THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY (an excerpt)
Realm of Possibility is told by twenty different teens who go to the
same high school – straight and queer, goth and gospel, hopeful
and heartbroken. Here are two of the twenty parts:
My girlfriend is in love with Holden Caulfield
is in love with Holden Caulfield
and it is driving me CRAZY. She has read that book
thirteen times, which is about eleven more times than
she’s bothered to read me. Everything she sees now
is PHONY. Starbucks is PHONY. Our teachers are
PHONY. Society is PHONY. And love – well, love
is the phoniest of all. At first I tried real hard
to argue, but that made me one of THEM and not
HIM. She tells me he is sweet because he wants
to stop all of the little children from running off
a cliff. And I say can you possibly think of a situation
where a group of children would be running towards
a cliff? And she says I just DON’T GET IT. Which
is her way of saying she just doesn’t get me, and how
I can get everything so wrong. Not like Holden,
who would be like seventy years old right now, but
is frozen at this age that I can’t wait to leave. She says
she misses being a kid, just like Holden misses riding
the carousel. But what’s going to stop us from getting on
the carousel, from sledding at midnight, from candy
and crushes? Just because we’re having sex doesn’t mean
we can’t kiss. Holden is a failure with girls, and my girlfriend
says that’s because he hasn’t met the right girl, one who’d
UNDERSTAND him. She says this the same night we
argue for an hour about the fact that I always say “I love you”
before she does. I leave the room to sneak us some drinks
and when I get back she has THE BOOK out, read so often that
it’s spineless. Whoever made the cover blank knew
what he was doing, because what image of Holden could be
stronger than the picture in my girlfriend’s head?
We’ve been going out for five months now, sleeping
together for two, fighting over who loves who
for one. I used to love that she could love
a book so much. It was her first present to me.
I told her I loved it, when what I really meant was I loved
that it was from her. Then I made the mistake of
CRITICIZING. I said that Holden seemed pretty sad.
And she said, yeah, that’s because his brother died,
and I said it wasn’t just that kind of sad. She said maybe
it took a certain kind of person to see the truth
in it, and because I loved her even then, I said she was
right. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought
less of it, and the more I thought less of it, the more she
thought less of me. And I began to think less of her
for thinking less of me. If I took up with hookers,
if I drank my daddy’s money away, if I ridiculed everyone,
it wouldn’t be charming. She wouldn’t love that
in me. And, yes, Holden would keep those kids from
falling off the cliff, but WHO WOULDN’T? Does she think
I would just fold my arms, give them a pat on the back before they
sailed headfirst to the ground? We are all catchers, and it’s
that she doesn’t see it. Instead she sees the PHONINESS,
she deplores the world even after I point out that
I am in it. If she were running through the rye, if she
were headed toward that abyss, I would grab hold
with every ounce of my strength, with every scared beat
of my heart, with every thought that could only be for her.
And if I were to be running the same way, I’d like to think
she’d do the same. But maybe her hands would be busy
holding the book. Maybe she wouldn’t see me, too intent
on looking for Phoebe from the carousel. Or waiting for Holden
to hold her, to wrap her in the pages of his arms,
to say she was the only one who truly knew him, as I
plunged past her, sad to be leaving, and a little
happy to be away.
days of high school, I wanted to change
my last name, I wanted my own identity.
Not because everybody hated you, but because
they loved you so much, and I was not you.
just left and I had just arrived,
and I could no more take your place
than a noontime shadow can take the shape
of the body that leaves it behind.
was new, so I could not remind him
of you. But the rest of the teachers
were soon disappointed that I had not studied
you better, had not learned the same things.
not live up, so I lived down
the boys who passed their crushes on to me,
the girls who wanted me to join things
so they could be in charge of me as you were of them.
you more than ever
to have never existed.
I was the keeper of a flame
that had never been lit.
that you hadn't taught me things,
or that I hadn't listened. When I got my schedule in May,
you talked me through from teacher to teacher,
telling me your version of the truth.
flirt your way to extensions
with Mr. Peterson, while Mrs. Platt would rather
stick a fork in your ear than answer a question twice.
Mr. Rose gave the same tests every year.
had been sweet to you, and
(you promised) would be sweet to me, too.
What I should've known was this said more about you
than it did about her, and nothing really about me.
the one time we talked about high school
since you were already planning for college.
My change was a matter of streets while yours
was a matter of latitudes.
not compete, so didn't.
I dove into your preparations,
went shopping for a wastebasket and a microwave,
which would be going with you instead of me.
how we'd always played.
You were Cinderella, I was a mouse.
You were Alice, I was the Hatter.
You were the sun, and I wasn't even the moon.
being the supporting character,
because I felt it was my way of supporting you.
I asked for nothing in return
and wanted so much.
my ear four times
and ditched my old friends,
the girls who idolized you
to the point of missing me.
Reilly told me
I looked as good as you
he meant it as a compliment
and I told him to get lost.
me to get lost
then called me that night
to say it again.
We laughed, and I was free.
me about boys but always waited
to tell me about the ones who you liked.
You treated me like a direct line to Mom
when all I wanted was to keep your secrets.
was twelve I was too old for a baby-sitter
and you were too old to be a baby-sitter.
But Mom and Dad shackled us with allowances
so I became your Saturday night burden, and you mine.
Reilly came over with flowers
and I knew something was going to happen.
I watched the TV and tried to listen to you
murmuring in the other room.
me with two slices of pizza and a soda.
You left me with a look and the door closed.
I was smart enough to know, but not enough to be angry.
You left me and wouldn't even say where you were going.
you were away, I heard things.
Those barbed admirations from girls
you probably didn't know all that well
but who felt they'd figured you inside out.
from college and talk to me first
if I happen to be the one who answers the phone.
You ask how it is, and you're asking about your absence.
You say to fill you in, but you're not empty.
I try to
picture you in the halls you've left to me -
it looks like a parade, everyone celebrating you.
I keep my head down, try to play
the girl who doesn't say hello.
he remembers you
coming over, charming his parents.
He remembers when you ended it, how Mike tore
at his shelves and broke his books.
And I tell
him the truth - that you
cried for days and screamed at me
when my music got too loud, as if
I was flooding you with love songs.
what you would think of me
and Andy. I imagine you would approve
and I don't want to care about that.
I want to keep my own secret now.
I go into
your room at night
and search the walls for clues.
You are my glimpse of the future
and I don't really know you at all.
is Cara Segal, fulfilling
her reputation as the worst.
You'd think a senior would have better things to do
than to search me out for taunts.
it's just comments, calling me
your runt, your clone, a slut like my sister.
She wears her jealousy in a rage,
looking at me and seeing you.
you there to defend me.
I want you there to show there are two of us.
I want you there because I don't know what to do
and I am sure you'd know exactly.
are thousands of people away.
So when Cara tells Andy and everyone else
that I am history repeating, that I will
kill his heart recklessly, I must take her on myself.
believe her, but I don't like her
saying it. So I find her in the cafeteria
and belt her with an orange plastic tray.
It's not what you would do, but it works.
is an unexpected reward.
I am suddenly considered
another kind of person.
And I am that kind of person, if provoked.
get out of the principal's office
Andy is by my locker with flowers
he skipped seventh period to buy.
He carries them on an orange plastic tray.
I do not
want to be your history repeating
but you are my history nonetheless.
I do not want you to be my guide
but I want to see which way you went.
home and Mom is on the phone
with you, relaying the news with concern.
You ask to speak to me, and I expect
another sermon of disapproval.
you say way to go
and tell me you should have smacked Cara
when you’d had the chance.
You are proud of me.
want you to be my definition.
and still I want you to mean something to me.
I have lost having you here, and here
you are, saying I am going to be a star.
you left, I was always missing you.
Your life was moving so fast
away from me, and I could only
grab hold so much, so tight.
were moments when you were still
with me, and it is these moments I gather
when I try to summon you, conjure you.
I tell Andy the stories, like the night of your prom.
how you came into my room after midnight.
You were still Cinderella, ball-adorned
in the quarterlight of the hour.
You told me to follow you outside.
So we crept
down the sleeping stairs
careful not to wake anything but the folds of your dress
which fell effortlessly, carelessly to the ground,
clearing the path for my bare footsteps.
have followed you anywhere
and you took me to our backyard
to where the swing set used to preside
the place you taught me to move my legs to go higher.
when I asked you how the dance was
and you whispered back a word so soft
I felt you were talking in a dream language
I was too young and too nervous to know.
I could ask you more, you bent your knees,
sat down, lied back on the grass in your pearl-colored dress,
telling me to slip beside you, to be quiet and stare
at something far enough away to make my thoughts rise.
do not know why you wanted me there,
what made you think of me at that moment.
But as I felt the damp ground against my nightgown
you reached over and let your hand rest on mine.
were stars and planets,
distant bodies so intriguing and elusive,
formed like a pattern across night's ceiling,
a map to all that I could not reach.
A car might
have passed, crickets may have sung...
all I can remember is the silence.
When I turned to look at you, I was afraid to move again -
the moment was just too beautiful to be lost.
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