Irish Goes to Jail

For the first few weeks of my senior year, I am completely obsessed with the idea that whether I like it or not (and mostly not), I’m almost an adult. Whatever that means.

I keep tiptoeing up to the idea, acknowledging very reluctantly that it’s happening, and then scampering away again.

This impending adulthood is still largely hypothetical, though. In the main, senior year is not that different from junior year. As usual, Little Sister Yovanoff and I are pretty much inseparable. We’re locker partners. We eat lunch together and have all the same friends, and we’ve even arranged our class schedules so that we’re taking most of the same electives. Really, the only difference is that now we have a car.

Our last class before lunch is PE, with a focus on team sports. Irish is in the same class, but we don’t really talk to him. Or else, he doesn’t talk to us. We mostly stand with some quiet girls who don’t bother anyone. Irish stands with a bunch of drug dealers.

I’m privately surprised he’s there at all, even though when I saw him filling out add/drop forms in the cafeteria last year, he said he would be, and once I ran into him downtown over the summer and right as we were saying goodbye he told me he’d see me in August, and I’m still surprised.

Thor, our gym teacher, is this relentlessly wholesome viking of a farmboy, who looks like he probably played football in college. We are his first class ever, and he has absolutely no idea what to do with us.

He keeps trying to get us to behave like a little army of avid sports enthusiasts, which is confusing because the kids in our class are mostly the worst kids in school, and not really primed to be avid anything. The general consensus is that Thor is trying way too hard to be a fascist.

Later, he will relinquish his desperate need for order. This will happen sometime around the middle of the sand volleyball unit, and will be so acute that I actually witness the moment in which it occurs.

He’ll be standing on the edge of the parking lot, trying to supervise three courts at once, and failing dramatically. In the background, Patrick and Holden are passing a cigarette back and forth, and the slacker girls are sitting in the sand with their shoes off, working on their tans. Arlo is viciously hungover and doesn’t want to move, so to help him out, Jason keeps throwing the ball into the creek, which is an incredibly effective diversionary tactic because then we have to spend the next fifteen minutes fishing it back out.

Thor will be watching all this unfold, with his shoulders squared and his chest stuck out, and something will break inside him. He’ll press his hands against his forehead and look up at the sky like he’s wondering if maybe he should just quit now, just cut his losses and walk away.

He’ll turn his back on us for a second and then inform us with tragic dignity that we’re done for the day and can go change out.

After that, he will let us do pretty much whatever we want, which is all the class was really looking for in the first place. Once Thor has given up, everyone will adjust their behavior and even follow the instructions occasionally and line up without having to be told five times, and actually show him some respect. Or at least, they will stop smoking on the volleyball court when they’re supposed to be serving.

Later in the year, one of the sophomores in my literature elective will remark upon what a completely awesome teacher Thor is, and Holden will respond, with very little irony, “Yeah, we did that.”

But that particular change is still weeks away and at the moment, we’re in the middle of the baseball unit, which is the first unit of the semester.

I am fabulously bad at it. Also, my badness totally doesn’t matter, because everyone else is fabulously bad too.

What follows is a transcript of my last-ever on-school-grounds conversation with Irish. Also, thanks to my complete lack of responsiveness, it only qualifies as a conversation is the very loosest sense.

Today, I stood behind Irish in the batting line while he whispered numbers to Danny and Adam, who are both huge drug dealers and also extremely uncoordinated.

Patrick came up to us, looking slick and appealing. White undershirt, black track pants. He put his arm around my shoulders in an easy, companionable way without actually acknowledging me at all. He kept me tucked in the crook of his elbow while he talked to Irish.

“You’re sweet,” he said, after he and Irish had arrived at an agreement. “A sweet little lady.” He let me go and raised his voice. “Not like Cobalt over there.”

Cobalt is small and curvy, with dark hair and large, suggestive eyes. When she looked at Patrick over her shoulder, he grinned at her. I wondered if he called me sweet because I didn’t push his arm away, or just so that he would have a chance to tell Cobalt that she’s not. I know that I shouldn’t like standing so close to boys like him, but I’m practicing my social skills, which involves being friendly and not alienating people. Also, Patrick smells amazing.

“I’ve got a court date,” Irish said without looking at me, when Patrick had wandered off towards Cobalt.

I raised my eyebrows, but wasn’t actually surprised. “When?”

“Two weeks. I’m not going to be here tomorrow, though,” he said. “Or after that, really.”


“I think I’m gonna go get my GED.”

“Don’t drag the bat,” called Thor.

I picked the bat up off the ground.

Irish was looking off towards the foothills, up to where our houses were too small to see. He crossed his arms over his chest and turned back to me. I wanted to tell him to take off his goddamn sunglasses so I could see his eyes.

“I figure I should get it before I go in. You know?”

I nodded.

“It kind of sucks being eighteen,” he said, smiling. “Real, grown-up jail, huh?”


It’s horrible to be holding a bat and not have anything to hit with it.

After this uncomfortable exchange, then nothing. We just stand in line, staring out at the brown, dusty expanse of the foothills. I’m suddenly thinking very hard about what it means to be eighteen. How once you hit that arbitrary number, then people start holding you really and truly accountable. I have no idea what Irish is thinking about. Possibly the same thing. He is four months older than me.

“Get on up here,” Thor calls, waving at Irish.

In the infield, Jason is dancing around at shortstop, singing The Sad Ballad of Danny Boy to Danny-drug-dealer, but twice as fast as it normally goes, tossing his mitt in the air every time he gets to you’re giving us a fright. Most of the outfield is sitting down.

Irish takes his place over the plate, looking bored.

Niki is the only person in our class who knows how to pitch, so whoever has her on their team usually wins. She throws an easy one though, like she’s aiming for the bat. Irish pops it up and Froggy moves lazily out from behind the plate and catches it.

Irish hasn’t even started to run. He shrugs, then saunters back to Danny and Adam, hands in the pockets of his track pants.

And this is just one more example of how much he’s changed since I met him. Not that I really expect him to care about baseball, but the shrug is like this perfect illustration of how he never tries or cares or notices anything anymore. How he is only just waiting for a cigarette, a pause, for all this to be over.

“Pick it up, pick it up,” calls Thor, pointing at me, clapping his hands. “You’re slacking.”

I step up to the plate with the bat resting on my shoulder, wanting to hit something harder than I’d ever hit anything in my whole life.

The sun is white-hot, burning the top of my head. Irish is leaning against one corner of the backstop, tapping down a pack of cigarettes against his thigh. His shoulders are slumped and he looks freckled and gangly like he did when we first met, and also nothing like himself at all anymore. His hair is so orange that it seems impossible, and I wonder if it’s going to clash with the county coveralls.

Niki lobs the ball at me underhand and I hit a single.

I always hit singles.


First, an important disclaimer: The entry is not meant to be nearly as depressing as it sounds, I promise.

Honestly, the rest of the story goes pretty much like this—Irish does some time in county and gets out and doesn’t violate his probation. For the next year and a half, he works in the kitchen at the dive bar with me, and we hang out on the roof and laugh a lot and once in a while I get really mad at him because he can sometimes be a total dick, but mostly we get along. Later, he becomes what I consider to be an actual adult, and stays out of trouble and gets married to a nice girl and has little freckled kids. What I’m saying is, this story really does have a happy ending—it just takes awhile and spends a few years looking kind of shaky.

See? Everything is fine. (Also, the rest of PE after the volleyball unit turns out to be just so much fun.)

Now for the discussion topic: This whole adult thing. What does being an adult mean to you? Is the prospect scary? Is it actually any different from being not-an-adult? Does it feel like a huge responsibility, or is it what you’ve been waiting for your whole life?

16 thoughts on “Irish Goes to Jail

  1. I dropped out of high school when I was halfway through my junior year, so I didn’t really get to see my friends make the progression into adulthood. The few that I still hung out with still acted like the kids I knew back when I went to school, and even now, when most of them are seventeen or eighteen, they still mostly act like kids when we hang out. But then my friends were at the end of their senior year, which would’ve been my senior year, and starting to make college plans and starting their lives, and it started weighing on me that they were becoming adults. Now that they’ve graduated this year, they tell me about what majors they’re going into and moving into dorm rooms and becoming independent, and I was still the same depressed, anxious little girl who was still afraid to go outside. Who couldn’t do all those things yet, because emotionally, I couldn’t go to high school and graduate like they could. Because school broke me. I felt like a loser and like I was falling behind. So the sudden realization that they were becoming adults made me want to try a little, so I signed up for a free GED program and am currently taking classes (with a small break in between to visit my dad). So now I feel like I’m slowly making my way towards adulthood, but I still sometimes feel scared and like I’m too young to be handling all of this, but I’m kinda getting there :D.

    Also, my actual eighteenth birthday was a mess emotionally, because I felt like a loser who wasn’t ready to be an adult. I cried. A lot. Lol :D.

    • Oh, man, I remember that feeling–not being ready to be an adult. It was a few days before I moved away for college. I was leaving a bunch of friends behind, and several others were moving as well. I feel very…adrift, and frightened, and loathe to be going off to college pretty much by myself. I cried, too.

      • My friends who are going to college are experiencing those things too. It’s a lot of pressure to have to deal with all this sudden responsibility, but it’s even worse when you feel like you’re alone because you don’t see your friends everyday anymore. My closest friend is really nervous because of all the new people. She’s worried that the she’ll have the same bad experiences in college like she did in high school. She’s also really scared of the unknown. I completely understand that. I’m really nervous for after I get my GED and go to college myself. It’s uncharted territory and now that legally, I’m considered an adult, it’s starting to mess with my head a little, because my brain thinks that as an adult, it all falls on me and I’m not allowed to ask for help anymore and not rely as much on other people. Though it is a good thing to be independent, that’s not really true. It’s okay to ask for help at any age. I just feel like it’s not sometimes.

        Thank you so much for sharing :D. It makes me feel better to know other people feel the same way. :D

        • I know I’ve said this before, but one of my favoritefavorite things about doing the high school posts is the way people are so thoughtful and generous about sharing and comparing experiences—I just love it! Thank you guys, so much <3

      • Oh, leaving for college was so weird and intense!

        I’ve never really cried at times when I would consider it appropriate to (I cry at parts in movies and books that no one else does), but I spent my last day before leaving for school with my best friend, and he told me later that after I’d dropped him off that night, he sat down on the curb and cried, and even though I hadn’t been able to be that expressive myself, that right there just seemed to sum up the whole thing.

    • my friends were at the end of their senior year, which would’ve been my senior year, and starting to make college plans and starting their lives

      This is something I thought about a lot, particularly when I hit 18. My friend Jane dropped out the summer between our junior and senior year, and I would still always hang out with her and go over to her house and everything, and she never made any remarks or mentioned it at all, but I always got this idea there was a part of her that was feeling a little bit left behind, or like I was moving on without her.

      I didn’t cry when I turned 18, but that probably had way more to do with not being a big crier in general than with it not being cry-worthy, because wow, I was freaking out. I felt completely at sea, like I didn’t even know what to do with myself, which didn’t even really make sense because nothing concrete about my life had changed—I still lived with my parents and my sister, still went to the same school with the same people. It was just the whole idea of having to be completely, irrevocably in charge of my own life, I think. It … took some getting used to :)

  2. I remember my first brush with realizing, “Hey, I’m kind of an adult now, aren’t I?” I was eighteen and about to head off to college and absolutely, utterly terrified.

    I don’t think that I actually started thinking…I wouldn’t say “more like an adult,” somehow that phrase doesn’t work. No. I didn’t start to think “Hey, I have a long-term future I need to plot out, huh, how am I going to get from point A to point T down the line” till I was about 22-23.

    I think the word I’m looking for here is “responsible,” being mindful of my obligations and the appropriate courses of action to meet them, i.e. mashing myself into something resembling a sleep schedule, making sure work clothes were washed the night before, bills were paid, etc…

    Honestly, I think that’s really the benchmark of adulthood right there: when you start paying your own bills–your rent, your car insurance, your cellphone, gas, food, etc. When you have to learn how to become self-reliant and truly do things on your own, and you do ’em? Yeah, that’s adulthood.

    Perhaps that’s why those years–17 to 25 or so–are so intensely existential. All of a sudden, the map opens up and you’re no longer a neat, linear path. You have to figure who you are, what you want to do with yourself, where you want to be when you’re 30 years older. It’s exhilarating and absolutely terrifying at the same time.

    I do miss the nights I used to park my car in a field and think about questions larger than “Did I remember to stick the clothes in the dryer” or “Shoot, I’ve gotta put gas in the car before work tomorrow.” Now, my time is consumed with everyday tasks and much heavier responsibilities than I ever had between the ages of 18 to 23.

    I’m still waiting for that day where I actually FEEL like, “oh hey, I truly am an adult, yippee”…I’m sitting on the front stoop of my new house, and I’m still wondering if you ever actually feel it, or it just comes along gradually.

    • I didn’t start to think “Hey, I have a long-term future I need to plot out […]” till I was about 22-23

      I absolutely relate to this. For the first few years of “adulthood,” my conception of long-term future was pretty much limited to what was going to happen in the next six months. I was “responsible” in all the most basic ways (except laundry), but still not really thinking much about the rest of my life.

      It’s exhilarating and absolutely terrifying at the same time.

      Oh, no kidding! I remember spending a lot my late teens and early twenties in kind of this state of heightened awareness, like I had to constantly be ready for anything, because now that I was essentially out on my own, anything could happen.

      Now, my time is consumed with everyday tasks and much heavier responsibilities than I ever had between the ages of 18 to 23.

      Honestly, mine is too. Even though for me, the routine of everyday thoughts still involves a lot of really fun things, like imagining all these impossible, cinematic situations and people, there’s still something that feels kind of dutiful and adult about it now. However, I’m also lucky enough to have a friend who’s an excellent conversationalist and who stays up late like me and likes to go for midnight walks around the neighborhood. We have a kind of standing date in the summer to walk down to the park and talk about the big stuff, which even though we’ve been doing it for years now, still feels really nostalgic and like we’re seventeen again.

      I’m still waiting for that day where I actually FEEL like, “oh hey, I truly am an adult, yippee”

      Me too! Each time I reach some milestone, I keep thinking thinking “okay, this is it–—now it’s going to happen,” and then I realize that it doesn’t happen like that. It’s more like I just keep accruing a few grown-up points here and there, and maybe one day they’ll eventually add up to something.

  3. I didn’t start to feel like I was approaching adulthood until my last year of college, since (imo) college is still well-structured. And I didn’t feel like I’d actually been placed Into Adulthood until I graduated (I’d just turned 21), and thought, “Now what the hell am I supposed to do?” I never had a problem with all the day to day responsibilities like making sure xyz was sent in or keeping on track with studies; what always made/makes me feel immature and like a little kid was being put into the world and told I can now do whatever I want. I spent so much of my adolescent life being told what to do, and being rewarded for doing what people told me to do, that I never felt like doing what I wanted was an option for me in particular. I had this deep-seated (probably irrational) belief that if I tried, I would irrevocably screw up my life and ruin everything, because I didn’t have the ability/skill to figure out how to make something work if I failed. I think, though, that was just me having an immature personality and taking a longer time to grow up than others. I don’t feel like that anymore, but it’s a fairly recent change, and I really wish I’d had faith in myself earlier.

    I’m 23 now, and I guess I have some trappings of Adulthood (I have a job, my studies, I pay bills with my paycheck from my job, etc), but I feel like I’m faking it until I make it. As far as I can tell, what seems to make people feel more adult is when they’re responsible for, or start seriously considering, the livelihood and safety of some other person besides themselves (a parent, a child, a relative, SO, etc).

    • I didn’t start to feel like I was approaching adulthood until my last year of college, since (imo) college is still well-structured

      This actually made freshman year in college a really weird transition for me. By the time I was a senior in high school, I had a job, was running all kinds of errands for my mom, taking my sister to the dentist, making check-up appointments for the dog, doing grocery shopping, and making dinners. I was doing all these responsible, adult-like things, and then I went away to college and it was like some weird kind of regression—like I’d been sucked back into childhood. All of a sudden, all my meals were prepared for me, there was an RA who would check in on people and sometimes even ask where we were going or when we thought we’d be back. Even the freshman schoolwork was easier than my AP classes in high school.

      I had this deep-seated (probably irrational) belief that if I tried, I would irrevocably screw up my life […] I think, though, that was just me having an immature personality and taking a longer time to grow up than others.

      Honestly, this is exactly why I tend to think of myself as having been a late bloomer. It didn’t really matter how well I did something or what I was capable of—I still just had very little faith that I could be trusted to be in charge, even extending to little, stupid things that made no sense, like I’d be using a nail gun or a very sharp knife and suddenly have this thought, like, “Should I really be doing this? How can I know that I’m not going to mess up and hurt myself?” Which was ridiculous, because it was usually something I’d been doing for years, but I’d still just have this moment of irrational doubt.

  4. At fourteen, the prospect of being an adult seems a lot like not-yet-being-an-adult. I mean, I’ll have my own money, I’ll be able to drive myself places, and I will have to pay bills. But I have money from babysitting, I’ll be able to drive in a year and a half, and even though its really my parents who are paying for school, I feel like I am. Fourteen, and I’m already counting my pennies. My friends go to the mall; I hoard my babysitting money for books.

    I figure, as long as I don’t do anything REALLY BAD, then there won’t be much of a difference.

    But I know kids who already have their college picked out. They work for hours to get good grades, to go to Harvard or MIT. Middle school grades don’t even appear on a transcript. I wonder, if when they have to start paying bills and buying their own food and balancing everything themselves, if they’ll look at the kids playing across the street and wish they hadn’t pretended to be adults before they really had to.

    • I wonder […] if they’ll look at the kids playing across the street and wish they hadn’t pretended to be adults before they really had to.

      I actually think about this a lot. It’s almost foreign to me, how hard some people work in middle school and high school, and how demanding they are of themselves. (Mostly because I was actually pretty ill-motivated as a teenager, and sometimes downright lazy).

      Now, I get to meet with book clubs or writing groups and talk to all these smart, incredibly articulate teenagers, and on the one hand, I am so, so impressed by their foresight and their dedication, but on the other, they push themselves SO hard, and sometimes I just find myself thinking, “You have all this time to be an adult—all this time to apply yourself and take things seriously and be driven and successful. Why make it happen right-now-this-minute? You have time.”

      I’m really glad you’re thinking about these things now and weighing the variables, because it just seems to easy to get sucked up and swept along and only realize what you’ve given up after you’re all done with that phase of you life.

      (I totally remember the penny-pinching, though—that was an area where I was very careful, especially after I got a car and had to put gas in it and buy it boxes of fuses, because that was what it liked to eat best!)

  5. This whole adult thing. What does being an adult mean to you? Is the prospect scary? Is it actually any different from being not-an-adult? Does it feel like a huge responsibility, or is it what you’ve been waiting for your whole life?

    I said it before, a loooong time ago on here, but my entire concept of adulthood revolves around taxes. If you have to pay taxes, you’re an adult. Simple.

    As an almost-senior in high school, I am TERRIFIED of adulthood. I’m afraid of doing something wrong and not getting to go to a good college and it is just so incredibly panic-making.

    Then again, I’m kind of excited for freedom, in an abstract way. I’m actually loving my life right now, with all of the bonuses of childhood and adulthood rolled up into a neat responibility-free existence. I don’t pay for gas, but I can drive anywhere. I can do whatever I want all day, but I still get to eat. I have tv and internet and a phone and I don’t have to pay for any of it.

    It just makes me really thankful that my parents have good jobs and that I don’t have to work or buy my own gas or any of that.

    But I’m still terrified of adulthood.

    • I’m afraid of doing something wrong and not getting to go to a good college and it is just so incredibly panic-making.

      You know, a lot of my generalized fears did kind of evaporate once I knew for sure which college I’d be going to and it was all sorted out and settled. (Then I promptly transitioned over to a handful of more specific and immediate fears, but whatever.) It was just very nice to feel like there was a plan and some certainty, and I could at least identify a near-future trajectory.

      I’m actually loving my life right now, with all of the bonuses of childhood and adulthood rolled up into a neat responibility-free existence.

      This is exactly why the summer between my junior and senior year was one of my best-ever! I wasn’t quite to the point of actually having to think about things like college or my GPA or taxes (which is excellent shorthand for adulthood, by the way), but I could go anywhere I wanted and do whatever I felt like. It was like a practice run for being independent, without any of the more intimidating responsibilities.

  6. Hi…I sort of feel like I should get permission to join in this conversation, which is just massively weird as my reason for butting in is to talk about the first time I realised I was ‘grown up’. (Adulthood seems too big a word though!) The first time I was four, and my mum was crying – I asked her what was wrong, and even tried to give her some advice. I think I started feeling more grown up then. But the big one for me was when I was 17. I walked into Chem class and said hi to a girl in the year above me. I didn’t know her particularly well, but I went to a tiny school in the middle of a sugar plantation in central Kenya, so literally the entire school knew each other pretty well. She basically snarled at me, and for a minute I was deeply hurt and contemplated crying because I didn’t know what I’d done wrong. And suddenly this voice got through to me as if it had been trying to for the past 17 years, and just said ‘don’t be ridiculous. You know you haven’t done anything to her, she’s obviously upset about something else, so don’t take it personally.’ And with that I knew I’d grown up.

    Having said that, I’ve since spent the last 11 years waiting for the next big revelation! I’ve done a lot of things which make me seem very adult – I’ve left home (by a long way – I moved to a completely different country!), got married to a man I actually love and communicate with (unheard of!), had to gorgeous little girls, did well at Uni, was a teacher for 3 years, quit a job I detested and started my own business. However all those things that are meant to make you an adult are the ones that make me feel like a child the most. Being a mum especially; there are times I just revert back into the unbelievably selfish, whiny tantrum-y little girl that I NEVER ACTUALLY WAS! It turns out, after all this, that being ‘adult’ was easier when I was 15 (I had an amazing summer job as a tour guide and French translator which made me seem much older than I was, and I got a lot of respect and a lot of hot men chatting me up because they thought I was in my 20s…) than it is now. Damn it!

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