Saturday, May 28th, 2011Home, 12 am.
I wake up at midnight. Then two, four, five, six. I stare at the clock and fitfully doze until my mother comes in to get me up.
Graduation practice, 9 am.
As I enter the football stadium it is quickly apparent that I am the only one in at all formal attire. Most are in shorts or pajamas, while I show up in my favorite skirt--a good choice, in the end, as the heat will be a major talking point throughout the day. A friend, Courtney, is standing at the back entrance of the stadium. "Oh hello, Katherine!" she says, pointing a camera my way. "Smile!"
I stick my tongue out.
My name is called ominously out over the loud, loud, loud speaker along with several others. When I make my way up to the stage, however, the fuss is merely that there is a copy of my last paycheck from the school district for me.
I find John/cohorts and stand with them. We wait. When the production finally gets started, we sit in the assembled chairs before the stage as the principal gives instruction. Soon we're in small groups sorted by alphabet and congregating in the street outside the stadium in two separate aisles. The boys directly in front and back of me appear to be good friends and jabber incessantly through the charade. The girl who leads our group is nice; we lament the logic of the proceedings as the day grows warmer, the practice begins and we are forced to start from scratch as three graduates arrive late.
When our procession around the track is finally deemed up to snuff we sit alphabetically by last name in the perfectly placed plastic chairs as the principal lectures us on our behavior for the night. The people directly surrounding me decide that breaking the rules will be okay so long as we all do it; they can't arrest us all.
"Do you think I could come to graduation high?" someone asks seriously.
"If they can't tell."
"It's okay, man, I have eyedrops."
Graduation Lunch, 1 pm.
My father, paternal aunt and uncle, and paternal grandparents meet us in the lobby of an attraction that sits 750 feet in the air in a nearby city and hosts (among other things) a revolving restaurant. They have all traveled hours to get here. For me. The elevator doesn't arrive for something like fifteen minutes; as we finally take our seats and peruse the menu, my father jokes that he'll just have me choose a meal for him. "I mean, you're so good at deciding."
"I've already chosen what I'm getting."
"I bet you've been agonizing over the menu online for days, right?"
"No, I haven't."
I don't know what he thinks he knows about me, but I have long been known for making very slow and careful decisions. This may be a joke on the outside, but it goes much deeper than that. I have not seen this man in five months, since Christmas, but he makes comments like this without fail every time we meet. My rebuttal may be simple, but it represents an astounding amount of progress on my part. I am not paralyzed.
This is his first and last snide comment. He tells me he's proud of me. I chose a lunch and he's unbearably, gushingly proud. I feel sick.
I am not accustomed to (or comfortable with) being the center of attention. Luckily, however, the lunch is not a disaster by any means. Not much is required of me, honestly. Towards the end of the meal I move to the other side of the table, where my aunt and uncle sit. They are hilarious and charming; my spirits are quickly lifted and I ride back to tinytowntexas in their vehicle to "help" navigate.
I get us almost-lost. My uncle corrects this. He's only been to tinytowntexas once.
Transition, 5:45 pm.
My aunt and uncle, mother, sister and I stand over the kitchen counter in order to consume cake and ice-cream. I have to report at the school for graduation prep soon. My grandparents and father arrive at my house just as I'm leaving, hideous cap and gown in hand.
I enter the high school through the back door.
"Do you have any contraband?"
"Okay, you can go."
I do have my phone hidden on my person, but then so does everyone else.
Again we are separated by alphabet, one group of about twenty to each empty classroom where we don our glorious robes and bemoan the heat as we wait to take our senior panoramic cap and gown photo. When we do, the photographer has to rearrange us twice to fit everyone in the rickety, too-narrow frame. A boy behind me complains loudly and freely, catcalling the aged photographer as he gives instruction. I wish dearly to slap him, but we are positioned perilously like dominoes and I can't picture it going well under the circumstances. Breathing is risky as it is.
Again we wait in our assigned classrooms. I know none of the girls I chat with, but there is a sense of solidarity in the fact that we are all certain that we will faint, vomit and trip across the stage in the course of the evening. My chest seizes as we line up and wait to be called to the stadium.
Graduation, 7:30 pm.
Green polyester catches the light as we parade out into the parking lot and wait to be called again, this time all two hundred of us in our respective lines. One line will walk in on the visitors' side of the track, while the other (and my) line will walk in on the home side.
Despite the many warnings we have been given, our spacing is still slightly off as we walk onto the track and make our way to our seats. The bleachers on either side are packed. I scan the home side for my mother and in my frenzy state forget what color she was wearing earlier. The first face I find, almost immediately, is that of my ex-boyfriend.
He is either completely and utterly conspicuous (possible) or I have magic powers (possible). We find our seats; I find myself incredibly pissed off.
Heat and anxiety mix freely. We are all miserable until the sun finally sets completely and a breeze catches us. While it is still warm, the waiting is less agony. From our spot in the middle of the football stadium, a stage erected directly in front of us, we cannot really hear what the speakers are saying. If we're lucky we can catch every other word or so, and none of us are particularly interested. Instead we make snide comments and complain about our uncomfortable headwear.
Between speeches and scholarship listings it is a good two hours before they begin divvying diplomas, at which point absolutely everyone is completely over this idiocy and ready to graduate already.
I am oddly calm when it is, after all this time, my "moment." A science teacher rehearses the handshake with me one last time; the school counselor smiles and congratulates me; I step up onto the stage. I take my diploma holder, shake a hand, smile as a camera flashes, shake more hands, smile as I come off the stage and another camera flashes. I am handed a bouquet of flowers my mother ordered for me and make my way back through the middle aisle to my seat. I spend the rest of the ceremony numb.
When it's over the field quickly floods with people, immediate bedlam. Dobbin passes by several times and stares at me awkwardly. I cannot find anyone I know. Eventually I manage to extricate my phone from my person as it buzzes and locate my mother, who arrives with my father and sister close behind. Pictures are taken with each parent. I am too out of it to feel much of anything.
Home, 10 pm.
I don't like this part.
Project Graduation, 11 pm.
It's casino night (shock!) at the school sponsored grad party. The cafeteria is decorated with fairy lights; country music blares. I find Courtney, who welcomes me to follow her around and generally makes life better. I am consistently socially awkward, yet she has always seemed to get it.
Someone informs me that Dobbin was "looking for" me after graduation earlier. I almost die laughing, choking on curse words. Just get out of my head, man. Just get out.
I play blackjack with John and a group of others I don't know for while, which is as close to comfort as I'm likely to get in this moneymaking scenario. John tells me he loves me and makes a grotesque face. "What is that even, man," I say. "You love me, but I'm gross?"
Don't Stop Believing comes on over the speakers and the room proceeds to explode with voices, oddly connecting me to a group of people I will likely never see again and did not like for the majority of my time here. Auction items fill the cafeteria's stage as the night goes on; I win a door prize, fancy shampoo I stare at cluelessly.
"Want to go outside?" John asks. There is a bouncy castle slide erected in the parking lot, along with a climbing wall, jousting area and a few other entertainments. I agree to the bouncy castle and refuse the rest despite his pleas for me to pursue acts of daring.
As we return indoors it is something like three in the morning; people wait in line to receive a full cash value for their play money. John and I sit on the sidelines as a teacher and his partner dance wildly and with mad skill across a makeshift dance floor denoted by columns wrapped in fairy lights and faux ivy.
"Come on," John says, "you can't have an ass like that and not expect little gay boys not to fantasize about you."
I can't help but agree with him.
Soon John joins in on one last contest: karaoke. My phone battery is finally dwindling as I watch the contestants converse near the stage; the line for cash redemption thins out and it becomes apparent that we are vastly short on seating.
John isn't well received. We slip out the back door again to sit against a wall and watch as the bouncy castle and entertainments are disassembled. Only the dim light from the cafeteria remains. He looks as if he might cry, though he doesn't, and rejects my offer of a hug.
"I think I'll tweet about it," he says, retrieving his phone from a pocket. He types something and puts it back. I pull out my own phone to read what he's said.
I can't say I honestly understand what John goes through. I may accept him, but I cannot fully imagine what it's like to live in this tiny, conservative town where his very makeup is oft correlated with the pronouncement that he is destined to go to hell.
We return to the cafeteria and find a table near some friends. Courtney arrives soon after, saying she had been for looking for me. I apologize. Though she managed to make nearly double what the rest of us have, it is quite apparent as the auction begins that none of us are destined for glory. The big items quickly go to those with much, much more "crazy cash" at hand and those surrounding me are awash in frustration.
I am long past hilarity and well into delirium as I make my way through my twenty-third hour of being awake. Noises swish and crunch as they pass through me; I blink frequently in confusion and decide to be as quiet as possible as to not make too much of a fool of myself. The end of the event is completely anticlimactic. My thoughts are a haze as Courtney hugs me goodbye, then George, my NIT (Nerdfighter-In-Training).
John and I walk outside together. He looks unbelievably down as I make my way to my mother's car and shifts things in his arms so we can hug goodbye.
"I'm holding you to that movie date," I say.
"Harry Potter 7 Part II?"
Sunday, May 29th, 2011
Home, 5:30 am.
My mom tucks me into bed. My poor phone communes with the wall charger just in time for me to say a few more sleeplessly crazed things to the internet and good morning to future roommate and partner in crazy Laurel, who is up obscenely early to drive some humans to the airport.
I hope in vain that sleep will bring consistency to these moments.