Anyone else resonate with Taylor Thornburg’s poem from the last post? I know I did. Especially now with so many decisions I have to make super soon. Yay adulthood.
MY NONFICTION WRITING BUDDY IS BRINGING US A WORK OF NONFICTION IN THIS POST, AND I’M STOKED.
Rachel Krumenacker, is another friend I met day one of college because, like Jonathan, we were on the same orientation team. We were both English majors, so we had some classes together (again, I can’t remember many though), but we actually didn’t get super close until our last semester of college in our creative writing: nonfiction class, when we made a couple of trips to Starbucks to brainstorm and edit each other’s pieces instead of just staying on campus.
Even though I’m slightly sad we hadn’t hung out before then, I’m so grateful that we were able to still get to know each other better before we graduated. She is such a solid person; she’s definitely one of the only people I feel comfortable sharing some of my more personal writing with, but I don’t just value her opinions on writing; I love having conversations with her about life, especially as we are learning how to adult as writers who wanna keep our writing alive in this crazy world.
She is an adventurous, kind-hearted young woman who is ready to take on the challenges of the world with the Lord at her side. Also, if I’m honest, I feel super cool when I’m with her because she totally radiates coolness with ease! 🙂 I also swear that she is Troye Sivan’s long-lost twin sister. Or maybe long-lost cousin. They look like they could be family!
Thank you for being such a great friend, Rachel, and for supporting me and my writing. I wouldn’t have gotten through nonfiction class without you. (p.s. you need to come visit me while I’m still on the island so we can go to Tybean, okay???) ❤ ❤ ❤
Enjoy this untitled, nonfiction piece from my lovely friend!
I remember sunlight, mostly. Sunlight frames my vision in all of my early memories, almost like an early vignette photograph. The difference between those first silver-printed images and the ones directly behind my eyes is that the assumed background to those 1900s vignettes is a studio of some kind. Maybe a hanging white sheet behind the model posed for her portrait, but that’s all. Not the same for my memories. I am not guaranteed a white sheet.
Anything could be the unremembered—anything could lie beyond the hazy borders of the image, and that thrills me. Right now the image is the small county park in the town where I grew up. Beside me on our picnic blanket are my two best friends and my little sister, all sitting criss-cross applesauce, though back then we called it sitting Indian style. Before each of us on the blanket has been placed a thin white plate of grapes. Green grapes, that roll off into the grass whenever one of us resettles so that our knobby, sandal-clad ankles don’t press so insistently into our bare legs. We each have only been given several grapes—a handful, maybe ten.
I don’t remember where our mothers were. This is the vignette part of my memory. Maybe they jogged in stride around the park trail, maybe they sat on a bench just outside our ear- and eye-shot. They can’t have been far away, because they constantly worried for our safety; they can’t have been close enough to see us, or else not paying attention, because they most certainly would have stopped us from the part that comes next.
I face inward, unaware of the park surrounding the blanket. One of us holds up the zippered plastic bag where her mom has packed our lunches. Inside, the remainder of the grapes hang fat and thick on their stems. Some have dropped and lay cradled in the shallow water of the bag. Sunlight shines through them, showing us their translucence.
“Let’s have a grape-eating contest,” I remember saying. In my clammy, red-nubbed fingertips, I pinch a grape, knowing now the dustiness of grape skin with its second sheen of condensation. I test it with a squeeze. It does not break, but the skin splits open, wider, at the brown seam where it had separated from its stem. “They don’t count if you bite them,” I say. “See how many we can fit.”
I tuck the grape into the hollow, scarred place between my lower gums and my cheek, counting aloud, “One.” The others join without question, though I never have been ringleader. We take our turns one by one. Grapes fill and refill our plates from the sweaty Ziploc until only a few browning stragglers remain on the vine inside.
A laugh in my throat threatens to choke me, grapes crowding against my teeth and tongue. I feel one burst near the back of my mouth, by my incoming molar, but I don’t say a word about it. My mouth is too full for honesty, anyway. The younger girls have given up already, unable to maintain the same self-control that allows me to pop grape after grape after grape after grape and keep breathing. M keeps stride with me, but soon only I am left packing green grapes into my expanding mouth as my three companions watch with grape-sized eyes, their own mouthfuls spat out in rapid-fire succession onto their damp plates long ago.
At some point my mouth reaches maximum grape capacity. I remember counting my slippery grapes by eating them again, one by one, eating them in earnest this time. The four of us discovered I had won the competition by a margin of six.
Here’s the problem: I don’t remember how many grapes I fit in my mouth that afternoon. More specifically, my remembered reality does not match up with the size of an eight-year-old’s mouth and the size of green grapes. In the history of my childhood, I have only ever eaten green grapes that were about the size of a thumb. If they were purple grapes (which in my experience have always been nickel-sized) I might actually believe the number I’ve earmarked in the filing cabinets of my memory.
I fit forty-three grapes in my mouth that afternoon.
M contests that she actually won over me, but understandably neither of us are in any hurry to recreate the experiment, though we both have the utmost respect for the scientific method. It’s just that our personal vignettes were shot from different angles, and we are the focus and the hero of our own. It’s hard to change an image that’s been silver-printed one specific way for over a decade. (I also strongly believe that she would win if we battled now, and I don’t want my good name tarnished. But don’t tell her that.)