one last summer

Last night we said goodbye to Alex, throwing a bonfire in her honor, and so it begins. Move in week. The beginning of the end, or rather, the end of the beginning. And fighting through excitement, dread, hope, and sorrow, we say our goodbyes, and one by one, I watch all of my friends pack up and leave our home for the very last time, on to bigger and better adventures via bigger and better places. 

I joked this whole summer about how I’d become nocturnal, but to some extent, it’s true. That’s how this summer changed me. I came alive at night. I remember 1:00 in the morning, some weekday when we probably should have been asleep, and instead I’m forcing my friends out of the car in some sketchy neighborhood to trudge through the woods towards a hidden part of the beach. And guided by nothing but the moonlight and the sound of the water we ran, and the tranquility you might think lies at the beach at 1:00 AM isn’t actually very peaceful because as it turns out, 20 minutes later beach security will come blazing towards you on an ATV and you’ll have to grab all of your stuff and sprint off into the woods, hide yourself under some shrubs and hope he didn’t see you. In those moments you find yourself thinking that there are probably many worse things for the cops to be warding off than some harmless teenagers on the beach, and as you sit there in silence and watch the lights drive past and listen to your best friend’s heart literally beating out of her chest next to you, that’s when the tranquility sets in. A different kind of tranquility, not the kind you’d notice alone on the beach in the silence, but the kind you’d notice when you can absolutely feel within you that you are here and you are young and you are alive. Something closer to euphoria, the same type of thing that occurs when your head is completely out the window on an empty highway in a car packed with your best buds and you’re blasting the perfect song and the yellow lights whip by you one by one illuminating everything in flashes, and you know that it’s going to be alright. 

This summer was different from all the others. It was somehow more urgent than the last. There was a sense of panic among everyone, claiming how excited we all were to move away, but in reality freaking scared to death of the approaching change. So, naturally, we didn’t talk about college much. It was more about making our last memories in this town, all of us experiencing life all in the same place together for the last time. Nobody acknowledged it – there were no deep, sappy conversations about moving on. It was the elephant in the room, a shared, hidden anxiety to fit in everything we could together for these last few weeks. 

I wonder if this town will still be the same after we’re gone. When each and every one of us pack up our stuff and move on out, when I move to California in a couple months, I wonder if the streets will be quieter at night. I wonder if there will be others who hide in the bushes at the beach much like we did that dark July night, and if they’ll feel the same things that we felt. I wonder if they know that it doesn’t last forever, because change is imminent, and that in the blink of an eye you’ll see several of your friends drive away in a car filled with suitcases and it will be bittersweet. Because there’s something beautifully nostalgic about the place you grew up, but after seeing the same sights for 18 years it’s time to move on, and that’s universal. I understand that. But what’s much harder to let go of are the people you’ve come to know, and that’s what I’ve been grappling with this Summer. These pictures are everything I can’t put into words about how I’m going to miss this place. 

“You know, it doesn’t make sense to leave home to look for home, to give up a life to find a new life, to say goodbye to friends you love just to find new friends.” – American Graffiti (1973)

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