looking for alaska

by John Green

one hundred thirty-six days before

THE WEEK BEFORE I left my family and Florida and the rest of my minor life to go to boarding school in Alabama, my mother insisted on throwing me a going-away party. To say that I had low expectations would be to underestimate the matter dramatically. Although I was more or less forced to invite all my “school friends,” i.e., the ragtag bunch of drama people and English geeks I sat with by social necessity in the cavernous cafeteria of my public school, I knew they wouldn’t come. Still, my mother persevered, awash in the delusion that I had kept my popularity secret from her all these years. She cooked a small mountain of artichoke dip. She festooned our living room in green and yellow streamers, the colors of my new school. She bought two dozen champagne poppers and placed them around the edge of our coffee table.

When that final Friday came, when my packing was mostly done, she sat with my dad and me on the living-room couch at 4:56 P.M. and patiently awaited the arrival of the Good-bye to Miles Cavalry. Said cavalry consisted of exactly two people: Marie Lawson, a tiny blonde with rectangular glasses, and her chunky (to put it charitably) boyfriend, Will.

“Hey, Miles,” Marie said as she sat down. “Hey,” I said. “How was your summer?” Will asked. “Okay. Yours?” “Good. We did Jesus Christ Superstar. I helped with the sets. Marie did lights,” said Will.

“That’s cool.” I nodded knowingly, and that about exhausted our conversational topics. I might have asked a question about Jesus Christ Superstar, except that 1. I didn’t know what it was, and 2. I didn’t care to learn, and 3. I never really excelled at small talk. My mom, however, can talk small for hours, and so she extended the awkwardness by asking them about their rehearsal schedule, and how the show had gone, and whether it was a success. “I guess it was,” Marie said. “A lot of people came, I guess.” Marie was the sort of person to guess a lot. Finally, Will said, “Well, we just dropped by to say good-bye. I’ve got to get Marie home by six. Have fun at boarding school, Miles.” “Thanks,” I answered, relieved. The only thing worse than having a party that no one attends is having a party attended only by two vastly, deeply uninteresting people.