts that chronicle various revealing moments. In a certain sense, you could say that I’m copying Megan Crewe. And you would be right.
So, here goes. The Alice in this early observation is excruciatingly shy, which may explain why she is so fascinating to Sophomore Brenna. She wears glasses and is a year or two older than me, putting her at about 17. She wears combat boots and plays the cello. Although she mostly seems to go unremarked, Sophomore Brenna finds her utterly remarkable and admires her in the way that younger girls admire older ones. Although you can’t tell it from her somewhat impressionistic description, Sophomore Brenna spends most bus-rides wishing that she looked just like Alice.
No girls ride the bus except me, and sometimes Alice. But Alice keeps to herself and doesn’t say much. She is kind of pretty, with short auburn hair and gray eyes. She reminds me a little of a rabbit. The kind of rabbit that doesn’t say much. When someone asks her a question, she sighs, like the answer weighs a lot. Like so much that she almost can’t breathe.
She sits with her cheek against the window and her knees pulled up to her chest, tugging on the laces of her boots. Her slip is always uneven, hanging down past her skirt, and her stockings always have runs. I make up stories about her. About how she dreams of symphonies, of pirate ships or stars, like she’s always someplace else.
Alice escapes by staring out the window, but I don’t have to. It’s strange to know you mostly don’t exist. I’m not even a real wallflower, but more like the shadow of one. Sometimes people in my classes make comments about how I’m a space cadet, or “not all there,” and maybe that’s the same thing I’m doing when I pretend that Alice has gotten away. Maybe it’s the equivalent of calling her a space cadet, when really she’s just like me.
I could say a lot about this—things about empathy and self-perception and projection, but I’m mostly just astonished to realize that I probably could have been friends with Alice if I’d been more outgoing or hadn’t been in such peculiar awe of her.
At the time though, I felt her solitude was necessary to her character. Even though I prided myself on my objectivity, I still had a tendency to view everyone through my own lens. I saw people in terms of narrative rather than real life. It occurred to me that Alice was lonely, but not that I had any possible influence over her loneliness. I was fundamentally separate. Even sitting across the aisle from her, I had no involvement in the situation. The idea that I might one day start a conversation with her was flatly implausible.
This makes me regretful now, mostly because I think I would have liked her. In some ways though, it was simply a necessary part of my socialization, one more thing to grow out of. Because as weird as it may sound, at 15, if I didn’t know someone, they were mostly just a story I happened to be telling.