Epilogue - "Fast and Intense"
I stared down at the sheet of paper in my hands, trying to force my brain to comprehend that this was the reason I’d spent twelve years being quiet and sitting in rows. Me, Brandon Collier, high school graduate. Adult. I took a deep breath and let it whistle through my teeth., leaning back against the sun-warmed bricks that formed the outside wall of the gym. That was it.
Mom, Dad, and Mark were still inside the overstuffed gymnasium that served double duty as an auditorium, listening to the principal and whoever else he’d roped into speaking going on about transitions and responsibilities. Naturally, all this talk of independence made me want to sneak out the back way as soon as the coast was clear. I don’t think anyone saw me, and if they did, they probably couldn’t tell who I was. It was difficult to distinguish the back of one long, flowing gown and funny flat-topped cap from another, after all. I wondered – and not for the first time – what the deal was with the flat caps, anyway.
I’d thought about skipping the graduation ceremony, but my parent’s weren’t having it. Thanks to Mark’s early graduation stunt, I was their only chance to get to attend one of those long, dull events. As soon as I had the chance, I ducked outside, away from the family, the friends, to breathe some fresh air and clear my mind. The fresh air part was working, but the mind-clearing wasn’t. My thoughts were racing.
Mark finally picked a major. Social work, not stand-up comedy. I don’t know what social workers do, exactly, but he insists that it’s “totally top secret government stuff,” and that I wouldn’t understand it even if he tried to explain, which, legally, he isn’t allowed to do. He comes home during breaks, and we still keep in touch by phone.
Dixie graduated as salutatorian, and was currently being mobbed by offers from colleges. She would’ve been valedictorian if she hadn’t gotten such a surprisingly low mark in Honors Lit from Ms. Lowe in junior year. I blame myself for that one - Ms. Lowe still remembers the day Dixie brought me to her Cursives meeting, and she wanted revenge. Dixie says that’s the dumbest thing she’s ever heard, and that not even I could infuriate a teacher to the point where she would give low marks to my friends as a backhanded way of getting to me. I think Dixie needs to be more cynical at times.
As for the band, Clueless Indignation, they played maybe two more shows and then broke up over creative differences. They kept hanging out, though, self included, and a year later attempted a reunion tour that lasted for roughly two songs.
Scott, Sarah, and Karl still live in the basement of their rented house, but now that he’s got his political science degree, Karl has turned the ground floor into a low-budget newsroom. Between graduate classes, he and the twins webcast various anti-government propaganda reports. His classy dress and stately delivery have earned him a considerable online following, where he’s known as “The Gentleman Anarchist.” Scott and Sarah handle the music, lighting, camera work, and other general production stuff.
After graduating, Corey tried to start a solo career, only to realize that the world is just not ready for what he called “straight-edge street percussioncore with indie-violence influences,” but everybody else called “just some dude pounding away on drums, mumbling to himself.” He was picked up by another local band – Capsule – after their drummer quit, and is playing with them, now. They kind of suck, and bring in no money, but I don’t think he’d have it any other way. He got a day job at Bellini’s restaurant (somehow), where he has a habit of intimidating customers into ordering vegan meals. Mr. B hasn’t caught on, but has noticed a suspicious increase in demand for soy milk.
Alex graduated a few days before I did. Somehow, even with his double-life, he’d managed to get good grades (it was the easiest way to keep his parents off his back, he said). Between that and his parents’ bank account, he can get into any school he wants. Problem is, now that he’s eighteen and is officially an adult, he has no idea what he wants. “It seems kind of empty to try to rebel against your parents when they can’t really tell you what to do, anymore,” He told me. Last I heard, he was talking about pre-law, but he hasn’t made any real plans. Oh, and he’s currently got this scraggly little goatee that I can’t help laughing at every time I see him.
As for me, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do, and I’m still not sure. I’m going to go to college, somewhere, and I’m thinking of being a psych major. Maybe be a therapist or something. Who knows, maybe I’ll get my own questionable TV show some day – I’m thinking along the lines of “Dr. Bran: Where the Raving get the Ratings.”
Romantically, all’s quiet on the Brandon front. And back. And, well, both sides, too. My relationship with Nick had been, much like the music I’d grown to love, fast and intense, and once it was over, I was kind of burnt out on the whole “romance” thing. Nick and I hadn’t spoken since that night. I think he was avoiding me, and maybe I was avoiding him, too. I don’t know. It’s not like we ever really saw each other before that trip to Columbus – we’d had to go out of our ways to run into each other after that. Avoidance was as simple as…well, sticking to our normal routines. Living our normal lives.
I pulled off my graduation cap and fanned myself with it, eyes closed, trying to kick up a slight breeze. As I’ve done every summer, I told myself to enjoy the heat, because winter’s coming, and it’ll probably suck as much as it usually does. And, like every summer, I tell that part of my brain to shut up, because it’s too hot to be looking on the bright side of things.
I heard some applause from inside as the door swung open, casting a long shadow next to me. I grinned, glad to know that I wasn’t the only one who’d had enough of the “inspirational” responsibility-speak. I pried my eyes open, squinting in the sun, curious as to who it was. The first thing I saw was his socks. He was wearing shorts, so it was easy to spot the mismatched pair, one tall green sock and one low black sock. Mark. Of course. I was just surprised he hadn’t made a break for freedom, sooner.
“Um…hey.” That wasn’t Mark’s voice. Come to think of it, Mark hadn’t been wearing shorts, either. I looked up, one hand over my eyes to block the sunlight.
At first, I almost didn’t recognize him. His hair was longer, and he was wearing casual clothes. But, really, no matter how he was dressed up, I’d never mistake that shy smile beneath those dark brown eyes.
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