Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

I inhale; my brain goes light as hookah fills my lungs. I exhale and my mouth fills with the taste of blueberries. I feel euphoric, the air is so warm, and I’m realizing how much I missed South Jersey. We’re sitting on my front porch enjoying the second half of the day, feeling invisible as saxophone pumps through the speakers. The conversation is a long, winding road that, I think, is leading us somewhere. Beginning on unfair taxation and irrational beach taggers and ending up somewhere around here: “Where am I going with my life? I need to figure ‘it’ out. I’m going into my fourth year of college and still have no clue where to go from here.” “Let it happen,” Anna replies. Anna looks like Brooke Shields, in that one 80’s movie about those kids who wander around naked and learn to live off the Earth, but she has the mind of Jane Goodall and the attitude of Joan Jett. She didn’t explain, and I didn’t ask; it was such a simple statement. It took me three months to understand what she had really meant.
We pull up to Yesterday’s, a small bar that had been fined earlier in the summer for serving overpriced hangovers. These restaurant-bars right out of Ocean City are always filled with a mixture of townies and tourists. It’s decorated how I imagine Jimmy Buffet would decorate a home-office. The walls are painted a warm blue all the way up to the high ceilings, there are various types of mounted fish on the walls, surfboards, and signs with clever sayings like “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” As we find a parking spot, we can already hear the boys playing a cover of a Talking Heads song. Were all laughing and dancing up to the back deck.
Roxy’s dancing and letting the music take her. She’s completely content, refusing to live anywhere but in the present. She has the same presence of Penny Lane in Almost Famous, she’s lighting up the room. She looks just like her too, she’s stunning; long blonde waves covered in a layer of sea salt, sun-kissed skin, the evidence of long bike rides and countless days spent on the beach, and big blue eyes that take in everything more precisely than any camera lens ever could. If it wasn’t for those big eyes, you would think she was born blind. She is so humble and never quick to judge, making friends whereever she goes. She wears Grateful Dead lyrics permanently on her ring finger, a reminder of her dad. She’s not really sure where she’s going, and that’s exactly how she likes it. She’s 21, so she wants to travel the world and live like a gypsy. She’s determined to graduate with a degree in hospitality and tourism management. She’s wise beyond her years and works hard at her classes. She wants to escape, but is no rush to “figure ‘it’ out.”
“Psycho killer, qu’est que c’est, fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better…” were singing every word of the Talking Heads with them. The three of them started the band as a joke, calling it “Peanut Butter Lovsicle,” practicing in their friend’s grandmother’s garage and at their own house parties. They all went to school, they thought they knew what they wanted to do with their lives; they thought they had “it” figured out. Somewhere along the way though, they got serious, got really good, moved to NYC, toured in London, and are now talking to labels. They used to work at the surf shop, shifts would fly by with them, positivity and laughing at mistakes and bad situations comes naturally.They take on life as it comes. I’m talking to their mom and sister, Jamie. They tell me how hard they’ve been working; how great they’ve been doing.
Jamie moved to New York with them to pursue a new adventure. After graduating from West Chester, she managed the surf shop up until she was 30. She was paid extremely well, traveled, met new people, made new connections, surfed, saw from other perspectives, and grew. She never had a plan. She’s laughing and head banging to the music, her curls are flying everywhere. “How’s New York?” “I’m moving to L.A.!” She goes on to tell me about the company she works for and how she helps to manage various “small” music producers, going on to list huge names that her company has worked with. “I hear you’re attending my alma mater now?”
“Yea. Turns out Philadelphia and fashion just wasn’t for me.”
“What are you majoring in now?”
“I’m studying economics.” I give her a nervous look and start laughing. “I have no idea what I wanna be when I grow up.”
“I think I studied political science. No, it might have been geology.” She’s laughing. “I’m 33 and I still don’t know what I wanna be when I grow up.”
The boys play their last song while I manage to locate a ride. I climb into the backseat of Shawn’s hatchback, and were off. The four-door is overflowing with bodies. We’re not ready for the night to end quite yet. I’m smiling so big that my cheeks are going numb, muscles ache. The wind is tossing dirty curls into my eyes. My breath tastes of stale pineapple and ginger ale. If only I could bottle this scent of vanilla, cigarettes, and salt water that has sunken into my skin. My nose fills with the breeze coming off bay and I’m beginning to understand what Anna had meant. These past three years of college, I’ve been looking for something that was meant to find me. I’ve been planning, stressing, thinking into the future, but the best opportunities happen in the present. Someone turns up the music, and we all begin howling, preaching, slurring the words: “You spend the first five years trying to get with the plan and the next five years trying to be with your friends again.”
Emily Durkin is a fourth-year student. She can be reached at ED797328@wcupa.edu.

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