CLEMENTINE VALTZ / STUDENT & WRITER / WELLFLEET
Clementine Valtz decided, as a junior, to apply to college. If accepted, she would skip her senior year at Nauset Regional High School. As it turned out, schools closed in March for in-person classes because of the virus; so, with months of remote learning, high school did not end as Clementine expected. In the fall, she will be going to Bennington College in Vermont to study creative writing. Here’s Clementine in her own words.
Last fall, I entered my junior year of high school, expecting it to be a very normal year. It must’ve been sometime in February, my friends and I went looking for prom dresses. We just decided to make a day of it and run around Hyannis. I was very excited to look for a prom dress, because prom dresses are cool and fancy. And I found my dress at the first place we went to, which was great. I had to put it on hold, because there was some discount I could get if I left it at the store for about a month.
So, March 10 was the pickup date. The school closure was coming, and quarantine was coming, and coronavirus was looming ominously on the horizon. Schools closed initially for a two-week period. I feel like somewhere in the back of my mind I understood that we wouldn’t be going back to school, but it all still seemed possible. It was definitely a situation of clinging onto hope — just thinking, well, surely the schools will reopen by May. Or, certainly by summer, this will all be over. I mean, I didn’t really believe it. If I examined that idea for any amount of time, longer than the half second it took to think it, I was perfectly aware of how completely illogical it was.
* * * *
I don’t remember what I did on the last day of high school that I will ever experience, which is just so strange because it’s usually such a monumental thing — high school and ending high school. On March 13, which was a Friday, I had some average day of school. I remember leaving school and running around Orleans with a friend. Even then, it already felt dodgy, although we hadn’t been instructed to quarantine or to not run around with our friends yet. It was a memorable day in terms of seeing my friends, but not academically, which honestly just is in keeping with the entire theme of my high school experience.
We were just about to start reading As I Lay Dying in one of my English classes, which I’d been looking forward to all year, and we never got to read that. And then in my Shakespeare class, which was an elective, we were halfway through Hamlet, which was my third reading of Hamlet that year, because I had a bit of a Hamlet obsession. And then by the time they were canceling things in May, I was thinking, yeah, no, we’re not going back to school.
Because I’m a junior officially, I don’t think I ever actually got some kind of notice that said prom is canceled. I must’ve heard people talking about it. I was disappointed. I was going as the platonic date of my oldest friend. All of my other friends were coming in some way, shape, or form. So, yeah, it was going to be a really good time. We had it all arranged.
It’s sad not to do this one big event that we were all looking forward to, but we’re still going to find ways to see each other and enjoy being together. We’ve been talking recently about doing some kind of parking lot prom and just meeting up in a beach parking lot in fancy dresses with masks on.
* * * *
In the fall, I’m going to college with my oldest friend since the age of four. So that’s nice. I feel pretty certain that it’s going to work out really well. It’s not really frightening. And it doesn’t really feel like this great unknown.
I feel like college is going to finally give me the avenue I need to write something that I can finish and possibly publish and put out into the world. I’ve always really loved stories since I was very little. I sort of decided, I think around the age of four or five, that I wanted to be an author when I grew up. And that stuck. I’ve been attempting to write novels since the age of 11, unless you count the Crayola-markers, poorly-spelled books I wrote when I was five.
I have to publish a novel at some point, preferably more than one. If I publish just one novel at any point in my life, I’m satisfied. I love the power stories have, even when they are completely fictional. Stories make me happy. And if I can make some other people happy by writing a story, that would be the coolest thing.
Listen to Clementine: