Nova Ren Suma is doing this really amazing series as part of her promotion for 17 & Gone, and she's opened it up to anyone who is interested in taking part. It's called haunted at 17, and the premise is what it sounds like: the thing (or things) that haunted you at 17.
I'm sharing this post today in anticipation of tomorrow's review of the book -- and spoiler, I loved it.
This is among the scariest stories of my life, the thing that haunted me at 17. That I can still access it, still revisit it whenever I want to, is part of why I want to take part in this and share it all together.
|Me (middle), at 17, one of the best summers of my life.|
I was 16, he was 15, and both of us were writing things. Lots of things. Poetry. Political debate pieces. Speeches. Short stories.
He lived in Pennsylvania. I lived in Illinois.
It was March 15, 2001.
This is a post about the thing that haunted me at 17, not the thing that happened when I was 16, but the thing that happened at 16 is the thing that caused me to write things like this in my Livejournal at 17. The Livejournal that, today, I still can find on the internet. That I can read through and remember what it felt like -- really felt like -- to write things like this:
At 17, I asked for phone cards for my birthday, for Christmas, for any occasion meriting a gift. I signed up for every single one of those "freebies" websites that exist where I could exchange my post office box number for a 5 minute free phone card. I snatched free minutes I could -- when my family wasn't home -- to use our corded phone, my stashed phone cards, and I'd call him.
We could talk for three or four minutes. Enough to say things like, Hi, I care about you, We'll talk again soon, God it's great to hear your voice, Can't wait to talk to you again.
Every night, we'd stay up late on the internet. Share our words, both those we wrote because we liked to write and those which we wrote to one another. The ones where we shared our heaviest thoughts with one another.
At 17, I spent the summer away from home. I took a playwriting class out of state, at a University, where I had no one watching over me. Where there were no adults babysitting and hovering.
Where, when my roommate would hop in the shower on weekends, I'd call him and talk to him like any girl who has a boyfriend would do when she was away from him. Where my roommate and I could talk about how great it was to go out with a boy who just got you and who loved you for who you were at the level you were at (she'd been with her boyfriend for two and a half years, which was admirable for someone in high school).
What haunted me at 17 was knowing I had a boyfriend I met on the internet and only ever knew from the internet. Who I never told anyone about at school. Who I never told any of my family about, even though my mom had met her boyfriend the same exact way. Who I never knew if I'd ever really meet, if he ever would be the person I thought he was or the kind of person who could love me (because he, too, had to think to himself whether or not I was anything like I was when we talked late at night or even in those joy-filled phone calls).
But more than that: what do you do when your boyfriend lives that far away from you and you are older and you are planning college and that college choice isn't near him?
At 17, you're at the edge of being an adult. A fully-formed, free and independent human being who can make choices for yourself. But, when you're 17 and it's 2002 and no one knows you've got a boyfriend you met on the internet a year before, it's impossible to express the thoughts that haunt the back of your mind. Is it real? Can it last? What's the point when your life is going one way and you're not going to choose the course of your future based on a boy (because you listen to Tori Amos and Ani and you are a feminist and you are stubborn and determined, dammit).