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Winter '24

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MONIQUE LOWE

 

On the carpeted floor of my bedroom, I thought about the end of the world as I watched The World of Us for the first time.

 

It was the end of friendships, the end of innocent beliefs, and the end of life being fair. Maybe for others, that’s not so dramatic. Maybe for some it's nothing exceptionally apocalyptic, but to a young, naïve girl, it really is so destructive that there is no way to go back to the world as once known. And while you certainly can try to prepare for the end, you never actually know when it will come, and you don’t really know how you’ll react until it's much too late. 

These thoughts infested my mind while I watched the main character, Sun, move about her life. She is, really, so lonely and only wants to fit in. Mainly, she wants a friend. It's a universal feeling and something that doesn't truly end in childhood––that loneliness and that desire for companionship.

 

The film captures her isolation in beautiful and heartbreaking ways, so much so that when Sun finally does encounter a friend, it feels like triumph––like it's exactly what she deserves. It's a new beginning and all the blessed hopes of the world are laid out before her for what feels like the first time. We, as viewers, feel hopeful as well. I grasped on tightly to that dream as I watched this new friendship unfold in front of my eyes. I could feel the buzz of joyful anticipation and it was sweet. 

However, a sobering wake up call came when I realized the film wasn’t even halfway done. So, the hopefulness began to lose its luster as the minutes rolled down. A certain anxiety attached itself in me and it was obvious that something would inevitably leave. That Sun's new world would suddenly be ending. And what could she do about it except watch it barrel on toward its ultimate destination? 

The world has ended for me many times, but the first was when I was in elementary school. I was the age where everything mattered even though nothing really mattered at all. Everything I thought would be with me until the day I died hasn't been around for years. Truthfully, I’ve forgotten them just as they’ve forgotten me. I wonder if that's the joy and the sadness of being a kid. Or maybe it's only sad when you're an adult looking back on it all. The temporary nature of the world in childhood, and whether we believe in it, might be the adventure that helps us get through that time in our lives.

About my world ending: the details are fuzzy. But I remember my best friend gave someone else a friendship bracelet. Or something similar. It was something so small, but for me, it was a mountain that suddenly separated the both of us. I was sad and upset and so sure our friendship was over for good––how can you have more than one best friend? Why didn't I get a friendship bracelet? Did this mean she didn't care about me anymore? It sure felt like it.

 

So, I was mean and made her cry. I was impulsive as I still am, but there was nothing else I could have done. Without my best friend, I would be alone and have nobody to laugh with or share stories. And, obviously, she had found someone new. What could be worse than that? It was sure. The world had ended for me. And what could I do about it except watch, just as Sun did? 

This memory of mine is what confirms mostly what I have always known. My worst endings have been with friends. Whether I hurt them or they hurt me or it turns out neither of us hurt each other, the greatest pain I've felt most always had a friend standing on the X. And of course, I think of Sun. How her endings also involve friends and loneliness. She deals with things better than me in many ways. And then in other ways, she deals with everything in the way only a child can. Yet, I figure it's desperation that comes out of her instead, and I can feel her insecurities spilling onto her sleeves. 

I haven't truly outgrown everything I was as the years have passed. I still hate endings, although I understand that it's a vital part of life. I try to hold on until there's nothing left to do but let go. The small, insecure girl who was sad and angry that her best friend might not want her anymore still huddles in the deep pits of my being. She likes to bare her face even now and always at the worst times. I've gotten better at controlling her and tamping her down into a small box when she tries to get too big. But, so often her emotions spread out like a quilt until my years of experience and all the various friendships I’ve learned from mean nothing at all. They suffocate under this sensitive girl who can’t keep quiet. And I can still be a hurt seven-year-old, who can't imagine looking up at what else the world could be because this is the worst it can be. 

All the times my world has ended felt so much more intense when I was a child, when I had barely any memories to lean on and no thoughts about the future. I only had that moment, those feelings, and that second when I thought there could be nothing worse than whatever I was experiencing. And of course, it wasn't true. But you can only try to tell that to a seven-year-old, five minutes deep into a crying session. Has the world not undoubtedly shifted right before her eyes? Nobody can tell her otherwise.

 

I think The World of Us does a perfect job at portraying just how extreme these moments can be to a child. And while as an adult I can say, with some sort of certainty, "They're just kids. They'll grow out of this. They'll learn," the film is able to stop me with a gentle hand on my chest and whisper, "Right now, not for them. Right now, they can't say that. And neither can you." It captures this specific feeling of childhood: how a single event, a single person, can feel like the end of the world, and ultimately how a single event, a single person, can feel like the beginning of the best part of your life. 

And my best friend and I didn't stay angry at each other for long. We made up, as kids do. Our short memories got us through all the times we hurt each other. So we could continue our friendship like it was before, or I guess, start our friendship all over again. Somehow, it all felt brand new.

At the film's conclusion, we are left questioning. There is nothing concrete to give viewers assurance in what will come next for the characters. However, we know this: Sun's new life will begin here, after the screen cuts to black. She can have multiple beginnings now. She can have as many beginnings as she has endings, and hopefully it's more than she can count. 

Though I find it very easy to believe the opposite––I believe the world has begun for me just as many times as it has ended. Maybe even more. Each new place I've lived in is full of reward. Each new city I've visited is filled to the brim with experience. Each new best friend I've made is ripe with the possibilities of all these forevers. I can see it all stretch out in front of me and go on for miles. 

And I bask in what a blessing it is that I never outgrew who I was––pulling her up from my depths for the good days and she can bask in the joy with me––and it's the sweetest thing one can know.

 

And even though we hate endings and sometimes we can't even comprehend them, it's easier to embrace them. I can still be an seven-year-old who has just had a birthday and believes with all her heart that the next year will take too long to come around, but it is exciting nonetheless. I have all the time in the world and this new beginning is something I can hold onto tightly––and all my previous endings will have never mattered.

Where I end, I must certainly begin again. No matter what. No matter when. I will never be able to pinpoint, but, I know for sure the days are counting down to that new start. It will be full of question marks, but the answers can wait. And I can just be here. Now.

Monique Lowe is a writer from New York City. When she's not writing, she's picking up a new hobby or trying to find a new distressing and/or heartbreaking film to watch. Her work has appeared in midnight & indigo. Find her on Instagram @theonewithmo.

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