I like to make lists. I like writing in rainbow pens, very neatly so the ink doesn’t smudge. I like checkboxes marching down the page in a neat, straight line, clean and uniform, and I like it even better to check them off. I like to see even rows of tasks, all completed, and I like to plan. I freak out less if I have a list. Things don’t seem as big when they’re all next to the same tiny little checkboxes.
But sometimes making a list doesn’t make me feel better. Pack clothes, I write to myself, glancing up at the mountain I have on my bed. I’ve been putting this off for a while, having to take everything out of the drawers, off the immaculate hangers in my closet, only to fold it all over again and put it in brown cardboard boxes, boxes I have to tape shut with packing tape that makes a loud squeaking noise when I pull it off the roll. I fold and stack without really realizing what I’m doing. Jeans and sweatshirts and sandals all somehow find their way into appropriately labelled boxes, taped shut neatly along the seams. The mountain of clothes on my bed flattens into a sloping hill, then disappears entirely. Another task I can check off the list.
My room already looked bare, but it looks even more spartan with an empty closet. All the posters I had up on my walls are gone. I cleared out my desk drawers. All my stationary and pens and binders are packed away. There is a growing stack of brown boxes in the corner near my window, and I can see out into the backyard because my curtains are gone, too. I consult my checklist again. I still have my shelves to clear off.
As I pack away my books and school awards and stacks of Polaroids of me with my friends, I feel something heavy and angry pressing down in my chest. My eyes are a little wet, actually, but I blink it away. It’s just my shelves, and it’s not like I’m losing this stuff forever. In fact, it’s all going into another brown box. But with every box I fill, my room looks less and less like it’s mine, and it hits me that soon it won’t be.
It should just be some checkboxes on a checklist, the kind I normally love. Pack shelves, move boxes, move out. But checking them off feels hollow. Instead of satisfaction, I feel dread.
I fold up a pennant, probably from some spirit rally at school. “Go Cobbers!” it proclaims cheerfully in blocky letters over the fuzzy green felt. I hate my school’s mascot with a burning passion, and I often marvel at the fact that someone actually came up with it– and worse, the school approved it. It is literally an ear of corn. Or I guess I should say was, since I won’t exactly be attending anymore.
“I can’t believe I’m going to miss a stupid ear of corn,” I mutter to myself, almost in disbelief. But the more I think about it, I really am. I was going to miss seeing Eric wear the mascot suit, eating popcorn at sports games and making, dare I say it, corny jokes with my friends when we hung out. I was going to miss Fletcher High and Minnesota.
As I pack away a field day participation ribbon, I knock a photo onto the floor. A younger me beams back, hugging and Sadie and Tess, my two best friends. Only a year ago,we were wearing our matching Fletcher High sweatshirts, laughing and sitting on Sadie’s bed. We’ve already promised we will text each other every day and FaceTime a lot, but California isn’t exactly close by. I don’t know how I’m going to go from seeing them every single day to maybe never again. Mom and Dad weren’t exactly forthcoming about when we would be coming back to visit.
I wish I could just add Be happy about moving to my list, check it off and move on. But unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. Yes, I’ll still have all my memories, but I want to be able to make more. What if I forget? Or worse, what if I get forgotten?