June 2, 1997 Monday
I went to the wrong graduation Saturday. Not for myself, but for my cousin Ray. I just wanted to get that part out of the way. How did it happen? You see, once we arrived in Galesburg I walked ahead of Mom and Nicole, and simply followed where everyone else seemed to be heading. I went to Galesburg High School, which was actually across the street from the small Christian school where I was actually supposed to be. I waited for everyone to show up in the foyer, outside the auditorium, but they never came. I didn’t want to be late too, so I went inside. I stayed at Galesburg’s graduation for a while, until I saw Ray’s name wasn’t on the list (that tipped me off). After that, since I had at the time no idea where I was supposed to be, I walked a couple blocks to a Hardee’s, and then to a Circus Circus to look at videos. When I tired of this, I just went back to Galesburg High’s graduation–might as well see one (it was something to do). As I was again leaving I noticed a nearby steeple. It was worth a shot, since I knew Ray had at one time gone to a Christian school, so I headed toward it (he had since moved on from his old religious school, but I hadn’t known if this new one was religious in nature too). There didn’t look to be anyone there, and I was about to head back when I saw a sign that said, “CHURCH GRADUATION PARKING ONLY.” A sign sign! There were many cars in the back. Luckily I get there just as they were handing out diplomas to the five(!) class members.
The next day, Sunday, it was around 11:30, and Sidney still hadn’t called. I asked Nicole if she would like to go to Wildlife Prairie Park. Nicole trying to spot the many animals indigenous to the state of Illinois was really funny. She was searching for a cougar, and said, “Is that it?… no, wait, that’s a bird.” Lots of things like that. After feeding the goats she was concerned we wouldn’t have enough money for lunch, because we had spent fifty cents.
When I got home I called Colin. I asked him his opinion about going just going to Sidney’s house with me to quickly pick up my writings. The conversation ended in a plan to stop by and then go to a movie in Peoria. As I drove us to Fullbright Estates, I was a mixture of excitement, fear, dread, and sorrow. Excitement (and a bit proud) to give my news of going off early to college, fear for her continued blocking and cool, sad indifference, dread because what exactly had I done right the entire month(?), and sorrow it because could the last moment of a long, long time. When we arrived, Colin and I both went to the large front door (safety in numbers!). I had the “package,” in case there was an opportunity to give it to her. There wasn’t. Sidney answered the door and handed my Nike shoe box of writings. I asked if Cilla had given her a message, but she hadn’t. Except for look like I was cracked, when I told her I was going to college in a week, she seemed again indifferent. Maybe it was because Colin was there, I don’t know. She was about to leave as well for a movie, and she walked out to the side drive with us.
As we were driving, I asked Colin to look through the paper stacks for anything new she might have added. There weren’t even comments in the margins. Actually, I think it was in the same order I left it when I read it at her house. I wasn’t a suitable of fitting ending, but that’s what happened. I’m going to miss her.
After that brief encounter of awkwardness, Colin and I went to see Addicted to Love (I know… but it was either that, or Anaconda for the third time). It was about some loser that follows his ex-girlfriend to New York, and kept tabs on her from an apartment across the street. During it Colin kept leaning over and saying, “Okay Will, this is what you don’t want to do.” It was good to have him along, today, and for these many weeks. I owe him. As we walked out of the theater and across the now dark, empty Willow Knolls parking lot, I was amazed at how quickly all of my life had completely flipped on its head, this a strange new version left in its place that I didn’t recognize. As we neared the car I had a thought. It was the very last day of May. “Colin,” I said, reaching in my pocket for my keys, as he glanced over at me, “this is the longest month of my life.”