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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I’ve thought a lot (lot lot lot) about this post.*

I’ve thought about the point of it, and the importance, and about what I want to say, because I think I’m about to bring up something that would be good to talk about and I don’t want to screw it up.

The autumn of my senior year of high school is pretty dismal (maddening? miserable?), because I hate how I look.

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The Break-Up

Let me just start by saying, this is an uncomfortable one.

There are a billion things that seventeen-year-old Brenna doesn’t understand. And some of them—okay, most even—have to do with feelings. This makes her (me) feel pretty shockingly stupid, because theories and facts are what you’re supposed to work hard to master, and feelings are the things you’re supposed to be born knowing about. Instead, I eat up books with a vengeance, while struggling to grasp even the simplest emotional concepts. I kind of feel like a cartoon character.

Here is the story of how I break up with Dill, or else, he breaks up with me.

I’ve mentioned before that as a couple, we have a tendency to bring out the worst in each other. I wasn’t lying, and the interaction that follows is one I’m distinctly not proud of. While lacking in drama and vaguely surreal, it’s exactly the kind of break-up one might expect from teenage Brenna. Basically, I’m saying you’ve been warned.


First, he picked me fifty violets. Wove them into my hair and around my wrists. The leftovers, I stuffed into the pockets of my hoodie.

Later, we stopped to get coffee. It was a warm night and I asked for ice in mine. I knew the boy behind the counter, a little. He was older and I’d had Spanish with him the year before. Here’s most of what I knew about him: Buddy Holly glasses, nerdy in an ironic, contrived way—and nice, always nice to me, even when the basketball players and the wrestling boys would sometimes take my things and tease me just for fun.

“I like your flowers,” he said. “Hey, you think you could spare one?” He gestured to his lapel.

So I handed him one and he slipped it through his buttonhole, while Dill stood against the counter and squeezed my hand more tightly than was comfortable.

“I picked those for you,” he said, as soon as we were outside.

“Yes.” (Factual, remember—so, so factual.)

“So, I didn’t pick them for you to give to someone else.”

“If you picked them for me, they’re mine now. Anyway, a flower is not the same thing as affection. I wasn’t giving your affection to someone else.”

We were at Dill’s truck by then. He was shaking his head as he unlocked the driver’s side. “You’re unbelievable.”

I climbed in, tucking my hair behind my ears. The violets were tickling me. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean, I can’t be like you. You analyze everything.”

“Well, it’s a very good way to make decisions,” I said, but I understood suddenly that we were almost to that point where you can’t go back—not ever. “It’s the best way I know of.”

He turned and looked at me, and it wasn’t angry or possessive or aggravated. It was so, so sad. “Are you even into me at all? Because I can’t go through life putting two dollars in and getting a dollar back out. I just need to know if you love me.”

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There’s this boy in my drawing class.

I mean, there are lots of boys in my drawing class. But I’m talking about one particular boy. He’s younger than me, a sophomore with long floppy George-McFly bangs and a black trench coat. I know him from our bus-route, mostly because he’s incredibly loud in the mornings, when everyone else is being quiet.

He’s dramatic, frantic, kinetic, profane—all knees and elbows and shoulder blades. He drops F-bombs like they are a type of exotic punctuation mark. He talks in class constantly, blurting out wild, impossible proclamations and then clapping his hands over his mouth like that will force the words back in where they belong.

Every day in drawing, our teacher stands over his desk, sighing, looking down at his various projects. She says things like:

“Wit, this is unacceptable. I thought we agreed that if I let you take it home, you’d have it done by today. What happened?”

“My stepbrother poured milk all over it.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t leave your projects out where accidents can happen.”

“Did I say he knocked something over? I said, he poured milk on it. Why does no one ever believe me? God!”

Right now, I’m going to just skip the narrative mess and tell you the last part first, because sometimes it’s the endpoint that matters most. So I’ll come right out and say it: in the months that follow, Wit will become the best friend I’ve ever had. He will be the person I didn’t know I needed—funnier than Jane, more outspoken than Catherine, more honest than almost anyone. He will be the first person I actually enjoy talking to on the phone. He will be that friend you have no idea how you ever got along without.

On the afternoon I actually meet him, Catherine and I are sitting in the cafeteria, reading her copy of Julius Caesar to each other. It’s my off-hour, and she’s skipped her social studies class to hang out with me, so I’m helping her with her English homework.

On the other side of the cafeteria,Wit is flapping around in his trench coat. He’s alone, climbing up onto one of the chairs and jumping off again.

Catherine grins. “Hey, let’s go talk to him. You want to?”

“But we don’t know him.”

“So? It’s not like he’s scary. I mean yeah, he’s weird, but it’s cute.”


“No, not like that. I just mean, you know, cute. Come on.”

I’ll be honest—I kind of expect that Catherine will do most of the talking. But Wit seems to have a weirdly silencing effect on her. He immediately makes it his business to entertain us, pacing in a circle, periodically raking a hand through his hair. He’s erratic, floppy like a puppet, jerking to life suddenly, waving his arms and tripping over his own feet. He tells us a very bizarre story involving Marilyn Manson, a gas station attendant, and an electric train.

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