Something about the way a single raindrop settled upon my car window infected me with a hollow disease. The musty odor of deserted city streets infused within the tiny droplet took me back to better times, bittersweet in memory. Whether it was the icy breath of a storm on my neck or the crack and shudder of nature’s diaphragm in the distance that woke me from my stupor remains uncertain. Regardless, I made my arrival somewhere in my present, where the rest of me remained scattered along the highway.
Things are great, a lot different. However it is past midnight and I work tomorrow, so it is wise that I just throw in a few updates and get down to business.
I don’t live in Hartford anymore, I moved back to Milwaukee to my grandma’s. I have no clue where I will live when they leave for Arizona in November.
I got hit by a car two days after school let out for the summer. It must run in my family like I run red lights.
I’m doing great in school for once since fourth grade. I’ll attach something that will explain why.
I’m posting four essays I’ve written this year for my creative writing class. I’m proud of the writing, and the fact that they were on time, but I would also appreciate improvement suggestions. The first one is a personal memoir. The second was supposed to be based on a group written story, but I had the creative freedom to do as I pleased with it. The third was a story written on the criteria that it had to be about someone’s date of death written on their arm. The fourth is a dialog, and I chose to expand on my first essay.
Piece # 1
In my short span of 17 years on this planet, I have the potential to meet 7 billion people. Granted, not all of these people could bless me with their presence, but two of these random strangers have been influential to me in very positive ways. I’m not sure where exactly the story starts; there is no distinct line I crossed or event that sparked the explosion which created the mess that was my sophomore year of high school.
I remember sitting in the admissions office at Rogers Memorial Hospital after a teacher’s worried expression compelled me to seek help. I felt alone, worthless, and hopeless. I didn’t feel I should believe in myself because, after all, no one else did. In the week that followed my admission, I met someone who proved me completely wrong, with no intentions of doing so. This nurse, named Liz, started her shift at 3:30 in the afternoon and left at eleven at night. “Bedtime” was at nine, and almost every night I ended up sauntering up to the nurses’ station to ask Liz if she could sit by my doorway and talk to me while she wrote notes on a laptop.
Night after night, Liz sat there, all five feet and three inches of her curled up like a pretzel across from my five-foot-three frame that paralleled hers. Our conversations were fluid, calm, and regarding nothing in particular other than whatever topic drifted out of my mouth. I heard the words she was speaking, but also understood the implications of, “Yes, I have been there.” Looking back after I was discharged, I can see the whole picture. Despite having other work to do, Liz saw the value in staying late to talk to me.
Her dedication motivated me to take charge of my personal development, so I moved to a new town, Hartford, and stayed with my sister. Here, I became more outgoing and put my personality where everyone could see it for the first time in my life. New found confidence allowed me to be proud of parts of me I previously felt the need to hide. Soon, the pressures of school and home life sucked me into that dark vortex again. As I neared the end of my junior year, I was considering dropping out of high school. I brought up this topic to Mrs. McClain, a teacher with whom I have shared my many personal dilemmas with and who always managed to make me laugh despite the fact.
“I’m thinking of dropping out,” I said, and the instant those words left my mouth, they were greeted with a stern, “No.” Her response seemed to put a foot down on my plans. The truth is, I didn’t have any plans. My hidden intention was to spend the only money I had on things that would aid in my personal destruction. I wanted to flush my life away until it was floating in the ocean, somewhere no one could find it.
The following summer, after weeks of overworking myself day-to-day, I had a breakdown. This lead to an unhealthy situation at my sister’s, requiring I move back to Milwaukee. I emailed McClain about the several problems I faced— I was now virtually homeless, had to give up both of my jobs, and most importantly, I had to start my senior year at a new MPS school.
And I was scared.
Immediately, I got a response that was littered with alternative options. She listed off several different high schools, the pros and cons of each, and a short note encouraging me not to give up. However, I discovered my neighborhood school was Washington, and somehow she knew that I would rather pay truancy tickets than attend that school. Instead, McClain offered to go with me to Hamilton to register for classes and set me up with teachers that would be best fit for me. Less than a week later, I was meeting her at the doors of the school on one of her only days off; discussing class credits, and being introduced to several teachers she knows. I questioned her reasoning behind taking so much time out her personal life to take care of someone she is no longer legally responsible for.
She said, “Well, Amelia, you’ve had a pretty shitty upbringing. I know what you are capable of, and I think you just need a kick in the butt and some guidance for you to get there.”
I suddenly realized she saw potential in me that I hadn’t even seen, and she was confident the extra time spent was worthwhile.
Without these special encounters and the unfortunate situations that produced them, it is certain I would not be on the path I’m on today. I would not have the wisdom, perseverance, or trust in myself that came about because of the adversity I had faced. These two women believed me into existence. The importance of their actions are well-known among family and friends and while I am not allowed to have contact with Liz outside of Rogers, I know she understands how much of an impact she has had on the life of a patient.
As for McClain, I hope she recognizes her impact early enough to come watch me walk across that stage.
I Smell Smoke
The red paint chipping off the walls in the hallway and the abrasive fabric of my blankets is something I try hard to forget. Somehow, my senses seemed to so deeply ingrain them in my memory… This is the story I’ve been avoiding for a long time:
“Avoiding” looks like the hospital burning in the distance as I’m sprinting down the alleyway. It looks like the reflection of neon signs being corrupted when my foot sails through a puddle. I launch myself over a chainlink fence and my feet pound across the flimsy plastic dumpster covers. My pants stick to me like wet sandpaper.
I’m not proud of what I did, but it was a necessary action for escape. This is war? says a voice in my head. Challenge accepted. That voice is always there, like an overprotective parent with a bad influence. In the distance, the shrill sound of sirens warns me of pursuit.. Hissing of rubber tires on pavement causes me to change my route to head around the corner where all is now quiet. Activity in this part of town ceases to exist, as if I’m the only one here. All the while, families and children rest peacefully indoors. Even the storm has gone to sleep.
How many succumbed to the flames? The man and the woman for sure — they were in the room with me. Now, clouds of smoke drift through the air, linger in the moisture, then disperse. My mother’s battered townhouse appears to the left of me, near the end of the street, so I slow my pace to a walk. Creeping around the back of the structure, I tap the broken corner of window out of place to enable myself to slip my finger inside and across the latch. This window leads to my room. This room I haven’t lived in for several years.
My entrance is successful, but when I cross the room to the hallway, the sound of voices halts my advance. The timbre of the voices sounds familiar, like the brassy tone of the cop in pursuit, and how it contrasts to the delicate whisper of my mother. They are here, and I’ve fallen in the trap they set up. My only chance of escape is the basement window, but as soon as I take the first step, a loud crick echoes down the hallway.
“ Shh,” the man says to my mother. Following a moment of silence is the routine sound of a pistol being snapped out of its holster.
I’m caught now. Run. Adrenaline pushes me onward down the stairs, my body sliding against the concrete wall as I make my descent. I can see the words of the voice spinning around in a sea of red and black in front of me: Make a decision. Doors open behind me… I bolt across the room… make one final leap over the couch… reach for the window… his gun is drawn…
The young nurse lets the iron door slam behind her when she barges in to give me medication. She always does that. The man is checking my heart rate beside me, glancing up only to see the new occupant in the room. They don’t seem bothered by the dampness of my sheets, the muffled chatter of the rain, or the shrill tone of the machine. The man speaks to the woman but the booming harshness of his voice drowns out her quiet murmur. During their conversation, they suspect nothing; But they are talking about the storm,
and I smell smoke.
Ink, so carefully injected under my skin, read, “September 5, 2201”.
I’ve stared at this mark every day. Immune to the effect it once had, I’ve never grasped its true meaning until now. The loops, formed by letters, glared at me like eyes, void of emotion. These eyes reflected mine. Only a hint of emotion remains in the letters. Seven decades of the stuff has been drained from mine.
Peering over the hills is the sun, whose light trickles over the icy winterscape that asphyxiates this town habitually. Urban life fights back with plows, shovels and noxious fumes, that collectively chew away at mother nature’s thick blanket. The grayness of the daily routine has seeped into my emotions and sucked out the bright greens, oranges, and yellows. Even my hair, once jet black and full had faded to a slick silver.
For this reason, this death date has been a blessing in disguise. I welcome its embrace, because somehow I know it will be warmer than the vacant stares of the zombies meandering down the street. Tonight, I rest peacefully in my death box. My night was spent with a glass of wine, not quite as aged as it should’ve been. Now, however, I wait patiently in my box for eternal sleep to overcome me and keep me from the trials of tomorrow. The government is responsible for planned deaths like mine. A man in a suit pulls a red trigger on a joystick, and it releases a fatal chemical already injected into a microchip. Microchips are surgically implanted in everyone born here. The government will pull my trigger in two hours; midnight. Saying my final goodbyes to my environment has never been so easy. My eyes start to close, sending me into a deep sleep.
I wake in a cold sweat.
I wasn’t supposed to.
This realization compels me to look around. I’ve always hated the box. I’ve always hated the idea of someone putting a time stamp on my life. I hate that the world is bleak, but if I really dig deep and zoom in on these garbage filled streets, I can see a boy with nothing to give, giving to strangers. His tattered clothes are an indication of his needs. Across the street from the boy is a man, clearly a veteran, being pushed in a wheelchair by his wife. She must have taken him to see the sunrise, because a grateful tear falls across his cheek. I don’t think he knows it, because scars have destroyed the feeling in his face.
The veteran’s tear humbles me. A man who has seen all of human horror still appreciates the little things and is thankful for the opportunity to see a sunrise. A boy who has never gained love from others doesn’t realize the amount of it he gives away each day. I make it my mission to show the homeless boy the love and appreciation he has long been deprived of. The little guy needs spare change and an adventure. Perhaps, there are, in fact, delicate moments all around us.
But as I step off the curb and make towards the young man, I remember that I was not supposed to wake up this morning. Somewhere, a man in a blue suit is looking at a list of names and remembering the same. The little boy glances up at me as I approach. I take my final step, but simultaneously, the forgetful man in the blue suit pulls the trigger.
Promises to Keep II
“Hey Liz,” I said sheepishly, as I stepped up to the nurses’ station. “Do you think you could come talk to me tonight? It’s okay if you’re busy…”
Liz glanced up at me with bright blue eyes, smiled, then returned her gaze to the screen in front of her. Nodding her head slowly, she said, “ Sure. Just let me grab a laptop.”
She appeared deep in thought, so to prevent myself from distracting her, I made myself comfortable on the floor nearby. My body was positioned equally over the floor trim, where the carpet met the false wood floor. Here, I could see the length of the hallway, as well as into the day room and behind the nurses’ station, ten feet away. This, other than being seated snugly between the sides of my door frame, was my favorite spot.
Mike, another nurse with a booming voice, pushed through the doors to the dayroom, spinning around to avoid the pizza he was carrying from being knocked over. “Happy birthday, Liz!” he shouted.
After and hour of waiting, Liz found a laptop and we walked back to my doorway together.
“So,” I said, “it’s your birthday today, huh?” We were sitting cross legged in front of each other now.
“Yeah,” she whispered, then leaned forward, “Twenty four. I’m getting old.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “ Nah, you’re still a baby.” I said as I shake my finger at her.
“What?! You’re the baby here,” she asserted. “You are, what? Nine years younger than me?” Liz has this way about her where she gets playfully defensive; that night it showed.
“Eh,” I mused, “ Eight and three quarters. We’re both pretty young.”
She began nodding her head, saying. “Yes, we’ve got a lot of life to live,” then took her focus off of the laptop and placed it completely on me. “Speaking of which, I heard about what you did yesterday.” She was referring to the self harm.
As she stared at me, concern and empathy eased across her face. I swear there was a spark in her eye: one of recognition and wisdom. She rested her hand on my knee.
“Look,” Liz said, “ I understand. I do. But I need you to let go. Those things in your past…” She pulled away and looked around before continuing. “If I didn’t let go of those things from my past I’d be… I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be off somewhere, a wreck.”
Our gaze met for a long second. I could feel the mental gears turning, and finally, it clicked.
“I’ll stop, I promise. It’ll be your birthday present.” I whispered.
“Don’t do it for anyone other than yourself,” she warned. “ But if that’s what helps you, go ahead.”
“It’s just that ninety-nine percent of me doesn’t want to exist anymore. The only thing holding me back is that one percent.”
“Well, then that one percent is a trooper.” she said. It was true; that one percent of me was living for other people. It was hope that something would get better. All I had to push me forward was hope. Hope, and promises to keep.
In recent SI news, we have added new members to our team and are very excited to work with them. Already the Project is gaining momentum and new steps are being taken. It is well know that a movement needs it’s followers, because it is nearly impossible to make a change alone.
Just as it is nearly impossible to trek through life without any help.
Soon, stories will be shared, and events will take place, in which the SI team will need support of friends, followers, and family.
Indeed, if you feel compelled to help or are as moved by the Project’s mission (as some who have already informed us), feel free to ask what you can do. Questions regarding the project will happily be answered. Your questions turn into feedback for us. I personally look forward to developing a relationship will the team as well as supporters. We are here to encourage and support each other to connect with one another through music, a universal language.
The most we can ask for right now sharing us by simple word of mouth. When stating what the project is about, a good way to word it is the sentence above in bold. This is one of the best ways we have been able to explain the meaning as a team. Engagement on social media is encouraged and much appreciated.
Keep your feet on the ground unless you are reaching for the sky, and never look back at bad examples.
I will update you guys frequently.
You are sitting at home, when you walk over to your phone on it’s charger to see that you have one new message from your half-brother. To you, he is just your brother–the “half- prefix isn’t allowed in your home. You open the text, read it, and are frozen with fear:
Tell dad I'm sorry but that he doesn't have to deal with me anymore. I'll be out of his life in a few minutes.
You press CALL and let it ring. Each tone brings on a rising level of anxiety. Then after what seems like an hour, it goes to voicemail.
He didn’t answer.
You quickly walk over to you’re father, and let him read what he sent you.
Phone calls are made.
His sister goes over to his house. She finds him there.
One year later, Talking about it still brings you to tears, as it always will. He is a fallen soldier: Gone but never forgotten.
And you miss him. You cared. A lot.
When my friend Amber, a senior I met in Hartford, gave me a ride home from her house for the first time, I notice a picture of a man in uniform, probably in his late 20s. Below his face reads his date of birth, and date of death. Before that point, I wasn’t aware that Amber had a brother. (She actually has three of them.)
“Oh no… that makes me sad.” I say and I inspect the card.
“HA… It makes me sad.” She says, Looking straight ahead.
No questions were asked, because I took one look at the uniform and assumed he was killed in combat. I was wrong.
Yesterday, while I was helping Amber’s sister, Brittany, pack for her upcoming vacation, she was worried about people asking about her tattoo. She got it in memory of her brother.
She started explaining how she still has a text from him about 5 minutes before “he did it” still saved in her old phone. I finally asked how he died.
He shot himself.
She broke down describing the situation to me. Then she hugged me tight, and asked to never let her go through that again. Unfortunately, I knew who she was talking about.
This was a huge eye opener for me. Even if you don’t think your family cares, they do. Even if it’s your half sister who you are not close with. Things like suicide can really tear them apart. It affects more than just you. So even if you think you are worthless, I know someone cares. I’ll bet money on it. I understand, family sometimes doesn’t take you seriously. I can tell you from experience that the saying “Friends come and go, but your family will always be there” is not entirely true. I can also tell you from experience that strangers can have a huge impact on you and be a huge inspiration. If they don’t see your worth, then I figure they aren’t the right people to be looking for it. The only way to find the right people is to put yourself out there and give it time.
I’ve always contemplated whether or not something is wrong with me. The answer, at last, has been uncovered.
My problem is very simple. However, my brain has been trained to think this way and is so intricately stitched together that it will require some back-breaking work to undo. Unfortunately, the fresh tracks that have been laid are always being pulled apart by some other force.
My problem is more of a problem for others than it is for me; it’s more of a second way to view the world.
My problem is that I only see people.
My problem is with the labels being stamped across everyone’s forehead: The labels that tell you how to treat them, what to expect from them, and limit your communication with them.
My problem is that I don’t see a group of eight year olds. I see a clean slate that can be engraved with open mindedness and positivity. I see a new generation that will inherit the power to change the world. I see the person they are, how their environment affects them, and the potential for something great. I don’t see little kids who are allowed to hide behind the excuse of their age for protection against mistakes.
My problem is that I don’t see separate genders, races, or cultures. I see other human beings with a different body, but with the same mental capabilities as each other. I see people who have the power to do anything they set their mind to, despite the circumstances they have been provided with. I don’t see different people who are incapable of something due to where they were born or what they were born as.
My problem is that I don’t see professions in which people find themselves unable to get personal with others.
I only see people.
I see people who are capable of moral judgment.
I see a collection of cells that has the ability to conduct electrical impulses to make decisions.
I see sacks of flesh with personality.
My problem is I don’t see separate identities,
my problem is that I only see people.
I don’t think I’ll need to go back there again.
To the hospital, I mean. I have developed an ignorance for what people think of me. The weight of thanking Liz is off my shoulders, and in that process, she yet again opened my eyes to life lessons. I discovered that one of the reasons Liz was so influential to me was the fact that she was one of the few people who believed in me… and showed it. I could tell she thought I had a bright future in front of me. True, no one person can save your life, but I still think it is a team effort. She unlocked the door for me, and I pushed it open. I still hope to accidentally run in to her someday so I can tell her about all the progress I’ve made. I feel like she would want to know.
While I was in the hospital this most recent time, Liz pulled away in an effort to make me less codependent. To me I didn’t seem codependent at all. Anyway, throughout the night that I was crying (due to thinking that the only person who believed in me has given up) she walked in and out of my room to talk to the staff who was doing a one-to-one with my roommate. An hour and a half later, she open the door, but it wasn’t to talk to staff. She called my name to see if I was awake, and long story short, took me into the office she was working in so we could talk. that was the last night I was supposed to be there, and I had suspicion I was going to leave before her shift. She felt bad that we didn’t get to talk when I wanted to. We sat there and talked about random things and gradually I stopped crying and was happy again. I was fine once I knew she hadn’t given up on me, and the look she gave me when I told her she didn’t have to “save me every time” proved that.
With that note, I’ll leave you with the lyrics of a good song.
by Bob Franke
I remember growing up like it was only yesterday
Mom & Daddy tried their best to guide me on my way
But the hard times & the liquor drove the easy love away
And the only love I knew about was hard love
It was hard love, every hour of the day
When Christmas to my birthday was a million years away
And the fear that came between them drove the tears into my play
There was love in daddy’s house, but it was hard love
And I recall the gentle courtesy you gave me as I tried
To dissemble in politeness all the love I felt inside
And for every song of laughter was another song that cried
This ain’t no easy weekend, this is hard love
It was hard love, every step of the way
Hard to be so close to you, so hard to turn away
And when all the stars and sentimental songs dissolved to day
There was nothing left to sing about but hard love
So I loved you for your courage, and your gentle sense of shame
And I loved you for your laughter and your language and your name
And I knew it was impossible, but I loved you just the same
Though’ the only love I gave to you was hard love
It was hard love, it was hard on you, I know
When the only love I gave to you was love I couldn’t show
You forgave the heart that loved you as your lover turned to go
Leaving nothing but the memory of hard love
So I’m standing in this phone booth with a dollar and a dime
Wondering what to say to you to ease your troubled mind
For the Lord’s cross might redeem us, but our own just wastes our time
And to tell the two apart is always hard, love
So I’ll tell you that I love you even though I’m far away
And I’ll tell you how you change me as I live from day to day
How you help me to accept myself and I won’t forget to say
Love is never wasted, even when it’s hard love
Yes, it’s hard love, but it’s love all the same
Not the stuff of fantasy, but more than just a game
And the only kind of miracle that’s worthy of the name
For the love that heals our lives is mostly hard love