Stop the World

Sitting on a bench with an ocean view in my hometown, I feel lonely. With only a cup of coffee and U2 through big, clunky headphones to keep me company, I let the day slide away. Pretending to do homework, I’m really engaged in one of my favorite pastimes: people watching. Trying to take in the world around me and make sense of it. It’s so easy, especially in college, to get wrapped up in yourself and forget that there’s 7.4 billion other people out there, thinking, breathing, living.

A twelve year old girl and her mother lean against the railing on the seawall. The girl wears aqua shorts and a pink tank top, wonderfully childlike, and she can’t stop laughing. She keeps sipping from her mother’s iced coffee and spitting it into the ocean, disgusted at the bitterness and full to bursting with giggles.

Three older women stroll past me. One stops and asks me to take a photo of them. As they get in place and primp themselves, taking off sunglasses, tucking a stray curl behind an ear, one of the trio—the shortest—pipes up:

“Make me look tall and skinny like them, or I won’t be too happy.”

The three friends crack up, their chests rising and falling like the boats in the harbor behind them, lifted on waves.

When people laugh, really laugh, we are all the same. The world could be united by a good enough laugh, the deep, stomach hurting, tear causing, crazy laugh that can only come from loving someone as much as you love your best friends. Everything falls away. Age, class, history, judgement, prejudices, everything. There is nothing quite as wonderful as seeing friends interact with each other, unaware that they’re being watched. Nothing, except being one of them.

Watching these women and that little girl laugh makes me remember where I am in the world. It makes me remember to forget my insecurities, my deadlines, my homework assignments, my need to make a plan for the future, and enjoy my life as it is at the moment. It makes me remember to appreciate the people who’ve entered my life and made it worth getting up in the morning, worth dragging myself to a horror movie at midnight even though I detest those, worth pulling myself out of bed to pick them up from the airport in my pjs in the middle of the night. We’ve had some of our best times under the most dire of circumstances, yes, but, more importantly, friends make the mundane worth experiencing. They make me want to act like a little kid and spit the bitterness of the world into the ocean, or act like a woman with her two best friends, the sea air whipping their hair behind them and filling their lungs to laugh.

Text by Isabel Crabtree

Illustration by Morgan Wright