by rugal b.
As she gets ready to enter high school Chiho just wants to be an adult.
|“I know you’re going to do well, even without me. But I’ll still text you, we’ll still talk. And I’ll visit too, I promise.”
I didn’t say anything, I simply flung my arms around my sister and held her tight. I didn’t want to let go, a childish sentiment that I was fast needing to grow out of. After all, I wasn’t going to be one for much longer. So I let go and I waved goodbye with the rest of my family – even Mokichi who actually got off of the couch – and I continued to wave as the car drove out of sight. That was it, I realized. The car was gone and that meant Yumi was gone too.
She was going off to college in another state. She loved it here, she’d said when I asked her why. She’d lived here her whole life and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. But that’s why she had to do it. She’d needed to see what else was out there as well. Live in a different environment for a while, get some new perspectives and figure out what she was going to do.
I guess Yumi really is an adult now.
But I’m not quite there. Not yet. I only just got out of middle school after all and high school isn’t for another two weeks. No, I’m definitely not an adult yet but in a few years I will be. Then a few years after that I’ll be a different kind of adult with a degree and a job. A few years after that I might have a husband and a family. And a few years after that? Well, you get the point I guess.
There’s always change. The world, myself, everything; it’s always changing. Permanence is an illusion and you have to learn to accept that.
What’s the point in constantly looking at the past? You always see that in a work of fiction, right? Like there’s the guy who looks at a picture of some old house he lived in when he was young or a young woman who still has some teddy bear she had as a kid. All it does is make them wistful. They just want to cling onto their childhoods, but why?
When you’re a child you can’t do anything. Nobody takes you seriously, you can’t go anywhere on your own. You can be the smartest person in the room and all that’ll get you is Obaasan doting on you like it’s cute and quaint and… ugh! Why would anyone want to hang onto being a child?
I like to think I’m largely better than that. I’ve always been a bit precocious I guess and I’ve always thought about the future: what high school is going to be like, what school I’ll get into and what I’ll be doing once I graduate. I have to work hard and study hard. I don’t have the time to be nostalgic or to think about the past or to be sentimental.
So how come there’s this heavy feeling in my chest? As the day goes on why do I keep thinking back to my sister and the memories I have with her? Why am I so worried about how maybe I could’ve spent more time with her? That’s not me; not at all.
I actually wish that I had some homework to do or a book report… anything, just so I can think about that instead. Because there’s nothing going on otherwise. Even my friends are out doing other things right now, with family or on vacation or something. I guess I could always enjoy the break too but it’s hard to because this is it for me. The next four years are going to be too important.
So maybe I’ll allow myself a little bit of a break and a small treat. Just this once though. I still have some money left over that I got from family for “graduating” middle school so I decide to take a little bit of it, grab my laptop and go over to Milagro… on my bike. Cripes, another reason to look forward to high school and getting older because I’ll have my learner’s permit before the end of the year and then my license. I’ll be able to make my own money too, I won’t have to rely on getting it from my parents or aunts and uncles.
Maybe that’s why I’m going to to a fancy cafe too: I just want to feel a little older. I sit there at a table sipping on my coffee and browsing the internet and watching some videos and realizing I probably should’ve brought a book instead when someone catches my attention by calling out to me.
I wouldn’t say I’m particularly close to Jenny Ashton. She’s my sister’s best friend so I’ve seen her a lot but we’ve never really talked or hung out together, I guess on account of the age difference. So I’m honestly a little surprised that she’d talk to me but I guess we do have that common bond.
“Didn’t know you liked coffee,” she said as she took a seat across from me.
All I could do was shrug a little bit. I wasn’t really sure what to say. “I’m surprised to see you here,” was all that I could really think of to say.
“Well, I just kind of needed to relax after, well, I’m sure you know.”
“Oh, did you see Yumi today?”
Jenny just nodded, her face was friendly but there was a bit of conflicting emotion there just underneath the surface. “Yeah, we all met up for breakfast,” she said.
“I guess that was after she left the house this morning,” I replied. “Who all was there?”
“Jeez, a lot? Well more than I’m used to anyway.” She started ticking off her fingers as she went through names that I largely didn’t recognize. “Me, Lin, Cindy, Eva, Jessica. Brianna was there, a few others. It was just kind of us girls; we wanted to see her off.”
“You’re staying here?”
“Ah, yeah. I can kind of get what I want here so I didn’t really see much of a reason to leave. I’m looking at being a park ranger and Keyserling’s environmental science department is good. Plus the Wilderness is right there you know? I’m actually starting a summer job there next week, kind of getting my foot in the door.”
“Oh, wow. That’s great,” I said and I meant it. But I don’t think it came across in my voice.
Something was wrong but I couldn’t really figure out what. It was nice that Jenny knew what she wanted to do and could find what she needed to pursue it right at home. She didn’t need to go out and explore like Yumi did. Like my sister did…
I could feel my eyes getting hot and wet and that stinging saltiness. I could feel breath starting to catch in my throat and my breathing start to become shallow. I could feel it all coming on and I tried desperately to stop it but I knew it was useless.
“Hey, you okay Chiho?” Jenny asked.
But I didn’t answer, or I couldn’t answer or maybe I gave something of an answer. Because once she said it all I could do was fold my arms on the table, bury my head and start letting out what I’m sure were the loudest, whiniest sobs anyone had heard. I heard Jenny say… something, but I couldn’t really hear her well enough to make it out. I just know that I heard her say something else and then not long after she was helping me up.
I wasn’t really paying attention to anything, I just knew that I got into a car and some time later I was sitting on a bench next to a walking path around Stewart’s Hole. I could feel someone, Jenny I guess, embracing me as I sat there on that bench as the sobbing eventually began to subside and then stop. There was another minute or two and then she pulled back.
“Oh jeez,” I finally said with a sniffle. “I’m sorry, I just…” I didn’t really know what to say; I felt embarrassed. My face hurt, my eyes still stung as I wiped them.
“What are you sorry for? You miss your sister.” I could finally see well enough to know that, yes, it was indeed Jenny I was with but more importantly I could see that her own eyes were red. “I’m going to miss her too. Shit, look at me though. I’m saying it like she’s dead or something.”
“I looked up to her so much,” I said quietly. “She’s, you know, so pretty and smart. She could play the viola and she was a cheerleader. She always had advice for me and I just keep thinking… I don’t know what I’m thinking.”
“That you probably should’ve spent a little more time with her or you’re wondering why she didn’t just stay here? ‘Cause that’s what I’m thinking. We spent so much of our senior year on all that crap with Chelsea and the squad that some times it felt like we got together to complain more than to just hang out.”
“I guess that’s what I’m going to have to look forward to?” I asked as I hung my head. “I just want to get through high school, grow up and just… I don’t know. Just be an adult. Cheerleading drama just sounds so childish.”
“Well teenagers are basically just overgrown kids,” said Jenny. “That doesn’t mean you should just fantasize about being an adult as fast as possible though.”
“But look at you. You’re an adult and you know what you want to do. You’ve got it together. I thought Yumi did too but...”
Jenny let out a small laugh at that. “Oh trust me, Yumi’s got it together really well. Hell, in a way she’s stronger than me. I’m the one who stayed here because, yeah, it’s got everything I need but it’s familiar. It’s safe. It takes a lot of guts to just pack up and go somewhere unfamiliar and leave behind everything you know like she did.”
I lifted my head up and I saw her giving me the faintest of smiles. “I know what I want to do but not everyone else does. Some people are going to figure it out it in college. There’s people in our graduating class going into the military to try and get it together there. And there’s gonna be people ten years from now who still won’t have it together.”
“What are you saying?”
“Dunno,” Jenny shrugged. “I guess spewing whatever bullshit my brain’s thinking up. I’m still kind of out of it with your sister leaving. Maybe I’m just telling you that growing up and being an adult isn’t going to magically fix everything. And being an adult’s going to be hard too. You’re, what, fourteen?”
“Well, you’ve got four years right? Just enjoy them; have fun. This is the last time where you’re really not going to have to worry about anything so just take advantage of it.”
“I just want to impress Yumi,” I admitted. “I want her to come to my graduation and be proud of me.”
“And there’s nothing wrong with that but you don’t need to, like, go out of your way to worry about it. I know for a fact that she’s always been proud of you. She’d tell me that you were working really hard and that’s great but don’t overdo it,” she said. “I mean, just enjoy it while you can, you know?”
We sat there for a little while longer and talked. I could see why Yumi always talked about her so much. Jenny was… insightful, I guess you could say. She’s very smart and very honest and now I was wishing that I had tried to hang out with her and my sister a little bit more.
I’m not sure how long we were out at Stewart’s Hole but we decided it was time to head out. I needed to get home and besides my bike was still at Milagro. We didn’t really talk much on the drive back but I don’t think we needed to either. But I wanted to keep talking to her in the future, that much I knew. We got to Milagro and after unlocking my bike I started to say goodbye.
“Hey, you know if it’s not too weird or anything,” Jenny said before she left, “gimme your number and maybe when I’m not busy we can hang out some time.”
With maybe a little more enthusiasm than I figured I would’ve had I gave it to her. She thanked me for it and I thanked her for… well, for everything I guess. At least for everything she did today. We said goodbye and she was gone but unlike this morning I didn’t feel bad. I knew I’d see her again, sooner rather than later hopefully. Just like I’d see my sister again. Christmas wasn’t that far away and surely she’d come back for that.
I was definitely feeling better than I had been. After talking with Jenny and crying like that, I felt different. I felt like I could maybe see things a little better. I thought back to what I had said to her at the park, to how I had always felt. I guess the desire to be so mature, to be so grown up, was just a sign of immaturity. Another sign that I was still just a kid.
I still have four more years of being a kid left. Maybe I’ll give enjoying them a shot.
* * * * *