He dropped to one of crooked, screwed-up-from-basketball knees. I could hear his knee come crashing down like an elephant running away from a safari tour. He’s such a bull in a china shop. Always hitting things. His pants instantly wrinkled at the abrupt change of level. He wore those dress pants you see on sale racks at Macys. Not too nice, not too ugly. Just the right amount of blah for a CPA.
It was at that moment that I noticed how much gel was in his hair. Why would he use so much gel for hair that was so unevenly cut and starting to bald? Does he think he needs to look like Ross Geller, circa 1996? Tragic, I tell you. And why was his collar undone? What kind of person leaves their collar undone to propose? Is this really happening?
Then he pulled out a box. A velvet box. A red velvet box. Those kind of tacky boxes you see at places like Zales and think, “Well, I hope I never get one of those.” And then you do. It’s right in front of you, piercing your thoughts and crippling your relationship like weeks-old flowers. Your under-dressed, too-gelled boyfriend looks like a lame loser with a Zales box. And this is your life.
So do you run?
He opened the box to reveal a plain diamond on a plain band. Well, just what I wanted. Blah, you know, like my CPA boyfriend. But it’s not what I want. It’s lack of interesting detail makes me sneeze. Or maybe it’s the gel. The sparkle is nonexistent. The band seems scratched, even from my distance. I have taken several steps back. The whiff of gel is too much to take. I cannot even hold his clammy hands anymore. It’s too much.
This is not my engagement ring. This is not my life. I turn my Converse sneakers around on the concrete floor. I look at the window, the drapes covering too much of the top. It needs to be fixed and not be so blah.
So do you run?
The three of us were the best of friends. We told each other our deepest secrets. We ran through empty streets on countless nights in exhilaration as if running from the world. We were inseparable. I remember once laughing so hard that I fell off of a perfectly stable chair. Unfortunately, that altered without notice one day.
The deterioration of our friendship began as soon as the two of them took their friendship to a romantic level. I was instantly excluded from activities we did as friends; I had become a third wheel and was no longer welcome. I was ousted and disregarded in a way that was painfully evident. I was like the old sweater buried deep within a lonely closet.
How could they do this to me? Why would they want to diminish all that we had built? They made me feel the lowest I have ever felt in my life. I immediately went into a period of self pity for I thought I would be lost without our tight-knit companionship. I knew that we would never play the board game Risk again or watch ridiculous movies just to have a good laugh. I believe that sudden loss, most of all, was the source of my sadness.
For weeks I wondered what was so incredibly wrong with me that they did not want me as their friend. I buried myself into a state of depression trying to contemplate the end of our friendship. I did not know how to go on.
Luckily, my mom forced me to realize that I could not dwell over what could have or should have been; I had no choice but to face reality. By doing so, she made me understand that I had to move on, for there truly is no life wallowing in depression and sadness. I knew I could not face the world until I moved on. So, with all my bravery, I began the process of moving on from that friendship.
Now, as I look back, I merely smile, for I know I cannot waste my energy being bitter. I realize now that they did not end the friendship to be cruel or spiteful; we had just simply grown apart. But I think that is something that happens to everyone as they grow older. You figure out who you are and finally open your eyes to notice that people you were once friendly with no longer share similar beliefs. And that is okay. I’ve learned it is one of the steps in the difficult yet rewarding process of growing up and becoming more clearly the person you want to be.
Moving on from them was one of the most terrifying things I have ever had to do as a teenager. But after I did, I was liberated. I started afresh as an independent person, someone who did not continue to cling to friends who no longer wanted my friendship in return. I believe whole-heartedly now that our drifting apart actually saved me. Because of our falling out, I realized that I do not have to count on someone else to ensure happiness in my life; that I am the sole supplier of my happiness. I finally came to know that I did not want to have friends that make me feel depressed. I now have friends who make me feel nothing but happiness. The falling out between my best male and female friend is the most significant experience I have yet encountered in my life because it showed me that I had to find out who I was, and I am proud to say, I did just that, and I found that I like the person I discovered.
The class of 2013 motto inspired me: “Life is not about finding yourself; life is about creating yourself” (George Bernard Shaw). And it’s true. You won’t become your best self by following the pack. You have seek out those things that will create the version of yourself you want to see in the mirror every morning. And honestly, that’s the scariest thing of all. But it’s also the bravest thing of all. And for that reason, I decided that I had to take the biggest risk of my life: pursue my dreams of becoming a novelist.
I’ve always been a dreamer. I never wanted to be like anyone else. Where there was a path, I took a different route. I’ve always felt that I had to follow my dreams, which got me to thinking about the difference between living and existing. What is this difference? Do we live to exist? Or exist to live? I find it to be like this: existing is going to that 9 to 5 job everyday that you don’t enjoy. It may bring in money, but it doesn’t satisfy you, it doesn’t make you want to be better, learn more, or seek out the utmost happiness. Then there is living. Living is doing what you love. Maybe this doesn’t produce much money, but at least you can say at the end of the day that you’re doing what you love, that you’re happy, that you’re following your dream. I’ve always found this to be a writer’s existence. We write because it makes us happy; that is really all we can ask for. I feel alive when I write; I can express myself in ways that I never knew were possible. This is my dream. And I will have a strong conviction to follow it. And you should, too, whatever those dreams may be.
Also, I knew I wouldn’t be happy with a 9 to 5 job staring at a computer all day long. And that doesn’t make that career undesirable, I just knew, for me personally, that it wasn’t my dream. And that’s why I chose to pursue screenwriting. And that’s probably why all of my screenwriting peers in the School of Film and Television chose the same path. We knew we had to have a taste of the thing we loved so much.
Of course, I knew I was taking a gamble with this taste of the creative, unpredictable world. I knew that we creative types don’t automatically get jobs until several or more months after graduation. Family and friends would constantly tell me, after hearing that I was pursuing something unconventional, that the path wouldn’t be easy, and that I was entering a competitive field. But isn’t every field competitive? And don’t we all, regardless of our dreams, have to work hard to pursue our dreams? Needless to say, those comments didn’t deter me from my dreams of being a writer.
But sometimes those comments would upset me. I remember one family member telling me that business or computer science or engineering were much smarter choices. And he’s probably right. But that doesn’t mean those majors were the right choices for me. I would’ve felt incompetent in any major outside of screenwriting. If there’s anything I’ve learned in this life, it’s that we have to do what makes us happy.
As the end of college looms above our heads, I ask you all to do one thing. Figure out what makes you happy. Some of you have, I’m sure. And I’ll be honest: knowing is just as scary as not knowing. So what makes you happy? Is it the outdoors? Is it the cool job somewhere far away from home? Is it following someone you love to another city? It could be anything. But you must understand that these choices force you to adjust. You can choose whatever life you want. Your opportunities are endless. And that’s pretty spectacular. But at the end of the day, you must ask yourself if that’s all worth it. If it isn’t, then you’ll never adjust. And that doesn’t make you weak. But it does show that your happiness lies elsewhere, maybe in a different field. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you dislike something so much, and you’ve kept an open mind for the most part, then your answer is further away than you would’ve expected. We’ve all searched for something more, and then quickly realized that our passions are where our hearts are. And that’s okay: it makes us human. And we humans must be inspired to thrive.
So do what inspires you! Do what you’re passionate about. Don’t ever think that you can’t do something. You can always achieve your dreams; you just have to have three things: faith, utter passion, and undying drive. With faith, you will understand that trials and tribulations will emerge, and you will still believe in yourself through these obstacles. With utter passion, you won’t give up for the easy route; you will always take the harder, more rewarding route. And with undying drive, you will convince those around you that you’re determined to follow through, no matter the stakes. And sometimes this difficult path will make you unhappy or you’ll lose your confidence. That’s normal. But it’s how you overcome this fear of succeeding that matters. You can’t expect to be happy every day. But if you’re happy most of the time, then you’re in the right place. That’s all that matters.
And if you’re like me, and you don’t have a clear path yet, that’s okay. We don’t have all the answers at twenty-two. If we did, we’d all be millionaires by now! So promise me that you’ll do this: Focus on today. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday. Don’t worry about what you have to do. That doesn’t make life easier. Life will work itself out if you put in the effort. You can do anything you set your mind to. So always believe in yourself. I believe in you.
So be brave, follow your dream. You won’t regret living.
And congratulations, class of 2013!
If you were here beside me
It was sunny outside that day. The trees were sparkling in the sunlight, giving off those shadows carved into the pavement. The birds were singing that day. It was one of the few times I was not aggravated by the sound of chirping. The people were outside mowing their lawns, for it was the first day of spring that the weather decided to cooperate. Winter had ended. The trees were beginning to recover from the snowfall that year. And I was hopeful for us. I knew that this would be our day to spend together. We usually spent Sundays together. This was your only day off. It was a day of hope, of inspiration, of sadness. And I will never forget it. I will never forget you, my love. You may have left this world, but you will never leave my heart. And that is a promise. So it is like you are not really gone.
Rossiter Worthington Raymond once said: “Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight” (“Quote Garden”). Our love is immortal, so that every memory I have of you and of us, is now awakened.
I walked down the street today and thought of you. It smelt of fall. The leaves were beginning to come off the trees. The neighbors were starting to close their doors at night. The weather was turning bitterly cold in the evening. And it got me thinking: it’s been six months without you. Somehow, I have survived. But that has not been an easy time coming. I have struggled, fallen beside myself, and wanted to join you. There is nothing quite like this. I get cards and letters from other widows. They try to understand my grief; they cannot. But you must know that I have tried to move on. However, my heart simply cannot. Let me explain what happened in these tumultuous six months.
I have been told that grief is a process. At least, this is what my therapist says. She is too optimistic for my taste. She keeps trying to tell me that I will be okay, but I am not so sure I believe her:
The death of a loved one is an event that all of us [are] likely to experience during our lifetimes, often on numerous occasions. Whilst lives are often transformed by such loss, it does not necessarily need to be for the worse in the long term. Dealing effectively and positively with grief caused by such a loss is central to your recovery process and your ability to continue with and fulfill your own life for the better. We have put together some notes in this section to help you understand some of the emotions you are likely to go through after the death of a loved one and to offer some suggestions on how best to cope and deal with these emotions. (“MuchLoved”)
It sounds clinical, I know. But I have found that my grief is better handled under my own circumstances. Reaching the destination of being okay again has everything to do with how I deal with it. Not necessarily this sort of nonsense I have learned in therapy.
The process of grief, I have learned, my love, is much more intricate than crying on my pillow at night hoping for your return. No, no. It is not that simple. I have begun to come across physical problems. My breathing is slower. I hiccup every night before bed. I find myself to be tired all day long. And worst of all, I have even more heart problems. And with these growing heart problems comes the responsibility to take more pills at new times each day. I told the doctor that it is just a broken heart. She laughed, probably assuming I was joking. But some of these symptoms correlate with my loss:
Physical responses are also to be expected. You may experience tightness in your throat, heaviness across your chest, or pain around your heart. Your stomach may be upset, along with other intestinal disturbances. You may have headaches, hot flashes, or cold chills. You may be dizzy at times, or tremble more than usual, or find yourself easily startled. Some people find it hard to get their breath. You may, in addition, undergo changes in your behavior. You may sleep less than you used to and wake up at odd hours. Or you may sleep more than normal. You may have odd dreams or frightening nightmares. You may become unusually restless, moving from one activity to another, sometimes not finishing one thing before moving on to the next. Or you may sit and do nothing for long periods. (“MuchLoved”)
There is no water aerobics. There is no bingo. Grieving over you is what I do. All day, every day. The doctors say that this is a mistake. They say that I should be going on with my life, spending time with friends and focusing on my goals. What they do not know: you were my friend, you were my goal. Without you, I am nothing. I have nothing, and I want nothing.
I hear that the Irish understand this conflict. There is a headstone in Ireland that reads: “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal” (“Quote Garden”). No one can ever take away those memories we had together. Do you remember when we went to that Yankees game? It was our first trip to New York. You were excited to see your favorite team play. Your face lit up as soon as we entered the stadium. You looked like a kid on his first trip to Disneyland. We ate those giant hot dogs and drank Coca-Cola for the very first time. We laughed and laughed at the fans booing everyone and everything. It was more than an experience. It was a memory of a lifetime. We always said that we would go back to see them play at the new Yankee Stadium. We never did.
My grief cannot be explained, cannot be examined. I am not a patient in a psych ward nor do I take anti-depressants. Sometimes I feel like I should do the latter. I am merely a woman lost, facing the grief of a loved one. There are several thousand others out there like me. They get it. But they cannot understand the loss of my loved one. It is a different experience for all of us. And that is beginning to become clearer.
I saw you the other day. You were playing catch with Charlie again. He was jumping in the yard like he had not seen a ball in weeks. Even though the others think I am crazy, I know that you were there. I could feel you, and I know it is true: “Some grieving people report unusual happenings that are not easy to describe yet seem very real. You may be going about your daily life and suddenly have a sense of your loved one’s presence. Some people report having auditory or visual experiences related to this person. At times the loved one offers a message during a dream or time of meditation” (“MuchLoved”).
If you were here beside me, I would tell you that I need you. I would tell you that I love you, that everything will work out for us in the end. If you had not been in the sun so many years, this would not have happened. We should have taken better care of ourselves. I do not blame you, though. That hot North Carolina sun always turned us from pale to dark during the warm months. But do not worry, my dear, I have it, too, now. And I will not be getting the treatment as you did; I will not put up a brave fight. The cancer has spread to my brain. I have come to terms with that. And so should you.
There is no point in grieving if we can be together now. So I have stopped. We will be together forever. The conclusion I have drawn: this separation was only temporary. Just be patient, for I am almost there. The days are passing toward our reunion, even the doctors think so. They tell me that I have six months left. But that is far too long to live without you:
Grief is about more than your feelings—it will show up in how you think. You may disbelieve this person actually died. You may have episodes of thinking like this even long after they died. Your mind may be confused, your thinking muddled. You may find it difficult to concentrate on just about everything. Or you may be able to focus your attention but all you can focus on is the one who died, or how they died, or your life together before they died. (“MuchLoved”)
You are not dead. I am not dead. We are forever one.
“Dealing with the death of a loved one.” Much Loved: The Online Memorial Charity.
MuchLoved, n.d. Web. 30 Oct 2012. <http://www.muchloved.com/gateway/death-of-a-loved-one.htm>.
“Quotations: In Sympathy.” Quote Garden. Quote Garden, n.d. Web. 30 Oct 2012.
I wrote this in October 2012 for an English class at LMU. This essay is about learning how to drive a manual car… and how my father taught me.
The Most Elaborate of all Learning Processes
There are those things that come easy; there are those things that take months, even years, to master; and then there are those things that seem unattainable to master. Yet somehow, we come to master them. For me, it was the latter in the elaborate learning process of manual cars. I struggled and struggled, but somehow, came through. Eventually, albeit. My father taught me how to drive a manual car, also known as a stick-shift, and I will never forget those months learning this intricate process.
I must first explain how to drive a manual car to those who learned quite easily on an automatic before I delve into the dynamics of my personal learning process. Driving a manual car requires precision. The driver must lift up on the clutch with his or her left foot while pressing down on the gas pedal. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. It is not. This clutch and gas momentum requires enough precision that if done incorrectly, the driver will stall. And trust me; it takes more than one lesson to really get this right. After the driver has mastered the complex momentum of letting up on the clutch and pressing down on the gas, the gears must be tackled. There are six gears: one through five, and reverse. One is used when starting the car, while five is used in high speeds; the gears in between are used to get up to the high speeds. The driver cannot go from one to five; the driver must go up to five through each gear. That is, unless the driver is ignorant of the gears.
The gears seem easy, right? Wrong again. The gears require a certain amount of flow. The driver must be able to feel where the gears are in order to go up to the correct gear. It is entirely possible to accidentally go from first gear to fourth gear if the placement is incorrect. I have done this before. It is not a good situation. For me, I freaked out the first time it happened, wincing at the obnoxious, screaming noises the car made. The noises are so terrifying that I went into panic mode, turning off the car and waiting for what seemed like hours to try again.
Once the driver knows, and masters, all of these mechanics of driving a manual car, he or she is ready to drive without extra assistance. But let me reiterate: this knowledge does not come without frustration, impatience, and fear.
My father started teaching me how to drive a manual car at age fifteen. I had just bought my learner’s permit from the incredibly slow Department of Licensing (DOL) and was eager to learn how to drive. That did not last long. Once I realized how difficult driving a manual could be my interest in driving subsided. I began to grow frustrated with the process. I was not picking it up fast enough. What was wrong with me?
I have always been one of those people who cannot pick things up quickly. I could just be a slow learner; I could just not be good at things. Learning how to ride a bike was a struggle, as was passing the test that everyone passes for soccer referee certification. Somehow, I could not do these menial tasks on the first or second try. Driving a car was no different. So I became quite frustrated.
My frustration was obvious. My father can vouch for that:
At first you were not happy having to learn two new things at once: driving and that stick shift. Also, you got very agitated whenever you stalled the car, which of course happened a lot. So I had to remind you that it was just a learning experience and that you would master the art of driving with a stick very soon.
I don’t think you believed me at the time, but since I know you can drive a car with a stick without stalling, and so I was right in the end. I also told you the boys would be impressed and was I right about that? (De Jong).
Of course he was right; it was just a learning process that I would not master instantly. But why couldn’t I have been that one person to understand it instantly? Why couldn’t I have been the exception, rather than the rule?
According to my father’s memory, my biggest obstacles were the ones most people struggle with: “The biggest obstacle was starting in first gear and stopping and then starting on a hill” (De Jong). Let me explain how difficult this is. Picture a car, parked on a hill. In an automatic, the car will roll back only slightly when starting. This is a little intimidating for new drivers, just the mere thought of hitting someone behind. But in a manual, this is a million times more dramatic. To start on a hill, the driver must use the clutch momentum, which pushes the car further back. And that is horrifying. I worried about hitting another car; I worried about rolling down the hill and not being able to go forward. Luckily, that never happened. But it could have. My frustration turned into fear.
Driving a manual car also make anyone impatient. My father dealt with my initial incompetence well. He was never harsh or rude or angry. He knew I could do it. “I knew you needed lots of practice before you became comfortable with driving in traffic and learning how to use a stick shift. Doubly hard! The most important [thing] was to make sure that you were ready to drive by yourself and by the time you were [sixteen]. I was pretty confident of your driving skills” (De Jong). I, on the other hand, was angry that I could not master this. I remember feeling so hopeless and worried that I would not have the competency to pass the driving test. My father helped me understand that all I needed was practice. I needed to fail first. I needed to stall in my elementary school’s parking lot before I could take the car to the street and immerse myself with real drivers. Now I know that. However, when I was learning how to drive a manual, this was not clear-cut. I thought I would be a failure forever.
Fear took over, leading me to believe that my driving skills, or lack thereof, would never be good enough for the road. I began to compose these intricate and negative scenarios in my mind: stalling in traffic, hitting another car because I could not get the brake/clutch momentum just right, not being able to start the car from park. This fear consumed my mind leading up to the driver’s test day. Anxiety clouded my vision. But according to my father, all I needed was confidence to pass the test. Easier said than done! Honestly, I worried that I would never be able to drive a car.
But I did learn. I eventually became more and more comfortable behind the wheel of a manual car. The first time I drove on the freeway with my father I froze, wondering how anyone ever manages to merge; but I became more confident shifting gears because I was forced to. The freeway does not offer much room for error. My confidence level skyrocketed once I tackled the dreaded freeway. And that changed everything. I learned how to drive a manual car!
My father is the sole reason that I can drive a car today. He did not give up on me when I wanted to give up on myself. He would force me to practice driving, much to my dismay. But his forced driving sessions instilled a sense of diligence and competence in me.
Besides just learning how to drive with my father, I got to bond with him a way that I never recognized back then. I actually thought he was trying to torture me by keeping his manual car for me to learn on. I argued, unsuccessfully, for him to get an automatic. But honestly? Now I am glad he did not listen to me. Driving an automatic is much easier, but we may not have bonded if I had picked it up immediately.
Our bonding began with frustration and fear, and ended with happiness and confidence. We shared my anguish and tears and cautious driving. My father agrees that it was a bonding experience: “Yes it was fun to go to Soos Creek [elementary school] and spend all that time with you. I knew that in a blink of an eye you would be [twenty-one] so I enjoyed your company while I could” (De Jong). Learning how to drive a manual car is also such an interesting experience, as not all teenagers will have the opportunity. I was lucky enough to have a thoughtful and patient father who understood my frustrations, but could also bond with me. That is certainly something I would not trade for the world.
It was my father who ultimately made the difference in making this experience worthwhile. I will not say that this learning process did not come without yelling, mostly on my part, but it did serve to show me that I can do things, and I should not give up. For that, I will be forever grateful to my father.
Learning how to drive a manual car took me almost a year to learn, and several years to master. I feel confident driving a manual now, even though I plan on buying an automatic after college. But having the ability to drive a manual is a skill I will never forget or devalue. And I have my father to thank for that.
This is one of my favorite stories. I wrote this at Duke University’s Creative Writers’ Workshop. The format might be a little odd, but that’s merely because it is meant to be a screenplay!
INT. MOLLY SMITH’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
MOLLY SMITH, a pulchritudinous eighteen-year-old blond, lays on her back unconscious on sparkling-white carpet.
Around her left wrist is a black and gold, thick in diameter, bracelet. It resembles more of a male friendship bracelet rather than a piece of jewelry a female would wear.
The beautifully white carpet soaks in a substantial amount of Molly’s blood and turns a gross color of black-red.
There is a butcher knife beside her left hand drenched in blood.
Different angle shots of Molly Smith’s body are shown during the voiceover of JACE MONTGOMERY.
JACE MONTGOMERY (V.O.)
She was my best friend. She was that girl you get up for in the morning. The girl you just can’t wait one minute longer to see. She was always full of hope and incredible inspiration.
The shot is pulled back and Molly’s unconscious body gets smaller and smaller.
JACE MONTGOMERY (V.O.) (CONT’D)
And then she did this.
INT. THE MOVIE THEATRE – NIGHT (FLASHBACK)
The poorly-lit movie theatre is full of teenagers and adults alike.
In the plush, red-velvet seats, couples kiss as the older adults stare at the screen, trying to avoid looking at the oblivious teenagers.
The screen shows two males talking to each other.
The male actors’ voices are very low, making it hard to understand what they are saying.
In the back row, MOLLY SMITH and DARREN KENNEDY kiss affectionately.
Darren’s left hand is comfortably perched on Molly’s thigh. His right hand intimately cradles her face.
Molly hands are wrapped around Darren’s body.
Darren and Molly are completely oblivious to everyone in the theatre. They just kiss and kiss.
Darren slowly pulls away. He smiles at Molly. She smiles back at him.
Let’s get out of here.
Molly nods. Darren smiles seductively.
Darren gets up and grabs Molly’s hand.
They walk in front of several angry people to get out of the row.
Across from their row sits BETH BRODY. She is seated with a group of girls.
As Darren walks out into the aisle, he makes eye contact with Beth.
Beth glares at each of them accusingly.
Darren grins at Beth.
Darren leads Molly out of the aisle.
Molly does not notice Beth or the connection she made with Darren.
Darren opens the door for Molly and she walks out.
Darren turns to look at Beth one last time. Her head is turned and she looks at him longingly.
Darren turns around and walks out into the lobby to find Molly.
EXT. THE PARK – DAY (FLASHBACK)
MOLLY SMITH sits on a standard, green park bench observing the people in her vicinity.
An OLD LADY sits on an adjacent park bench knitting a foul-colored orange pair of socks.
A WOMAN and MAN walk hand-in-hand down the path past Molly. They gaze into each other’s eyes in deep admiration and much-too-blatant love.
A MALE TEENAGER plays catch with a FEMALE TEENAGER behind the Old Lady’s bench. The Female Teenager fumbles while attempting to catch the baseball several times.
The Male Teenager smiles when the Female Teenager fumbles the ball.
Molly holds a constant dismal look on her face while she observes these groups of very diverse people.
Molly looks around again, lost in her thoughts.
JACE MONTGOMERY, a tall and handsome eighteen-year-old, walks up the path toward Molly.
Molly does not look at Jace, even though she knows he is there.
Jace takes a seat closely next to Molly on the bench.
Jace thinks of what to say to Molly.
Molly turns her head further away from Jace.
It is alright to feel vulnerable.
Molly looks at Jace, annoyed by his comment.
(as if Jace is a child)
Like you would even know.
Molly shakes her head.
I’ll always be here for you, Molly.
Jace looks at Molly very sincerely. He touches her shoulder.
Molly gets up from the bench. She walks down the path, going toward the opposite way Jace came from, as if avoiding anything he has done.
Jace watches Molly leave the park in sadness, wondering how he can help her.
INT. THE RESTAURANT – DAY (FLASHBACK)
The casual-dining restaurant is covered in decorations pertaining to old movie stars from the 1950s and 1960s.
The cherry-oak wood tables are long and covered in placemats and the requisite utensils for casual-dining.
The restaurant is heavily overcrowded with young adults, mostly high school students, eating with their friends or sitting in corner booths on an uncomfortable first date.
MOLLY SMITH, along with the other waiters, walks around in a hurry, trying to bring hungry customers their orders.
Molly wears a black apron and a black tee-shirt.
Molly serves two plates of hamburgers and French fries to an AWKWARD MAN and WOMAN, who are obviously a couple, in the corner. She smiles as she sets down the plates, hoping to up her tip value.
Molly looks up from the customers and out the window.
Outside, DARREN KENNEDY walks in the parking lot under the shining sun.
Molly, still standing above the Awkward Man and Woman, who instantly begin eating, watches Darren’s every move.
Outside, Darren approaches BETH BRODY. He gives her a confident smile and a romantic hug.
From the inside, Molly stares at Darren and Beth in jealousy and utter humiliation. Her eyes swell up and almost fill with tears, but she successfully holds them back.
The Awkward Woman notices Molly’s eyes filling up with tears and stares at her, wondering what is going on. The Awkward Man is oblivious and keeps eating.
Molly turns away from the window and walks toward the back of the restaurant.
The Awkward Woman looks outside as Molly leaves to see what she was looking at. However, Darren and Beth are nowhere in sight.
Molly walks even faster this time to the back of the restaurant, even though she is not serving, just to get away from the world.
INT. PRIVATE HIGH SCHOOL ENGLISH CLASSROOM – DAY (FLASHBACK)
The English classroom has two whiteboards full of words relating to relationships and romantic and platonic love.
The first whiteboard reads, “Romeo & Juliet”: The Love Affair.
MOLLY SMITH sits in the front row of a classroom of about twenty high school students, including JACE MONTGOMERY, DARREN KENNEDY, JAMES PARKER, KRISTIN KERRY and BETH BRODY.
Each student has a book copy of “Romeo & Juliet” on their desk. Molly’s book is open and has several of her own notes written on the pages.
Darren Kennedy sits in the very last row in the back.
Beth Brody sits near the door and close to the back of the room.
MR. JENEFSKY, a thirty-something year-old teacher, stands in front of the students, waiting for them to quiet down so he can begin the lecture.
Mr. Jenefsky wears beige Dockers and a polo that is much too large for his torso. He is the epitome of a nerd.
Mr. Jenefsky smiles at his class.
Webster’s dictionary first defines love as “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person”.
The high school students’ faces fill up with immediate boredom after hearing Mr. Jenefsky mention the topic of love.
MR. JENEFSKY (CONT’D)
Now I don’t really know if anyone here would define love as that, per se, but it’s certainly a way to put it.
Girls begin to file their nails and stop listening to the discussion.
Guys begin to lay their heads on the desks, excited for that afternoon nap.
MR. JENEFSKY (CONT’D)
(oblivious to his students’ boredom)
Someone raise their hand and tell us their definition of love.
James Parker, a preppy, jock-type eighteen-year-old, smiles.
James slightly raises his hand.
The class laughs.
James Parker smirks, as if he is the hottest guy in the world and could get any girl to have sex with him.
Molly rolls her eyes in her seat.
Kristin Kerry, a beautiful but dense cheerleader, looks around the classroom to see if anyone else is going to raise their hand.
Kristin decides to raise her hand sheepishly.
Mr. Jenefsky nods at Kristin as she raises her hand.
Being able to count on someone. Just like Romeo and Juliet!
Kristin smiles, extremely proud of her answer.
Mr. Jenefsky nods.
That’s one way to put it.
Mr. Jenefsky paces the classroom, waiting for someone else to give him an answer.
(without raising her hand or looking up)
The students fall completely silent and turn their entire attention to Molly. They stop attempting to sleep or file their nails. They are intrigued.
Mr. Jenefsky walks closer to Molly.
Molly finally looks at Mr. Jenefsky.
Foolish admiration that is just going to shoot you down one day.
Jace looks at Molly in great disappointment.
Darren and Beth exchange uneasy glances.
How would you say love shoots you down?
How would you not?
Mr. Jenefsky smiles.
Molly looks away from Mr. Jenefsky and at her “Romeo & Juliet” book, trying to avoid speaking with him about this topic once more.
Mr. Jenefsky begins pacing the classroom. He continues to look at Molly, trying to contemplate what she’ll say next.
Darren and Jace exchange glances. Jace quickly looks away.
Mr. Jenefsky walks closer to Molly again.
Mr. Jenefsky pauses before he speaks.
I don’t want to sound too bold, but let me ask you this.
(pause, struggling to find the right words)
Have you ever been in love?
Darren’s eyes perk up at this question. He looks directly at Molly, waiting for what she will say.
This question makes Molly uneasy. She begins to squirm in her seat.
The entire classroom is looking at Molly. No one speaks. It is completely silent and still.
I wouldn’t let myself.
Students look directly at Darren. Beth looks agitated. Jace shakes his head.
Molly shakes her head slightly.
Students look back at Molly.
Jace looks at Darren, who does not meet Jace’s eyes, as he is concentrating on Molly.
Molly looks up, toward Mr. Jenefsky.
MOLLY SMITH (CONT’D)
It doesn’t work, though, shielding yourself from relationships. You can’t be immune to pain.
Molly’s eyes fill up with tears.
She looks down, as if talking to herself.
MOLLY SMITH (CONT’D)
The worst part is that I still want him. I want a piece of him so I can remember.
Darren raises his left arm and scratches his head. The black and gold bracelet is shown around his wrist.
Molly tries to wipe her tears from her face, but the tears just keep pouring down her cheeks like a powerful and rapid waterfall.
Mr. Jenefsky looks at Molly questionably.
But don’t you think wishing he still wanted you will ultimately make it harder to move on?
Molly looks at Mr. Jenefsky as if he was born yesterday. She stops crying so excessively.
I have no intention of going on, Mr. Jenefsky.
Haven’t you been listening to anything that I have been saying?
Mr. Jenefsky nods convincingly. He perches himself on his desk.
Molly rolls her eyes and looks at the clock, anxious to escape from the negative vibe she has created in the classroom.
Darren looks at Molly with sadness.
(as if he has been thinking of saying this for a long time in the discussion)
I wanted to be immune to pain, too.
Students turn and face Darren. Molly does not turn around.
Darren pauses as he makes eye contact with Jace.
DARREN KENNEDY (CONT’D)
I couldn’t let myself fall in love and experience heartbreak at age seventeen. Not while I was in my prime.
Molly stops crying and dries her tears.
The black and gold, thick in diameter, bracelet is blatantly shown around Darren’s left wrist as he raises his left arm to his face in anxiety.
Molly slightly nods her head, agreeing with Darren’s last statement.
Mr. Jenefsky looks at Molly, waiting for her to respond to Darren’s heartfelt speech.
Fed up with the discussion, Molly abruptly gets up and walks to the door and storms out into the hallway.
The class and Mr. Jenefsky watch Molly exit, stunned.
Mr. Jenefsky looks at Darren, confused as to what has just happened. Darren is looking at the door, waiting to see if Molly will walk back in.
The door remains close, as Molly does not walk back in.
INT. MOLLY’S BEDROOM – DAY (FLASHBACK)
MOLLY SMITH bursts through the door of her bedroom, crying hysterically.
She lies down on the floor and curls into a ball. She spreads her legs out, still crying.
For the first time, on her left wrist is Darren’s signature black and gold bracelet.
Molly turns over onto her stomach.
The sounds of her crying fade as the shot is slowly pulled out.
INT. MOLLY’S BEDROOM – NIGHT (PRESENT)
MOLLY SMITH lies on her back unconscious on perfectly white carpet.
Around her left wrist is Darren’s black and gold, thick in diameter, bracelet.
The beautifully white carpet soaks in a substantial amount of Molly’s blood and turns a gross color of black-red.
There is a butcher knife beside her left hand drenched in blood.
The shot pulls just into Molly’s face. Her eyes are closed. Her lips purse slightly, but not enough for a viewer to notice without intentionally looking.
JACE MONTGOMERY quickly bursts into Molly’s bedroom as if he knows that she has just tried to commit suicide.
At the noise of the door opening so rapidly, Molly’s eyes open.
Molly notices Jace near the door.
Molly looks into Jace’s eyes deeply, letting him know that she is sorry.
Jace grins at Molly.
JACE MONTGOMERY (V.O.)
I’ll never fathom what actually drove her to do it. Was it really as simple as a jackass like Darren Kennedy? Or was it something greater than a stereotypical high school relationship?
Jace closes the bedroom door very slowly as he moves closer to Molly, signifying that he is going to be the one to save her wounded soul.
JACE MONTGOMERY (V.O.) (CONT’D)
I’ve realized that a person can be saved anytime, anywhere from self-deprivation.And that is just what she has needed, her wounded soul to be saved.
The door closes completely.
The screen fades to black.
This is the synopsis from a full-length script I have worked on at LMU. I love this story. I think it’s deeply liberating and real. What are your thoughts?
CLARA RANDOLPH is a seventeen-year-old high school senior growing up in the small town of Merryville, Georgia. Clara has dreams of leaving her small town life behind to attend college at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. To do so, Clara competes in the Miss Georgia Teen USA pageant—and wins. This is the first scene of the script.
Clara is the poster child for abstinence in Merryville. If she screws it up, she knows that she will be the subject of scrutiny from a town unforgiving of liars. In a way, Clara’s fighting against the town throughout the story.
The story begins with Clara in a Georgia Teens Fighting Against the Type meeting, a group promoted by Miss Georgia Teen USA, which advocates celibacy. In these meetings, Clara upholds a certain innocence that promotes her views of anti-teenage pregnancy. Clara believes that teenage pregnancy can make a child feel unwanted, or that the child was a mere mistake. Her mother, JANE, had Clara as a teenager and Clara never wanted to be like her mother. Clara’s immature father immediately walked away from the situation, leaving Clara to be raised by just a mother. For that, Clara has always been resentful of her father. Even as her father grows up and tries to make amends, Clara does not want anything to do with him.
Upholding her duties as Miss Georgia Teen USA and a Georgia Teens Fighting Against the Type advocate, Clara takes an oath to remain pure until marriage to avoid unwanted pregnancy. Clara is held to moral turpitude in her contract with Miss Georgia Teen USA. If she abides by the guidelines in the contract, the pageant will cover the cost of tuition and housing at the college of Clara’s choice. Since Clara is not affluent by any means, this is her ticket to college. Clara is a likable character, albeit slightly in tune with her preacher instincts, because she merely wants to attend college and escape the world she lives in where teen pregnancy is so prevalent.
The inciting incident begins when Clara and her boyfriend, BEN, are shown having sex for the first time together. Ben gives Clara a promise ring, expressing his love for her. They commence in lovemaking, not sex. Stealthily, Ben hides a camera in one of Clara’s teddy bears to record the incident.
Plot point one shows Clara fighting off morning sickness that she claims is merely the swine flu. Plot point one assists to ask the central dramatic question: how will Clara deal with her hypocrisy in the spotlight?
Ending the first act reveals that Clara is indeed, pregnant after having sex with Ben. Clara’s reputation is at stake now. Clara has just broken her contract with Miss Georgia Teen USA. Clara is a hypocrite. Clara’s best friend, MELISSA, stands by Clara through thick and thin, even though she disagrees with Clara’s choices.
Moving into the second act, Clara visits an abortion clinic in a different town with Melissa. Clara mistakenly walks into a room where an abortion is going on, which turns Clara off to the idea. From here, Clara’s problems grow.
Clara decides to tell Ben that she is pregnant. Ben first becomes angry with Clara, wondering how one condom breaking could make him a father. Ben calms down, asking Clara what she is going to do, about the baby and the pageant. Clara does not have answers at this point. Ben promises to stay by Clara’s side with whatever decision she decides to make.
Ben visits a reporter’s office with the tape he made of Clara and himself. Ben does this because he receives a large sum of money, something more important to him than his relationship with Clara. The reporter, BECKY, becomes the central antagonist of the story. Becky begins to dig up dirt on Clara to find every gritty detail of Clara’s so-called “moral” life. Becky even finds RICKY, Clara’s peer whom she has been having sex with on and off for almost two years. The friendship and love between Ricky and Clara is not fully revealed until the end of the story. But Ricky is the real love of Clara’s life, not Ben.
At the midpoint of the story, the sex tape between Ben and Clara surfaces on the internet and television.
At the all hope is lost moment, Clara’s school begins to scream at Clara during lunch about her hypocrisy, now that it is officially revealed that she is fraud. The scene becomes violent; Ricky steps in and pulls Clara away to safety from her angry peers. Ricky tells Clara that she should just own up to her actions and admit to her mistakes.
Clara visits the Miss Georgia Teen USA offices and apologizes for her actions. She realizes that her tuition to Tulane is off the table, but still wants to own up to what she believes is right. MISS TURNER, is angry that Clara was so irresponsible with such a big honor. Miss Turner asks Clara to read the article Becky published regarding high school sex. Clara is the star of the article. In return, Clara asks Miss Turner to come to graduation, as Clara knows that this is where she has to make it right.
The resolution to the story is at graduation. Since Clara is valedictorian, she is required to make a speech to her peers and their families. In this speech, Clara admits to her mistakes. She discusses how she lost her virginity at age sixteen with Ricky, not six months ago with Ben. Clara apologizes for advocating something that she did not fully believe in. In this moment, Clara is sincere; her hypocrisy is less than evident. But Clara finally admits that having a child at such a young age is not the worst thing that could have happened to her. Clara acknowledges that Jane did it, and Jane is the most sincere and honest person she knows. Clara aspires to be like Jane. Clara says that she plans on keeping the baby and attending Tulane. She implies—Why not have it all? The crowd gives Clara a standing ovation for owning up to her mistakes.