Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME

Awesome Essays: Tricycle

Rachel Kempf writes like she is my best friend. I say my specifically because in less than ten pages she talks about Belle and Sebastian, traveling, and the Missouri-Iowa border. Her essay Tricycle (which appears in the wonderful anthology Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers

) is about her fear of graduating and leaving the wonderful friendships she created in college behind. More specifically she is afraid to leave behind her two best friends, Christian and Eric. Simultaneously she realizes her relationship with Christian and Eric is potentially toxic because Christian and Eric and a couple and she is the third wheel. They assure her she is not a third wheel, but that the three of them create a tricycle. This is a nice thought, but she is drifting away from her psychologist boyfriend and thinking about becoming a couple with Christian and Eric, even though she knows this is a dangerous idea.

The essay fits very well in the Twentysomething anthology because the thoughts are, well, very twentysomething. It's very concentrated on friendship, definitely a concern for young twentysomethings, but it's hard not to notice other people pairing off and becoming serious. Once people start pairing off it becomes clear that the friendships might not win out over the romance. College friendships are strange because you become close to the people you are with in college in a way that is so different from any other friendship. You are all going through the same changes and you see each other work towards adulthood. When college closes you realize you might never see these people you've become so close to ever again, and you're actually sad about it.

Kempf's strength is dialogue and uninhibited honesty, two great traits for any nonfiction writer to have. I did feel the conclusion to the essay was a little sloppy, she throws in several ideas she could have added to the essay in a paragraph at the end, but I think she needed to build the relationship between her, Christian, and Eric before sharing those details because the reader needs to really understand the relationship to understand why the details are important. She says a lot with small details, something I admire a lot because I know how difficult it is to do.

"On Tuesday it snows six inches, but by nighttime it's warm enough. We each pile on three layers of clothing and trek up to the quad at midnight for a snowball fight. An hour and a half later, we're walking back to my apartment for hot chocolate, and Eric stops on the sidewalk next to my building.

'Sweet, it's still there,' he says to himself.

I look down to where his feet are. ERIC <3's YOU is spelled out in footprints in the snow.

'Hey, I wrote you a message!' he yells to Christian, who is a few feet behind us.

Christian catches up, looks down at the ground. 'I love you, too.'

He says it quickly, like he's not used to saying it really, so this must be a fairly recent development between them. I'd suspected it for a while, but hearing it now makes me realize there is an entire world between the two of them that I am not even tangentially involved with."

I really like these scene because she manages to let you see the thoughts of all three characters in a very controlled way. I like how she sets the scene from a fun night with friends in the winter to a very specific realization.

Have you ever had an incredibly close relationship with a friend that you feared losing? What would your twentysomething essay be about?

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Awesome Essays: Tricycle + TIME