This is a series of entries from the last week of my Junior year in high school. Finals week. As I was going through all of these – well, first of all, I was roaring with laughter at certain points because everything is so dramatic. But also, I recognize myself in these words. I am still the same person, although a bit more seasoned now, with more experiences and – hopefully – a better writer. But it was quite amazing to come across these entries and see some of the “themes” of my life, the “leitmotifs” (sorry, David) – all still here, reverberating. In clear prose. Keeping a diary for most of your life is good, if you’re a writer – because you have all this raw material to call upon. There it all is. It also can be bad, because it fills your head with ghosts, what-ifs, regrets, and the sense of the abyss between You Then and You Now. I feel that. Definitely. But I do love that I kept a diary because things get cemented. For example, roaring with J. about the silver shamrock wand in our box. I would never remember that if I hadn’t written it down, but it’s totally there in my memory banks now. Also, the sunset I saw with Kate and Beth. It’s not just that I described it that I remember it. But the act of writing something down, for me, puts it into a deep groove in my brain and my heart, it’s there if I want to look at it. Sitting on the beach at sunset, with my two best friends, 16 years old, looking at a sunset and thinking about God. A tiny moment, all in all, but it’s there: not just in the pages of my high school notebook, but in my mind’s eye. I own it. And Dad making fun of me as I studied for Chemistry. There it is: the memory captured, put down on paper, indestructible. So much is lost in this life. So much disappears. I have always had anxiety about losing things. I think, deep down, that is why I have always wanted to write, and always have written. I don’t want things to go away.
So here is the series of entries written while I was studying for finals my junior year. And I remember it all.
I took the Math test. I was shaking with fear even though I really did study (I had brought my math notebook home, luckily). Kate had told me that the test was a positive nightmare. So I went in there and took it but I didn’t find it horrendous. I didn’t get a few problems, but I knew more than I didn’t know. But still – today Kate told me she got a 55. KATE!! I don’t think she’s failed a test in her life.
I’ve been on such a downer, starting yesterday – what a cavern I’m in – and to fail a Math test! I may never recover emotionally! [I was dead serious, I believe. I don't think this is ironic.] We only had 2 tests other than that one this quarter. On one I got an 80, on the other I got a 69. My average was a 74 or something. A 55 would really boost my average. [hahahahahahahaha] When I found out the highest grade in the class was an 85, I prepared myself. BUT! I got an 80! AND I got a C for the quarter!! [This was good news for me, not bad. I worked my ass off for that C.)
Today has been so hot and sticky. I stayed after school with J. so we could clear out our locker (an impossible huge gross task). You should have seen it. It was all my junk too. A winter coat, sneakers, sweats, pants, a sweater, a turtleneck, 3 pairs of mittens, 1 pair of gloves - all in a bag which was totally useless and ripped down the side. I also had my silver shamrock wand from when we did "Cinderella" in Drama.
J. and I were both really tired and hot and sweaty, so together we lugged the stupid bag (which I called "mental" and J. went off into gales of laughter) down to the library. It was so hot on the 3rd floor and we were laughing so hard. We went into the library to find a box but there weren't any. We saw some in the janitor's room, and were going to steal one, but there were newspapers in all of them.
Then we went into the back room in the library and saw a cardboard box full of books. No one was around so we dumped the books out, and ran out with the box. I honestly thought I was going to wet my pants I was laughing so hard. We both were. Since we aren't allowed to take out books anymore (end of school and all), J. snuck 3 books out without signing them out. [Hahaha. I love her for that.]
My box was so heavy. J. held one side, I held the other. We looked so ridiculous. The minute we picked the box up, I said, solemnly, “There seems to be a silver shamrock in this box” … and J. started laughing – when J. laughs she makes me laugh – we both got so weak from laughing, we lost our grips and the box fell. We finally thought we got it under control, so picked up the box again, took 2 steps, and then fell down roaring with laughter again.
It was a fun day. We spent all of gym looking through the yearbook and planning what we were going to write for our senior blurbs next year.
We have one day of classes left. Then finals. Then SUMMER.
I deserve it. Oh boy, do I deserve a very long break, full of independence. I am now hooked on “Guiding Light”. No more boring “General Hospital”. So all summer I will watch it! [Sounds like a real plan, Sheila!]
I went to school, took my History final. 100 multiple choice questions. It was a joke. I see the entire world as a multiple-choice question now. [Hahaha] My eyes are spinning about in my head. Butler’s gonna scale the tests though. I did study hard. I HAVE TO DO WELL. I got an A this quarter though!! So that final – it wasn’t hard – but it was the first final, so I was really tired after it.
Mrs. Franco assigned us a paper for Thursday. I cannot believe she did that. Mine was a 9-page masterpiece though. I’m very proud of it. I wrote it on Hemingway. Farewell to Arms.
All of Thursday was exhausting, nerve-wracking review. I started despairing. I was drowning, overwhelmed. Then – oh, I don’t know how late or how early I stayed up Thursday night – just studying and studying and studying. For the History final. I mean – how long could I study? An entire year of US History in one test? How detailed could it be?? Well, it was detailed, and it was very dumb.
After my History final, I came home, and had the most wonderful time relaxing, with records. [That's like saying, "I relaxed with my quill pen, my oil lamp, and my parchment paper."] No one else was home, so I played the piano, and sang. [Nerd.]
Mum came home. I am always in a foul mood after finals, so she came home today, and I think this was the first time she ever told me to go watch my soap opera. “Sheila, just go watch your soap opera, please.”
Today was a beautiful day – even a little chilly. Brilliantly clear and sunny. Lush green, yellow sun, blue blue sky. Kate called me and we decided to “do something”.
I just wasn’t in the mood for studying tonight. I have all night, and all day tomorrow.
So Kate invited me and Beth out, and the 3 of us went down to Narragansett Beach for a walk.
It was about 6 pm I guess. Just at sunset. We all rolled up our jeans, and took a long long walk. The sky was indescribable. [And of course I will proceed to describe it.] I felt God there. So much.
The sky changed every time we looked up at it. I think it was the most spectacular sky I have ever seen. Where the sun went down, it was like an explosion. It was gold and shimmering – huge clouds billowing out – all red and orange – and all around the sunset were big thick bright clouds, and stretching off around that, the clouds got wispier and stretched out really long, so they looked like they were zooming off into the distance – all in a blur. The sky was exploding.
So the 3 of us sat down to watch the sky. As though it were a movie.
The waves were lapping. Whenever the waves receded, it was perfectly silent.
Then 3 solitary seagulls – teeny black Vs – flew across the gold sky.
It was weird. It was like the gulls were a mirror of the 3 of us, sitting on the sand. We were them, they were us.
That was when I felt God the most.
It was weird, but later, the 3 of us talked about it – and Beth and Kate had noticed the 3 black seagulls too.
The sky out over the water got darker and darker blue – sort of muted, and deep – a twilight-dusk-blue – and the water was darkly deeply blue. For a while, the sky stretching out over the ocean was glowing with this soft subtle rose-lavendar color – and the waves that lapped (it was a gentle night surf) were all shimmering with this pinky-purple from the sky. Then, again, there were those “rushing” pink clouds -almost reaching for the sunset. It was so peaceful.
By the time we headed back, it started to get dark, so the sky had calmed the hell down. But we could look across the water to the town, all glimmering with lights.
I had this wish that someone was beside me, a boy, holding my hand. And we could sit and watch the sunset. [Of course you did, Sheila, you sweet thing. You have always wanted such a thing.]
The beach was sparsely populated [that makes it sound post-apocalyptic]- but most were couples. One couple in rolled-up jeans, barefeet, were wading along through the water holding hands. There was one couple huddled together in a lifeguard’s chair.
That sky was so bursting with beauty that I could not believe it. It was OVERFLOWING with God.
Then we all went to Newport Creamery for ice cream.
Kate kept saying, “I really feel 17 right now.”
We got back into the car, put the radio on, and it was 50s night – so as we drove along, we were laughing at how much it felt like we were in “American Grafitti” or something – cruisin’ along, Saturday night, Wolfman Jack, rock ‘n roll, just being teenagers.
And now? I am in the right frame of mind to study for the entire day tomorrow.
I have never studied so long in my whole entire life. All day. I have Chemistry and French tomorrow.
But I am not dreading them anymore. Hey. I have studied massively. I will go in there, and I will do my best. It is only 2 hours out of my whole life. I will survive. Life will go on, whatever happens.
Dad and I had so much fun tonight. I recited practically the entire Chemistry book to him – just for practice – it felt good to rattle it all off, but Dad was so funny – I mean, he didn’t even know if what I was saying was right or not, and he so didn’t care!
I’d say, “So. Dad. You want to hear about Molality, Dad?”
And he’d say, eyes in his book, “No, not particularly, Sheila.”
But I would rattle off the definition at him anyway.
I told him all the rules, all the formulas, and he would just sit there, behind his book the whole time. I’d babble on about protons and neutrons and he would just look at me with this totally bland deadpan face.
He’d say, “You know what Avagadro’s number is????Why?”
Dad, I honestly do not have an answer for that. But I do know what Avagadro’s number is, and quite frankly, I wish I didn’t.
Wednesday is the Drama final, which is just going to be fun. We each have to sing a “character song” and a “love song”. Then the entire class has to put on a production number. It is so incredibly fun. For “character” I’m singing “I’m Always Chasing Rainbows”, it’s a vaudeville song that Judy Garland sang a lot – when her name was Frances Gumm – [Look at me, filling in my own diary on Judy Garland's early career.] and then for my “long song” I’m singing “This Can’t Be Love” from The Boys from Syracuse. For the “production number” the whole class is gonna do “Summer Lovin’” from Grease. We’re all gonna dress up 50s, and bop around being total stereotypes. Kris, Betsy, Joe, Beth, Kate -it’s gonna be great.
It is not a pleasant feeling to look in the mirror and see an old woman. [I am 16 years old at the point of writing this sentence.]
I cannot even explain to you what the past few days have been like for me. I don’t want to see my report card. EVERY final has been SO HARD. Chemistry! It’s NOT that I didn’t study – I DID I DID! I have gotten about 6 hours of sleep since Sunday. But all my finals have been SO HARD. Chemistry wasn’t even that. It was just impossible, it was outrageous, and it was TOTALLY unfair. I am so glad I am out of there. I hate Mr. A. I hate hate hate him. I don’t think even HE cares about Avagadro’s number. I think he’s just happy to have a paycheck. He always wanted to trick us. He would purposefully make the language of the quiz questions confusing – and then not care when everybody got confused, he wanted us to be baffled. [Speaking as an adult, looking back, this was an accurate assessment. He was a terrible teacher, hated kids, and found it amusing and awesome when we were lost, and did what he could to keep that feeling going in his classroom. He was awful.] He was a tricky teacher, and I don’t like being tricked. Good riddance to protons, neutrons, and stupid Avagadro.
Oh Diary! summer is here! I survived my finals! Not without blemishes. ["Blemishes", Sheila?]
But today – officially – truly – I am a senior. A senior.
We aren’t underclassmen anymore. There’s a whole new mentality with being a senior.
One more year.
After school got out today (oh yeah – the Drama final was so fun! Mrs. McNeil gave out what she called “Drammy Awards” Kate and I tied for “best love song” – we couldn’t believe it!! And, of course, the whole class got one for “Best Production Number” -since, basically, we had no competition.) [hahahahahahahahaha] Anyway, after school got out, Kate and I, again, wanted to “do something”. She had her car. So we called J. from school (she had just had her Chemistry exam and was suicidal), so we went to pick her up. I was still in a school frame of mind – it still hasn’t sunk in -SUMMER – wonderful summer! After this year of hell, it is like an outpouring of relief, a huge catharsis.
We drove to Kate’s house and we had such a great time. We made scrambled eggs and toast (it was only 11 am) and we ate outside on the porch with an umbrella table. The sun was warm and bright, everything was glowing, and we all just basked in this new feeling: 2 and a half months of NO SCHOOL. And also – now we only have one more year. It gives us a very strange feeling of peace. I have not been at peace one day this year. I DO NOT EXAGGERATE. [Sheila, who are you yelling at? You're just writing in your diary. Nobody said you were exaggerating. Also: you ARE exaggerating. It's okay. ] I can’t remember ONE DAY this year when I didn’t feel all rumpled up, or scared about school – and now it’s summer, and I can just take a long 2 and a half month deep breath.
After lunch, we went inside and talked until 3:30. From 12 to 1, we talked about finals. From 1 to 3:30 we talked about boys.
We reminisced. We talked about all the good times we had with all 3 of those boys. [Each of us had been in love with someone for the entirety of the year. It didn't work out for any of us. But we had supported each other through our individual manias.]
I’m not sorry. I mean, there were times this year when I felt so good, perfectly good through and through. I have never felt so great. I remember it all. How happy I was. And I am glad for that. I am still so MAD that it didn’t happen between us. I still don’t know why. He did care. I know he did. [No, he didn't.]
J. and I laughed about how we had actually planned out, in our minds, our double dates. Which, of course, never occurred. We talked over everything that had happened to everyone. J. being asked to dance and how unbelievably exciting that was, DW asking me if I hated him and then J. flying out the door, trying to make herself invisible (I love that girl!!), we talked about Project Adventure (we devoted a good half-hour to that), we talked about all the dances – we talked about the whole fun and nightmarish year.
J. and Kate were telling me about when they found out that I wasn’t gonna go to the prom cause he said no. I had called Kate IMMEDIATELY, and then called J. where she was babysitting. J. told me, “When you called me, I thought right away that he had said Yes, because you were out of breath -I thought you were excited – and when you told me, it was like – oh my GOD – this huge CALAMITY!” Kate said, “I know! I know! I just wandered around saying to myself, ‘He said no. He said no’, trying to make myself believe it, but I couldn’t believe it!” [Good friends. I am blessed.]
This is true for me too: when one of my friends is down, or has a calamity, I feel it with them.
And – big news: J. overheard that Nick and Eric were going to “Ghostbusters” tonight down at the Pier Cinema – so we decided to go and stalk them. And then be like: “Wow! You’re here at “Ghostbusters” too?? What an unbelievable coincidence!!” Hee hee.
So after the time at Kate’s, I went home, I got into jeans, and had a wonderful time just being a vegetable. I watched “Guiding Light”. I listened to records. I sighed a lot. I feel like I still have to keep studying. I can’t really realize it’s summer yet.
Then, at about 6:30, I got ready to go out and stalk those boys at “Ghostbusters”. I had on my dad’s Oxford shirt (everyone wears their dad’s clothes now. It is the latest thing), jeans, metallic red socks, and my white plastic sunglasses.
Betsy and Mere came too. We got there late, so the lights were already off, and we had to fumble around for seats. We actually had to split up. J. and I sat together. The other 3 sat in 2 rows behind us.
That movie – was absolutely hysterical.
J. and I were losing it. We were laughing SO LOUD and SO HARD. There was a couple beside us who were so embarrassing. I mean, they may as well have had all of their clothes off. J. and I silently judged them harshly. But still – that damn Marshmellow Man as tall as a building … J. and I were out of control. Especially that moment where they all see the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man appear for the first time, barreling down the boulevard – and they all slowly look at Dan Akroyd – who says, ashamed, “I couldn’t help it … I tried to keep my mind clear … but that was the first thing that popped into my head…” J. and I LOST IT.
After the movie, the sun had just set and the sky was glowing, so we all decided to go for another walk on the beach. Nick was there, Eric wasn’t … a whole crowd of kids from the sophomore (now junior) class was there, at the movie. We all went down to the beach and took off our shoes.
The sky was a soft pink and blue – gorgeous – it was getting dim … twilight … As we all ran down onto the sand, it really hit me, for the first time for real, that it is SUMMER. And I don’t have to study anything for over 2 months. It was exhilarating.
We all started dancing madly down at the shore – I was tap-dancing in the waves – we all went absolutely crazy – dancing, running, singing, screaming – We shouted to each other, “1! 2! 3!” – and would take long runs, and all kick our heels in the air at the same time. Mere could do two heel-kicks to everybody else’s one.
After being a total tired ugly zombie for a week, or a month, (or, actually, the whole year) I felt so invigorated. Not pretty, though. I really look pretty awful right now. I have bags under my eyes. I look very old and tired. [16 years old. Yup..
But still! I felt so alive, dancing on that dusky beach. It was a clear night, too, so all the stars were coming out. We walked in the waves. The surf was huge and crashing.
I felt so great – so free – like a senior in high school should.
The whole sophomore crowd had joined us. We all walked. Starry summer sky.
And then – suddenly – out of nowhere – Betsy ran into the water, with her clothes on, and dove in.
We all were screeching at the top of our lungs, watching her diving through the waves, fully clothed. She was totally soaked! And laughing her head off! We all were!
As we walked back, Betsy, Mere and I walked together, and Kate and J. were far behind.
It really was dark by that time, the sky was full of stars and it looked massive – huge – eternal. I felt like I was spinning and dizzy when I stared up at it.
It was just really nice, wading along on the beach, finals over, school over, in my dad’s big comfy shirt, cold water, gorgeous sky, feeling good inside, with my friends.
Oh LORD! T. just asked me out to a movie! I’m going on a date with him!!
I’m not making it a huge romantic thing, but STILL. He called me up. He asked me.
My mom answered – it was for me, so she came to get me. I picked up the phone, and he went, “Hey, Sheila Junior! I almost just asked your mom for a date!”
That made me laugh.
We’re going to see “Top Secret”. Please God, don’t let it be obscene. Don’t let there be any naked love scenes, because I think I would die of embarrassment.
He said on the phone, “I know this is really junior high-ish and everything, but …”
I loved that. His humor about himself asking me out on a date.
I called J. the second I hung up with him, and said, “T just called me and asked me out to the movies.” She screamed, “Oh, I can’t wait to go write it down in my diary!”