Timeline: Twenty-One

This follows on from Twenty, and before that Nineteen, and before that, Seventeen & Eighteen, and before that, Sixteen, and before that, Fourteen & Fifteen, and before that, Twelve & Thirteen, and before that, Eleven, and before that, Seven Through Ten, and before that, Zero Through Six.


"...and what I remember best is that / the door to your room was / the door to mine."

--I Remember, Anne Sexton

2001, aged twenty-one: I arrive in Virginia at the beginning of the summer, moving into the tiny, shabby house on Marlow Avenue that Sean shares with three roommates, one gregarious, one shy, one never home. His room has slanted ceilings and there's nowhere to unpack my stuff; I set up all my toiletries on the top of his dresser and he doesn't tell me for a month and a half how much this annoys him.

It rains solidly for the first week, a sticky, humid rain, and I half-heartedly scan the job listings in the newspaper and wonder what I'm doing here and why I've come. Sean is out to sea with the Navy for long swathes of time; I walk to the grocery store, buy avocados, make a sandwich, and watch television alone in the living room, perched on a lawn chair in the corner because no-one ever bothered to buy a couch. Summer in Virginia is brutal, and while the house has an air conditioner, the boys are too cheap to turn it on; several afternoons while they are out to sea, I am so hot and miserable that I don't know what to do with myself. I call my mother, who recalls with wistfulness her first sticky Michigan summers, newly-transplanted, not much older than I am now. "Stand in a cold shower with a beer," she says. I stand in a cold shower with a beer. 

A few weeks in, I get up the nerve to walk into a bar on the beach and ask if they're taking applications. The next night, I have a job. The bar is called Greenies and the uniform is a black tank top with "Greenies" written in green across the chest. On Friday nights, the other waitresses and I wear the shorter version of this tank top, the one that exposes our midriffs, and because I am twenty-one and brave and confident and because I am subsisting on little more than avocado sandwiches and beer, I wear this midriff-exposing shirt without hesitation. I make an awful lot in tips.

The second week in August, Sean and I pack up all his belongings and load them into a Budget van, and set off at dusk to see America. We take turns driving all night: Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky. I drive us into Louisville just as the sun is starting to come up: the rest of the world is sleeping and I feel like the last person alive. I dimly recall brushing my teeth at a gas station in Indiana, then I'm asleep again, my head against the hot glass of the window while Sean takes over at the wheel, my dreams punctuated with the relentless riffs of the punk songs he's singing along to at the very top of his voice. We stop in Kansas, in Colorado, in Wyoming, in Utah, in Nevada. I win eleven bucks in Reno and Sean loses thirty. We camp overnight on the shores of Pyramid Lake, the only people for miles around, and I think if I ever end up marrying this man, this is where I'd like him to propose, but then again, I haven't ever been to Rome yet. We stop in San Francisco, fall in love. We stay a few days and then drive through the night down to San Diego, our final destination. We sleep the entire day away in a motel then cap it with midnight-foraged burritos and a pint of ice cream from the grocery store. We move his belongings into storage, return the Budget truck, rent a seventeen-dollar car, explore.

Eventually, we fly back to Virginia; the summer is coming to a close. It's almost September and with September comes Sean's deployment, my flight home, and then a few days later the tragedies of 9-11, although we don't know about that one yet. Late one night, sitting cross-legged in the dark on the side of the road, Sean asks if I'll come to San Diego and move in with him once I'm finished with my final year of university in London. I say yes without hesitation. I've always known I would.

Camels & Chocolate
Apr 01, 2009

I never knew you were a barmaid! And a midriff-baring one at that.

(This reminds me, too, that I never finished my own timeline...)

Apr 01, 2009

Beautiful prose, Holly. I'm sitting here welling up slightly! (but in a good way). What a lovely start to the day.

Apr 01, 2009

This is a beautiful post Holly. I could totally feel the sticky August heat of Virginia, sitting at my desk in rainy, cold Monaco.
Oh, and Sean is definitely a keeper!

Apr 01, 2009

I was so happy to see this pop up in my Google Reader this morning! Your timeline posts have all been lovely, and today's is no exception.

Blanche (Mrs. Higrens)
Apr 01, 2009

To stand up for my state: Coastal and Central Virginia are brutal in the summer (humidity has a way of making everything else seem worse), but there are areas in which the heat isn't quite so bad.

She Likes Purple
Apr 01, 2009

I think this is my favorite of your age posts.

Apr 01, 2009

This made me cry, in a good way.

Also, your 21 is so much better than mine. Good thing I've still got 11 months to make something happen. (Though I somehow doubt it will be with someone of Sean's level of awesomeness. Maybe in a few years. Sigh.)

Anne in SC
Apr 01, 2009

With your quick reference of 9-11 I felt that was some kind of foreshadowing. Even though I loved this post, I feel that I need to be able to flip the page to find out what comes next...because it seems that 9-11 must cause some kind of "thing". I'd say that means it's very well written.

Nothing But Bonfires
Apr 01, 2009
Apr 01, 2009

Your timeline posts are my all time favorites. And thats saying a lot because think all your posts are fabulous. This one is especially touching.

Apr 01, 2009

I love this one so very much. And really, in hot, dead, thick heat of the summer drinking beer in the shower is the only way to keep cool unless one has access to pool.

Apr 01, 2009

So happy the timeline posts are back! These are so moving and heartfelt. I hope you're collecting them all to one day publish a memoir.

Apr 01, 2009

Holly. Hello. My name is Nomita. I live in Bangalore, India and have lurked here for sometime now.

After reading the Anne Sexton quote(she is a personal favourite of mine)and the post that followed; i decided that i absolutely Had to pop up and tell just how much i enjoyed reading this particular post. The vividness with which you described those few months is very moving.

Anne & May
Apr 01, 2009

I must confess that I feel an incredible sense of dread that we've almost caught up with your current age. I want these timeline posts to go on and on.

Apr 01, 2009

But Anne & May... they WILL go on, they WILL!!!

As long as Holly stays alive.

That's it, it's settled. Holly must never die.

Well, Holly must never die until the rest of us die. So we will never be without The Timeline.

It is the will of Allah.

Apr 01, 2009


Apr 02, 2009

Sigh...that was so poetic.

Anne in SC
Apr 02, 2009

Thanks, Holly, for the link; I loved reading it. It was exactly what I needed.

Apr 02, 2009

I think this is my favorite one yet. :)

sensibly Sassy
Apr 04, 2009

I just got caught up on, well, your whole life. you are such a talented writer.