This morning I woke up with a puzzling question: What should I do today, April 12th, my last day as a teenager? Do I go off and take a bat to a few windshields? Or maybe I should just go to Taco Bell and eat my weight in tacos? I didn’t quite know what to do. But whenever I tried thinking of something teenager-esque I found myself throwing the idea out the window. Then I realized: today doesn’t feel like my last day as a teenager – it feels like my last day as a kid.
So I laid in bed, thinking of where I wanted to go. I want to go some place safe. A place that holds the purest memory of myself as a child. And to my surprise I picked a place about 10 miles away, in a mall I never go to: Orange Julius.
I remember going here as a child with my mom. Usually,my mom would go shopping at ROSS and drag me along. Tired and bored, I would hide in between the clothing racks peeking my little head out and pestering my mom for some food and snacks. And like a nice cold beverage to finish off a hot summer day, my mom would hold my hand, and walk me to Orange Julius.
I would sit there, eating a cheap hot dog and sipping a cup of over sweetened juice (which probably is more syrup than juice). But I was happy. I would smile and offer my mom some but she would always refuse. “Mom! Wan’t some?!” Even though I can’t remember what kind of hot dog I would order, I remember my mom’s face: she would look at me, with such caring eyes. Back then, we were very poor and the mere act of buying an Orange Julius drink and hot dog was a big financial set back. But my mom still bought it for me. And those eyes, that smile… it’s like she was trying to hold back the pain and struggle of our financial situation, but the sight of me so happy and so innocent nullified any of the pain.
So I decided to go back in search of some kind of answer. As I drove in the rain towards the mall, I began envisioning what it would be like when I got there.
I‘m at the mall walking towards Orange Julius, holding the hand of my 5 year old self and I’m talking to him. His straight, eyebrow length hair is silky smooth and devoid of any hair product. He’s wearing a cheap white and green striped shirt. He looks at me and smiles – and I smile back.
Me: What flavor do you want?
Me: What do you want to eat? Are you hungry?
Him: Umm… I wanttttt…. a chili dog.
Me: One Orange Julius and a Chili Melt please.
I‘m watching him, his innocent face chomping away making a complete mess out of the chili. But I smile and think “Man oh man… you have no idea the kind of man you’re gonna grow up to become.”
My imagination comes to a halt and I actually arrive at my destination: Westgate Mall. But when I get there It’s different. I mean, the feel is still the same but the layout is totally different from what I remember. I remember there being two floors – now there’s only one. Luckily the Orange Julius is still there. I try to order the exact same thing I would order when I was a child: an Orange Julius and a chili hotdog.
As I sit down, eating the same food, at the same place, I can’t help but realize that although the factors are the same, the feeling is different. It doesn’t feel as innocent as I imagined. It’s not as happy and cheerful. It’s normal and there’s even a sense of sadness in it all. So I leave; with nothing but 6 less dollars in my pocket. But why? What the hell happened? I thought it would be perfect! I thought I would rekindle with my childhood again…why?…
In my mind I’m walking in the mall, holding the hand of my 5 year old self, talking to him.
Me: Today is my last day as a teenager and tomorrow it’s our Birthday.
Him: How do you feel?
Me: I’m kinda sad… I feel like today is my last day to be young again. Even though I went back to Orange Julius I still feel the same.
Him: Time is running out. You only have 37 minutes to be young.
Me: What do I do?
Him: Whatever you want to do.
Me: But when the clock strikes 12, you’re gonna leave me. You have to go away…
Him: Why do I have to go away?
Me: Because that’s how life is. When I turn 20, I feel like I’ll be letting go of your hand, and that part of me will be gone forever… (my eyes can’t take it. water begins to swell, but doesn’t drop)
Me: Twenty years have gone by. Twenty. Years.
Him: That’s a long time.
Me: It is. And I’m worried because it feels like life has gone by so fast – almost too fast. First I’m twenty, then I’m 50, and then I’ll be in a bed with tubes running from my wrists.
Him: It’s inevitable. It will eventually happen.
Me: I think it’s time for me to go
Him: Already? It’s so early!
Me: I can’t do it anymore. I really enjoyed our day today. But tell me: why are these tears forming in my eyes?
Him: Because all your life Ranier, you’ve always tried to be older. You’ve been chasing a dream that you thought was only attainable as an adult. You wanted to grow up so fast but you forgot about the present – and now, you’ve got it. Remember all those times in elementary when kids would laugh and play? What did you do?
Me: I’d say “That’s stupid”
Him: But what did you really want to do?
Me: I wanted to laugh. I wanted to join in on the fun.
Him: You see? You did this to yourself. You made time go fast, and now, it’s like the movie Click. If you press fast forward enough times, you’re gonna skip through parts of your life.
Me: Will you be back?
Him: Like I said, this is all in your head. You can do whatever you want. Similarly, you can make me come back whenever you want.
Me: You’re such a smart boy. One day you’re going to grow up and you’re going to be such a good man: to your wife, to your kids, and to your family.
Him: I think it’s time for us to go. Goodbye Ranier….
The tips of my fingers are sliding away from his, and our hands are slowly separating. As I walk away backwards, I see a young boy, with long hair, and a dirty old shirt standing in the middle of a mall. He’s not smiling, nor is he sad. But he’s by himself. And he waves at me with his small arms. And just then, a single tear runs down the right side of my cheek.