The List (Story by Risa Peris)

“Then were not summer’s distillation left, a liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass”

-Shakespeare’s Sonnet 5

Based on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 5


  1. Learn to walk. Grasp hold of furniture and put one foot in front of another. 
  2. Learn to talk. Yes. No. No is very important. “Would like some peas?” No. “Would you like a nap?” No. 
  3. Learn to follow directions. Listen to the teachers, parents, and all those adults that swarm you when young. You actually have to listen before you talk. I might have got that out of order. 
  4. Play. Never forget to play. Play as much as you can. Soon they will make you work. 
  5. Travel with adults. Notice every detail. Every shrub and stick. Every building and painting. You are learning and remembering the world. 
  6. Start taking your studies seriously. Learn even when you don’t want to. 
  7. Travel on your own. Gather flowers and place them in glass jars to preserve their scent. Smell it? The sunflower smell of youth. 
  8. Date if you want to. Kiss only if you truly desire to. Don’t bother with sex. Not yet. 
  9. Get into college. Accrue debt. Learn how much you don’t know. 
  10. Don’t be one thing. Try multiple careers. 
  11. Marry if you want to. Have a lavish party. Serve salmon and tiramisu. Wear a sleek gown or a ball gown. It doesn’t matter, as long as you feel beautiful. 
  12. Start a career. Dedicate time. Not too much time. 
  13. Have children if you want them. But remember they are crushing work. You will be sleep deprived for years. Or don’t have children. There is a nobility of peace without children. A lack of chaos. 
  14. Divorce if you want to. Or stay married and be miserable. Or stay married and be happy. But really that hot lover, after years of work and children, becomes more like an old sock. You kiss sometimes. You have quick sex on Sunday morning when the children are asleep. 
  15. Give it all up and travel to other countries on your retirement money, while you devise a non-profit or decide to become a painter. 
  16. Enter the retirement community in Florida. Make friends. Date the pleasant men. Or the rich ones. 
  17. Travel some more. 
  18. Become ill. 
  19. Now you are in a hospice and your grandchild places a jar next to your bedside. You touch the dusty glass. “Open it, darling,” you say to her. She twists the lid and unleashes the scent of spring, youth…it is the flower you collected on your first trip across a beautiful field alone and wedded to the world. Something about the smell makes you want to die – to release yourself from the world. 
  20. Die if you want to. And so your heart stops with the scent of youth. 
  21. Goodbye.
  22. A new child is born. Soon she will collect the scent of her youth.
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