The truth is I knew it all along. Or, at least I wish I did. The way the buildings seemed to sway with the wind that day was an obvious sign of it. And the fact that we had to put our winter coats on—or should’ve—on June eighteenth, the second-to-last day of school, because of a hail storm threatening to cover the city should’ve told me and my mother that this summer was going to be different.
And the truth is I wanted to move. I couldn’t wait, actually. Now, before you call me antisocial, I had reason. Okay, so what? I was going into my freshman year of high school in September. Of course, that was the worst time for a kid to move. “I’ll lose all my friends”, “get lost in a new school”. But here’s the thing: all that mattered for girls my age was how high-quality your phone was and how to crop photos and get followers on Instagram. And I tried, trust me. I tried to get into the whole “does this filter make my eyes look pretty?” and the “how long will it take for me to straighten my hair if I dump a bunch of product in it?” I had my opinion, and it was that the whole “trying to act like I have no care in the world except for my profile picture” was a complete waste of time. I thought that if we looked a hundred years into the past and our long lost relatives knew our generation was what Albert Einstein called “the generation of idiots”, it would be a little humiliating.
I joined the rat-race to the subway station that was conveniently planted right next to my junior high school. The thing I liked about riding the subway with a few kids from my school was everyone blended in, including me, even when I wasn’t walking with anyone. I’m not gonna tell you that I was a complete loner, because I wasn’t. I just had certain friends, I was a little picky. My mother always had said that the reason I didn’t have many friends was because I didn’t give anyone a chance. I didn’t like to think of it that way. The reason why I “didn’t give anyone a chance” was because I didn’t want to get involved with and turn into someone who “had no care in the world except for their profile picture”, in New York at least. These days, everyone, (yes, including me), had some form of social media, but I felt like a fifty-year-old who saw the brainwashing monster in a computer.
I watched all the pretty girls walk ahead of me down the rusty stairs, pushing me aside from there line of expensive, designer backpacks as if I wasn’t there.
I rolled my eyes and shook it off.
Wow, I couldn’t wait to move. I didn’t care if I was gonna miss the celebration of the last day of school. I just wanted to get out of there. I had to admit, the cold truth of today was, the girls in Maine weren’t going to be much different than the ones in New York. However, I was going to be that new face in the crowd that everyone was interested in. I would make some new friends. I would be at a sleepover every weekend, and would spend time at breezy beach somewhere. If it was really worth it, I would learn how to crop photos on Instagram. Everyone would like me, and I would finally fit in. I wouldn’t be that awkward girl that wouldn’t say much when her friends tried to introduce her to someone new. I wouldn’t be afraid to participate in gym. It would be like the past six months never happened.
While being lost in my train of thought, something smacked me in the arm. My head jerked behind me, expecting to have been hit by a football thrown by a boy who attempted to play catch, but tapped me in the arm instead. But it was just Emily, my closest friend who always wanted me to be friends with her friends. “Hey Cora, what’s up?” Her face was its usual, bubbly self. Her long black curls were pulled back by a headband. She asked “what’s up” like she didn’t already know.
I pretended I had to think about my reply as I slid my Metro Card through the entry machine. “Oh, nothing. Waiting for the subway. You?” I gave her a little nudge to let her know my sarcastic voice was a joke. She was one person I would miss while moving so far away.
“Same,” she replied as though we were carrying on a perfectly casual conversation. After a few seconds of silence, she continued. “Hey, listen. I just wanted to say good luck in Maine. I’m going to miss you a lot. I hope you have a good life ever since...” she hesitated, unsure to bring up the subject, “...you know.” She was glancing down, purposely kicking puddles on the concrete and getting her flats all wet, which, I guessed, weren’t water proof.
Once through the gate, I stopped walking and gave her a quick hug, even though she had to bring up the “ever since” part of the conversation. “I’m gonna miss you too. Have a nice summer and good luck with freshman year.” I kept the cheeriness in my voice to keep this moment from getting too sappy, as it was the most unusual thing to have a serious conversation with her.
A comforting grin crept on her face, and she kept it there for a few seconds. We walked around to a wooden bench until a group of cute boys called for her. She peeked at me over her shoulder to make sure it was okay for her to walk with them.
I nodded and smiled, watching her run to catch up to go to the front of the train with them until I lost interest. That’s what I always loved about her; she was such a flirt. She knew exactly what to say to a boy and how to say it. At least a half of the boys in our grade liked her, but she quickly rejected them. It was quite comical, actually.
Once the subway flew through the tracks in arrival, I squeezed in the middle of the train to an empty seat next to a business woman and a man who appeared to be sleeping. I hoped no one would bother me. I didn’t want to start ranting to them about my mixed feelings about moving so far away. That was a perk of living in New York City though; you could be with fifty people in a subway car and be alone, because no one even glanced in your direction if they didn’t know you. We all had own destinations. I had mine. And I wanted to be in Maine already. I wanted to see the spooky tourist’s motels and the rocky beaches and the non-stop rain. Well, according to my mother, it would rain a lot less than I expected. Apparently, up there, they get the extreme conditions of each season and enough precipitation to drive a man insane. And lobster.
The town I was moving to was called Bolton. It was a tiny little thing in between Ellsworth and Bar Harbor. We had a beach less than ten miles away from our new house, and a fun little village full of old antique stores, coffee shops, and a hardware store.
When the train arrived on Eighty-Sixth Street, I hopped off and ran up the stairs to the sidewalk, rushing into my apartment. It was funny looking at it. Being in New York, my living space was a shoe box—two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room—all crammed onto one floor. Small as it was, it seemed too big for two people. I’d think I would’ve been happy with some elbow room, but I hated it. My father died in a car accident six months before, leaving a dark shadow that clung over the entire block.
I sprinted up to the apartment, dropping that thought. I slammed the door, allowing myself to look up slowly. All our family memories in our framed pictures were gone, and so were all of our belongings, packed away in boxes, their light taken away from them. I glanced out the window to see dark clouds painting the sky off the fifth story of the complex, blocking the sun. I was moving to Maine. Maine: the northeastern most state in the U.S. But I still walked to my mother’s room, preventing myself from thinking anymore of it. This was a good thing, right?
In my mother’s room, I looked from wall to wall, my brain automatically expecting there to be something more. But it was nothing but a room now. There was no longer my parents’ wedding photo, no longer a bed against the wall. It was like we were never here. I saw my mother packing boxes. She looked like the adult version of me, same brown hair, same blue eyes, but I had my dad’s pale skin. I turned to her. I don’t think she even noticed I was there. “Mom?”
She whisked her head up. “Cora?” she asked, startled. I could see by the redness in her eyes that she had been crying. There was plenty of that lately. “Hi, honey. How was your last day of school?“—now of course, my last day of school was everyone’s second-to-last-day of school; while tomorrow was my long day of sitting in the back of a car, watching the world transition to the top of the United States, Maine. It was all going to be worth it in the end. I hoped.
“Yeah, um, it was okay,” I said like every other day, like every other kid uninterested in starting a conversation with their parent.
Wanting to escape the awkward conversation of feelings and all that fun stuff, I slowly glided to my room.
But then I caught myself. It wasn’t my room anymore: it was someone else’s who aspired to rent an apartment in the city. But I’d grown up here. I had memories of Christmas mornings, birthdays, and family dinners—years’ worth. I’d say it wasn’t fair, but it was how things worked, I guessed.
The room was empty, except for some boxes and a deflating air mattress for me to sleep on for the night. I looked out the window again. The U-HAUL trucks were parked against the sidewalks, ready for tomorrow.
* * *
I woke early the next morning, awaken by a rather bad dream that I couldn’t remember. I had those every once in a while, not sure what I dreamed of, just woken and frightened. The dreams were like I was having a forbidden memory, so forbidden that even I wasn’t allowed to know about it, but it was allowed to scare me to death. I woke in time for the moving. I dumped some clothes on and jumped in the car, cuddling a blanket in the passenger seat as Mom drove.
I slept of blank dreams most of the way, as it was four in the morning when we left. The time I spent awake was the time I spent glaring out the window watching raindrops chase each other down the window, listening to the radio and getting a little too lost in the words. I watched the weather change as we headed north.
Mom opened the window as the highway breeze rushed through her hair. My nose filled with the smell of ocean, seafood, and rain. It was a damp, yet beautiful smell. “Smell that, Cora?” Mom asked, “That is the smell of Maine.”
And then I was home.