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Age 18//with Kaitlin

My parents redid my room.

I can’t really be offended- when I went to college it was resplendent in lavender and sage green and drapes that fluttered like a southern belle’s taffeta dress in the Colorado breeze.

Now it’s plush and multiple shades of beige and maroon cover the bed with its bounty of decorative pillows that extend almost to the footboard. I’ve come to believe that as soon as the last child leaves the house, parents replace us with decorative pillows. To be fair, they are much cleaner, and leave fewer dishes in the sink.

Being home causes a strange warp in time. Even calling it home makes my fingers pause on my keyboard. That could also be because Gilmore Girls is on, and if I don’t watch, the fast dialogue blows by me like a semi passing a hitchhiker. OK, soft acoustic guitar is swelling- a quiet emotional moment

Is it home at this house? No, not in the sense that it holds anything that is mine now. There was a box I found with my old Girl Scouts’ vest, photos from high school theatre, a journal with poems that can only come from a girl who spent too much time in her room trying to figure out exactly why Wilde kissed the soil on Keats’ grave.

With just that one box, I know why I become my seventeen year old self when I’m here- because who I was still hides in the corners of the basement closet, on the bookshelf in my redone room that still has books on the linguistics in Lord of the Rings, and in the playground across the street where I got kissed once, and hung from the monkey bars until I grew too tall and my feet could hit the ground flat. And that girl, for how much of a nuclear-brained weirdo she was, wants to be friends with me. So we’re hanging out.

I took a book to the manicured field by the playground and laid on the soft Kentucky Blue Grass, and when the neighbors walked by we waved and said “Nice day we’re having” and I pet their dogs and kicked my shoes five feet to my left and listened to Nickel Creek and let Chris Thile and Sean Watkins answer all those questions I had when I would lay here seven years ago.

“Should I talk to that boy?”

“Take her or leave her she will still be the same/ she’ll not try to buy you with her time.”

“Wow, you’re right, I should play hard to get! Thanks!”

I took our family dog Abby for a walk. She’s fourteen, her eyes are a little cloudy, her black lab face salted with white. But she bounces like a puppy whenever I’m home- her wagging tail ageless. We passed by my middle school bully’s house, and his mom was outside, and we waved and she said she liked my shorts and how was I? We talked for a moment, and Abby peed on her tulips. Vail laughed and didn’t mind. I felt bad, but if I was in middle school again, I would have wanted it to be on Tucker’s leg. Middle school cuts are the deepest- especially when it’s a guy with highlighted tips throwing markers at your back.

Seventeen-year-old Kathleen was a pretty straight-laced kid. I was the kind of girl whose main rebellion was to sit up until two am reading The Cloud of Unknowing and then transition straight into writing Harry Potter fanfiction with my best friend Kaitlin, collaborating over AIM (handle: razzmatazz223) until I couldn’t see straight, letting bad pop music like Fastball and Dishwalla play quietly on my prized stereo with a blank cassette stuck in there- always ready to record. Always ready to get just a snippet of the 105.9 DJ announcing the next Michelle Branch song. I found one of those old tapes. Right before it launched into the opening G-C-D chord progression of “Breathe” there is his raucous voice. I kind of like it better that way.

What is it about hanging out with my teenage ghost in this suburban sprawl that makes me feel at once older (seventeen year old me would never sneak out to the front stoop to smoke barefoot), and so much younger (twenty four year old me would never lay around until 2 pm watching Gilmore Girls on Soap Net)?

We can not truly hide from who we were. We can move across the country, pack up our relics in boxes, paint over our purple walls in eggshell, but they’ll be there. And usually, they just want to hang out, hear about who we’ve become. Wonder if we ever did learn to play hard to get, or figure out what exactly is beyond that cloud of unknowing. Ask us if Avril Lavigne is still famous (I haven’t had the heart to tell little Kathleen that Avril is now friends with Nickelback), or if we ever got to go on that fantasized date with Heath Ledger (that’s a conversation I don’t have the heart to engage in either).  My young me did the best she could, and actually- she was pretty great at fanfiction, too.

Just for the weekend- I’ll let her out of her box. She and I have a lot to catch up on, and a lot more in common that I originally thought. And if we see Tucker Hanlon, that pointy haired bully of yore, I’ll heartily encourage old, sweet Abby to take a piss on his leg. And then walk away, Walkman turned up to eleven, singing Nickel Creek under the limitless Colorado sky.

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