the bittersweet evanescence of senior scramble
I dread the next series of words because what’s the point of writing, to what end do I write, reminisce, when it will change nothing of the present, of your absence? But if I don’t, if I put this off any longer, my memory will fail me and either I’ll let its pieces fall through the cracks, or each time I revisit, I’ll distort them, and whatever was real will turn into fiction, a figment of my own imagination. Maybe it’s already happening. Maybe in the end you’re just a boy and I’m just a girl and this was just a thing, a fling, a transient happening, fleeting and slipping from our hands, its traces disappearing into the clouds, nothing more. But I hurl these words to record its existence before it dies, even though it’s already dead, so that it can at least exist in this alternate universe where it is as real and true as it could have ever been.
* * *
It started off as a “canonical” (his word) dance floor make out, a one-timer, a breeze that would have left only a minute impression and nothing more. Given that it was at the Senior Scramble party, I didn’t expect anything to develop from the encounter.
But the next night we found each other again at the Disorientation Dance. It didn’t take long before he asked to dance with me. Within minutes we were kissing again.
It was dizzying, disorienting, thrilling. Nothing made sense while everything spiraled out of control. Yet, when he whispered how he wished we had met sooner, somehow I replied confidently, “Hey, we still have five or six days left. Let’s make the most of it.”
So we did, starting off with a coffee date, followed by a lot of talking and sharing at cafes or around the campus.
Among other things, he really got into talking about his family, explaining how all his younger brothers were still pre-adolescents, how he was essentially a third parent they could treat like a punch bag, which he was totally okay with.
As I listened and observed the way that he described his brothers—as crazy as it may sound—my gut reaction was this: that whoever ultimately marries and has a family with him would be an unbelievably lucky person. And that, of course, would not be me. It was beautifully disgusting, or disgustingly beautiful—take your pick, it’s awful either way.
Maybe that’s not the best example of what made him special to my eyes. Maybe anyone else besides him could have easily talked about his family and his dedication to them. Maybe anyone could have said exactly what he told me, or something else but with equivalent zeal, about family or some other subject of his interest, at a different time, a different place, and would have held as much power over me.
But the truth of the matter is, it was him, there, a few days into our first meeting and a few more before my move-out and his graduation, staring off but giving me side glances at intervals to make sure I was still listening, with his crooked smile inching up his left cheek sporadically, while I was imploding with utter awe and sadness, while I had no other choice but to silently and almost masochistically listen to his words.
I didn’t know—and still don’t know—whether I should feel blessed or cursed about learning to admire him and then to let go to him, all within a week.
The last day we saw each other, we went to see PW’s production of “Into the Woods.” I couldn’t help but blush when, seducing the Baker’s Wife in the woods, Prince Charming wraps his arms around her waist as they sway their bodies in sync. Later, Cinderella confronts the prince about his infidelity. As they part ways, Cinderella declares that, as dreamy as it was to be his wife and a princess, she ultimately cannot fulfill that role.
The talk of the magic dying, leaving the woods and facing the reality, stung like sharp jabs at my stomach. Witnessing and recognizing the odd parallel between what was on stage and what I was going through in real life suddenly amplified the theatricality of the latter.
I didn’t want to doubt the sincerity and depth of his feelings for me, mine for him. But none of that could compete against the impermanence. In the end, our shared experience happened within the boundaries of this Senior Week. And perhaps, in that sense, all our supposed investment was just part of this show, and soon it was time to close the curtains.
As we left the woods of PW, each of our heavy steps felt like a step closer to our end, to our reality.
When we reached my dorm, I asked him feebly if I would see him again. Though he answered affirmatively, his words sounded so empty that I knew this was the last time.
As the campus transitioned from the reckless Senior Week ra-ra-ras to welcoming family, friends, and alums, all culminating to the graduating senior’s big day, I quietly made my transition out of the campus and out of the affair.
It would have been nice to dance with him at the campus dance; it would have been nice to see him proudly walk through the Van Wickle Gates and be embraced by all his family members, classmates, mentors, and friends. But I didn’t want to squeeze myself into this picture where I didn’t see myself fit. Maybe I was of some use to him during the week. But my role was done; now it was his weekend, his moment. All that was left for me to do was to trickle away.
But after a few days I had a second thought: I never even congratulated him. So I texted him and thanked him for the time we spent together. He wrote back, saying, “I was touched by the bits of connection we shared, and I’ll be sure to cherish thoughts of you for a while to come.”
Though the actual experience we had was confined to certain boundaries, I take comfort in thinking that the memory of those bits and that while can be as boundless and timeless as I—we—would like them to be.