My Unscripted Life

By: Lauren Morrill

For Freddie, while you were sleeping





FADE IN:

EXT. QUAINT DOWNTOWN

The sun is high and hot in the cloudless sky. The air is thick, and the pavement seems to sizzle.

PAN DOWN TO:

EXT. COFFEE SHOP—DAY

DEE WILKIE is sitting at a table with her best friend, NAZANEEN PARAD, and she is sweating.

A lot.





“And thus begins the worst summer of my life.” I lean back, kick off my flip-flops underneath the table, and cross my ankles in the empty chair across from me. My thick curls are stuck to the back of my neck. It’s only the first day of summer break, still May, but it’s already impossibly steamy outside. A south Georgia summer feels sort of like living in an old man’s armpit for three months (four in a bad year).

“Don’t be overdramatic,” Nazaneen says, never taking her eyes off the baseball game streaming on her phone. The game is the reason we’re sitting outside on a day like today. Service is spotty from inside the old brick-and-plaster walls of the Coffee Cup, Wilder’s one and only coffeehouse (unless you count the Starbucks inside the Target, which I don’t).

Parking at a table at (or in front of, depending on the Mets’ schedule) the Coffee Cup has been part of our summer routine since freshman year, when our parents finally started letting us bike downtown by ourselves. I would sketch while Naz watched Mets games or read recaps or compiled stats, and we’d munch stale pastries and suck down oversugared coffee drinks. But today my sketchbook is lying unopened on the table, a pencil tucked into the elastic band holding the covers shut. I’m carrying it around now mostly out of habit. I haven’t felt much like drawing lately, not since I got my rejection letter. But I don’t really know what to do with myself without a pencil in my hand. My fingers feel twitchy, and I can’t stop fidgeting in my chair. I sketch like some people bite their nails or crack their knuckles. It’s a physical impulse, and though I feel miles away from any real desire to do it, my body hasn’t quite caught up.

When Nazaneen’s game goes to commercial, she curses the Mets for being down four runs, then glances up at me. “Your summer is going to be fine,” she says. She reaches for her iced double-shot mocha and takes a long sip.

“How is that humanly possible? I have no plans and no best friend, and I’m faced with the prospect of no future,” I say. I grimace at the whine that’s creeping into my voice, but I can’t help it. I wad up my straw wrapper and flick it at her, then give her the most sarcastic double-thumbs-up I can muster. “Yay! Hooray! Best summer ever!”

Nazaneen rolls her eyes. “You should have applied to the drama department.”

“No, I shouldn’t have applied at all and saved myself the rejection,” I say. In one week, Naz is leaving for Savannah to spend her summer in the Georgia Governor’s Honors School program for STEM. And in one week, I will not be going with her to the Governor’s Honors Fine Arts program. Hence, no best friend and no summer plans. I let myself imagine what my summer would be like if I hadn’t been rejected. If I were still living in ignorant bliss that I could cut it as an artist instead of sitting here feeling like a big fish stuck swimming in my teeny, tiny pond. But that future has been so thoroughly obliterated that I can barely conjure it anymore. All I see is eight weeks of sitting at this table, alone, sweating and sucking down iced caffeine so I don’t die from boredom or heat stroke.

There’s also the chance that I’ll be spending the summer filing transcripts at the Wilder College admissions office, a job my dad assures me won’t be completely mind-numbing, or feeling my butt calcify in an SAT prep class (that one was all my mother). My parents acted like these were suitable alternatives to GHP. I couldn’t tell if they seriously believed it or were just putting on happy faces for me. Either way, neither one is how I want to spend my summer.

“What you need is a distraction,” Naz says.

“Truer words…,” I reply, but before she can offer up any suggestions, someone on her screen does something big and great, and she’s fist-pumping and bouncing in her chair. I’ve lost her until the next commercial break.

A car pulls up to the stoplight in front of the cafe and screeches to a halt. It’s a shiny black compact sports car, and right away I know the driver isn’t from around here. First of all, it’s about eleventy bajillion degrees outside, and the top of the convertible is up. (Unless it’s raining, this is a top-down kind of town.) And when the driver whips into a parallel spot directly in front of our sidewalk table, I know it for sure. Wilder residents have many skills, but parallel parking is not one of them, which is why there are always so many empty spots along Poplar Street downtown.