In a well constructed essay, describe how Gatsby's inability to let go of his past leads to his downfall.
I pushed the assignment away in disgust. We had an English paper due tomorrow. I hadn't even started to read the book yet, let alone begin the essay.
"Stupid essay," I mumbled, thinking of all the places I would rather be than here.
Suddenly, I heard a breathless chime of laughter come from outside my window. I looked up. There she was, walking down the street with her boyfriend. They walked hand in hand, her fingers playfully tangling with his as the wind tossed her long dark hair. She looked beautiful as ever.
Tomorrow is her birthday. I wanted to go up to her to wish her a happy birthday, but decided not to.
Yeah. I still remember her birthday. And I'm sure she still remembers mine. Birthdays never change.
And even though she'll be turning sixteen tomorrow, I still remember the day we first met ten years ago. Looking from my window, I cannot help but wonder if she does too.
It was the middle of kindergarten. I had always been the quietest kid in my class and not very good at making friends. As I got on the bus that morning, I watched as many of my classmates eagerly greeted each other, as they did everyday. It seemed that every kid had a friend to sit next to on the bus. Everyone but me.
Sitting down in the first empty seat I could find, I was prepared to spend the bus ride staring out the window when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, I saw a girl who was around my age. She had curly dark hair that she wore in pigtails and bright green eyes that contrasted sharply with her pale skin. But what I remember most was her smile, which though shy, was nothing but sincere.
"Can I sit with you?" she asked. I nodded.
"My name is Kat. Short for Katherine. But everyone calls me Kat. Except for my daddy. He calls me his KittyKat. Daddies are silly like that, you know?" She giggled. "What's your name?"
"Alex," I mumbled.
"Nice to know you, Alex. We will be great friends, I think." Seeing her warm smile, I could not help but smile back.
"Who is your teacher?" she asked.
"Me too." she squealed, almost jumping out of her seat. "Mommy made me move to a new school. All my friends are in my old school. I am so happy I know someone now." She squeezed my hand.
The bus screeched to a stop. As the other kids filed out of the bus, she smiled as we walked to where our teacher was waiting.
From that day forward, we pretty much became best friends. I later learned that she had moved into the house next to mine. Which was great because every day after school, we would either be at her house, having sword fights with pillows and stuffed "aminals" (as she insisted on calling them) or in my backyard, laughing as we tried to spray each other with the garden hose. I had never been able to open myself this much to anyone before, but Kat just had a certain way of breaking through my outer shell. As the elementary school years went by, our favorite game of all became Neverland, a world of our imagination that was partially inspired by Bridge to Terabithia, a book that our teacher read to us in 4th grade. As prince and princess of the land, we had a duty to protect it at all costs from any enemy that threatened to invade. Our enemies included people like Brad Williams, the school bully who shot rubber bands at us during recess, and Hailey Brooks, the stuck-up, rich girl who made it a point to show off her newest clothes every single day. From day to day, we would always sit next to each other, passing notes in which we hid encrypted messages about these villains and our next plans of battle. Sometimes, we would catch each other's eye in the middle of class and, without a word, burst into peals of uncontrolled laughter. This annoyed many a teacher, who would often try to solve the problem by moving us to opposite ends of the room. Even so, we would always play what we called "musical chairs;" we would bargain with our neighboring classmates to exchange seats whenever our teacher's back was turned. After a couple of exchanges, we would always be sitting together again, leading most teachers to give up on separating us. During recess, we would act out the day's battles, laughing and screaming as we hid in terror behind the slides or chased each other around the swing sets. After school, we would go either to her house or to the local library where we would make comic books about our latest adventures.
What I remember most was the summer of my 12th birthday, about a week before school started. Kat surprised me with movie tickets for Bridge to Terabithia, which had just come out in theaters. As I approached the theater where she was waiting, I could not help but feel nervous. It was silly. We had been friends forever and there was no reason for me to be feeling the way I was feeling. And yet, for the first time, I noticed how pretty she looked with her dark curly hair out of her usual pigtails and falling just past her shoulders in soft spirals. Her big green eyes, lined with her naturally thick lashes, seemed to reflect the light of her smile, which though lined with braces, was as bright as the sun that shone on her hair.
"Alex, are we actually going to watch that movie or are you just going to stand there, staring at me?" She laughed lightheartedly.
I blushed. "Sorry. Yeah. Let's go." And into the theater we went.
As the theater lights dimmed and the film started playing, I noticed, to my dismay, that I could hardly register the actions rolling across the big screen before me. I could only think about Kat, how I could smell the strawberry scent of her lush, curly hair, and how her hand was only inches from mine…
Stop! I ordered myself. Stop!This is starting to get really stupid. You've been friends with her forever and you have gone to movies with her before. A lot of them in fact. There is no reason why you should start feeling differently about her now. Absolutely no reason at all…
It was then that I felt her hand close over mine. Her green eyes shone in spite of the dimmed lights as she smiled shyly at me. A jolt of electricity shot down my spine as I smiled back, my heart drumming rapidly against my chest.
We left the theater still hand in hand. Finally, she broke the silence.
"So I guess I will be seeing you in school?"
"Yeah..uhhh…totally." Why were my palms so sweaty? Stupid, stupid, stupid.
She turned, studying my face as she took a step forward.
"Alex." The green eyes were extremely close.
"KAT! Are you coming or what?"
We sprang apart as we saw her older sister just a few feet away. She looked extremely annoyed; she was probably forced to pick her little sister up from the movie. Kat gave a breathless giggle as she threw her arms around me in a tight hug. She then walked towards her sister, waving back at me.
"See ya around, Alex. Byee."
But then summer ended and 7th grade began. Even though Kat and I no longer had any classes together, I would see her in the hallways from time to time with her new friends, one of whom was Hailey Brooks. I would always try to stop her in the hallways or by her locker just to talk like we always had. But she would either be talking to one friend or another, or she would throw me a really annoyed look that said "I can't talk right now. Can't we save this for another time?"
She looked different too. She stopped wearing the overalls and curly pigtails that she wore in the old days. Instead, she now strutted around the hallways, her newly straightened hair falling past her back as she flaunted the mini-skirts, and designer boots that Hailey and her clique of friends seemed so fond of. She also started wearing makeup every day, something she once said was absolutely perfect…for a clown.
As the year went on, Kat and I grew further and further apart. She stopped answering my calls and always had excuses whenever I suggested any plans to hang out. I remember once when I looked out my bedroom window, I saw her sitting on her bed, surrounded by a circle of friends at what looked to be a slumber party. I knocked three times on my window and waved, for this had always been our method of communicating after our bedtimes in elementary school (we had made up a secret language matching certain taps with certain words). She looked up, walked to the window, and with a cold flick of her wrist, shut her bedroom curtains. Hurt and confused, I decided to confront her the next day, first thing in the morning. And so, immediately after waking up the next day, I walked out of my house in a huff and knocked on her door, ready to demand what was her problem, in front of her stupid friends if need be. But then, when she answered the door, I found myself struck absolutely speechless, for there she was, wearing an old t-shirt and sweatpants with her dark, unstraightened hair tied in a loose braid. She wasn't wearing makeup. But she looked beautiful as ever.
As I stood there, lost for words like the idiot I was, I noticed an old flicker of light return to her green eyes, untouched by her usual mascara and eyeliner. She still remembered me and at that moment, we were back in the old days, when I would knock on her doors on a morning like this and we would head off somewhere, maybe to the library to draw another one of our comic books.
But the light disappeared as quickly as it came and I found myself face to face with a stranger.
"What do you want?" she demanded coldly.
I could not bring myself to say the angry words I rehearsed seconds before stepping out of the door. Instead, I asked if she wanted to take a walk with me, to the library.
She scoffed and said that the library was for kids who didn't have anything better to do with their lives than study. But after much insisting on my part, she finally gave in and agreed to take a walk with me. As we strolled through the neighborhood in silence, I found myself wracking my brain for something, anything to bring out the old Kat that I knew was still there. Deep down inside, maybe, but still there. But hard as I tried, I did not know what to say. She used to be so easy to talk to but now, it was like she was a completely different person.
After much aimless drifting, we finally came to the elementary school we had attended not too long ago. To my surprise, the playground gate was open. Without thinking, I walked through and took a seat on one of the swings. Kat followed, avoiding my gaze as she sat on a swing beside me.
"You look better without makeup" was the first thing I said after a long interval of silence. As soon as the words left my mouth, I wanted to kick myself, for that wasn't really what I wanted to say.
She shrugged, looking irritated as she responded, "Is that all you brought me out here for? To say that?"
"I..I…I..," I stammered, unable to finish not only because she continued to give me the cold stare, but also because there were so many unspoken thoughts that I could have ended that sentence with.
"Yeah?" She looked beyond impatient, as though she was about to just get up and leave.
Where were the words when I needed them? "Why don't we talk anymore?" I finally finished.
Again the indifferent shrug. "I don't know."
"We used to talk everyday," I pressed. "Now, you always seem to be hanging out with your new friends and never with me. I didn't upset you in any way, right? Because I.."
"Ohmigod! You're really starting to get annoying, okay?" She exclaimed, hopping off the swings. "Look, there's nothing to talk about. I just can't really hang out with you anymore."
Her words were like a slap in the face. "Can't?"
She rolled her eyes. "Alex, I know we've been friends for a long time, but I really think it's time to start hanging out with new people. I've made a lot of friends this year. They're a lot of fun to be around, and when I'm with them,…" her voice trailed off.
I looked at her expectantly. "Yeah?"
"When I'm with them, people like me."
I remembered once when we were five, we had watched the Disney movie-"The Rescuers" together during one of our movie nights. It was then that she had this amazing idea that if we hid a message in a bottle and threw the bottle out into the ocean, it would find its way to someone from another country. Maybe, she had excitedly exclaimed, we will make a new friend in Antarcita! With penguins and polar bearies! And so, the next day, we paid a visit to the local beach and threw a water bottle out into the ocean. We had hidden our message inside, confident that we would receive a letter from a new pen pal in a matter of days. Instead, we were called aside in a matter of seconds by a life guard who attempted to lecture us on something about environmental hazards. It took all our willpower to avoid eye contact with each other in an effort not to burst into peals of laughter. Now, I could only sit there, wondering if this was really the same girl who stood next to me that day as we watched the bottle bob back and forth to the rhythm of the waves. The old Kat never cared what people thought of her. She was herself, and proud of it.
"But that totally doesn't mean we won't be seeing each other," she continued in a fake, contemptuous voice that sounded more like Hailey than her. "I mean, we go to the same school and all. So I really don't get why you're being such a baby and getting all worked up about."
"Anyways, I gotta go." She cut me off. "My friends will be wondering where I am."She then headed out the gates, turning to give me one last wave before disappearing into the distance.
We didn't see each other again until the start of eighth grade. That was the year she made the cheerleading squad and started going out with Brad Williams, now the most athletic boy in our school. She didn't even look my way when I waved to her in the hallways anymore. It was like she forgot I existed.
Even so, I still watched her from a distance, clinging to some last hope that she would come back to me and we would be back to the way we always were in the old days. Going to the library to draw our comic books. Sharing our inside jokes. Tapping on our windows in the hours past midnight.
As eighth grade drew to a close, I learned what high school I would be attending. From what I heard, Kat was not going to the same school. Which meant that if we were ever to bridge the gap between us, eighth-grade graduation would be the perfect time to do it. For weeks before that day, I was up nights thinking of what I would do. I wanted to get her something, something not too expensive or flashy, but something that would bring back to her the memories of what we once had. Finally, I had an idea. I rummaged through the boxes of comic books we had drawn in years past. I knew she also kept a share of our books under her bed, and I was sure she still had them. After much searching and flipping, I found what I was looking for—the last comic book we had ever drawn together and by far the best. The story was about the final epic battle of Neverland. The princess had been captured by the evil BW monster (our acronym for Brad Williams) and was about to be thrown over a cliff to raging waters of sharks down below. It was up to the prince to come to her rescue and swoop her back up to safety—a story for the next comic book that never came into being.
Eighth grade graduation found me fiddling with my tie as I stood by the fruit punch table, waiting for my chance. I watched as she chattered away with her group of friends, one of whom was, of course, Brad Williams. To my relief, she finally disengaged herself from them as she came over to where I was standing to get a drink. She looked beautiful as ever, wearing a spaghetti-strap violet gown that was cut asymmetrically at her knees while her half-up dark hair fell past her shoulders in soft waves.
"Hey Kat," I said in as cheery a voice as I could manage.
Her eyes flickered almost imperceptibly towards me as she filled her cup with punch.
"Listen, I know you don't really want to talk and I totally get that. I just wanted to give you something." I chuckled shyly as I held out the comic book. "You know, kinda like a good-bye present."
A look of shock washed over her as she realized what I was giving her. She remembered this book; I could see the old flicker of light return to her eyes, the same light I saw as I stood before her door the morning after the slumber party. The corner of her mouth twitched into a faint smile as she brushed her fingertips against the cover, almost as though she would accept my gift.
"Yo Katie. You coming or what?" Brad waved at her as he stood with a few of their other friends by where they were sitting.
The light disappeared almost as quickly as it came, and I found myself once again face to face with a complete stranger. "I'm sorry. I think you must have the wrong person." She sneered in a voice loud enough for her friends to hear. "I don't remember ever making comic books with you."
With a haughty toss of her head, she walked back to Brad, leaving me with a comic book and a half filled cup of punch. As I walked back to my seat, I could hear her friends snickering amongst themselves and exchanging snide remarks like, "What a faggot,""That had to be the gayest thing I ever saw," and "Was that loser for real?" as she laughed and nodded in agreement. It was then that I realized that I would be watching television alone in my empty house that summer, that I would not be staying up in the hours past midnight to the rhythmic taps on the window from next door, and that I would no longer be riding my bike to the library to create comics about the epic battles of Neverland.
It was then that I finally knew she was gone.