by Jennifer Michelle N.
“Smith was really mad after you left.” Desmond said after several moments of silence. Smith was our French teacher, back at school. Overall, she was a pretty nice person, and a pretty good teacher, but whether or not she was nice didn’t matter to me. My school could’ve been filled with the greatest teachers ever, and the coolest people on the Earth, and I still wouldn’t have hated it any less.
“I imagine.” I answered flatly. In my mind’s eye, I could still see everything happening. Me, sitting beside Desmond. Smith, passing out that day’s work sheet. Then, someone said something. Someone moved something. Someone did something--and I snapped. I’d known for months that, sooner or later, it was going to happen…I just didn’t know when, or why.
“Why’d you do it?” Desmond asked softly, refusing to look down at me, where I was lying back against the grass. He stayed sitting, eyes directed towards the trees surrounding us. Walling us off from the rest of the world.
I considered. “Don’t know.”
“Yeah you do.”
I shrugged. “What can I tell you? I’ve known since my first day that I couldn’t make it through the entire school year. I’m not strong enough. Not good enough.” I closed my eyes, watching my memory play out before me like a movie. Smith at the front of the room, Desmond working calmly beside me…and me…staring at my paper blankly. I watched the wheels turning behind my own eyes, knowing what was coming before it did.
“I don’t understand, though.” Desmond said. “You’re a good student. You make honor role every quarter. You’ve got friends. You’ve got guys who are all but in love with you. You’ve got a mother and father who support every decision you make, and are always there for you, no matter what….I don’t want to make it sound like I’m accusing you of being ungrateful…but….”
“I know.” I kept my eyes closed, watching as my memory-self shot up from her desk and threw all of her books onto the floor. It looked like slow motion. Papers flew everywhere, people jumped in surprise, Desmond looked up me with concern in his eyes. I didn’t wait around to get lectured. I tipped my desk over and kicked my backpack away from me, turning and running to the door before anyone could stop me, and disappearing outside. I ran for a long time, ending up in this field. After a while, I knew, Desmond would show up. He’d sit beside me silently, in the strange way of his, saying nothing. Offering no help.
“Sometimes….” I said quietly. “Sometimes I feel like there’ll be a day when I go to get up for school…when I get out of the car to walk in through the front doors…and I won’t be able to. I’ll just collapse. Everything will stop and fall apart and there’ll be nothing I can do to stop it, because I’m too weak. Sometimes, I imagine myself far away, on a deserted island, surrounded by crystal blue water and just living in peace, away from it all. It’ll never happen…but thinking it will keeps the panic away….Sometimes.”
Desmond said nothing for a long time, so we sat, feeling the wind blow across the ground. I wished I could join it, and just blow away. It’d be easier than staying here.
“People tell us the only way to survive is to keep putting one foot in front of the other.” Desmond said quietly. “But I think…in our case…the only way to survive is to stay on our feet. Don’t worry about moving forward, just worry about keeping your balance.” He reached out and took my hand. “Because in the end, all that matters is that you stay on your feet, and you stay alive.”
I looked up at the sky, watching the clouds float idly by. “Then how can we move forward? How can we ever get to a better place, like my island?”
“Time will never stop moving forward.” Desmond said. “Even if we do. Sometimes, we just have to hold onto to those we care about, and wait for time…and fate…to take us to that island. Somewhere we can be happy, strong, and safe.”
“I’m tired of waiting for time.” I whispered, closing my eyes again.
“But you’re too weak to move on your own.”
I watched myself tipping that desk over again and again, shuddering at the idea of returning back to that place for another five months. My hand tightened around Desmond’s, and he squeezed back, trying to let me know he was here.
“You can do this.” He told me.
“How do you know?”
“Because.” He stood up, pulling me onto my feet in one fluid movement and taking my arm to steady me as I regained my balance. “I know you’re strong.”
“I don’t feel like it.”
“Yeah. Those who feel weak, are often the strongest of us all.”
He offered me a small, reassuring smile, and for reasons still unknown to me, I returned it. Maybe I thought, if I did what he said, then I really would get to my deserted island one day. If nothing else, I had to hope.
I never lost hope after that.
I don’t exactly remember how long I laid there in my field before Desmond appeared and sat beside me, but I know it felt like an eternity. The days events played over and over again in my head, and I was left to watch them…unable to stop them.
I wrote this in the hopes that some teenager like me out there will read it and realize they're not alone. Everyone has some kind of war to fight, be it with themselves, their schools, their families, or whatever. You're not alone. We're all fighting right along side you, and if you can just manage to stay on your feet, you will get to your island. Never loose hope.
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