Oh, the time that has lapsed since I was able to do a short fiction piece! It pains me to even consider counting the weeks. Regardless of my hiatus – I have finally returned to start posting my flash fiction again – (or short fiction, whichever you prefer, it technically can belong to either category).
My inspiration today comes from Alice’s Writing Tips on Tumblr. You can find the blog here, but I actually used this particular post for this fiction piece. I highly recommending clicking the second hyperlink because the inspiration was actually a picture this time. Check it out – check the blog out – and then please – without further adieu – read my story:
The project is, was by now, for the seniors to anonymously submit apologies for the mistakes that they had made throughout their high school career. The idea wasn’t completely idiotic – as many of the parents lamented. In spite of their efforts to end the idea – and it was ended as an official school-approved project – the senior class invested every second and dollar they had into making it and distributing it to every single graduating student.
I was the mastermind behind this project. Two or three months ago there was an online poll, because that’s the cool way to handle all things in life these days, and it was asking our senior year mementos. In the past it has just been predictable ideas: letterman jackets and class rings. Each class does something different every single year specific to them. Last year it was a disc with a copy of the senior celebration slideshow. The year before it was a graduation Christmas ornament. A few years ago when my brother graduated they did custom picture frames.
I always thought these senior mementos were cheery. Too cheery, in fact. There was something about them that didn’t feel true to the typical high school experience. When people consider their futures realistically, only a very tiny portion of the people you were close to in high school stick around. That’s a somber truth. I don’t think it or admit it maliciously – but how can we trick ourselves into believing that these high school graduation gifts will make a difference in our lives? They won’t make us remember anything of value. My father’s letterman jacket is in a box in the garage, dusty and mildewed from being a part of a flood. The flood wasn’t even at our house. My grandparents made him take the box when he wouldn’t let them throw it away.
As for my mother, her class ring literally got dropped down the toilet. She was cleaning her old jewelry that was in a nightstand drawer. It was full of unmated earrings, broken bracelets, and accessories that she’d worn once or twice for special occasions. And – you know – her class ring. It was a misfit piece of jewelry that meant nothing to her. And when she dropped it, I remember how she acted as though she didn’t care for it anyway. “Honey, do you think my class ring will wreck the plumbing,” she had called out to my dad. She couldn’t have been concerned about the loss any less. She just didn’t want to pay for a plumber to fetch it.
So when I saw this poll I made the suggestion: a magazine of apologies for mistakes we made so that when we leave we know that we leave on good terms with no unfinished business.
I haven’t the foggiest idea where my mind was when I submitted it. Although, I do remember laughing after I closed my browser. The entire thing was supposed to be a joke. Little did I know… At least I was smart enough to submit it anonymously! Two days later my suggestion was accepted almost unanimously. Everyone seemed to love it, saying that it was clearly brilliant. It was only then that I realized that there was no way this couldn’t have been adored by teenagers too desperate to let go of a life they’ve known for eighteen years – I pieced together that a lot of people had a lot of things that they regretted. They all had something they needed to apologize for after these last four years.
When things started off – everyone was encouraged to submit one letter addressed to nobody in particular but signed with their name. I suppose the idea was so that one person didn’t get a dozen apologies while others received none. Again, I suppose that makes sense. This way they don’t have to track down an apology for every single person in the senior class. Teachers immediately put a halt to it because that would have made the writers of each letter far too vulnerable. I was beyond elated that it was shut down because the last thing teenagers need it proof of who did something regrettable.
That is when the idea came that the letters would be written to an anonymous person and signed by anonymous. There was a submission box in the journalism classroom and the letters were to be submitted in print only! Nothing handwritten could be accepted – so that there was almost literally no way to trace the apologies back to anyone particular. Even though the school couldn’t participate in the creation of this magazine project, the teachers did continue help students control the situation so that it didn’t turn into a disaster.
That’s how I got here, I suppose. I am sorry that I gave anyone this idea. Not everyone can handle the truth, and not everyone can accept an apology. I am worried that apologies are going to be made on things that nobody knew were controlled incidents. I am worried that people are going to write apology letters about things that weren’t problems until the letter was written. Any number of things could go wrong from these apologies. And the thing is, we’re all going to forgive our anonymous writers for their misdeeds.
We are going to forgive someone who might not deserve to be forgiven. We are going to accept these apologies and deem it all to be “okay,” even if it might not be okay at all. I regret everything that will happen as the result of this magazine.
I hope that this is the last entry, by the way. I hope that this is placed at the back of the magazine so that after everyone reads these letters – so that after everyone gets their gossip fill – so that after tears have been shed – I hope that this is the last thing everyone reads because I have one last parting message for you.
None of these apologies matter. They weren’t for you. They were never meant to be for you. People that submitted a letter for this magazine did so only to clear their consciences. I am included in that mess. I regretted my mistakes out of my fear towards growing up and leaving home. Somewhere along the way– without warning – it put in this predicament. The lesson I had to learn – the hard way apparently – is to not regret anything. So please remember after reading each of these disturbing letters that – the only regret you should have is regretting anything at all.
Thank you for the four interesting years that we shared in high school. If we’re lucky, some of us might stay in touch. Otherwise, don’t let it bother you. Don’t linger on it. Don’t let it haunt you later in life. Just let it all go.
And maybe burn this magazine after you frame your high school diploma.