The Art of Acceleration

by Diana C. Caporaso

Chapter One

Claire Keaton

There is only one time of day that I can feel anything resembling happiness. When I wake up in the morning, I am completely without anguish for a good few seconds or so before I remember that I'm not Jared's girlfriend anymore. This realization causes me to feel a horrible, crushing weight on my chest as if my body has just been disfigured by an oncoming collision.

It's yet another morning that I feel sorry to wake up. At least in my dreams, Jared and I are still together. I'm lying in bed, contemplating a next move, any sort of direction I can go, but it's too difficult. Too bad life doesn't come with a built-in GPS system.

It's not that I want to die. It's just that I really don't know what to do with myself. I don't want to live a life without him. I don't want to live a life that's different from how it was… it was so good. I want to live, but I can't have life the way it was and nothing I do can change it. So I can't seem to bring myself to do anything other than nothing.

Minutes or perhaps hours after waking, there's a soft knocking on the door. "Claire? Are you up yet?" Mom's voice sounds tentative, as if she's afraid of how I'll react to it. Will I start sobbing loudly again? Will I yell at her to go away? Or will I stare at my ceiling like a zombie? All three seem like a definite possibility at the moment.

I can hear the door opening. Mom pokes her head in the room, interrupting my infinity of emptiness. "Claire. Come on. You have to get up today. No more staying in bed. Come on."

After a few moments of silence, I am able to get the following words out of my mouth: "Why should I?"

"Well, let's see…" Mom stands next to my bed and crosses her arms. She has the appearance of a happy person: washed, neat, fresh-faced. "Could it be that it's your first day of COLLEGE!" she exclaims. It's a statement. She's right. But I still don't want to get out of bed. "We have to get going, get the car packed. I'm sure the campus is going to be a madhouse. It's a good thing we did all of our back to school and dorm room shopping before-"

"STOP IT," I shout before she can continue her sentence. "I don't want to go. Go away."

"This is your college education we're talking about! This is what's going to make you into the person you're going to be for the rest of your life! And you can't just throw it away just because some stupid boy-"

"He's not stupid!" I yell. "Why would I feel this terrible about losing him if he was stupid? Because that would make me pretty stupid too, then, wouldn't it? Is that what you think of me?

"Claire, honey…" she says, and kneels down on the floor so that she can look me in the eye. I can barely even see her, though, because mine are too wet.

"I can't handle it right now, Mom. I can't handle moving and meeting all those new people when I feel like this. I can't handle sitting through a class when all I can think about is…" My voice trails off because it's too painful for me to say out loud, but the evil thoughts plague my mind anyway. I'm not good enough for him. There's something wrong with me if he couldn't love me back. He wanted to- we were good together. He said it had nothing to do with me, that I'm amazing- but he just couldn't feel like he should be feeling after almost a year together.

He must be lying. All this bullshit- "It's not you, it's me." He was perfect. And I loved him with every ounce of my being. Everything I did was an effort to make him happy. But it wasn't enough. I wasn't enough. And that makes me hate myself.

It's almost like my mother can read all that's going on in my head just by looking at me. She can see that she's losing me again, that I'm regressing back to how bad it was that first night after he broke up with me. "I know it hurts now, and I'm sorry to hurt you. But if we keep going like this, it's just going to get worse down the road. And I can't do that to you."

The fact that he was so fucking nice about breaking up with me makes it that much harder for me to let him go. I seriously started having a panic attack right there on the sidewalk and he made me sit down on the curb.

"This is a good time for this. You're going upstate for school and I'll be working and going to college here. You know long distance never works."

"It does, sometimes. We can make it work."

"Honestly, Claire… I don't think we can. And I don't think I even want to try."

"What can I do? What can I do?" I asked. Begged.

"You're going to meet lots of new guys up there. You're not going to want to be stuck with me."

"I don't WANT anyone else. I just want you."

"I know, but Claire… I don't want to be tied down to a girl I'll hardly ever see. A girl who is going to be living on a college campus. I don't want to have to worry about what you're doing up there. We're young- I want you to be free and have fun up there."

"Fun?" I repeated. "FUN?" This guy was splintering, mutilating, destroying my heart and he mentions me having a good old time.

"I still care about you. Just not that way."

Just not that fucking WAY.

I hate myself. I hate myself. I hate myself.

"Claire…" I've almost forgotten that my mother is here. The memory of The Breakup is still so vivid in my mind. "Listen to me. You're lucky."

"Lucky?" Another one of those words that don't seem to fit the situation. In fact, it seems cruelly wrong.

"Yes. You have the opportunity to get out of here. Start over. Meet all these new people. Try new things. Distract yourself with class, and clubs, and sports, and parties. You get to go to COLLEGE. And I can't think of a better way to get over a breakup."

"I just don't know if I'm up to it… it's like… I just can't find the drive inside of me."

"Let me tell you something. There are two types of people in this world."

"Really, only two?" I say sarcastically.

"Shush. There are the type that sees the yellow light and stops, and then there are the type that sees the yellow light and speeds up to make it through before it stops them. Which type of person are you going to be?"

"I'm sure the car insurance guy would love hearing you ask me that."

"Claire. Baby. Do you think I had the same opportunity as you when your father left me? I had been with that man for almost twenty years, and one day he decides he'd rather be with that girl from his gym that's barely legal age. I would have given anything for a chance to get away from it all. I couldn't even dwell and cry about it in bed for weeks. I had to go to work. I had to take care of you. I had to keep going with what I had. But you're eighteen. You get to start fresh and that's why you are lucky. So get in there and find some strength and let's pack up that car, alright?"

I stare at her. I hate how she brought up dad- just when I thought it wasn't possible for me to feel any worse. But she's right. She's right.

"OK," Mom says, sensing she's made a little bit of progress. "One step at a time. I suggest brushing your teeth first. Yuck."

The way she says it- I can't even help it- I smile. I smile.

"There it is!" Mom says, catching the way the ends of my lips travel upward. "There she is. My Claire is coming back. Watch out, college- here comes Claire Keaton."

"Mom. Come on. Don't be lame." I push off the covers and sit up in bed. I still feel horrible, terrible, self-loathingly depressed… but suddenly, out of nowhere… I start to feel just a little bit excited. Maybe there is something resembling happiness in the art of acceleration.