ten days in august

Friday the 4th of August I get a call from my friend Cordelia, sometime in the afternoon. She wants to invite me to an ice cream crawl that night. Think barcrawl, but with ice cream instead of alcohol. What a cute idea. I say I’m coming; her friend Maureen has invited me the night before anyway. I kill the time between work and 8 pm watching King of the Hill and eating a makeshift dinner, telling myself I’m leaving room for ice cream when really I’m just too lazy to make anything but cereal. Cordelia’s in a bad mood when I talk to her on AIM; I hope it’s nothing I’ve done. At 8 I hop on the motor scooter and head over to Jarlings, our first hit of the night. Batia is there, and so are some others who are coming with us who we don’t recognize until later. Kari and Maureen have organized this affair, so it’s about half Uni kids and half Central kids.

We move from place to place, Coldstone, Cozy’s, Baskin’ Robins, until we can’t possibly eat any more ice cream. We’re fewer in number by then, some people have gone home. Kari invites those who remain back to her house to go swimming. She’s just moved to Cherry Hills, so we all troop back there. I stop by my house to grab a suit and eventually find Kari’s house in the maze that is Cherry Hills. We all swim, and I enjoy it. I feel particularly teenage and poignant swimming at night in the summer, the air is cool but I feel wonderful. I’m the last to leave besides Maureen, who’s spending the night. I give Kari a ride on the scooter, which barely works because it just isn’t built for two people. I don’t get home until 1:30, but it’s a great night.

I’m up at 8 o’clock the next morning, though, to talk to Katie for a while online until the connection dies and then help Sascha move at 10. It’s good to hear from Katie, as it always is, and after talking to her I scarf a granola bar for breakfast and head over to Urbana. I spend an hour and a half hauling boxes up to Sascha and Faith’s new second story apartment, which I don’t mind doing but is the start of a long day with less sleep than I’d like. At 11:30 I call it quits so I can grab a sandwich from Jimmy John’s on the way the Michael Pitt’s house. Several of us are going to Lake Mattoon, where Michael’s family has a cottage. It takes an hour, during which time I eat my sandwich and take pictures of Tess and Batia in the backseat. We talk and I watch Michael’s broken speedometer bounce up and down and up and down, never settling and doing us no good. It doesn’t matter, though, and in an hour we’re there. It’s turning into a beautiful day already and it’s only 1.

Once we’ve all assembled at the cottage we sit around chatting and eating. The weather couldn’t be nicer, warm and breezy with a wind coming off the lake. We go swimming near the shore since you aren’t technically allowed to swim in Lake Mattoon. A couple hours later we take Michael’s motorboat out to tool around the lake and pull kids in the tube behind us. I take a couple dozen photos with my new camera and my eyes shaded by aviators, feeling absolutely wonderful in the sun. Michael looks like a Kennedy driving the boat with the wind in his hair. I spend some time in the tube, and we head back to shore to switch with some of the kids who went canoeing. Around 8 we grill hamburgers and hotdogs and eat inside. There’s an enormous watermelon to eat afterwards, and by 9:30 we’re driving home. I’m dead tired by the time I walk in the door, absolutely exhausted from lifting things in the morning, swimming in the afternoon, and staying up late the night before. I go to sleep happy.

Sunday is a slow day. I sleep late, do some things around the house in the morning. I call Nuole to hang out, but she’s busy so we make plans for lunch the next day. Eleanor is around, though, and with Zoe S., who’s in town for a couple weeks. We decide to chill and watch something. I want to see Weeds, but Rentertainment doesn’t have the first disc. Later on we pick up Buffy instead, and watch it on Eleanor’s hot porch. I’m only there for a couple hours before I have to head home to change, however, and then to Suzanne and Jay’s new house for dinner. Kimmy and I go and see Calvin’s sweet new Mindstorms set, which reminds me so much of my days spent with the original Mindstorms years ago. It was probably my favorite toy ever. Calvin’s built some crazy robot thing, but it doesn’t really balance right so he ends up taking it apart. If I were 11 again I would kill for that new Mindstorms set, it’s much cooler than mine was. Same concept, though. I hope Calvin gets a kick out of it.

We have dinner, good (and natural) hamburgers followed by a delicious chocolate cake. I talk to Suzanne a little about my plans for Stanford, the His Dark Materials books, and a few other things. I go home briefly but soon go over to Kimmy’s house to watch The Simple Life and say hi to Marina. By 10:30 I’m back at home, though. With work the next morning, I try to just go to sleep.

Work on Monday is uneventful, but I have lunch with Nuole and Lucy (who’s freshly back from Colorado) at Sushi County. We have a good time, they’re both in fine form and I enjoy myself (minus the ten minutes I spent waiting for them to get there, which is what I get for being early). Lucy is highly excited to be home again, and wants to have a party. I call her later in the day and ask if anything’s going on, which it isn’t, but we agree to try to have some people to my house later in the evening. I’ve agreed to go to Cordelia’s peace vigil at 8, but Lucy arranges for people to come by at 9. I go to Wal-Mart to stock up on cat food and party supplies, after scrounging some dinner. Then it’s straight to West Side Park for the vigil Cordelia and Tess organized on behalf of Amnesty International calling for a ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel. It goes better than I admit I thought it would; there are a lot of people there and it’s not activist-y in the annoying, in-your-face kind of a way. Which is, I suppose, another discussion entirely, but let it suffice for the moment to say that I am not always enamored and/or comfortable with yelling at passing cars. I guess the term ‘vigil’ should really have indicated what it would be, but I wasn’t sure what to expect. It’s a somewhat more upper-middle-class yuppy liberal crowd, as opposed to the dirty-hippy crowd that sometimes populates these things. I sound judgmental here, but the point is simply that it was quieter than I expected. I say hello to a number of people I know and then drive back to my house with Lucy.

People come over a little after 9. We just hang out and eat, which seems to be everyone’s favorite pastime these days. Al is going to Chicago on Tuesday to see the King Tut exhibit, and I’m leaving Wednesday for 10 days in New Jersey. He’s leaving for Notre Dame before I get back to Illinois. So this is the last time I’ll see him for months, until Thanksgiving. We say our goodbyes. I don’t know how to feel. Al’s been my friend for a while now, but he’s also not one of the people I know best. It stays unreal in my head. I thought surely by now it would finally be sinking in, that feeling I’ve been waiting for for months and get only hints of from time to time, fleeting chills down my spine when I remember this chapter of my life is coming to a close. Al disappears into the darkness beyond the door. I don’t know how to feel.

Tuesday is a busy day. Because I’m leaving on Wednesday I have a long list of things I need to deal with before I leave. I go to work for a little while, then leave thinking to call Ma’ayan soon. I thought I wouldn’t see her until January because she was traveling and studying abroad in Cuba during the fall semester, but she’s home for a week in between. And, as luck would have it, as I’m leaving work I see her walking into the Post Office. I wait while she talks on the phone and mails a package, then we go to the grocery store. Her mother’s away and the house is barren of food, so she’s trying to find something to eat with her father. We walk through the aisles of the Schnucks in Urbana and talk. I’m happy to see her again, as it’s an unexpected surprise. I’ve agreed to meet Roveiza for drinks downtown, however, so I show Ma’ayan the scooter and make my goodbyes before driving to Café Kopi.

I’m early for the second time in two days, and sit on a bench nearby the café while waiting for Rove, who’s a few minutes late. It’s gray, and has been threatening to rain for a while now. I worry a little about getting caught in the rain on the scooter, which always sucks royally, but decide I have little choice but to risk it and bemoan the lack of covered parking in downtown Champaign.

Roveiza arrives, we get something to drink and sit outside at the last table. I play with my aviators and drink half of my café miel, while we shoot the breeze idly for a few minutes. Then Roveiza says what she’s wanted to for a while, and what she came to tell me. We talk for a while, Roveiza chewing me out a little for a number of reasons. It takes us a while. I don’t feel very good about it, a little upset, a little wounded, and even a little angry. But soon we move on to other things. There are matters to deal with, other problems in our worlds to discuss. I come away feeling a bit guilty, but we’ll work it out eventually.

I go home hoping to spend some time packing and cleaning up the house before going to Carle Park for Rumpspringe. But I remember I was supposed to call Cameron when I get home, so I do. There’s a pair of pants in question, so I take the scooter to his house (the rain’s cleared up by now). We deal with a few purchases he made on eBay, and I even leave with another pair of Diesels. But by the time I get home it’s already past 7, and Rumpspringe starts at 7:15. I fry some eggs because I’m starving and it’s fast, but I still don’t leave the house until 7:50. I cruise to Carle dressed in my makeshift Ninja outfit, consisting of a pair of black athletic shorts and a black t-shirt turned inside out.

Ninja Rumpspringe hasn’t started yet, people have assembled with some water balloons but the chaos hasn’t yet begun. It does shortly, however, and we spend the next hour pelting each other with water balloons (which are quickly all used up) and SuperSoakers, until it’s dark and we’re all getting eaten by bugs. We retire to Sam’s house a couple blocks away, to eat feast upon a giant watermelon and later watch The Legend of Drunken Master (the Jackie Chan version). People drift out as the movie goes on, and we all head home a little while after it’s over. I say goodbye to Mo, who’s leaving for Japan before I get back from New Jersey. I won’t see her for a year, as crazy and inconceivable as it is. I’m counting on extensive electronic contact. Annie, too, is leaving for Johns Hopkins before I return on the 19th. I ask if she’d like to come over while I pack, since I still need to clean the house and prepare for my trip. She says sure.

I clean up the kitchen and deal with a few things, and then talk with Annie. We’ve known each other a long time. The only person I’ve been friends with longer here is Cordelia. We discuss things, reminisce a little, hypothesize about the way things were and why, and how they will be. It turns into a long night. She goes home around 4 a.m., at which point I need to clean up and pack I earnest. I rush around trying to get everything done, and by 5:30 it’s almost all taken care of. I collapse into bed.

Three hours later I’m back up and at ‘em to deal with a couple last things before Alison arrives at 9:30. She drives me to the airport in Bloomington, which I am very thankful for since it’s relatively early and out of the way. I make it with plenty of time to spare, however, and read for a few minutes while waiting for the flight to board. We get on quickly and amazingly take off early; the captain is afraid we’ll get stuck in bad weather if we stick around too long. We make it to Chicago a full half-hour ahead of schedule, which is practically unheard of at O’Hare. I get a bagel and wait for the connecting flight to Newark. There’s this absolutely beautiful girl sitting next to me with her younger sister, who’s wearing a Lollapalooza wristband. I work up the courage to make a lame comment or two about Lollapalooza, which they’re discussing, but it doesn’t really turn into a conversation. The plane boards shortly, and I’m on my way to New Jersey.

There’s a nice Indian woman sitting next to me on the plane with two young children. I pass the time on the flight trying to sleep, since I barely slept the night before, and making faces at the youngest child. This flight is early, too, to my pleasant surprise. Stronger than normal tail winds, apparently. What luck. I land before 5, and call Scott when I get to the baggage claim area. He’s nearby, and rolls up in his M-class shortly thereafter. I jump in the SUV and we’re off in a matter of moments.

Adam calls me as we’re getting off of Route 78, says we can stop by if we want. We do, just briefly, to say hello to him and to Mrs. Pogash, our beloved middle school teacher and Adam’s mother. We talk, but soon Adam has to go out to dinner with his girlfriend’s parents. Scott and I go to dinner ourselves at Marcello’s on Main Street, and talk about philosophy, politics and our lives for the past year. I haven’t seen him since last summer, but it’s always a great pleasure when I do. We go to his house afterwards. I say hello to his parents, look at all the stuff he’s cleaned out of his room in preparation for his departure for Williams. We watch Sin City in the basement. By just after midnight I’m extremely tired, never having caught up on the sleep I missed the night before. I crash in Andrew’s old room.

Thursday is the 10th, my 19th birthday. I sleep until a little past 10, get up, check my e-mail. We go out for lunch/breakfast at O Bagel, both get cream cheese and lox to eat back at Scott’s house. We read the newspaper and eat. After lounging around the house for a few more hours and discovering that Diane’s busy all day and Max is working until the evening, I think about heading down to the beach this afternoon instead of Friday morning. Scott’s happy to do so, so we throw bags in the car and head south.

There’s traffic on 287, however, so decide to skip it and try to find the Parkway some other way. We get out the map of New Jersey and opt for adventure. We take Route 18 all the way down to past Asbury Park before finally getting on the Parkway. We get off at faithful exit 63 and head for the island. We’re at the house by 7, in time to eat the delicious seafood takeout we had my parents pick up. I feast on lobster and fried clams, Scott has a soft-shell crab. I talk with my family, who I haven’t seen in between two and four weeks. At night Scott and I go for a walk on the beach. There are little phosphorescent jellyfish coming in on the tide. If you stomp on the sand next to them they glow green briefly. We have fun playing with them for a while and walking along the beach. It’s a quiet day, but getting to see Scott makes it a good birthday. I go to bed before it gets too late.

I wake up at a reasonable hour the next morning because we’re going to go sailing. The wind is treacherously strong, however, so we wisely opt to wait for another day. Which means waiting another year, since my father won’t be here next week. But, so it goes. Scott’s parents drive down in time for a late lunch. We spend the day on the beach. Scott and his parents spend the night, and leave early Saturday morning. I’m happy to have seen them.

My family and I drive down to Baltimore on Saturday morning a little while after the Olesens leave. We’re there a little after noon, in time to help with the preparations for my cousin’s going away party that night. My cousin and I go to Sam’s club to get Red Bull and ice, and pick up crab claws from a local seafood place. The party’s nominally a barbecue, though, and there is a veritable shitload of pulled board, barbecued chicken, and baked beans to be had. There are perhaps 60 or 70 people at the party. I meet a bunch of Tyler’s friends from Gilman, his high school. He’s going to Elon in North Carolina in a few days, this party is his send-off. After most of the guests leave he and I go out to party with a bunch of his friends. I am reminded of how much trouble I have talking to strangers. It’s a somewhat awkward night for me, which I later kick myself for because there’s no reason for it. Just my own lingering timidity.
Sunday my father and I go to Annapolis. It’s an absolutely gorgeous day, and the docks and streets are crowded with throngs of people and young new cadets at the Naval Academy. We walk around, take in the boats and the sunlight, then sit somewhere so my father can have a cup of coffee and I can have an ice cream cone. Around 3:30 we drive back to my aunt and uncle’s house, about 45 minutes away. My grandmother is there when we return, we show her some photos of Finland and Sweden before going to the Baltimore Country Club for dinner. The food is excellent, but I eat until I can barely lift my arm to reach for another sweet potato fry. We eat on the patio overlooking the golf course. With all 9 of the family there things are predictably crazy, but overall a nice meal.

When we get home my cousin and I go out for the night again, again to the house of some friend of his from school. I get a good glimpse of the Baltimore private school social scene. They’re mostly single-sex schools, so they hang out together to socialize. My cousin goes to Gilman, which is right across the street from Roland Park, where my mother went to school back in the day. I met a girl from St. Paul’s who said that out of her graduating class of 130, 8 were going to Harvard (including her) and 9 to Stanford. The numbers are so ridiculously high as to be unbelievable, but if any place would send so many to such prestigious schools it would be these well-educated, well-connected, incredibly wealthy private schools. I talk to some people and get more involved than on Saturday night, it’s generally a good time. Those kids sure know how to party, however. They’re a little nuts. It made me think about good old Uni High and how staid it has been the past couple years.

On Monday morning my father and sister leave for Illinois, while my mother and I drive back to the Jersey shore. My mom’s friends from California are driving in the spend a few days, they’ll arrive late in the afternoon. Kimmy and Anita are in New York for the week, so we arrange for them to take the train down the coast. I go and pick them up in Long Branch, where they get stuck because the connecting train to Bay Head doesn’t arrive until an hour after they hoped it would. I zoom up the Parkway blasting Z-100 like I’m 14 again. We’re back at the house by 4, in time to go out to the beach for a little while. I try skimboarding, but the conditions aren’t good for it and I just cut my knee up. I wash off in the ocean and we go for a walk. When we get back to the beach in front of the house the lifeguards have gone home and we go for a swim in the shallows. It’s fiercely windy, so the current’s strong, and we just spend half an hour or so fighting against it until we get tired.

We go back to the house, where my mother’s friends have arrived. Kimmy and Anita go running while I take a shower. My mother and her friends go out to dinner; around 8 we order takeout from a ravioli place up the island. We have a late dinner and then lounge around for a little while. Around 10:30 we ride bikes down to the shopping area to get ice cream. When we get back to the house Kimmy calls Marina and Anita and I go for a walk on the beach. We talk about things, about my relationships with people. It’s nice to talk to Anita, it’s something I don’t do nearly as often as I should or used to.

Around 2 a.m. we all go to sleep. Tomorrow Kimmy and Anita will return to New York, and I will spend another few days here before driving home to Illinois with my mother. I close my eyes, tired, and let the sound of the ocean lull me to sleep in the August night.

3 Responses to “ten days in august”

  1. mo Says:

    I have a hard time believing that you have difficulty talking to strangers, judging simply by the amount of socialization you have done in the past ten days (they were strangers once…)

  2. tom Says:

    Ah, but it’s true! They were strangers once, and it took more than half an hour at a party to get to the point where I was really comfortable. It’s actually just that first step that really troubles me — the going up and talking to someone. I think this is some lingering fear of social rejection from middle school, or something. Who knows.

  3. micah Says:

    wow, this all sounds so relaxing - even the awkward parts. it seems like just plain life. you did a nice job of writing, it was very easy to connect with. you seem so in touch… and honest with your self.

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