I’ve never had a yearbook quote. I just never turned in the paper. High School was weird. ‘The best time of your life’ they said. ‘You’ll make lots of friends’, they said. Bullshit. I can sum up high school in one word: stagnant. Just a bunch of fish floating belly up in a pond. I slowed down. I felt like I was under water all the time. Everything sounded muffled. I was only half there. For four years. Weird.
I sat by myself a lot. There was a bench where I liked to sit because it had the biggest window. I watched a guy on a red riding lawnmower cut down all the dandelions. I watched him rake leaves. I watched him blow snow over the concrete blocks where students would sit waiting for the bus.
“I’m finished with my work. May I go to the library?”
“May I read by myself? I’ll be quiet”.
“No. Just wait. Everyone else will be done soon”. I watched a squirrel.
Years passed. I watched a lot of squirrels. A couple groundhogs. Cars.
Then it was my last day. “I hope you’ll come back and visit”. The teacher smiled. I smiled. “Mike”. Someone else nudged me. I didn’t answer. I hadn’t heard her. Things were still muffled.
I passed high school. I stood on stage and I smiled. I didn’t wear the honor cord because I felt choked by it. I didn’t think this whole thing was something to be proud of. It just was. I waved goodbye to people whose names I knew, but whose worst fears I knew nothing about. I never saw them again. I never missed them. I never missed the bench I liked to sit on while I stared out of windows. I never missed all that extra time I had to waste.
I could hear properly again after I left that building. I could move as fast as I wanted to. I didn’t have to sit still or wait for people to catch up with me. Because the real world doesn’t make you wait for people to catch up to you. You can just leave them behind.
I didn’t write a yearbook quote. ‘You’re a writer. Just write something’, they told me. ‘Won’t it be sad looking back in your yearbook, and seeing no words beneath your name?”. Not really. That person pictured isn’t me now and it was barely me then. Most of the faces around that picture are married or buried and I have nothing to say to them.
I had nothing to say about that time of my life. After high school, I wrote. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words. I grew. I learned. I have a lot to say now. But I’ve never had a yearbook quote.