Mao and Montages

What are we? What do we have, and what are we made of? I would tell you I am the product of my experiences. Of my memories, of everything I’ve learned. It’s easy to walk through your life with your eyes closed. To loose yourself in the mundane. It’s easy to forget that you can find the beauty in the everyday. It’s easy to forget that you’ll always have mao, and montages.

I went on a cruise about a month ago now, although it feels like just the other day. There’s no more endless time in sunny tropical beaches. There’s no more fancy dinners in the dining hall laced with laughter and fun. There’s no more heading off to the Beach House whenever. There’s no more buffet, or elaborate shows. One week. One week was all I got, and now it’s over. During the span of a week, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people, and have an amazing time. On the first day, I went to the cruise’s ‘teen center,’ called, ‘The Beach House.’ Walking in, I felt awkward and out of place, I didn’t know anyone. I quickly found this relatively big group of kids, and I asked if I could play cards with them. “No,” they had replied, rather rudely, “You can’t play with us, you’re much too simple minded to understand UNO.” That’s it. That’s the end of the story. I never saw them again.

Akaka, that was a total joke. They most definitely did not do that. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. They had made room at the table, dealing me in and welcoming me to play with them. As the cruise wore on, they were the only ones I really hung out with when I went to the Beach House. I taught them how to play this really fun game, called Mao. I’d love to tell you the rules, really, I would. But there’s a little bit of a catch, because the first rule of Mao, and the only one I’m allowed to tell you, is that you’re not allowed to tell anyone the rules. You have to learn by playing. I played with them as they quickly caught on, and their reactions were really funny. The best thing about playing Mao is seeing the reactions of those who are playing for the first time. I found they really liked the game and played it even when I wasn’t there. They are all cousins and siblings, so they sort of adopted me into the group like a stray puppy, I liked to joke.

As the cruise wore on, I felt we all became closer every day. There was always a new inside joke, or something new to laugh about. It was insane, but I felt like I had known them my whole life. I just felt so comfortable with them in such a short amount of time. We would sit down to play Mao, or sit down to just talk, and we would laugh about the stupidest, yet simultaneously, funniest things. We ‘woahed’ until we couldn’t stop, and we improved until we dropped. I cried over new, complicated rules I couldn’t understand. I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. I played ‘table football.’ I was unfortunately, the shortest one.

We were close throughout, but all at once, it felt, on the last two days, we all became best friends. Feel free to laugh, it’s terribly cheesy, I know, but it’s true. On the second to last to day, there was a ‘fancy party,’ in which they closed off the nightclub on the very top of the ship, making it open to just teens. The music was impossibly loud, we could hardly hear. At one of the tables, we saw some boys playing a strange card game. We asked what it was and how to play, I think we had all become increasingly interested in card games throughout the course of the trip. They tried to explain it to us with their super cool british accents, but it was too loud. So, all of us moved to the buffet, where we were the only ones there. We learned the new game, and we showed them Mao. It was halarious to watch them try to learn, they were throwing their cards and overall being completely confused as to what was going on.

I remember laughing, laughing loudly and without a filter. I remember looking around at everyone’s smiling faces, and thinking, ‘I’m going to miss this when it’s gone.’ I have a lot of moments like that. Moments that I know I’m going to miss while I’m still living them, which is a really good indicator of a ‘peek-a-boo’ moment. Out loud, I had smiled and said, “Thanks to you guys, in weeks, or months, or years from now, I’m going to laugh completely randomly. I’m going to think of today, of right now, and I’m just going to laugh like a maniac, and everyone is going to think I’m crazy.” They all laughed over that. I don’t think they believed I was being serious. I was. It’s already happened.

After a game of cards, we rushed down flights and flights of stairs to make it to the piazza. I felt like I was flying down the stairs, my heart soaring along with my spirits. There are certain moments in which everything feels perfect. That was one of those. I looked around at my new friends, and I knew, I knew, that it wasn’t terribly likely I would see them again after the cruise. But I also knew that somehow, impossibly, I felt like I had known them my whole life. When we all piled into an elevator, breathless but still squeezing out sporadic laughter, I knew my eyes weren’t closed. On that cruise, they were opened wide. I wasn’t waiting impatiently for the next moment, I fell in love with each singular moment that passed.

On the last day of the cruise, I was all too aware it was, in fact, the last day. I was extremely cognizant that after that day was over, the cruise would be too. It would mark the end of all the fun I had, of every snort of laughter, of every memory made. I didn’t want it to end. I tried to take my mind off that, to pretend it would last forever. To just focus on the moment instead of how quickly the moment would end.

That morning, I went to the shark week festival that lasted one day, where they had games to play in order to win tickets. With the tickets, you could get prizes. I totally won every game I attempted. (Well, Emma and Dylan beat me in every game, but I did get a really cool ‘participation ticket.’) In the end, we pooled in our tickets to get a stuffed shark before racing over to, ‘Afternoon Trivia!’ I’ll give you a hint on how we did- do you think we knew how many eyes a bat has? Unfortunately, we did not. We lost trivia, but we won another unforgettable memory. (Cheesy, I know; stay with me, you’ve read this far.) We played ping pong under the scorching sun.

We ate lunch over tarot card readings and card tricks in the buffet. We made our way over to the Princess Theater, where we waited outside and played improv games. I collapsed into giggles at everyone else’s performance, and during mine. I could barely get through my own ‘improv skit,’ I was laughing so hard I could barely breathe, let alone talk. Some of the crew members or people passing by even stopped and watched us, which caused us all to exchange awkward glances, but they left before long. We tumbled into the Princess Theater and watched the Voice of the Ocean.

At night, we all were back in the Beach House making our shirts. We wrote silly inside jokes along the back of each others shirts until they were filled with words nobody else would understand. Which, arguably, are the best type of words. We played more improv games and later sat at the table to play more Mao. Then we just sat, and talked, and I remember, Maxine had said, “I don’t want this to be over.” I had looked at her, and it felt like she had read my mind. Or maybe, she was just voicing what we were all thinking.

The Beach House closed at one in the morning, but we weren’t tired, and we weren’t ready for it to be over just yet. We migrated to the buffet and piled into a big table. I was about to back to my room briefly, to let my parents know I was still alive, and as I made to get up, Emma’s eyes grew wide. “You’re leaving?” she had said, voice laced with anguish. “No, no,” I said quickly, “I’ll be back, I’m just going to my room really quick.” It was an innocent statement, but that’s what made it powerful to me. It was real, and it made my heart swell, and feel even more so like I belonged at that table, with these new friends, more than anywhere else.

If you asked me to tell you exactly what we talked about, I honestly couldn’t tell you. I remember smiling so wide my face threatened to tear in half. I could tell you how loudly, and annoyingly I laughed. I remember the jokes and stories. When we all finally got up, it was reluctantly. We had gotten to our feet slowly, haltingly, as if we could make the moment last longer if only we went slow enough. We said our goodbyes, dawdling, standing next to the table. We kept on talking, kept on laughing, as if we weren’t leaving. Eventually, we went our separate ways. Each step was deliberate, like if we took our time, we could live in the moment forever. We all knew that the chances of seeing each other again were slim, as unfortunate as that was. The elevator ride was quick, and soon I had arrived at my floor. I stepped out, and they had stayed in, waving until the door closed. “Who knows”, I remember Dylan saying, right before the door shut in my face, “Maybe we’ll all see each other again one day. Anything can happen!”

I lingered in front of that elevator, stuck in a trance, for ages, thinking of Dylan’s words. “Who knows?” I gave a lot of thought to that. And thinking about it, I realized it didn’t matter if I ever saw them again. Now, that sounds kind of silly, right? I just wrote a whole page, maybe more, on how much these memories and people meant to me in such a short amount of time. And at the end, it doesn’t matter? But that’s not how I mean it. I had given it a lot of thought, even as we had all sat playing card games. How on Earth could such an amazing coincidence happen? How could it fall so perfectly that I was taking this cruise at the same time as these people? How did it happen that that’s the exact time and cruise that they came down to Florida for? And what’s more, even us meeting on the cruise was a coincidence. If I hadn’t gone up to them the first day, I never would have been friends with Emma or Dylan or Max or Angus. If Emma and I hadn’t wondered what that weird card game was, we never would have met Josh or Noah or Harry. I found that to be insanely magical, and I marveled to think that if just one thing had gone differently, we all never would have met.

I know that none of these stories or names mean very much to you. They’re random names, as far as you’re concerned, with no significance attached. They’re cheesy stories, which, although obviously really fun to read, don’t matter to you. And that’s the thing I love about stories like these. Memories like these. These memories and moments matter a lot to me, and they’re mine. Ours. To think about and laugh about and remember. It felt like I was writing a montage, when I was writing this. A montage, you know those aesthetic, hopelessly cheesy string of videos people make? A video of memories that mean the world to them being played with a song like, ‘Count on Me,’ by Bruno Mars? When I watch a montage, those that aren’t my own, I always feel a surge of happiness. Montages are just really fun to watch, even if I don’t know the people or how much those moments really mean to them. We’ll always have montages. Our own montages that we store in our minds and hearts. A ‘video’ of remembrances of the past that make us happy.

It doesn’t matter if I ever see them again. Not because I don’t want to, I really do. It doesn’t matter because our time on this Earth is limited. We’re not guaranteed time ourselves, much less time with those around us. And on that limited time, I was privileged enough to have met these amazing people and share such wonderful moments with them. It doesn’t matter, because even if I never see them again, I get to keep the memories. It doesn’t matter, because I’m incredibly grateful for the time I did get to spend with them. More than that, standing in front of that elevator, I realized that I hold my future in my hands, and maybe I could see them all again, which was an amazing thought. “You never know.” Hopefully I will.

Thanks for reading all the way through, I know it was very cheesy. Surround yourself with people, things, and moments that inspire you. Not only because you deserve that and nothing less, but because I’ve found it makes it fun to write something like, say, this blog post. I know this was ridiculously deep and hopefully somewhat profound. I wish you the very best in constructing your montages and playing card games. School started yesterday for me, and this cruise taught me a lot. Often times during the school year I go through the motions with my eyes closed. I wait for Friday, or the weekend, or the end of they day; instead of appreciating every moment that passes. It’s easy to go 100 miles per hour and feel like you can’t slow down. It’s easy to let life stop you from living and to forget about doing things for yourself. When you slow down, I hope you find that you’ll always have mao, and montages.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget what you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

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