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All the Bright Places (Page 73)

All the Bright Places(73)
Author: Jennifer Niven

My hands are shaking as I open the envelope. I pull out three sheets of thick staff paper, one covered in musical notes, the other two covered in words that look like lyrics.

I begin to read.

You make me happy,

Whenever you’re around I’m safe inside your smile,

You make me handsome,

Whenever I feel my nose just seems a bit too round,

You make me special, and God knows I’ve longed to be that kind of guy to have around,

You make me love you,

And that could be the greatest thing my heart was ever fit to do.…

I am crying—loud and hiccuping, as if I’ve been holding my breath for a very long time and finally, finally can breathe.

You make me lovely, and it’s so lovely to be lovely to the one I love.…

I read and reread the words.

You make me happy …

You make me special …

You make me lovely …

I read and reread them until I know the words by heart, and then I fold up the papers and slide them back into the envelope. I sit there until the tears stop, and the light begins to change and fade, and the soft, pink glow of dusk fills the chapel.

It’s dark by the time I drive home. In my bedroom, I pull out the staff paper once again and play the notes on my flute. The tune finds its way into my head and stays there, like it’s a part of me, so that, days later, I’m still singing it.

I don’t need to worry that Finch and I never filmed our wanderings. It’s okay that we didn’t collect souvenirs or that we never had time to pull it all together in a way that made sense to anyone else but us.

The thing I realize is that it’s not what you take, it’s what you leave.


June 20

It’s a white-hot summer day. The sky is a pure, bright blue. I park the car and walk up the embankment and stand for a long time on the grassy shore of the Blue Hole. I half expect to see him.

I kick off my shoes and cut through the water, diving deep. I’m looking for him through my goggles, even though I know I won’t find him. I swim with my eyes open. I come back up to the surface under the great wide sky, take a breath, and down I go again, deeper this time. I like to think he’s wandering in another world, seeing things no one can ever imagine.

In 1950, poet Cesare Pavese was at the peak of his literary career, applauded by his peers and his country as the greatest living Italian author. In August of that year, he took a lethal dose of sleeping pills, and even though he kept a daily journal, no one could ever truly explain why he did it. The writer Natalia Ginzburg remembered him after his death: “It seemed to us that his sadness was that of a boy, the voluptuous heedless melancholy of a boy who has still not come down to earth, and moves in the arid, solitary world of dreams.”

It was an epitaph that could have been written for Finch, except that I’ve written one for him myself:

Theodore Finch—I was alive. I burned brightly. And then I died, but not really. Because someone like me cannot, will not, die like everyone else. I linger like the legends of the Blue Hole. I will always be here, in the offerings and people I left behind.

I tread water on the surface under the wide, open sky and the sun and all that blue, which reminds me of Theodore Finch, just like everything else reminds me of him, and I think of my own epitaph, still to be written, and all the places I’ll wander. No longer rooted, but gold, flowing. I feel a thousand capacities spring up in me.

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