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

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Keep Holding On

"Michael I'm pregnant! What the hell are we going to do?"
"Whatever happens, we will figure this out. Together."

"So, who broke your heart?"
"Love shows no bounds, and then, after I lost my virginity to her, she chose Remi."
"So now you just always choose you?"
"Better to be the dumper than the dumpee, right?"


"So, they really kicked you out?"
"They didn't even think about it, and they didn't look back."

"I love you, Mal."

"I got into NYU, David."


"SOMEBODY CALL 911!!! Oh my God, Leslie, I'm so sorry! Oh God, I'm so sorry!"
"Where are you taking her?"

There are certain moments in high school that seem to define you. For Michael Florence, this was just one of those moments.

"This is not looking good."
"We're gonna have to take her straight to the O.R."
"O.R.? Why?"
"Son, we will do whatever we can for your girlfriend, but you need to let us do our job."
"Please tell me why you're operating! LESLIE!"
"Sir, if we waste any more time the baby is not going to make it and neither will she."

Michael glanced at his girlfriend, Leslie Lawrence, who was currently unconscious after falling down Aaron Stanwick's stairs.

Mark Adams, Mal Wales, my girlfriend Callie Anderson, Aaron, and I arrived at the hospital as Leslie was rolled away to the emergency room. He collapsed into a waiting room chair and buried his face in his arms at the thought of his girlfriend's life in God's hands.

My name is David, and I'm a normal high school student.
And just as this was a defining moment for Michael, it was also a defining moment for all of us.

"Do you want me to get you anything Michael? Water, coffee?"
"No thanks."

We all sat in complete silence for the next half hour. We didn't know what to say; what could we have said? We couldn't say "I'm sorry" because we hadn't anything to be sorry about. We couldn't make jokes because there was no joke in the world that could have lightened the mood.

"I'm going to the chapel. Call me if anything happens."

It had been a really long time since I prayed for anything. In 9th grade I stopped saying "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance because I didn't know if there was a God for our country to be under. For a long time I convinced myself that praying did nothing; that God didn't hear our prayers and that they were selfish and a way for us to waste brain power. But for some reason, my heart led me to the chapel, where I picked up a yarmulke and a Jewish prayer book and started praying.

"Mi Sheberakh Avoteinu: Avraham, Yitzhak, v'Yaakov, v'Imoteinu: Sarah, Rivka, Rachel v'Leah, Hu yivarekh virapei et haholeh/haholah Leslie bat...Leslie's parents, HaKadosh Barukh Hu."

I hadn't forgotten how to read Hebrew, but I had forgotten how powerful it was to connect with God. I felt so overwhelmed my the connection as I continued to recite the prayer out loud.

"I thought you didn't believe in praying."

My girlfriend's vocie startled me.

"I thought it deserved a second chance. Any news?"
"Not yet."
"Oh. Well, I guess I'll keep praying."
"Would you mind if I joined you?"

I looked at Callie for a second, surprised. Religion wasn't really part of her make-up.

"Uh, sure."

I began saying some silent prayers, asking God to please watch over Leslie and the baby, and to please watch over Michael and make sure that whatever happens my friend would be okay.

"So before Leslie fell, we started having kind of a serious conversation."
"Well, if it's alright with you, I think it's important that we finish that conversation, like, now."

How could she be so selfish? Our friend and her unborn child were on the operating table and all Callie could think about was our serious conversation?

"Okay, fine. Let's finish it."

On the other hand, I really didn't need to add any unnecessary stress onto our relationship, so we left the chapel and sat down in some chairs outside the entrance.

"So, you got into NYU?"
"Yeah, I did."
"I'm really happy for you. It's what you wanted."
"I know."
"So, what's this serious conversation that we need to have?"
"Well, I'm going to New York in the fall."
"And we're going to be across the country from each other."
"Well, we need to decide whether our relationship is worth taking to opposite ends of the country."

Should have seen that one coming.

"But we still have months before we go to college."
"It's just that--well--you'll be at ASU with all of the parties and the booze and the girls with whipped cream bikinis--"
"Um, I'm pretty sure every college has that stuff."
"--and I'm going to be at NYU with all of the free spirits, and I just don't know if I want to be an unfree spirit."
"So you're saying that you don't want to be a caged bird out in the wild?"
"Well when you say it like that--"
"Excuse me, is there another way to say it?"
"David, I'm just thinking about us."
"No, you're thinking about you right now. US is good, US is in love, and US has no doubts about anything because US is perfectly happy the way things are. YOU are the one who's trying to think about the future, and YOU are the one who is bringing up OUR relationship when LESLIE is on the brink of non-existance."

While Callie and I found ourselves on the verge of a screaming match, Mark was finding it increasingly hard to stay silent, especially because there was one question that was on all of our minds.

"Why didn't you tell us?"
"Why didn't you tell us that you knocked her up?"
"Aaron, it's fine. Okay, I didn't tell you guys because--well--I was sort of--ashamed."
"So ashamed that you kept us in the dark?"
"Mark, I really don't think you have any place to talk about keeping people in the dark. You almost went two months without telling us about you and Mal."
"You told them?"
"Only to tell them that I was in love with you."
"Regardless, you kept that secret from us, and we all know that you had a reason for doing so. You didn't want us to know. Well, I didn't want you guys or anyone knowing that Leslie and I were going to have a baby. It was bad enough I had to tell my parents."
"But you could have trusted us, Michael. We're your best friends."
"Newsflash, we don't have to know everything about each other's lives. Some things are better left unsaid."
"So what, we were just supposed to assume that Leslie had gained a bunch of weight and that one day she decided to get liposuction?"

"You aren't being fair right now."
"Life isn't fair. If it was, then Leslie wouldn't have fallen down those stairs this afternoon and we would not be having this conversation right now."


"Just got a text from Mark. He said it was bad."

Callie and I walked quickly to the waiting room seats, where Mark, Mal, and Aaron were in tears.

"What happened? Is Leslie--is Leslie alright?"
"She's alive."
"Thank God!"
"But the baby's gone."
"Oh my God. Where's Michael?"
"Went to Leslie's room to see her."
"I can't believe it. And they're sure that--"
"They said they did everything they could, but that everything wasn't enough."

We all sat silently crying. The kid hadn't been born yet--we hadn't even known that it existed until about two hours prior--yet we all felt somehow connected to it; as if we were the kid's uncles and aunts, which we kind of were.

As we all sat outside and weeped, Michael was in Leslie's room, emotionless, shocked. He watched her sleep and studied the ironic peace within her sleeping body. She looked dreamy, as if she was dreaming of everything she would never get to do with her unborn child, or dreaming of a life where she was never pregnant; where her and Michael had never even had sex. After about a half hour, she slowly began to wake. As her face became more animated and awake, Michael found himself on the verge of tears.

They locked eyes and explained everything to each other without even opening their mouths. It's almost amazing how much you can tell from a look; in their eyes you can see what they've gone through and how they feel at that exact moment in time. You can try to cover up your emotions with a smile, but your eyes will never lie--even when closed, a person's eyes are the only real evidence of anguish, sorrow, or peace.

Tears now streaming down their cheeks, Michael buried his face on Leslie's bed, near where the baby had once been growing. He muttered statements of sorrow and of disbelief while Leslie lay there crying her eyes out.

"I think I need some coffee."
"I'll go with you. Anyone else want anything?"
"No thanks."
"I'm good."
"Thanks anyway."

At first, Mark was about a foot behind her, but after a short amount of time he caught up with her and eventually grabbed her hand. After a few steps of handholding, Mal stopped and looked at Mark.

"So, you were serious when you told me you loved me?"
"More serious than I've been in my entire life."
"And you're sure you want to be involved with me?"
"More sure than I've ever been about anything."

Mal contemplated the situation, not entirely convinced.

"Why do you love me?"
"What do you mean?"
"Plain and simple. Why do you love me?"

Mark had never rationalized anything before, so he had to think for a moment, but it wasn't long before he answered.

"You're different than anyone I've ever been with."
"I mean, the girls that I usually go for are these hussies that have been with everyone. But you haven't been with anyone except for me."
"How did you--"
"David said you had been wearing a purity ring before we did it, and that ever since that night you haven't worn one. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that you're better than those girls. You don't need to take your clothes off to get what you want. You're smart, independant, and you're everything that I never had and never knew I missed. That's why I love you."

Mal tried not to look too excited. She didn't want to let her guard down just yet.

"Well, you know, I love you too."
"Yeah. I always have. I've just been--scared."
"Of what?"
"Of you."
"Why would you be scared of me?"
"I don't even remember."

Mal jumped into Mark's arms and they kissed each other passionately in the middle of the hospital corridor.

Back in the waiting room, it was just Aaron and me (Callie had decided to go back to the chapel and pray a little more), so I took this opportunity to tell Aaron about our "serious conversation."

"So what are you going to do?"
"Why do I have to do anything? We don't leave for college for another 6 months."
"But you really want to continue this relationship through the summer and then risk being brokenhearted your entire first semester of college?"
"I love her."
"I know, and she loves you too. But do you love her enough to risk getting hurt?"
"Every day I risk getting hurt, Aaron. Any day could be the end of our relationship. All either of us has to do is say the words the other one dreads and the relationship ends. Just like that. And it took me a while to accept that risk, but I love her, and love is about risks."
"But is this a risk you are willing to take?"

I thought about what Aaron was saying. I loved Callie, possibly more than I had ever loved anyone. But I knew that a long-distance relationship would tear us apart. As it was, when Callie and I first got together she had no interest in committment; it wasn't until I decided to take a leap of faith and ask her out officially that we started to fall for each other. So, after thinking about it for a minute, I looked at Aaron and answered the only way I knew how:

"I don't know."

"Just to let you both know, we have counselors available if you need someone to talk to. We are all very sorry for your loss."
"Thank you."
"Yeah, thanks for all of your help."

The doctor left the room and Michael and Leslie sat in silence for a moment.

"So, should I call your parents?"
"Why? It's not like it's going to change anything. I'm still homeless."
"You never know until you try."

Leslie looked at the hospital phone for a minute, pondering the worst possible scenario. Finally, she reached for the phone and dialed her home phone number.

"Hi Mom. I guess I'm okay, but, um, well, after I left I--I had a--I had a miscarriage."

It was the first time she had said it out loud, and the tears streamed down her face as she tried to breathe.

"Why? But you and Dad said--okay, I'm at Mayo Hospital. Okay, I'll see you in a bit. I love you too. Bye."

Leslie put down the phone and buried her face in her pillow. After about five minutes, she collected herself and sat up.

"So, now what?"
"Well, I guess my parents are coming, and I guess I'll go home."
"That'll be nice."

Once again, they sat in silence.

"What are you thinking right now?"

I walked back to the chapel to check on Callie. She was deep in prayer when I got there.

"So, I've been thinking about the whole NYU thing, and, well--"
"We don't have to make any decisions right now."
"I know, which is why I think that we need to spend some time apart before we make any decisions."
"I just think that we both need to take some time and figure out what we really want."
"But I want you."
"And right now, I want you too. But we don't know what we're going to want next year or next month or even tomorrow."
"Callie, you're the one who brought up this conversation in the first place. I love you, but I can't live with the constant threat of a break-up over my head. I won't do it."
"But this isn't goodbye, right? We still have hope?"
"Of course we do. We're not ending things forever. We're just--taking a break."
"Okay, if that's what you need to do, then I'm okay with it."
"Thank you."

I kissed her on the forehead and I left her in the chapel. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do, almost as hard as saying goodbye to Cal. But I knew that it was only for a short time--until we could figure things out.

I just hoped we would be able to figure it out.

David Adler
Normal High School Student