This is the first summer since I was twelve years old that I haven’t worked. When I think back on that particular summer, I remember being so sick and moonfaced from the prednisone prescribed to me while I was hospitalized to control my Crohn’s Disease, I wasn’t able to play softball even though our team was in first place. I felt trapped in my unhealthy and unreliable body, so I escaped into the world of books. From The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I read everything I could get my hands on, but what I really wanted to read were the books specifically offered to teens sixteen years and older. I tried to check out The Catcher in the Rye and was denied, so I snuck the book out of the library by tucking it in the front of my pants. I thought for sure at any moment the library police would pull me over on my bike, but was elated and shocked to discover I had gotten away with it. I read the dark red and yellow-lettered paperback in four days sitting on the bathroom floor while running the shower convinced that if my parents caught me reading the book, I would be grounded for the rest of my life. After I finished, I rode my bike back to the library and dropped it in the overnight box so they wouldn’t know I was the thief. And, voila! My How-to-Get-Around-the-System System was born. Then, I proceeded to take every book I was too young to read, systematically out of the door in the front of my jeans, always careful to return them afterwards. I read Deenie, Go Ask Alice, The Fountainhead, Animal Farm, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Forever and On the Road. I needed the library. It was my lifeline to a world outside of the one I was living in, where people read The New Yorker and philosophized the existence of man, got their periods and overdosed on drugs, discovered and destroyed themselves in the name of life, in the name of love and in the name of art. Every thud into the metal book drop box sealed my fate. Write, dream, rebel, repeat.
My first poorly-written attempts were filled with meaning I thought only I could understand, but now seem so embarrassingly obvious. A tale about a cork that shoots off a champagne bottle and into an entirely new world far away from the one where he held it all together on the top of a bottle. A poem about how the face of the moon vanishes from the sky. A lovelorn song about the loss of my dog, Woofer set to the tune of Barry Manilow’s classic hit “Mandy”. A story about Nick Rhodes and John Taylor saving a prayer for me by sweeping me away to live with them in Sri Lanka where we would ride elephants everywhere we went. Then, my mom bought me The Official Judy Blume Diary. I wasn’t sure what to write and what to reveal because I was worried she would read it, so I only listed what had happened to me that day. School, Kickball, Randy–meant that the boy I had a crush on had talked to me. I also wrote down all my family’s birthdays as well as the members of Duran Duran before abandoning it after deeming my life too boring to write about any longer.
It’s funny how my life then parallels my life now. This summer I’ve read quite a few books I’ve had on the stack next to my bed like Bright Shiny Morning, Our Tragic Universe, Thirteen Reasons Why, Red, and currently The Seeker’s Guide. I received some unsettling health news that’s given me the chance to finally evaluate my priorities. I’ve been writing, but not as much as I think should (a constant source of self-berating). My face’s uneven tan a clear indicator of all the time spent outdoors walking by the lake. I’ve reconnected with my friends and family in ways I haven’t had the time to do in the past five years. I’m more present now that I have fewer distractions and less stress. The only major difference is I have nothing to escape any longer and I don’t want to be saved because I am already free.