Dr. Valedictorian in Chief

Early this morning, I checked the calendar and saw that 

there are fewer months remaining of my teenage dirtbag years
than there are months until next Halloween. 

I still remember your costume from that one year: an angel with a shotgun.

Do you still remember that Halloween? The whole city turned orange and black. You wanted to go out, and I told you I needed to stay in. 

You chose to stay in with me, made the bed, and told me that college isn’t all about becoming

Dr. Valedictorian in chief. I told you that I needed to win, and you told me that it’s going to be okay. You got us takeout and put on The Scientist

in the background, watching me break down over what it took to 

become Dr. Valedictorian in chief. 

I never told you, but I didn’t want you to leave that night. I wanted you to 

stay with me, and I wanted to feel you forever as I kept on pushing for 

Dr. Valedictorian in chief, thinking I could have both at the same time.

This afternoon, I checked the calendar and sighed, because

there are only a few months remaining of 19, and it’s been six long ones 

since I last saw you in September. 

19 is quickly skiing away, and 

I feel like I need to do something incredible. Nebulous. Planetary. 

Something out of this world, Something 20, 

Something 21 and 22 and 23, something 100,

something more than 19. Bigger, bolder, better than 19. Something like 
Dr. Valedictorian in chief.

I’m writing my articles and I’m studying my exam questions and I’m working

three jobs and when I’m tired, I pull out my phone and 

look at my favorite old picture of us. It’s the one of us in each other’s shirts, except my tee looks like a crop top on you. I put on my headphones, I find my favorite song,

and I drown myself between the notes, wondering if leaving you was a mistake. I wonder if you 

knew that I never stopped liking you. I take a nap, and then I take the bus to go to class, but the road feels a little calmer today. The road is beautiful, and the sky looks pretty in its pink-blue lace. 

This evening, I checked the calendar and smiled, because

there are fewer months remaining of my teenage dirtbag years than months

until your father’s birthday. I remember it like I remember my biology facts and like 

I remember every small detail about you. Today, I’m so close to 20 that it’s terrifying. 

I’m so close to Dr. Valedictorian in chief that it’s exhilarating. 

I’m so close to winning, and it’s making my heart pound. Have you ever heard the sound of a heart pounding before? It sounds like the ocean taking super deep breaths, one after the other after another. The sky is getting ready to rain down its love on me, but the love I send back in evaporation isn’t quite enough. 

Tonight, I checked the calendar and cried, 

Because February is about to end, and I don’t know if I can make it to March. It feels like the closer I am to 20, the further I seem to be from you. I light a black candle in my dorm room, and watch it burn until the air smells like pumpkin pie. It's a fire hazard, but I don’t care. 

I’m so unpredictable that it’s dangerous. I’m so happy that it’s fake.

I’m so sad, and it’s worldstopping. I feel like the higher I go, the 

smaller I become. I think it’s time to sleep, but I can’t. I can’t sleep tonight. 

I can’t sleep tonight, and I’m trying to remember what you told me during

those nights I couldn’t fall asleep. We were just two kids calling each other, 

lying on opposite sides of campus, pretending that our pillows were skin,

but I remember it all. You told me that going for a run

is the best way to clean a mind, and tonight, I want to try it out. 

I’m going for a run.

I have my tennis shoes on. My headphones are off. 

I’m swinging open these steel cold Davenport gates, black

and shiny in this wet warm winter that doesn’t make any sense. The February night gust

hits me like a mother’s tough love, but I have somewhere to go. Words to say. Feelings to feel. 

I’ve got someone I need to say hi to and someone to apologize to.

So I’m going to run past Morse & Stiles and that long stretch between

HQ and Schwarzman, thinking that this college is my runway.

I want to dash into the part of the night where no one dares go into.

I’m running home to 

20, and I think I’ve made my choice. I’ve planned out my 

route and my detours, and 

I’ve mapped out my cardiology, too. 

I’ve mapped it all out, and I want you to wait 

for me at that spot where the trees cave in just enough 

for the branches to wrap around us. 

I want you, 

and only you, to be there when my lungs 

run out of oxygen. I 

want you to catch me when I fall from 

the exhaustion of my constant motion, 

and I want you to fill me in

with all the pretty and ugly things of you. I want you to 

pull me in by the collar and stroke me on the neck

and look me in the eyes until I break. I want you to

shut up because I’m nervous. I don’t like people seeing me cry, but

I want you to lean in anyway and I want us to stop time.

I want to tell you

that I’m choosing you and I’m leaving 

Dr. Valedictorian in chief behind. I don’t want to be him anymore.

I don’t want to be him anymore. Usually, I don't like to see you running in the cold, but I have to find you tonight. 

And so I run. I run and I rehearse our scenario in my mind until it hurts. And finally, there you are. Gray shirt and navy blue plants, illuminated in between bursts of New Year firecrackers in a night so beautiful and young. In the far distance ahead of me, I see you, an apparition that becomes two. The two people before me lean on each other, and through the tiny crack between their perfectly heart-shaped lips, a beam of moonlight pierces through, revealing my teeth. I am smiling, and I am finally happy. This is actually my life. This is the life 

I live. Always wanted to be Dr. Valedictorian in chief so the entire world could see, but tonight,

you’re all I see in this little universe of ours and the sight of you is enough to make me burst 

into an applause of a million butterflies, 

so orange and so black and so silent and so March. I made it to March, and I'm going to
make it to April, May, June, and July. I won.

I made it to 20.