Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.
The day has finally come. Mom and Dad have retired; they’re moving to the coast. It’s been their dream for as long as I can remember. My brother and I are both in town today, to go through our old stuff in the attic before the junk haulers come and take it all away. I’m sure most of it’s trash. Old homework assignments and toys that I’d lost and forgotten about long ago. When I climb the stairs I see my brother is already there, covered in dust, knee deep in childhood mementos. He holds up a golden trophy with a big smile. It’s the award we both won in the talent show back in elementary school. We’d performed a choreographed Michael Jackson routine that had brought the house down. I go to give him a hug before heading to my side of the attic.
It’s just as I thought, a lot of junk. There’s a few hilarious diaries from my tween and teen years that I’d like to save. They’re dripping with nostalgia. I open the last diary I ever kept, from my senior year of high school, and start to read. Every entry is about the boy across the street. The one I’d been in love with since I was five but had only gotten the nerve to speak to the summer after graduation, when I’d finally come out of my self-imposed shell when it came to boys. I could get up on a stage and sing and dance for a packed theater, perform a monologue during an audition for a room full of strangers, but when it came to the opposite gender, for some reason I clammed up, my knees melted, I couldn’t seem to open my mouth to say anything remotely coherent. My best friend had been telling me for years that he liked me too, but I never believed her. I always avoided him at school, ran in the house when I saw him coming down our street. It was almost as if I loved the fantasy him so much that I just wanted to keep things that way, didn’t want to ruin the relationship of my imagination with unpredictable reality.
But on the first day of that bittersweet summer, I was in the same attic; it was the best place to spy without anyone noticing. I saw him step out of his shiny new red Acura, a graduation gift. I’d leaned against the glass and sighed, thinking about how I’d wasted the past 12 years. He’d be moving away soon and so would I – I was going to New York City try my hand at performing. He was moving to Boston for college. But then I realized. We had these next three months. There were three more months before everything changed forever. I wasn’t going to waste anymore time. I ran downstairs out the door and across the street. I stood in front of him, breathlessly. He smiled at me.
We stood in a not so awkward silence for a few beats, then I said, “Would you like to come in for a soda?” Not quite the over the top romantic first date of my dreams, but it was the first thing that came out.
He nodded, took my hand and led me across the street to my front door. Twelve years as neighbors and it was his first time inside our home. It was the first of many dates; we were inseparable that summer. We fell in love quickly, in a scary, all-consuming way, but the feeling was irresistible.
Then, inevitably, the summer ended and we moved to separate cities. We tried to make it work, Boston and New York weren’t that far apart after all. But we were both so busy, the distance was greater than we imagined; we mutually decided to end it. I’d heard through the grapevine that he was successful, had moved back to our hometown, working as an attorney at a small boutique firm. He’d been engaged but had called it off a few months ago and had just bought a house in town. In contrast, I still lived in New York but was thinking about making a move. I’d gotten a few parts here and there, but 10 years later, I was still waiting tables and doing other odd jobs to make ends meet. My counterparts were buying homes, getting married and having babies, and I still lived in a cramped roach-infested apartment with roommates, waiting for my big break. Being a successful stage actress had always been my dream, but sometimes dreams change.
This thought strikes me again as I see him pull up in his parents’ driveway through the attic window. I get that same feeling I did ten summers ago. Now or never. I race down the stairs and out the front door, not stopping until I’m standing in front of him in the driveway as he’s slamming the car door. I’m restless and excited, 18 once again.
“Hi,” I say with a smile.
“Hi.” He smiles back.