When it comes to Lawrenceville, I’ve always been a cynic. For years, I’ve run from the Hype Squad and joked about this school’s various pitfalls; the term “hellville” is ingrained in my vocabulary. So I never thought I’d be the type to succumb to last-minute sentimentality. But as the white tent rises in the Bowl and M. Stitt brings flowers for my Radical Love class, I’ve realized that there’s more to these last goodbyes than superficial tradition and charcuterie boards: I truly am indebted to this place. To Smitty’s idiosyncratic (but formative) essay demands; to the cornfield hill I’ve run too many times; to InDesign nights. More than anything, it ’s the little (and temporarily painful) things that have shaped me. It ’s the monotony that will be difficult to part with.
Last fall, I co-wrote an article satirizing “last firsts.” Back then, I truly did find it stupid to assign significance to every event. But what better way to end the year than writing from the opposite side of the emotional-literary spectrum. Here’s a pantoum on the same subject:
3 a.m. & I fold against the room’s corners
as another last lands across my screen like a leaf;
another May swell tiding me toward a finish
line etched in sundresses & small losses.
another last litters across my screen like leaving
& I blank my way into all the squared
rows carved in white gowns & little losses.
16 days, dear God: the light sighs
as I blank my way into a squared
jaw, swapping goodbyes for
16 days, dear God, the light sighing
over papered skeletons of ex-teams
& exes’ jaws. every hour, I spill a new goodbye for
cross-legged picnics. I wring poem-captions
over the papered skeletons of past
milestones & O god, it ’s all too fast—
cross-legged picnics strung across cornfields,
braiding stalks through prom-dress-
rhinestones & O god, it ’s all too fast.
God—to know that we will leave these gates,
braiding rose petals along white skirts,
as this place & its brimstone bones treadmill on.
God, it pierces—to know that we’ll leave,
teetering into the gaping mouth of summer,
as this place’s brimstone bones mutter
the same sepia verses over and over again.
So yes, it hurts to leave. And to underclassmen: memorialize your time here. Attend dumb school events. Write poems. Don’t layer your love in ten layers of irony. Be cheesy. There won’t be another time or place to hold each other this closely.