The Stranger Across the Street – Creative Non-Fiction Piece

Hey fellowers, this was an emotional piece for me to write. I would like specific feedback if you read it. I want you to read it and then read what I want feedback on so your opinions aren’t biased, so the feedback points are belong the essay.

It’s amazing to think about all the little things that can remind you of someone. A place. A song. A smell. A shirt. The shape of a nose. So many little pieces encompass a person and you really don’t notice them all until that person is gone. At the time the person is around, you think you take in all that he or she is, when in reality, you take a lot for granted. Also, some things become so commonplace, like the smell of a house, that you don’t notice it anymore. It’s amazing how fast those things come back when the familiar becomes a memory and the once known is now foreign. Those little pieces that make a person you know—well knew, suddenly spring up on you in many ways when you’re least expecting it.
It was so many years ago, 17 to be exact, and I still remember when I first met Ryan. He was 5 and I was 4 the first time I moved onto our street. Ryan’s family had been there before Ryan was even born, so we were the new family on the block. His family wanted to make us feel welcome and his mom approached my dad one day as he was outside with me as I played in the front yard. Ryan was on a red scooter. The adults exchanged names and Ryan introduced himself. I was far too shy at this point, causing my dad to have to introduce me. The memory fades out after that, but after almost two decades, I’m surprised I remember that much.
As the years went on, I remember the waves that Ryan and my friendship took. At first, we became pretty close. In my early years, as both my parents worked, I was babysat by my grandparents in a town about twenty minutes from our street. There were times I came home to little scribbled notes in my mailbox from Ryan that read, “Holly, I miss you so much.” There was also always a hand drawn picture that was cut up to make a puzzle that I was supposed to make. Around age eight, Ryan found girls gross and I was cast out. As cliché as it is, I remember being told, loudly, “NO GIRLS ALLOWED,” when I asked to join in when Ryan and the other boys on the street were playing in a fort.
When I started middle school, Ryan’s mom offered to drive me to street so my mom didn’t want to take the trip since Ryan had been attending the school for a year and she’d have to make the trip anyway. Ryan and I picked up our friendship again. This time, we became even closer than before. Soon my friends and his friends became one in the same. There was nothing I couldn’t tell Ryan, he was my best friend, my number one. One of my favorite memories is lying on his front porch, looking up at the stars, and just talking for hours. There are few people in life that you just connect with so easily and to find that was special and something I’d thought I’d never lose.
It’s too hard to explain because there is so much complexity to the issue and emotions involved; however, I will always remember the date, January 5, 2009, the day Ryan and my friendship ended. Ten days later, my grandfather died on my sixteenth birthday when I was at his house celebrating the day. I was so torn apart from these two losses in my life that I literally left into a depression where I wouldn’t leave my room except to go to school or at meals. There were times were times Ryan tried to talk things out, but I couldn’t be reached. I was too hurt and didn’t want to deal with it.
Ryan still lives on my street and I see him from time to time. In the beginning, the sighting brought hate and even tears. The emotional and mental anguish of what I blamed Ryan for was too much to handle. Now, seeing him brings regret. There are times I just want to reach out and say hi or even leave a note in his mailbox, but I know he’s moved on. My feelings of longing are one-sided. The most communication I’ve had with my former best friend is when I pull out of my driveway and he’s coming down the road. I stop my car and wave him on. That is all the communication we’ve had for almost 6 years. I’ll never know what would happen if I would have taken the time to talk to him when he wanted to reconcile and that is a guilt I’ve carried with me. All I know now is when I am in the car and a Rush song plays or I see a guy with the same thin frame and tousled dark hair, I think of Ryan. I doubt he ever thinks of me in the same way.

Thanks for reading my essay. I hope it wasn’t too annoying or depressing. This story has been begging to be written, but it is really hard for me to think about this topic since it still brings a lot of baggage with it.

Feedback Wanted:
– Is it not worth writing since I left out the conflict that caused the end of our friendship? To be honest, I did it because it is a really long story and all my point of view, none of Ryan’s since we never talked about it.
– Did this seem like an emo girl’s journal entry and did I play the victim?
– What did you think the point of the essay is? I know what I want it to say, but I’m curious if it comes through.
– Any other feedback you’d want to tell me.

My First Attempt at a Creative Non-Fiction Piece

I stare at the glowing green numbers of the digital clock in the darkness of my room. “3:08 a.m.,” they read. I let out an annoyed groan. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so irritable if it weren’t the wee hours of the morning and I didn’t have only three more hours until I had to start my day. Damn insomnia. If I’m not going to get any sleep, I might as well not waste the time. I get up, turn the light on, grab a book off my shelf, and fall back into bed. As I’m turning the pages of the novel, from the corner of my eye, I see my reflection and a thought hits me. Turning over and looking directly into the full-length mirror doors that cover my closet, I say out loud softly into the silence, “Who am I?” This is the heavy question that my Creative Writing professor had asked us to think about for next class. I look around my purple painted room and examine all the posters on the walls. Most of them depict the rock band My Chemical Romance because in the eighth grade, when I first obtained my “own” room, I was extremely into the band and plastered my walls with their faces.  Through the years, even though my interests have changed; I haven’t altered my room in any way. It is almost as if I keep it as a memento of happier times.
            I close my eyes and think about high school, when everything seemed clear. I was the classic school spirited nerd at South Amboy High School. I was in both the National Honor and National Art Honor Societies and served council positions on each. I was also in several clubs like Yearbook and Peer Leadership, all while being captain of the Girls’ Varsity Bowling Team. If he or she grouped those accomplishments with a close knit collection of friends and teachers that I had meaningful connections with, one could say I had a pretty great high school experience.
            The idyllic memories are short lived because immediately, my muscles tense up and I squint my eyes shut even tighter as I try to silence the anxious thoughts that are rising in my brain. Despite my efforts, I am soon thinking of the time period after graduation in 2011, when I started my first semester at Kean University the following fall.   
            During this time, academics became the forefront of everything in my life. Gone were the days of staying at school late to host a club event or even hanging out with my friends in the afternoons. School became my everything. I would spend long, arduous hours in the library, just me and my books. I went from being a very involved member of my academic setting to being a lonely hermit, with the sole obsession of getting the highest grade in all my classes. Although my 4.0 GPA was impressive for someone who graduated a mere nineteenth in a class of seventy-three students, I was not enjoying the college experience at all.
            My breath starts to quicken, and I can feel my heart pounding against my chest. “No, no. Please don’t,” I plead with my mind. I don’t want to think of the next part. If I let it start, I’ll never get to sleep! Just as they usually do, my thoughts overpower me, and I think of the Spring of 2012, a turning point for me.
            That semester, everything became too much for me to handle. Being alone most of the time and holding such strict standards to live up to worn on me mentally and emotionally. I experienced anxiety attacks, had trouble sleeping, and would cry every day without fail. My family and friends were obviously very concerned. With their support, I slowly started to alter my ways and found a light at the end of the tunnel. That comforting thought, that I was able to escape my ominous raincloud of an existence, allows me to take a sigh of relief. Despite it being months since I was in my darkest depression, it is still hard for me to think I let myself get that low.
            Forcing away any further negative thoughts, I bring myself to the present, my third year of college. This semester, I came to terms with the idea that I did not want to be an education major. I have now switched over to the English-Writing Option degree, which is where I feel most at home. Although I’m not sure what career I want to pursue after graduation, I think this is where I need to be. I’m in the process of trying to plan my life, after I earn my Bachelor’s degree, but I am also trying to do it without turning into a ball of mush whose only future is that of a padded room.
            I open my eyes and look at my reflection again. “Who am I,” the question presses. On the surface, I am a semester behind sophomore, caught between this and being a junior. I am also a Roman Catholic, photographer, writer, and rock music fan, but is that really all I am? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure “me” out. In the years leading up to college, I thought I would have it all worked out by this point, but I don’t. In fact, I’m more confused than ever! I laugh at myself because I never seem to have things right. I almost start another set of connecting thoughts when the allure of slumber finally comes. I guess the question of “Who am I?” must be saved for another time, when I am actually conscious of what I’m thinking. I feel my eyelids get heavier and heavier as I drift off.