My Book

Download it here:

(just keep following the links, you’re getting a free book remember!)

Stats:

  • Hours taken to write it: 60
  • Hours takes to read: 2
  • Words: about 33,000
  • Currently titled: “Pages”
  • Read the Introduction below,

    There’s something that happens to the story that is never said, the one that never gets told. Stories don’t die, they fade out. Seconds, days, even years later the witnesses keep it alive; they remember that trip where you did that thing and you said this and it was funny. But in a way it dies for these people, my friends and me. You can never go back, never again know exactly what was said. You always forget a piece. Years, days, even seconds later. I know what it’s like to forget.

    And to remember. Memory can be a funny thing. It can be mean, it can play nice. It can remind you of holding hands in your dreams, and it can remind you that all of it is just a memory. You can lose it and you can pull one together. Memories can be scary. Today I called one of my friends and we discussed one of my first memories as I looked at an old photograph. The photograph was a picture of a smiling man running at night with his son, beneath the pale orange lights in an empty parking lot. What they were running from, I don’t know. They seemed to be having the time of their lives. The strange thing about it is that I can’t tell if I am remembering a very vivid dream, if my memory made it up having seen this particular photo, or if I really remember running that night with my father.

    I remember shouting once in my head – ‘You are an intelligent, capable, logical being, and when you grow up, you can’t forget that, even at fifth grade, you knew how to think for yourself’. Since then, I’ve largely forgotten exactly that. I see my younger brother’s fifth grade friends and I don’t see smart, capable individuals. I see little kids. And I look four, eight, twenty years into the future and myself forgetting what I did last summer. So in a way, I’m writing this out as a reminder of how things were.

    It’s been almost a year now and a few months since I wrote that. The melodrama, chaos, and laughter have long since subsided. The memories too have faded. Many of us stayed in touch and many of us disappeared back into our small isolated towns. I have spent the last few months waiting for today; waiting for the moment in which I would begin this book. At first it began as a joke. I still recall promising Heita a screenplay to our summer. The screenplay became a novel, then a collection of short stories, and now simply a work of fiction with no banner to fly under. One of the most difficult decisions in writing a book is deciding what belongs in the first few pages. Should I mention the limp, lifeless body I saw doubled over in the third-floor closet in the Science Center, or perhaps should I describe the quiet shame and comic disgrace experienced by those expelled from Matthews? Would I choose to give away that some of my work is artificial?

    June is always an anxious month for me. In the precious few weeks leading up to the last day of school, I am restless, fervently signing yearbooks to pass the time. In the weeks after that last day and before the beginning of July, the atmosphere bleeds attention; life focuses every ray of consciousness into one pure thought: living the ideal summer. Before July, summer is still virgin, far away from the intoxicating fumes of the oncoming September-bred school season. September poisons August and August runs into July, but the end of June is safe, sacred and perfect. In the past, I might have slept constantly during this period or taken lazy days off.

    The difficulty in beginning this story is putting a starting line on where everything began. In one sense, that’s a simple task. Everything began on or around June 26th, 2005 when I arrived freshly from my JetBlue flight non-stop Long Beach to Boston. I had decided three days earlier that I wanted to “do something” with my summer; more than mere escapism I wanted to make something substantial occur – something worthwhile. On June 23rd, I looked in on different university summer sessions. My friend Amy was already going to Brown for the summer, others were taking internships at UC Irvine, and other classmates I knew were taking summer classes as well. At first I looked into Brown’s summer program but they did not have an available computer programming course. Next, I peered into a packet I received a few months earlier inviting me to a summer abroad at Harvard College. More than skeptical of the cost, I had overlooked it when it arrived in the mail. Rapidly, the Secondary School Program at Harvard, SSP for short, became my best option.

    Within a few hours of deciding on going there, on Friday June 24th, everything moved with absolute haste. While I wrote my essay responses to their application, my sophomore English professor and my college counselor wrote recommendations. The application was due in February and the program actually began the following day. After several failed attempts to fax the application, I resorted to posting the information – credit card numbers and all – onto a website. After everything was processed, the lady managing the summer program simply told me, “Come here and we’ll get you sorted out.” And, with nothing more than that sentence, I promptly booked my airfare to the east.

    In one sense, that is how this story begins.

    From what I have learned, life has no determinate beginnings or endings. Everything is connected; sometimes this is blissfully beautiful and at other times such a phrase seems constricting, pathetic, and trite. The beginning of this story may just as well begin on the first day of high school, or when I lost my best friend in fifth grade, or when I first began watching Sesame Street. Beginnings of stories are always arbitrary; all stories worth telling have pasts to them. Every good story has a history.

    Before Harvard, I would very reluctantly admit that. History, for me, has always been a difficult thing. Maybe it’s not just a coincidence that I missed History class on my first day of school because I misread the orientation packet. My thoughts have always placed me in a paralyzing position. Good friendships are those that develop over time, people who share common experiences, but at high school there was no one I knew. Having lived in San Diego County for most of my life, and now treading north to Orange County for school each day, had put more than thirty-five miles of separation between my classmates and me. Though I believed good friendships existed, I felt cut off from the drawing pool. It never comes as a surprise to me to think that I found a group of close friends at Harvard. We shared a common situation, I was on level ground – no one knew each other. And that presented me with the best opportunity of all – a chance to make myself.

    I pretended to be spontaneous. Those who would later become my friends often heard, “This is spontaneous week; I’m just trying it out.” Later I confided that this was not some amateur prank, but rather an attempt to be myself under the guise of pretending to be something else. I was myself incognito. Everyone proceeded with the same spirit, letting themselves go. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t do this in high school more. How could I hear the lesson “just be yourself” and never quite listen to it? In April of the year following my summer, Amy offered me an explanation; she said that high school had branded me with their social expectations before I was ready to show them who I was. Discouraged, the real me lay dormant. She said high school wasn’t meant for me. She said college would be better. And I remember recalling my summer with pride, responding with a silent understatement, “I know what you mean.”

    3 responses

    19 09 2006
    Rebecca Courdy

    i like the way you start/open it. well done, very appropriate for you

    25 04 2007
    Alex

    Thank You

    15 02 2008
    Julie

    Well, learning about indulgences is pretty boring so I came to read. I have no idea why, but I started tearing. Whether it’s because of the extreme truth in the intro alone, or because I miss the depth of the conversations ‘the cousins’ have, I know not.

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