Groundhog Year (Part 1)



 

It was the summer of 2019 when I had finally begun to rediscover my roots. It was simplistic time of year where the sky was blue, laced with white clouds as the sun beams in, similar to Lake Michigan tides. My family and I would roll through western Wisconsin, and my moral compasses was refreshed anew. I had grown a severe lining for the simplistic pleasures in life. There was nothing I wanted to do more than drive three hours into the Driftless Area, watch dark green bluffs decorated with sandstone cliffs roll by, and see the water cascade down those very same cliffs.


I had been redirected with a new group of friends that not only seemed to accept me, but even potentially look up at me. Some of them barely know who I was, but they were always friendly to me and saw me as an equal. This was a total revelation. The people I knew in my grade that I tried so desperately hard to gel with carried spirits in their souls that reflected the blood red dirt beneath their checkered vans. They weren’t exactly supportive of my creative endeavors, either, but many weren’t aware of them in the first place. It remains that way to this day.


Some of those few were good to me though, as I did my best to be good to them. But what had changed versus the previous years of my school career was that I didn’t feel a desperate need to cling to their every whim. I had finally realized that they liked me for who I am, not just the homework help. I accepted that it may be both.

The fall semester of junior year remains among the favorite periods of my life. My now comfortable skin was no longer crawling at the sight of a girl with blonde hair, or any color, for that matter. I didn’t feel jealous of those that reached the collective hive-mind that was the class of 21. I was never able to do that, and I knew back them I wouldn’t be able to. The striking difference was that I didn’t give a shit. I sat down everyday, powered through five advanced placement courses, two rounds of illnesses, and had a supportive sister, supportive friends, and teachers along the entire way.

I had been interested in a girl for a good while now. The idea of having someone to share a road with in life and live through high school and experience all the mountains and valleys was always somewhat appealing to me. Always interested I was, but the importance of this relationship that didn’t exist had decreased dramatically compared to the previous two years. Still, I would always subtly shoot for her, waiting for her to stroll by in the hallway. We would briefly talk smack about our classes, and then we would break away immediately before the late bell. Did I have something going with her? We will never know.

We were both going to winter formal (separately, for shame). It was my second dance of my high school career, yet again another revelation. I was going with a bunch of freshmen, and that was laughable, at least in the majority’s eyes. For myself, I was just going with my friends. If I hadn’t rediscovered my roots that summer and my true passions, I would’ve never survived.

I approached her that fateful evening with watered-down, cautious intentions. We never exactly danced, but we stood around and had a good deal of fun ripping on the concept of high school dances on a general level. Her three friends with her as well— two of them I didn’t know, the other I didn’t. She was wearing a lavish, striking forest green dress.

We will call the girl of interest ‘H’. I had since drifted away from my original group and was now more so a part of theirs (we reunited later in the evening). They had plans to hit up Oscar’s, a local frozen custard joint. Her mother took me there in a giant, all American pickup truck and dropped us off. I wouldn’t see her again for over two years.

H got some kind of Sundae, while her friend in the bedazzling green dress got a two scoop chocolate sundae, maybe even the whopper malt mountain concoction. She offered it to me, and I hesitantly said yes, and we shared it. It was mid.

On February 27, 2020, my groundhog year began.

This one-of-a-kind, imperceptibly-gargantuan hellride needed a bit of help from the confines of time and space to really get going. On march 11, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for Corona, instantly shutting the entire NBA season down. Gone, for now, was the dream of a Bucks championship (this happened 15 months later, don’t worry). It was then all basketball fans knew that this mysterious, sneaky strain of chicken pox wasn’t chicken pox, and our lives would then change forever— at least for a little while.

Or, a long while.

March 2020 was a great month, strictly on a selfish, intrinsic, personal level. Damn near everyday, my sister, her boyfriend and I would wake up at noon, smell the roses that had yet to bloom, and bike until the sun began to rise. We were no longer confined to the borders of societal rules and regulations, and there was nothing else to do. Therefore, there was nothing to worry about. The mind and brain and body was free to run wild, with virtually no consequence on the precipice at any point. Even though it was early spring, it really was akin to the midnight sun- there was no end in sight, and it was bliss.

Sometimes, the brain runs a bit too wild. This would come later for me, but for some, this feeling crept up on them like a tiger shark at Long Beach. Once it was there, it wouldn’t go away, and those with this feeling needed to do something, anything in order to mitigate its consequences— the vile teeth, the anxiety, the fear, the smell of the same blood red dirt that pierces the follicles of the nose.

Green Dress was feeling bored. She had my phone number, among other platforms. She would talk to me more and more consistently each and everyday, and I would do the same by default.

 


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