Where I went to school, everyone knew who they were. We were the best, and that was proven because we were there.
We had yet to feel the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
I see the faces now that were my family in those days, and I feel this thin, clear string, like a fishing line, that links me to them.
We are different now– a little longer, a little stiller, little duller in tone– but with something inside that can only come from being trusted with a future from the age of 16.
I touch these waists, these shoulders, and I feel how we’ve grown thicker, tougher. Real life has no mercy for the special. We have experienced love now, loss, disappointment and frustration. We are thicker because we’ve blistered, then calloused.
And yet we are here. We touch, we whisper, we giggle. My hand around her waist, her squeeze, her voice, is the same as it ever was. The gasps over kisses shared, the bluntness of our expressions of love, the easy comfort of each other’s company.
When you are sixteen and the best, you are untouchable.
And yet, everything touches you.
Every face is burned into your memory, every nice thing ever said, every hurtful moment. The wind on the lake. The smell of her room. The slippery concrete, iced over, between the cafeteria and your 8am class.
We grew up together. We formed a world in which only we existed.
College was wonderful. I made important, remarkable friends in college.
But to be sixteen and on our own, hemmed between two lakes, yet without the bind of the “real world” telling us who to be, we were special. Our parents let us go so we could become who we are.
There is nothing like that place, and those years, in the entire world. We built it, and it’s stronger than that land, those buildings, or any one of us. If we went back it wouldn’t be there.
Where it is now is at a bar on Orchard Street, with arms wrapped around each other, easy laughter and genuine interest in each other’s minutiae. It is in a rehearsal room on 29th street, where suddenly you are not alone; the you of those moments when things started to become clear, are known by someone. It is in a Facebook message, where the years are no deterrent to the pull of that thin fishing line.
I am lucky. Not because I got to go to Interlochen, not that I was deemed “special,” not that I had good friends there. I am special because I was allowed the space to discover what was special about me. I never worried about “what I wanted,” because I had it. All that was left to me was creating the community I wanted to be with me for life. All I had to do was find my family.
And I did. I found Nora, Rebeca, Will, Drew, Auden, Holly, Warren, Tor. Even the ones who scared me– Loralee, Caroline, Chase– they are my family. We shared the moments in our lives when we began to realize who we were. We were there for the surprises, the meltdowns, the times when we suddenly realized what success, what struggle, what love WAS.
That can’t be replicated. I will never, never, have anything like what Interlochen was again. I had those years, and they live in me now. They will, forever.
I was sixteen and the best, and now I am 24 and ostensibly just like everyone else. And yet, I feel that fishing line, tugging, tight and secure, that binds me to the people and the moments when I realized who I was becoming.
These are my people. This is my universe.