Things Are Different Nowhttps://i0.wp.com/barrenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/SIC_Jacelyn-08.jpg?fit=1024%2C768&ssl=11024768Meredith BuschMeredith Buschhttps://secure.gravatar.com/avatar/959768be02702974759db9f3b39fd853?s=96&d=mm&r=g
We’re excited to name our Flash CNF Editor’s Pick for Issue 22 because this is the writer’s first-ever publication. (Hard to believe!) Seventeen-year-old high school senior, Meredith Busch, brings a depth and maturity to her writing that impressed all of us. We’re honored to help her reach an audience, with her piece “Things Are Different Now.”
— Ann Kathryn Kelly, Flash CNF Editor
(Content Warning: Suicide)
Maybe you grew up on the humid summer day of your aunt’s wedding, when the photographer asked if you’re your brother’s girlfriend, wondering if you belong in the family picture. Your brother is eight years older than you and doesn’t resemble this side of the family. You are seventeen, and no one is surprised but you.
Maybe you grew up when the slick waiter at that Italian restaurant in New York City served you a shot of limoncello, along with the adults. At that time, you still had four more years until you could legally drink it, but when you made incredulous eye contact with him he smiled serenely. Maybe you grew up when you sipped it, just for fun, but maybe not when you spit it back out again.
Maybe you grew up when a girl from your Quiz Bowl team drove head first into oncoming traffic late one April evening, after theater rehearsal. You found a video recently on your phone where she is glancing up from a book and making a peace sign on the way to a tournament. Your team didn’t make it past round one of that competition. She liked lace-up black boots, the show Avatar: The Last Airbender, and operas. Maybe you grew up a little when someone told you that she may have had a history with substances, and that it might not have been an accident. You didn’t go to her funeral because you were at a different school then and it would have been during classes. Maybe you grew up, a little, when you made excuses for why you couldn’t go.
Maybe you grew up that Friday night in November on the way to pick up Thai food and your mom gave you the news about your father. Or maybe you grew up driving home from school that sunny day in April a year earlier, your green and navy Catholic school skirt spread across your thighs as you struggled to speak of that thing you had felt guilty about for five years. It took you more than a fifteen-minute ride home. Your mom drove around for more than an hour as you tried to get it out of the hole in your chest it had claimed, but you got out of the car finally: sweaty, red-eyed, and a little lighter. Maybe you grew up then.
Maybe you grew up those nights you poured Tito’s vodka into the drain and maneuvered the dribble of water from the faucet into that clear glass neck to take its place. Or when you thought you lost your great-grandmother’s bracelet when you wore it to school. Maybe you grew up when you chased after the car that was taking your dog to get euthanized because you realized you weren’t ready to live with more regret, of any kind, not yet. Or when you realized that the boy who called you bigfoot or the girl who said you looked like a boy in a picture were being mean, maybe even intentionally. Or when you heard a childhood friend talk about the things she did with her boyfriend when his parents weren’t home. Or when you went into the pediatrician’s office alone, without your father. Maybe you grew up while being rolled on a hospital bed into the operating room. You looked up at your mother to let her know how scared you were, how bad the IV hurt in your hand, but you didn’t end up saying anything at all.
Maybe you’ve grown up a little just now, this instant, sitting low in a gray swivel chair, tapping into your pink laptop the things that made you understand that things—all of it—are different now. Maybe they’ve always been different, but you’re finally old enough to recognize it. Or perhaps you’ll never be able to see it, not all of it, clearly. Maybe you don’t know that yet.