What They Don’t Tell You about Leaving

By Sarah Grunder

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1. There is no off-season for purchasing tickets to and from South Florida. Your
mother will suggest you pay with your credit card and that she will reimburse you.
Sometimes she does, and sometimes she doesn’t. You always get seated next to
chatty President Taft look-alikes. You imagine them naked and stuck in bathtubs.

2. You don’t realize how easy it is to leave your friends, until the weekly phone calls
become monthly liked Facebook statuses.

3. In college, you will try singing for the first time. You find that you are a decent
singer. You never get any leads in the musicals, but you don’t care much for weeks
of long rehearsals, anyway, and so you enroll in a musical theater course. You will
send your high school sweetheart a video of your first recital. When you ask him
how he liked it, he will say that he’d been busy and it’d slipped his mind. When he
does eventually watch it—two reminders later—he will ask why you didn’t sing
something like Adele or Amy Winehouse. I already told you, you will say, it’s
theater. After a while, you can’t tell the difference between being on
and off stage.

4. You will meet the love of your life. He is not your high school sweetheart.

5. You will discover that you don’t like everybody. In fact, you don’t like most
people. You make a list of all the people you like. There are sixteen. You decide
that this is good enough for you, until you realize that you have forgotten your
high school sweetheart. You can’t shake the feeling that your insides have been
folded into dark matter. The shapes are coarse and monstrous, perversions of the
delicate origami cranes and flowers you’d learned to make in third grade.

6. Living in the city will help you to overcome your irrational fear of extraterrestrials.
Your dad insisted on watching documentaries on alien abductions when you were a
kid. You would sit next to him in the living room, plugged into a CD player, because
you were too afraid to listen, but just as afraid to be alone at the far end of the house.
No matter how much you’d plead, he would never turn off the TV. It doesn’t get as
dark in the city as it does back home. The constant light gives the impression of
impenetrability to alien attacks. You wonder if your dad’s new girlfriend is afraid of
aliens. Your mother never was, and it seems as if your dad is looking for everything
your mother isn’t.

7. You will trek out to a PetCo one day during a blizzard. You and the love of your life,
who is not your high school sweetheart, will buy a guinea pig. You think a pet will
help alleviate your anxiety. You will disguise him as a birthday present to sneak him
past the RAs. The guinea pig dies three days later. You will hold an illegal guinea-pig
funeral one night near the river. You bury him in an empty Planters can and have to
dig through the ice with a fork. This only makes you more anxious.

8. You will take a class in International Relations with the intention of becoming a
journalist. As hard as you try, you find that you don’t understand or care for politics.
You will change your major to English Literature. You struggle against, and finally
succumb to, becoming a fiction writer. Your dad is disappointed. He wonders why
smart students waste their talents writing fiction.

9. Your dadwon’t call you, except for that time he meant to call your mother and rang
you on accident. Whenever you are visiting home, he will ask you when you are moving
back. You tell him never. He tells you that you shouldn’t live so far away. You want to
say that it wouldn’t make a difference, that he doesn’t talk to you any more when you are
home than when you’re not. Instead you say, “Florida’s bad for writing.”

10. Your mother will remind you that your brother is working full-time and going to
school. You will remind her that your brother doesn’t have a scholarship. She will
remind you that she went to college, worked, and had two children. You will remind
yourself that you are neither your brother nor your mother. You will, however, bump
up your hours at work.

11. You will look through your high school yearbook and wonder about the girl in the
picture over your name. You look at the bad but daring haircut. At the boldly framed
glasses. You wonder what happened to her. This is not a sad or happy reflection. It is
just a reflection.

12. You will begin to make lists. You will list all of your menstrual cycles after your
doctor says that something is wrong. You will begin to list the food you eat after you
gain twenty pounds. You will list things you like and dislike about your high school
sweetheart after he suggests that you are not eating enough. You will make daily to-do
lists that you can never finish. You will hide or destroy all of these lists.



15. You will find that there are some things you can’t articulate, even on your lists.
You will leave them as empty spaces, which is what they are, numerable but beyond

Sarah Grunder