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Four Kids In A Car

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I've often wondered what my life would be like today if I hadn't showed up an hour early that day, two years ago. If I hadn't casually misread that letter from our band director and arrived on time. Would I be the same person I am today? Honestly, I doubt it.

I had been stressing out about high school ever since I received my book fees and schedule in the mail. There I was, fourteen years old and ready to turn my life around. It sounds ridiculous. It's not that I was necessarily leading a bad life. In middle school I was in the "advanced" classes. I maintained a B average. I had friends, but never made new ones, excusing my antisocial behavior by the words "I'm too shy." I was more concerned with what I looked like than what I learned. Basically, a typical kid. But as the year neared an end, I realized that I was capable of so much more. I knew that I could be better, and that's exactly what I wanted. I was so anxious for my first day as a freshman. But before I was a freshman, I was a new marcher.

I had pretty much decided by seventh grade that I was going to be in the marching band. It was the only reason I went to the football games with kids that only invited me because I was friends with a popular girl named Bonnie. During a halftime show once, I tapped Bonnie on the shoulder, pointed at a line of clarinet players and said, "That's me in two years." I had dreamed of being on that field. But now that the time was here, I was incredibly nervous. I wondered if I would play as well as the others, if I was wearing the right clothes, if the director would be nice. But most of all, I wondered if they would like me.

As I stood in front of the double doors painted to look like a music staff, I took a deep breath, clenched my clarinet case, and walked inside. I expected a roomful of people, but at first glance the room looked empty. As I scanned the room from left to right I noticed four rows of unoccupied chairs and music stands, some percussion equipment in the back, and a directors podium. It was only then that I saw that the room wasn't empty; there were three older kids, two girls and a boy, clustered around some sheet music by the desk at the front of the room. And they were all looking up at me. "Hi," I said awkwardly.

They stood up. The boy was very tall in comparison to the girls, who were both rather short. He had blond hair and was wearing a whistle around his neck. As he rose, he grabbed a long gold and black mace, which was almost as tall as me but only came up to his chest. The girls were both small but had such commanding presences that I noticed them just as much as I noticed the lanky boy. One was blond and the other was brunette. They both wore amiable smiles. "Hi," the blond one said. "Are you a freshman?"
"Yeah," I replied.
They each introduced themselves. I discovered that the boy's name was Nathaniel and he was a senior. He was also our drum major, which explained the mace and whistle. The blond girl's name was Leslie, and the brunette's name was Allison. Leslie was also a senior and Allison was a junior. I told them my name was Emily. Leslie saw my clarinet case and asked me, "Do you play clarinet?""Yes.""Great! Allison and I will be two of your squad leaders."
"Cool!" I smiled wide, even though I was shaking with anxiety.
"Well, Emily, you actually came an hour early," said Allison.
"Really?" 'Great,' I thought. 'They already think I'm a nerd.'
"Yeah, the 4:00 call time was for the percussionists. Everyone else was supposed to come at five."
"Oh." I felt like the biggest idiot ever.
"Hey," said Leslie, "We were about to go to Subway for dinner. Do you want to come?"
I'm almost positive that the wave of shock I felt showed on my face. Three upperclassmen just asked me to go somewhere with them on my first day. I almost declined the offer, resolving instead to wait in the empty band room until someone turned up. It took me a split second to realize that I didn't want to be that introverted, standoffish girl. As my first decision I ever made in high school, I needed to reflect who I wanted to be and not what I dreaded becoming. I think I seemed too eager when I said, "Sure!"

While Nathaniel had seemed quiet inside, he definitely loosened up on the way to the car. "I'm driving." He said.
"Shotgun!" called Allison.
As Leslie and I climbed into the backseat, she said, "Just so you know, Nathaniel drives like a maniac."
Nathaniel didn't try to deny it. The other two laughed as we all buckled our seatbelts. "Don't worry," Allison said, "You're not in danger!" I breathed a sigh of relief.
"Get ready, kids," Nathaniel said. He started the car, turned his iPod on, and pushed the gear into reverse. He backed out of the parking space, turned, and as the first song blasted at full volume on the stereo, shot off across the empty parking lot. Despite the girls' ribbing, Nathaniel wasn't a bad driver; just quite a bit faster than normal.

In response to the sweltering weather, Nathaniel used the mechanical button on the driver's side to roll down all the windows simultaneously. The wind rushed inside, its sound intermingling with the poppy alternative music of Relient K. In the midst of the loud music, the fast velocity, and Leslie, Allison, and Nathaniel's singing, my mind reached a state of peace. It was the first time I ever thought 'High school is going to be fun.' I laughed for the sake of the irony, realizing that my major epiphany came along with the shrill laughter emitted by the girls after Nathaniel's voice cracked. And then I almost cried, because it was so much deeper than having fun. These people accepted me, even though they barely knew anything about me. For the first time since elementary school, I felt like I had real friends.

As of right now, my rides with Leslie, Allison, or Nathaniel probably number over 100. I don't think I ever told any of them how much that five minute car ride to Subway meant to me. To any normal person it would probably seem like an insignificant occurrance. But I know it wasn't. To me, it was life. It was an answer to my cry of desperation. In my mind's eye I sounded like a child's toy; "Will you be my friend?" And they answered, whether they knew it or not.

Last year Leslie and Nathaniel graduated. I cried. In a couple of months Allison will too. My first friends from high school will no longer be here. I suppose that's why I chose to write about it now. If any of you are reading this, I want to tell you that I never want to lose you. I will always love you. And no matter how much we change over the years, I will always remember us that day. Just four kids in a car.



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prouddad said...
Feb. 3, 2009 at 12:11 am
Yes this is by my daughter. I have never read anything so simple yet so moving in one small article. Emily writes with a smooth reality that touches one so deeply but without really pushing for a deep moral or story. She always get to move you with the simplist and easy going way that sneeks up with the satifaction of learning a meaning of life in the end.
 
whit524 said...
Jan. 26, 2009 at 3:46 am
Emily, I don't know if you know this but you were one of 3 people who first made me comfortable at band camp. You were so helpful. You have no idea how much that meant to me. Thank you for making me not feel like a "stupid freshman" and for being a great friend.
 
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