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  • Olivia Stanzl

Puzzle Pieces

I finish putting on my mascara, take a step back, and look at myself in the mirror. Bubbles of excitement rush to the top of my stomach when I think about the night ahead.

I smile at my reflection, but can see the nervousness peak through. “Everything's gonna be fine,” I tell myself, “you’re gonna have a great night”.

When I get to Scott's house I realize I’m not the only one skeptical of what's to come. It’s like I can taste the off vibes in the air, or maybe that was just the ever-present air pollution.

Me, Mckenna, and Scott sit around the outdoor patio picnic table and munch on Doritos and gummy bears. “I can’t believe we’re leaving in a week”, Scott says daydreamingly as he brings a gummy bear to his mouth.

“Oh Scotty you're going to go to college and get a girlfriend and forget all about us,” I joke out. With that, Rose comes in with a wide smile and Patrick follows behind her with a container of cookies. They join in the conversation, but awkward tension fills the room as everyone thinks the same thought, will Rose and Patrick date throughout college?

Five minutes later Francis, Alexis, and April walk in whispering to one another, James and Leo slowly walk in droopy and dragging their feet, looking tired as ever, and then in comes Michael. Pushing up his freshly gelled hair and completely avoiding eye contact with me.

It’s kind of funny to think about how much we’ve all been together these past 4 years, it’s even funnier to think about the fact that we’re all still willing to be together.

The guys go to play spike ball and the air instantly stills between the girls- all of us glued to our seats around the table.

We spend the next half hour or so asking each other generic questions on move-in days and dining halls and girls met through facebook college pages.

And it was good, it just wasn't the same? I mean I was sitting with the girls who got me through my first heartbreak. The girls who helped me wipe up my chair when I bled through my pants freshman year of high school. The girls who I'd gone on summer vacations and spent holidays with. The girls who I thought would be in my life forever. A constant. But now they were just question marks in the story of my life.

Every time we’d have these conversations before we’d end our sentences with “I’m going to miss you so much” or “we’re going to facetime at least once a week” or “ I can come visit you on my fall break or Halloween” or “ we’re only 1 hour and 45 minutes apart”!

But tonight every exclamation of excitement for our future ended in periods. Finality. A knowing goodbye.

I reach my arm into my bag and dig around for a piece of gum. My hand knocks into something heavy and hard which takes me a second to realize I brought my polaroid camera. I lift it out and a big smile creeps onto my face. I realized we hadn't taken a picture all night.

For the last time ever we crammed ourselves back together putting together the picture that was the six hometown best friends

The night neared its end and we all started to leave. On the car ride home I opened my sunroof and looked up at the black sky and impossibly bright stars. I couldn't help but smile as I thought of our favorite thing to do at sleepovers: ”hot tub talks”.

Once the nights came and we were full and ready to wind down we’d slip into our bathing suits and sit in the hot tub, each going in their set seat. And then we’d talk. For hours. Completely unfiltered and utterly full by the feeling of good company and the knowing that there was absolutely no need to edit ourselves.

In these moments we were free to think, say or speak anything we felt and we knew we wouldn't be judged or critiqued.

I think I'll chase that feeling of wholeness for the rest of my life.

I remember being freshmen in high school talking about college and life beyond: what jobs we wanted, what we saw each other as being, where we’d end up going, where we would end up having a family, its funny, I think at that time all of us said we’d end up right back in our hometowns. We said our kids would grow up together and be best friends and maybe even fall in love with each other. We pieced together this whole beautiful puzzle not knowing our puzzle is not 1 but 6.

Each of us have our own stories, our own paths, and along the way we have to find the pieces to complete it. In people, in places, in foods, in songs, poetry, animals, sunrises and sunsets, strangers, and ice cream cones.

Graduating high school is the first time I really understood this individuality. It's shockingly beautiful.

Before I knew it, I was home. My thoughts completely consumed my mind and I couldn't recall how I got from Scott's to home, but I did. As I turned my keys out of the ignition and grabbed my purse I did a double-take. The polaroid we took earlier lay on the passenger seat. I picked it up and smiled, got out of my car, and went to bed.

That picture would be the last of us. The last momentum of the puzzle pieces we’ve collected. And that's okay.


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