Too Much

Oh, high school, you crazy, crazy diamond.

So, it’s been a really long time since I’ve done one of these posts. And I can make tons of excuses—book stuff, holiday stuff, constant travel—and they are even legitimate excuses (insofar as excuses are ever legitimate), because all those things actually happened.

If I’m being honest though, those are not the reason I haven’t trotted out teenage-Brenna in awhile. The truth is that I’m just moving very slowly now. The reason for this is that by November of senior year, the eighteen year old version of me has become a creature who thinks waaaaay too much.

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The One About How Girls Treat Each Other (sort of)

(Also, this is about how boys treat girls.)

(Okay, it’s about how people treat girls.)

(Fine. It’s about being a girl.)

In the context of my high school narrative, Delilah is like this constant, uncomfortable mirror, held up to the person I was at fifteen. Mostly, a mirror that illustrates the numerous and fundamental ways that Sophomore-me was nothing like Sophomore-Delilah.

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The Pink Cardboard Camera

It probably goes without saying, but by the end of first quarter, High School Brenna has plunged headlong into total infatuation with #4.

Also, as usual, from the outside this looks approximately similar to if I were plunging headlong into a recipe for craft glue.

Everyone has new [elective] classes now. Cobalt has something called “Integrated PE,” which is with the special ed kids. She mostly just helps them play games and work in the weight-room.

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Liking Holden

The autumn of senior year, most of my free time is spent pretending to be giddy and lovestruck over Holden. It turns out that I am a very good pretender.

Or, I can’t actually tell if I am. I might just be an average, or even a bad pretender, but everyone else is so prepared to see exactly what they’re looking for that it doesn’t matter.

As regards the whole Holden Situation, Delilah is running this show like a champ. She has completely memorized his schedule, allowing us to strategically position ourselves in all the places he will probably walk by. (This is pretty much fine by me, because he will also probably be with #4.)

But why am I even going along with this, you ask? The truth is, there’s no easy answer.

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The Holden Situation

First, I just want to say that I briefly considered titling this post Brenna Tells a Big Fat Lie. Then I decided that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, so I changed it. (Because I am trying very hard to be truthful.)

Okay, what happens is … the lie is not so much a lie as an omission.

The Holden situation happens because I am patently incapable of showing any sort of preference or desire or vulnerability. Or it happens because I’ve watched way too much MonsterVision with Joe Bob Briggs on TNT, and not enough Meg Ryan movies. Or because something is wrong with my brain. Or because I am a closet-defeatist with a minor in self-sabotage. Or because this is just the way the world works.

Really, 18-year-old Brenna spends what grown-up Brenna would consider to be an excessive amount of time trying to figure out exactly what happened and how things got so complicated so fast. How one seemingly-inconsequential moment can set off a chain-reaction of stupidity that exhibits no signs of slowing or faltering or burning itself out.

(Grown-up Brenna says: the answer is so much simpler than you’re making it. The answer is, you are a huge weenie.)

So, Holden.

The first time I ever saw Holden in a way that made me notice him, he was standing in the background, out of focus behind #4, who propped his elbows on the top of the fence, looked at me/looked away. And even in that bright, galvanizing moment, Holden was more of a vague impression than a verifiable fact.

Now though, he is kind of hard to ignore.

Holden is interesting, because he’s the kind of person you look at and think you know, and then they say something and you figure out that you don’t know them at all. At least, that’s how it was for me. I looked at him and saw certain things, the way he laughs out loud, and how he smokes all the time, how he tells dirty jokes and war-stories about how drunk he got over the weekend.

Those things seemed like everything there was to know, but he’s much better than that. He’s friendly and reminds me of how I picture Holden Caulfield, very tall and very Irish. He has smart things to say in class and never seems to care too much about what other people think. For some reason, that always impresses me.

These are decent things to think about a person. Holden is funny and charming. He’s smart and articulate and outrageously self-confident. Little Sister Yovanoff and I have PE with him. We unilaterally agree on his excellence, mostly because he’s friendly to pretty much everyone, and if any of the rough, thuggish boys start to argue or gang up on someone, Holden’s the one who intercedes and tells them to knock it off.* Sometimes when he’s captain, he picks the unpopular kids first.

In the afternoons, he and I have a ridiculously easy elective lit class together. He sits across the room from me, right up near the teacher’s desk, and even if he hasn’t actually read the books (which is always), he’ll still jump in and drum up a discussion and raise interesting points and get the sophomores talking.

See? Nice things.

In addition to having a winning personality, Holden is good-looking in a broad, appealing way that everyone can agree on. Like, you could pick a girl at random and say, “Wow, Holden is pretty good-looking, right?” And they would say, “Well, yeah.”

Except for the fence incident, I never really saw him hanging out with #4 last year, but now they’re together all the time. Holden always does most of the talking—animated, leaning in, gesturing with his hands. Then #4 will say one inaudible sentence, barely changing expression, and Holden will bust up laughing.

So, I like Holden for a lot reasons. But mostly because of how much he likes #4.

Delilah is the one who actually starts the whole mess. Also, it is all my fault, because technically, I do nothing to stop her.

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Right before the start of senior year, a troubling thing happened. Not shocking, but grave and disappointing all the same.

What it was was this:

“I’m not coming back in the fall,” Jane said as she and I sat in Denny’s, drinking coffee and eating pie respectively.

I mashed my pie with the back of my fork. “I thought you were going to think about it.”

She gave me a bored look. “I did think about it. What I think is that it’s bullshit, so I’m not going to go anymore.”

The way she tilted her head and popped her eyes wide was calculated to make me laugh, but the actual sentiment was a little too grim. I didn’t really have anything to say to that, so I didn’t say anything.

The fact that Jane drops out is not even that surprising. She’s never really been too good about passing her classes, and at this point, I’m pretty much used to people leaving and not coming back. In fact, so many of the juniors dropped out last year that by the middle of April, I’d started keeping a log of it in the back of my American Lit. binder. It’s funny to think that in tenth grade, it seemed blatantly impossible that anybody would ever drop out. Now it seems commonplace and kind of inevitable.

School is a little bit lonely without Jane. It would be a lot worse, except that now all the teachers and hallways and upperclassmen are at least vaguely familiar, and I have other friends, and even if I didn’t, I’m marginally less weird about just biting the bullet and talking to people. And it’s not even like Jane is really all that absent from my life. Sure, she’s never waiting for me outside English anymore, but we talk on the phone a lot, and sometimes she walks over at lunch to meet us.

The thing that happens next turns out to be a sort of catalyst—the first rumblings of a long, stupid landslide.

At the time though, I have no way of knowing that.

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