HIGH SCHOOL NORMALITY contains strong language and some themes not suitable for audiences under 17. Viewer discretion is advised.

Monday, May 31, 2010

In the End, Part 1

"David, we need to talk."

"I just don't want there to be any hard feelings between us. I was hoping that for these last couple months of high school that we--"
"--could be friends?"
"Yeah. I mean, if you want to be."

"Don't you want to know what sex feels like in your own bed?"
"Why--why would I want to do that?"
"Well, it's just that I've never been to your house, or met your parents, or anything."
"I should probably get going."

"Now why is it that we must be sworn to secrecy?"
"Because this isn't about anyone else. This is about you and me, and when other people get involved there's all of this pressure for us to be a couple."
"And you don't want that?"
"I don't want any complications."

"My son is on drugs, and you KNEW?!?!"
"Mom, I tried to get him to stop before you found out, but--"
"But what? He didn't LISTEN to you? Of course he didn't listen! He's a DRUG ADDICT!!! You of all people should understand that!"

"My family's in shambles, but that's nothing new."
"Well, if there is any way I can offer my assistance--"
"Thank you, Rabbi, but they're not much into religion and up until now I haven't been either."
"What changed?"
"I don't know. I guess I just did."
"The Mourner's Kaddish begins on page 226."

Rising to say the Mourner's Kaddish at Kikar Tzion Congregation had become part of my daily routine for almost a month, and yet I still felt the same comfort in it everytime I said the prayer.

It was strange; I always hated what religion had done to people. All my life I convinced myself that religion led to questons, which led to answers, which led to judgments, which led to division, and while religion does do that, it also brings people together in a time of crisis.

Every night after the service ended, I shook hands with Rabbi Starr and headed home, where things got progressively worse every single night.

My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And more than anything in the world, I just wanted my family to find something that could bring us together again.

But instead, we just kept pushing each other apart. Libby left for a summer abroad program at Cambridge University, where she would be for the next 6 weeks, Jake had finally been shipped off to rehab, Lucy Greer and her daughter Maya finally found an apartment, and Mom resorted to shoving everything under the rug and taking her anger out on me. I was so glad that high school would be over soon.

"David, am I gonna see you when you go to college?"

My baby sister was the only person in my house who still gave me joy.

"Of course, sweetie. Why wouldn't you?"
"Well, Mommy and me are moving to a new house, and so are you."
"Come here."

I motioned for her to sit on my lap and I kissed her forehead.

"You know, I didn't always live in this house."
"You didn't?"
"No. In fact, I used to live about 15 minutes away from here in a neighborhood called Mountaingate North, right next door to Mark."
"You did?"
"Yeah, and Mark is still one of my best friends. No, we don't see each other as much as we did when we lived next to each other, but we hang out a lot, go to movies and to pizza and coffee shops."
"Coffee's gross."
"Well, you're too young for coffee, but we can do other things. Don't worry about a thing, kiddo. We're best buds for life."
"Pinky promise?"
"Double pinky promise."

I admired Maya's naivete, how everything could simply be confirmed by making her pinky intertwine with someone else's. I remember those days; the days when you felt you could trust anyone and every apology was forgiven with the offering of a bouncy ball to play with.

And about 10 minutes away, a female friend was playing with a male friend's balls.

"Oh Leslie, don't stop!"

Michael Florence and Leslie Lawrence finished up the ball game and lay down beside each other in the play pen.

"So...that was fun."
"Yeah. I really missed this."

They lay in silence for a moment before Michael broke it.

"So, I was thinking--I know you said you wanted to keep us on the D.L. and not go to prom, but, well, are you sure you don't want to go?"
"Michael, we went over this. I don't want a huge commotion made about us."
"Ah who gives a shit about a huge commotion? This isn't about them, right?"
"But we're not a couple. People ask me if I'm single and I say yes. Don't you?"
"Lots of friends go to prom together."
"Those friends don't have the benefits we have."
"So what, all we are is friends with benefits?"
"This is EXACTLY what I was afraid would happen if we started things up again! You're getting attached!"
"Well excuse me for thinking that there was still something there between us!"
"What made you think there was?"
"We didn't break up because we stopped loving each other! We broke up because we lost a kid that we never should have been having anyway!"

When he saw Leslie's face, he immediately regretted what he had just said.

"Leslie, I--"
"Just go."
"Please, let me just--"
"No. Just get out of my house. I can't believe I actually thought this was a good idea."

Without another word, Michael walked out the front door, got into his Jeep, and drove away. Needless to say, an emergency meeting with Aaron Stanwick, Mark Adams, and me at the Coffee Plantation was called to order.

"Okay, so let me get this straight. You and Leslie have been kinda sorta back together for a month?"
"No, not back together. Just sleeping together. Secretly."
"Mark, if there was ever an inappropriate time to high five someone commending them for a purely sexual relationship, that would be now."
"So anyway, she said some things, I said some things, and then she kicked me out."
"What exactly did you guys say?"
"She said that we broke up because there were no feelings there and I said that we broke up because we lost a baby we never should have been having."

We fell silent.

"I know, it was a shitty thing to say, but nonetheless it's true, is it not?"
"Technically yes, but in her heart she felt that she was supposed to have that baby and raise it. Otherwise she would have gotten an abortion or put it up for adoption.
"Losing that baby was a tragic thing, and you made it sound like it was a relief."
"Okay, so what do I do now?"
"I don't know, you're usually the one we ask for advice."

We all chuckled a little bit at the idea that our free therapist was asking us what to do.

"Well, until we figure it out, let's move on to something else. Mark, how's Mal?"
"I don't know, we haven't spoken in two weeks."
"What? Oh my gosh, did you guys break up?"
"Not officially. It all started when I suggested that we go to her place for a change, and then she just left my house. We had bulshit conversations for the next week or so and then just stopped talking altogether. All because I wanted to see where she lives."
"Well, she's always been kind of secretive about her house. One time I offered to drive her home and she made me stop like 4 blocks away."
"Yeah, and I offered to drive her home from Dave's Hanukkah party and she said she would just walk."
"I don't get it! Why won't she let anyone in?"
"Maybe she's waiting for someone to have the right key."
"What, my dick's not good enough?"
"I'm sure your dick is fine--I can't believe I just said that--but what else have you offered to the relationship?"
"Well, I love her."
"But is that enough for her to let you all the way into her life?"
"It damn well should be!"
"Well, there's a lot of things that should be. The contraceptives should have been enough to protect us from getting pregnant, the baby should have been born, and I should be going to prom with Leslie next weekend, but none of that is going to happen, so we should all stop worrying about what should be and focus on what is."
"Great speech. How long were you working on it?"
"Five minutes."

The next day, Mark called Mal Wales to try and get to the bottom of her trust issues.


Mal looked at the Caller ID and pressed the "Ignore" button.

"Who was that, honey?"
"No one."

Monday came too soon, but it was worth it knowing it was the first of only two Mondays we had left. AP tests had ended, and now we were in full force getting ready for the Showcase Concert.

Acme Choir's set was really cool--well--it had potential to be really cool. The theme was "Legends" and our choir's legend was none other than Michael Jackson. Our set started with "Thriller" (of course), followed by "Beat It," "Billy Jean," "Man in the Mirror," and ended with "Black or White." The music sounded great, the lighting was killer, and the choreography was legit. If only it actually looked good on stage.


And Miss Connolly was in a GREAT mood!

Since Aaron was Acme's class president, Miss Connolly turned to him to inspire us.

"Okay, so like Miss Connolly said, we have a show on Friday. Not just a concert--a show. We are called Acme because we're the top, and do you really want Novice Choir to kick our butts? Their rendition of 'Gypsy' by Fleetwood Mac is beautiful, and the rest of their set is awesome. They perform, then there's a Solo Act, and then it's us. And we're the last choir before the big finale! We're supposed to build the excitement, not crush it and force an exciting finale. So, for the next four days, let's give it everything we've got and after it's all over we'll go to Sonic and relax."

Sometimes I forget just how inspiring Aaron can be. Miss Connolly even cried a little bit.

The last Showcase Concert was not the only "last" that would occur that week. The next day, we distributed the final issue of The Summit Sentinal that would have my name down as Editor-in-Chief. My final "Letter from the Editor" was very inspiring as I discussed how the members of the Class of 2010 were about to go far beyond the school they've known for four years. It was a little cheesy, like a valedictorian speech, but it was my only chance to give the entire student body advice from a senior. It was so strange bringing the Sentinal to each classroom knowing that I would never distribute a high school newspaper again. It was a wake-up call that high school really was ending and that life was really about to start.

"So, last newspaper."

Callie Anderson and I were finally able to be on semi-good terms for the first time since our dramatic break-up.

"Yeah, I guess it is. How do you feel?"
"A little weird, but I was only on the staff for a year. You've been on it since you were a sophomore. How do you feel?"
"It's surreal, I guess. This publication has been a huge part of my life and now it's just over. By the way, I'm really happy with how the layout turned out. I shouldn't have been so harsh with you that day."
"You're right, you shouldn't have, but it's all good. We're graduating!"
"Amen to that."

I would be lying if I said that I didn't miss being in a relationship with her, texting her whenever anything was going wrong, and just feeling totally comfortable in her presence. But it was what it was and all I could do was remember the good times with a smile and accept that things were over.

Before we knew it, it was Friday, the big night! Were we ready? Kinda. Were we confident? Sorta. Were we excited? Not at all.

Miss Connolly gave us her annual pep talk, where she allowed us all the chance to say something to the rest of the choir so we all could have a good cry before the show. Then we all got backstage for the big opening number, "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel, then the guys all got in our Elvis costumes for "Viva Las Vegas" and waited backstage. We watched Mal's Solo Act ("Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin), and as she walked offstage she walked right past Mark without even a word.

"Alright that's it."

And he chased after her.

"You can't avoid me forever."

Mal stopped in her tracks and reluctantly turned around to face Mark.


Awkward silence.

"We haven't talked in a while."
"I know. Uh, how are you?"
"Shitty. How are you?"
"Equally shitty."
"So, being that we both feel like shit, how can we help each other feel good again?"
"Mark, I can't do this."
"You can't do what? Be in a relationship? Because newsflash, we've been in one for five months!"
"I can't let you into my life the way you want me to."
"Mark, I love you, and I know you love me, and what we had was wonderful. But I can't let you judge me."
"Judge you? I just wanted to meet your parents and see where you live! Was that so much to ask?"

He was silent as he witnessed the tears form, breaking through her tough exterior.

"They died when I was 9 and I've gone from foster home to foster home ever since. I'm the oldest of the nine kids that live in the house. I knew that if you or anyone else saw the huge house you would get the wrong idea. I can't have you over at my house because it's not my house, and my foster parents never come to any of my concerts because all they care about is getting the check at the end of each month. So there, now you know. This is me. Feel free to judge."

Mark didn't say anything. He just walked forward, grabbed her, and kissed her. They just held each other for what felt like forever, bawling in each other's arms. They never wanted to let go, and they knew that nothing could ever tear them apart.

Except for the opening guitar riff of "Viva Las Vegas."

"Go. I'll be waiting right here when you get back."

It was a crowd pleaser, just as we expected, and then intermission happened.

"Where the hell were you?"
"Making out with my girl."
"That's great, man!"
"Thanks. Now, if you will excuse me we have more making out to do."

Mark ran toward his girlfriend, leaving the three of us single men to our devices.

"So, our last concert is half over."
"Insane, isn't it?"
"Seriously. How the hell did we get here?"
"I have no clue. It seems like only yesterday I walked into choir on the first day of sophomore year and there you guys were; the Three Amigos."
"Well, maybe we had been the Three Amigos since grade school, but it was much better once we became the Fantastic Four."

The three of us stood silently for a moment before we engaged in a group hug.

"Hey! You guys can't do a group hug without me!"
"Come here, dude!"

Mark joined us, and everything suddenly seemed complete.

"I love you guys!"
"Love you too, man!"
"It's just gonna be hard with us so far away from each other! Should we make some sort of pact that we'll always be together?"
"I don't think we really need one. I mean, how can we not be together?"
"Good point."
"And besides, with Facebook we can always stay connected!"

So we got into our costumes, performed our kick-ass Michael Jackson set, and then everyone joined us for our finale, none other than "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey. After our Senior Bow at the end of the curtain call, we all ran out to the lobby to greet everyone.

"Oh my gosh, you actually came!"
"Well, we saw that you had it on the calendar and we felt it was important for us to be there."
"This is just so unexpected! Um, this is my boyfriend Mark. Mark, these are my foster parents and foster siblings!"
"So nice to meet you Mark. Mal, we bought a cake to have at home in honor of your concert. Mark, would you like to come too?"

Mal gave Mark a nod of approval, so he said "Hell yeah!"


Another surprise of the evening.

"Leslie? What are you doing here?"
"I wanted to see the concert and tell you how stupid I was! I love you! I want to be with you! I know we had our issues, especially at the very end, but I want to be the one in your arms at prom tomorrow night!"
"And what about everyone else?"
"Who cares? It's not about them, right?"

The two shared a long embrace. I turned to Aaron.

"So, it looks like it's just you and me and a bunch of people we don't care about for Sonic tonight."
"Wanna go to The Coffee Plantation instead?"

So the show was a success, the happy couples were back together, and Aaron and I stayed at our favorite cofee shop until closing time, which was a ton of fun. The next night we all danced the night away at our senior prom, which was a much happier occasion than last year's prom. Afterward, we went over to Michael's and stayed up until 4 a.m. before crashing on the floor.

All that was left to do now was graduate.

David Adler
Normal High School Student

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