Teen Writing Contest 2001
Short Story Winner
Raquel Gonzalez, Age 16
"Do you ever wish you could go back in time and fix all your mistakes, right all your wrongs and live the life you were supposed to live? I find myself constantly wishing against life itself that I could go back and fix it all. That I could prevent all the horrible things from happening that have ruined my life so much over the years. I remember my dreams and aspirations from when I was still innocent and untouched by the cruelties of life. When I was too naÔve to understand how unforgiving life can be to people like me. Even now, I cannot comprehend the degree of "messed up" that my life has turned out to be.
"I make it sound so horrible, like Iím one of those crazy kids on TV. But no, I was never sexually, mentally, physically, or verbally abused. Never was raped, starved, homeless, or any of that. Iíve never witnessed anyone being killed; Iíve never killed anyone. Itís all relatively petty stuff that has essentially, but not literally ruined my life (at least not yet anyway).
"I just feel as though Murphyís Law is the sole law of my life. Murphyís Law being that: anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It seems that everything that I love or that has meant anything to me, I have lost. Reality is so distorted and twisted that many times Iíll sit back and say, "This canít be my life!" Oh God, how I wish that were true!
"Just when I think things canít possibly be any worse and I canít take any more bullshit, it just comes on stronger. I honestly believe that I will have a mental break down some day in the not too distant future. Itís just so much stress and tension that I feel like Iím going to burst. Just pop like a balloon. I want to cry and let it all out, but I canít allow myself to cry.
"Everything that I know and love was all a big lie! Like if everyone was in on it. If youíve ever seen that movie with Michael Douglas, The Game, then youíll know what I mean. I am still trying to understand how everyone I loved so much could desert me at the same time. Left me utterly alone and defenseless. And they went on with their lives; without a second thought about me, without any regret or remorse! People I wouldíve given my life for turned on me at the drop of a dime!
"I look around me and try to decide who is left. There is no one. No one I can count on. Not my family, my so-called friends, no teachers or authoritative figures-no one. I am so alone in a world that is against me. It is so hard to be in my room holding myself, trying to fight back the tears of rage and sorrow all alone. No words of encouragement from anyone, no comforting embraces or reassuring smiles, no tones of concern. Nothing. Just me, myself and I."
She stopped, looking around the crowded room. Everyone was staring at her, listening intently as she read the poem. Groping eyes that saw everything, scrutinized her every move, gesture, facial expression. They were analyzing, dissecting to see if it could be true. Was this something she was going through? Did she really feel that way? This happy studious girl who always smiled and did so well with everything? And she could see it in their eyes, those merciless judges of reality.
She could see them slowly beginning to question, slowing beginning to accept the possibility that it could be. She could see it in the look of confusion on their faces. They were asking themselves if there could secretly be nothing but loneliness and despair and agony behind those smiles. They were trying to figure out if sheíd ever shown signs of it before and they just werenít paying close enough attention.
They began asking around and making quiet comments to each other while she continued speaking-that intense stare never leaving her.
"You know, she got mad at me the other day when I didnít sit next to her in class."
"Isaw a show on Lifetime about this."
"Are those the kind of pants depressed people wear?"
"I called her one day and she told me to call her back because she was busyÖI think she was crying."
The room buzzed with criticizing remarks, making her feel nauseous with insecurity. She wanted to disappear into the wall behind her, anything to escape their hard dark eyes burning into her from every angle.
Finally she was finished reading. A name popped into her head and she quickly muttered "That was by Charlie Griggs. He wanted me to read it since he couldnít be here tonight." Their faces softened with her last words, and she breathed easier as they applauded their approval. Even still, she couldnít bear to remain around them and quietly exited to the bathroom.
She flushed her hot cheeks with cold water and stood staring in the mirror. In the silence she watched the water slowly drip down her sallow face. She listened as another speaker took the floor and the room exploded with vociferous clapping in the next room.
She thought her face was interestingly disgusting and beautiful at once. It was the face of a young girl under too much stress. Big brown eyes expressing nothing but sorrow, with dark circles underneath telling of the many sleepless nights she lay distressed and angry with her life, fighting off tears of depression all alone. Her thick, pouty lips were slightly turned down, in a permanent scowl to the spiteful world around her.
The stress showed plainly on her otherwise attractive face. Even the slumping of her shoulders indicated that severity of her insecurities and anxiety.
She let her mind wander to those far off places too distant for reality to attack and harm her dim spirit.
She was in school, walking down the hall to class. Everyone was smiling and laughing; having fun, as they invariably do in high school. Even she was feeling light and content at the moment, for no particular reason. She could feel a slight smirk on her face that was not sincere, but merely an attempt to fit in with the other kids who were also smiling and expected the same from her. It was an unspoken rule that you were supposed to keep your personal problems at home and come to school joyful-always. But in the next moment, her world was shattered as she turned the corner and accidentally bumped into him.
He was her ex-best friend. They used to be like brother and sister. She would go over his house everyday after school and they would watch TV and play fight until she had to go home. They knew everything about each other and shared the most secret of secrets. They would even finish each otherís sentences and dress the same without trying. They had talked about getting married when they were older and having kids, whom they would name after each other. It was a friendship that was supposed to last forever.
But it ended tragically in a peculiar sort of way that even she herself could not understand. She had spent the last year crying herself asleep and drowning in a misery so great nothing could cure it. She would take out old pictures of them together and fall captive to nostalgic depression over and over again. She sent him letters and cards begging for forgiveness for whatever it was she had done wrong. She wondered endlessly why they no longer talked and how two friends as close as they could ever let anything break them up. Everyday she let guilt eat her alive, rotting her insides like a decaying body. She constantly asked people about him in an effort to know how he was, since she was absolutely terrified to speak to him.
He glanced at her and quickly looked away as he passed, her heart pounding in her chest like battlefield explosions. She caught his eye for a moment and instantly welled up with tears at the memory of his loving words and strong embrace. She wanted to say hi, ask how he was doing, tell him she missed him. But she knew it would be in vain and she could not do it. She did not have the courage. She could not face that rejection. The rejection she knew was looming in his steeled heart, the rejection on his lips and under his skin, radiating off his clothes, glaring at her through his cutting, unrepentant eyes. Breathing rapidly and shivering with frightened love, she continued walking, as she always did-the image of his face haunting her the entire way.
Staring back at her own reflection, she slowly dissolved back into reality as her eyes trembled under the weight of her warm tears. Not daring to close them for fear of allowing herself to cry, she grabbed a paper towel and dabbed at her eyes. She stood in front of the mirror one last time, adjusting her ponytail and making sure no evidence of her grief was visible. She offered a quick quavering grin that startled her more than comforted her to assure herself that she was alright and confidently walked out of the bathroom to join the rest of the kids in the other room.
As she walked, some one called her name and she turned around enthusiastically to greet them. It was one of her closet friends. He has been waiting to talk to her after she sheíd read the poem. He plodded toward her, wobbling slightly from side to side, with an exaggerated swing to his arms. He was oddly graceful despite his size, his massive figure both intimidating and reassuring at once. As he came closer, and saw the way she looked at him with hungry anticipation of jubilant words, and greedy longing for solace making his heart ache with compassionate empathy. He stopped abruptly, towering over her with a presence so strong it commanded the attention of all those he encountered. His cheerful mood had gone in an instant when he noted the twinge of pain on her face and emptiness in her normally pleasant manner. He knew something was wrong because she seemed too eager to be comforted; it wasnít like her to look so vulnerable and weakened.
"Are you okay? You look sad. You wrote that poem, didnít you? I knew it had to be for real. That had to come from the heart. You read it with so much emotion. There is no way it was someone elseís work. You know that part about you being alone is not true. Iím here for you."
She threw herself into his arms burying her face in his solidified reassurance. She melted in his strong, unyielding embrace, clinging to his chest and holding on for dear life. She grew calm with the steady throbbing of his gigantic heart, only inches from her face, beneath the soft gelatinous tissue of his bosom. Getting hopelessly lost in the powerful yet comforting grip of his colossal arms, and feeling safe from all the harshness of the world outside protection.
She felt a tremor of profound love for such a great friend and wondered how she could ever reciprocate the extreme devotion and loyalty he showed her daily. She didnít want him to think she didnít care, but she didnít know how to repay him for his kindness. She felt as though she wasnít that great of a friend to him and it bothered her since he treated her so well and he meant a lot to her.
But she was not going to let those stressful thoughts affect her right now. She could rest for the moment. Nothing could touch her, nothing could get to her, no one could hurt her as long as she was in his arms. It was her safe haven.
He held her tighter in his loving embrace and softly kissed her head. She allowed the piercing droplet of anguish escape her, not fighting this urge to release it all. She welcomed the hot misery trickling down her cheeks as her body heaved with powerful gut wrenching sobs. And for the first time in what seemed like eternity, she felt relieved, alive, loved. It was going to be okay.