By Sarah Dahl
“Wake up, Miranda!” I say gently to my friend. I’ve barged into her room and stand looming above the bed. It’s 10 a.m., a Saturday in July, and as she lies tangled in her blankets, precious moments of summer slip past. She moans, rolls over, and becomes more entrenched in sheets.
At the window I look out at the lobster boats littering the harbor and understand her fatigue, even her lack of urgency. She and her family come up to the little town of Friendship, Maine, for the entire month of July. She sleeps in late, makes last-minute plans. I’m relegated to weekend visits. Every Friday I catch the bus, my backpack filled with clothes and summer chemistry homework. I work steadily during the drive so that when I arrive, I can absorb myself wholly in salt air, Chance the Rapper, and my friends.
But here I am forcing Miranda out of bed, knowing it will be at least another hour and a half before our pals eat and dress at their neighboring homes, mosey on over, and form some semblance of a plan. They don’t seem to understand my intense desire to do everything—camping, picnicking, boating—now, or my jealousy of the things they do when I’m gone.
The envy makes sense to me. It’s shallow, but uncomplicated: FOMO, or Fear Of Missing Out. But I don’t understand my newfound hyper agenda. I remember past summers when we’d cuddle on couches, binge on episodes of The Walking Dead, and wander the small town with nothing to do. I remember that for every excursion, there were three or four days of laziness in between. Why, I wonder, am I no longer contented with that?
A precious five days short of the termination of summer chem, I’m back in Friendship for the last weekend before my friends scatter to far-flung homes—Seattle, California, Denmark. I’ll be off to teach sewing at a summer camp.
Chemistry and a job are important. Chem now means I can double-language in the fall, and the course material inspires cool metaphors. I like sewing, and with it I’m gaining work experience. I only wish I could fulfill these obligations and have a week or two of unsullied freedom.
We decide to go thrift shopping. The skies are cloudy, but it doesn’t matter because, finally, we’re doing something. Here will be sweet memories, I think.
At Goodwill, we laugh modeling hooker heels, hats, and hippie dresses. My friend finds a child’s fleece Mickey Mouse cap that doesn’t fit him but looks rad anyway.
Then it is almost 3 p.m.—time for me to catch my bus.
“We need to go soon, guys,” I say.
They try on sunglasses.
Whatever, I think. I’m tired of spoiling everything. I’m not a mom.
Within five minutes, however, time truly presses on me. “Guys!” I raise my voice. “We need to go!”
It’s like I’m performing nuclear fission.
I want to cry. I want to try on sunglasses, too. I want to stay at Goodwill forever, swathed in silk blouses and vintage sneakers and harem pants.
“WE NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!” I scream. “I’M GOING TO MISS MY BUS.”
All of it seems ridiculously cliché—my mental breakdown, sweaty palms, and the pouring rain outside. I feel sliced open, splintering, like a pliable bar of lithium. I realize my dilemma is teenage, trite, yet I have no easy fix.
Miranda looks upset. “I’m sorry,” she says. “This sucks. It’s not fair for you.”
She hugs me in the middle of the parking lot, our bodies soaked. Just like The Notebook.
“Visit me,” she says, reiterating a longstanding, open invitation to stay with her in Copenhagen. Once, before summer chem and work, I’d thought I might. Now I break away.
A week later I receive an email from camp. Another girl has offered to teach sewing during my shift in August. I can go to Denmark after all! It seems almost too miraculous to be true—but it must be, because I’m writing about it in a newspaper.
Packing and preparation ensue. I say emotional goodbyes to my friends headed to college. I’m thrilled about my impending metamorphosis into a bike-riding American tourist, but sad as I realize that I won’t see them in many months, that we have to do everything we’ve wanted to do all summer now.
I look back and think about all I have enjoyed: tumbling through the streets of Friendship in the back of a pick-up; people-watching in peace on the train to and from chemistry; smiling at campers putting the final stitches on stuffed animals. Why haven’t I appreciated these more? I need to stop worrying, I think, and embrace one more cliché—live in the moment.