by Dani, 12th
I’m sorry I could never build up the courage to write about you. I tried my best to dig deep into my heart and soul, but all I could scrap up were a couple of words describing how visiting you felt; magical, terrific, beautiful. Even with those words, those experiences I brought back with me are inexplicable. You showed me that my heart could still flutter with a small greeting, my mind could think happy thoughts and my confidence could keep growing. The empowerment that I brought home with me couldn’t have made it through Miami or San Francisco without you. You’re incredible. I apologize that I have done nothing but break our ties; I can’t say that my busy schedule is to blame, but I felt that I was hanging onto you and refused to let you go. I saw the world moving on, but I kept lingering around the photos I took and the people I met. You were my life.
My emotions plummeted and I felt like nothing could make me smile again. Your beautiful landscapes and people made me regret ever coming back, and even with familiar faces, the U.S. made me feel empty. She simply could not fulfill the void that is rather ubiquitous. My languid mentality made it hard to move on with the U.S. and ultimately made me forget you. Over these past 5 months, I have been able to cultivate a stronger and more positive mentality and in the end made me acknowledge that you were not a loss. The ability to remember the beautiful people living with you and your impeccable scenery has made me realize how lucky I am to have met you. It’s still a bit hard to remember every part of you, but through photos and conversations, the feelings of contentment and love continue to rush to my heart and cheeks. I hope that I am able to fully repair the bonds we once had, and to see you in the future.
You’re forever in my heart, Guatemala.
by H, 11th
Dear Representative Lee,
I attend Met West High School as a junior in Oakland. Am writing to you because you represent me in Congress and are a champion of civil rights. I have been studying slavery and reparations, and I have concluded that reparations are long overdue. I have read what you think about reparations and I agree that the Congress needs to pass H.R. 40. I really appreciate your support of H.R. 40, but passing H.R. 40 is only a start. As a person in your district, I hope my ideas for reparations, set forth below, will be considered in future attempts to provide reparations.
As you know, reparations are necessary because beginning in 1619 slaves were brought from Africa in slave ships to Virginia. Slavery quickly spread, especially in the South. Black people were enslaved, beaten, tortured, and killed by their masters, as people in the South as well as the North benefited economically from their labor. This horrible treatment of African Americans lasted until 1865, when the 13th Amendment freed all men after the Civil War. Even after the 13th Amendment was passed, white terrorists used violence against Africa Americans to stop them from voting, holding office, and pursuing a meaningful education. Plessy vs. Ferguson guaranteed segregation in the United States for all public accommodations and areas. Even after Brown vs Board of Education, racist housing policies disadvantaged black people through the use of contract selling and redlining. These racist policies created the wealth gap we have today between blacks and whites.
The reason I chose to write to you now is because of the recent hearing about reparations in Congress. I have read many articles proposing plans that inspired me to write to you. All of these articles were written because there have been no reparations for the harm slavery has done to African Americans. We can't just move on and be blind to the fact that black human beings were tortured and their lives essentially taken from them.
Senator Mitch McConnell has declared that reparations are not owed because no one alive today took any action to promote slavery and its legacy. He missed the point because the responsibility to eliminate the legacy of slavery should not be determined by the claim that no individual living today participated in the horrors of slavery. We as a nation, governed by a central government in Washington, are responsible to remedy the legacy of slavery. We can’t let the federal government off the hook for its actions in tolerating slavery and Jim Crow, and later for its inaction in failing to recognize and remedy the legacy of slavery. Until the Civil War, the government was the central entity that allowed African Americans to be enslaved. It also didn't stop white terror when it could have after the end of Reconstruction, a period during which racism continued to destroy black families. All of this, as I stated, played a big role in the wealth gap we have today in the United States.
I have some concrete ideas for reparations. These involve monetary allotments to be granted by Congress, and I hope they draw your support.
Award three billion dollars in cash reparations to African Americans who are descendants of slaves. That money will help close the wealth gap we have today by providing funds for better housing black people. That money will also help African Americans start businesses, which will provide better jobs for blacks.
Award 100 million dollars for public schools and education. That money will be used to build better schools in black neighborhoods. It will also be used to help send black kids to college in order to create a better future for themselves. Funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities should also be increases by ten percent.
Award one billion dollars for retirement and home care for all black people who are descendants of slaves. This money will be used to give elder black people the opportunity to retire and enjoy the rest of their lives with home care.
In total the reparations money is about three billion, 100 million dollars, not counting grants to HBCUs, to be used exclusively to repair the harm America has done to African Americans as a result of slavery.
I am aware that my proposals may appear costly, but keep in mind the U.S. has already spent two trillion dollars in Afghanistan alone, and it seems the fighting is not over. We as a country can certainly spend the modest amount I propose to eliminate the legacy of slavery.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration. I would love to hear what you think of my reparation ideas.
by Nalli, 10th
You are what my mother saw when she stood on the balcony of my childhood home looking across the way at the pink and purple sunset.
When she came to the United States she brought with her all these stories: stories of fertility witches and red bracelets and how her mother asked her what she saw when she looked at me for the first time and how she had said; LOVE. Love, in the brown eyes and brown skin, she had found you— Your full name— made you a reality, in her eyes. And she told her that what she saw in that brown was what would be carved in her bones. And it was true.
Summer’s almost over. The pollen that fell in the Spring is still making its way into my lungs. Leaving an itch I just can’t get rid of. My parents keep talking about moving. Just like every year, but this time I think they mean it. And every day the smell of smoke reminds me that we have always been moving, always coming, never fully belonging anywhere.
But love, can you hear me? I’ve been meaning to talk to you for years now, about the way my hands don’t feel like they belong to me in the mornings, or about the ashes I leave in my absence every time I leave my house, or how sometimes even looking in the mirror is enough to make me cry, and I think maybe you have given me the wrong number, but love? I think I finally found you. And love, I want you to know I will always be here. With these small hands and tiny wrists I have held onto you like my life depended on it and love, I want you to know that I believe in you like I believe there is goodness in everything, with the same intensity nine year old me used to try to convince herself there was some sort of good in her father, and love? I am here. With every corner of my heart. Because love, you come and go as if my body is a revolving door, and I am too tired to be tired of you.
by Unbasic, 12th
Arriving in the United States from Yemen at age 11, I faced many difficulties. As a young Muslim girl in a country very different from Yemen, I was completely out of step. The U.S. was one of the most advanced democracies in the world, while Yemen was about to experience the outset of the Arab Spring. Although fluent in Arabic, I knew very little English, but quickly got up to speed in my new language. As a Muslim, I was expected to accept the role of females very different than expected by other families in the U.S. The political climate in the U.S. was not favorable for Muslims. My path to attend College has included a constant struggle to resist stereotypes. which I face repeatedly in the broader community in which I live.
My journey as a Muslim female in the U.S. cannot be described without considering the presence of Islamophobia. Depicting Muslims as anti-American is just plain wrong. A professor at —— College asked me if I would be getting an “arranged marriage” before I turned 18. I remember this moment well and thought only of his ignorance and how offensive his comment was in front of the class. I recall the hurt I felt when I saw my father and brother, dressed in thobes on their way to pray at the mosque, confronted by angry white men asking “why are you here”? And I am deeply offended when, out of ignorance and lack of respect, a white person questions fasting during Ramadan. I could go on.
In my Sunday Arabic School, I learn the true teachings of Islam, which are to live in peace and respect others. In a hadith (words of the Prophet Mohammed), even the manner in which one should eat a meal teaches respect for others. In these classes, I easily get immersed in the Quran, which teaches how to live peacefully in the world and serves as a form of meditation for me. In high school, I also read widely in literature to which I can relate, such as Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. In my experience, solutions to life’s problems are frequently found in fiction and the Quran. In Exit West, a character named Nadia wears the "black robe" not as a symbol of oppression but of freedom and protection. I intend to use my experiences to play a role in society to convey to the community that the Islamic religion and its rich culture are multi-faceted and in line with a peaceful life. It is only through knowledge and understanding of our differences that communities can live in harmony.
As a daughter in a close-knit Muslim family with three brothers and two sisters, I have met the responsibilities expected of me as a result of my gender. This was no easy task. I have served as a “second mother:” cared for younger siblings, performed household duties, and cooked, all while excelling in my school work with the goal of attending college. I am lucky to have supportive brothers and parents who have taught me to be independent and work to achieve my goals. My family is unlike the typical Middle Eastern family, where male children are free to do what they desire while female children are saddled with responsibility and overly protected from the outside world. I reject the thinking of Muslims I know outside my family, who ask: “Why go to college, you’re only going to be a housewife anyway?”
My journey to Mills College is not typical in any way. My religion and culture have played a significant part in my development. I am interested in the sciences, especially where they intersect with my faith. My studies in integrated biology; especially DNA, have created a curiosity to further study these areas. My goal is to explore the possibility of working in the medical field. I am more than my religion or my headscarf.
My path so far has included some difficult times and a variety of accomplishments: leaving Yemen at a young age in the face of the Arab Spring, learning English, playing a central role in a strong and supportive Muslim family, adapting to a completely new country and culture, navigating the tide of Islamophobia, and finding passion and curiosity along the way My father wanted an education but never got it because he needed to work to help support his family. My mother wanted to be a teacher but was sidetracked by the demands of a woman in the Muslim culture. They wanted a better life and education for me. I want to continue on that path and make Mills College my next stop as the first woman in my family to attend college.
by Unknown, 8th
It has hidden in the shadows somewhere where it is dark
It has nested a home inside of us
We’re SCARED to watch the news AFRAID to watch as the next tragedy unfolds
When will the next gun be picked up
When will the next bullets be shot
When will the next bomb be set
The bomb is already ticking, it has been set
Within me, I’m ready to explode
One day my words will blow up
They will shake the world with all its power
And shock the country with all its courage
But the bomb isn’t only in me
It’s in all of the youth’s mind, ready to go off
When the time is right we will stand
We will use all of our ability to change the ways of the past
Because the only thing left to change the future
Is the future
by Grace K. 7th
My first year of middle school changed my life. I pushed away plates of food, “I am not hungry,” I’d say. At night my stomach rumbled, begging for food. My ribs showed, and my weight was dropping at an unhealthy rate. But at that time, my weight wasn’t just my weight. It was my self worth. My gate was stiff, and I felt unworthy as I walked through school.
The girl who I thought was always there for me, left me. Pretending I meant nothing to her, acting as if I wasn’t there. Joining the group of kids who picked on people, throwing juicy tomatoes in the direction of anyone they didn’t approve of at the cafeteria tables. All these emotions bubbled up inside of me anger, sadness the broken, sinking feeling in my stomach. I began gossiping about how much I hated this new “popular” group. When they found out, they got permission to take me out of class to have “a talk with me”. I knew what was happening when they pulled my limp emotionless body out of advisory one afternoon. Right as one girl was about to holler at me, I started crying. Fat, cold tears dripping down my chin and soaking the knee of my blue jeans.
I am not sure why, but I just explained everything. About rehab centers and therapy, dropping scales and panic attacks. How I had marks on my arm, how I tried to crawl out my window one Sunday night. How I felt when my best friend left me. Their faces relaxed, and they just stared for a moment. Kai spoke up saying, “Sometimes I feel bad about the way I look.” I looked up. Never had it occurred to me that another person would feel a similar way, let alone a boy. Hearing that lifted weight off of my shoulders. “Your not ugly, Grace. I just want to tell you that you’re beautiful, and you don’t deserve what you’re going through.” His eyes turned big, and I knew he was telling the truth.
I’ve held that conversation with me for years. We think that we know someone, but the truth is we only know the version of them they've chosen to show us. People can have such an impact on you. Even the people you never expected to.
by Marie Mendez, 11th
There’s a box, they tell me, a box
And I’m sitting here wishing that I had a box: I am
a product of Loving
Nine black dresses banged a gavel;
Decided colors could love each other, could kiss
their own pigment onto the canvas
Of one another.
My father’s favorite jacket is red, loud, angry,
a class clown with a suit and a mortgage: he is my mother’s
prince charming, he takes up the whole room when he talks.
My mom was my blue, the light of the microwave at night, I’d talk for hours
before she could finally get me to sleep.
She loves the ocean.
The salt of that love flows in my veins
mixing with my father’s red.
Their daughters: purple.
Me, my sister; her skin
Darker than mine,
the part of the equation you hadn’t accounted for,
do the math again,
My friends said
“I didn’t do the math homework.”
My friends said:
“What’s an Abulota?”
“Oh, I forgot there was a Mendez after Sparks”
“Lucy, you’re ---ing white”
“Mendez, like Shawn Mendes?”
“Scientifically, people can’t learn a language without an accent after turning 15”
“I’m giving you your brown card, it’s okay, don’t worry.”
“Why is your Spanish accent so much better than everyone else’s? It’s not fair”
And my white mother translating
cognates for me over papi’s
I thought I could build myself a box,
Out of the dancing trumpets I played
As I did the dishes
And rainbow I guess,
The colors I’d never show Abuelita
Out of the green stucco house in the good bad part of town.
We were ordering lunch at a chicken chain, my father
and I, Couldn’t explain it in Spanish
He switched to English, (or English to Spanish, one in the same) the girl
in the paper hat didn’t bat an eye,
Out of looney tunes shows
From my Abuelito’s bed,
the cigar boxes from Havana I have stacked in my room
And the stories they knit for me.
But, When the words of my father’s language dance out of my mouth, they trip, rr’s don't sound like they’re supposed to
And I had to explain to my sister that tacos aren’t our food
But neither are tortas, my dad told me:
“Dad, just tell me, what’d Abuelito say?”
“Nothing, it’s fine”
“He said… your Spanish got worse.”
So, well, I do have a box: I’m just not inside
It’s brown walls:
where they keep guayaba batidas, pastelito’s from porto’s,
lechon asado on noche buena, my dad
never taught me Spanish,
Said he couldn’t teach me
What I needed to know, in a language Mr. Samuel Smith didn’t let him write,
the strings hanging out of the pinata
my Abuelita made me: Cuban
She told me.
She never told me how to open
by O, 11th
She was broken and lost.
She made a lot of mistakes.
She made a lot of bad decisions.
But she was still standing up,
She was still fighting
She had never in her life, given up.
Even when it was all she needed.
She was so powerful,
She had so many ambitious,
She was so strong.
But people had always seen her as
the little one
the messy one
the stupid one with a messy life
If they only had just seen how valuable she was,
If people had just been aware
of her warrior spirit.
If they had just known how much she was.
Maybe and only maybe,
She would of seen her effort
and just for once,
She would of smiled.
by Heiress.ha10, 11th
[Note: before reading]
This fictional story has scenes of abuse and physical violence. If these issues bring up anything, reach out and talk to someone- a trusted adult or teacher.
I wish I could start this story off with “Once upon a time” but that’s too tranquil for the story I’m about to tell you. My name is De’Liza King and this is my story. EIGHT. EIGHT. I was eight years old when my father struck my mother for the first time. It was 10:49 pm and I had woken up from a nightmare. I went downstairs to look for my mom because I needed the comfort only she could provide and as I was on the last step I heard pleading. It sounded like my mom. When I turned the corner before me was my father pinning my mother against the wall. He slapped her and she tumbled to the ground.
That was the first time I had ever seen my mother cry. Instead of going to my momma I turned right back around and went back to bed because anything I dreamt of would be better than the nightmare I had just stumbled upon. The next morning both my parents were at the dining table and my mom was smiling at something my father had said. There was no bruise anywhere and it seemed like everything that I witnessed never happened. Honestly, sometimes I think it never did but the cries I hear at night remind me that it was not just another nightmare. But that's how it was for the next eight years and my ideology of a good relationship was morphed.
My junior year of high school is when my life took a turn for the worse, I meet a boy named Daxton. He shared a history class with me and one day we were paired to do a presentation together. As the weeks passed by Daxton and I hung out more and more and I became infatuated. We eventually started dating and everything was PERFECT, or so I thought. My senior year of high school Daxton became violent. He got jealous and mad at me for hanging with people other than him, he isolated me from my friends and I didn’t like it. One day I was paired up with another boy for a film project and Daxton got mad. That was the first time he had ever hit me. That day I went home and cried to my mother and she told me that if I really loved him than it was ok and that I should love him regardless of his flaws.
That should have been my wake up call, that if I didn’t want to end up like my mom I needed to end this. But I was foolish and naive and I listened to her. The next week Daxton took me to the movies and while we were there I was seated next to another guy and Daxton became quiet. I asked him what was wrong because he was never that quiet, but I didn’t mind I wanted to enjoy the movie anyway. While watching the movie I felt a tap on my shoulder and I looked over and the guy seated next to me asked if he could squeeze by to go to the bathroom so I moved my legs and watched him walk away until I made eye contact with Daxton. I turned back to the movie until he came back again and then apologized for disrupting me and we went back to watching the movie. On the ride back Daxton was still quiet. It was kind of alarming and I was worried about him.
When he pulled up to my house my parents weren’t home so I invited him in so we could talk but as soon as I closed the door my back was on the door and my feet no longer touched the ground. As I looked up I no longer saw my loving boyfriend, standing in front of me was a monster. His veins were throbbing out of his neck and his pupils were completely dilated. He dropped me and as I slumped to the ground trying to gather my breath he kicked me in my stomach and yelled, “You whore! How could you? I thought you loved me! But if you want to talk to other guys than I’ll give you a reason to talk to other guys. Just know they will never love you the way I love you. You’re worthless and nobody except me will ever love you.” Each word accompanied by a kick or a punch. No longer was I worried about him, but more fearing for my life.
All I could think about was how I was going to die in my parents house with no degree. But all of a sudden he stopped. He looked down and we made eye contact and tears started streaming down his face. He ended up taking me to the hospital chanting how much he loved me before I blacked out. That was probably one of the scariest days of my life. The next day I woke up in a hospital bed with him by my side and the events of last night fresh on my mind. The doctor ended up coming in and asking to talk to me, he asked me what happened and I stayed quiet. He dismissed Daxton and asked again and when I didn’t answer he gave me a card. On that card it said battered women helpline with a number. He gave me a knowing look and walked out.
I was stuck in the hospital for days, because I had two broken ribs, a fractured wrist and internal bleeding and they wanted to run test on me. Everyday the same doctor who I found out was Mr. Alighieri, kept checking in on me and trying to talk to me to get my account on what happened that night, but I never talked. After a while he just started talking to me to keep me company and for the first time I realized just how much I longed for a friend. The following week I was discharged. My mom drove me home and during the ride she looked at me and asked, “He did this didn’t he?” I looked away because I didn’t know how to respond. She let it go and continued driving. When we got home she gave me the same card the doctor had gave to me and told me that she had scheduled me to join a group session and that it should be good for me. That night I stayed up listening to my mother plead with my father and wondering if that was the life I wanted for myself.
The next morning I got dressed determined not to relive my mother’s nightmare and went into the building. As soon as I walked in I saw the same doctor that tended to me. We made eye contact and he smiled at me. I looked away and walked to the front desk. They showed me to the room and standing in the front was the same doctor. That day I found out he was also a psychologist and he told us how he got into working with battered women. After the session on my way out the door he asked me how old I was. I was perplexed but answered 18 and he walked away. The next day I saw Daxton and avoided him like the plague. The following week I went back to Mr. Alighieri’s battered woman class, and that was when he told me that when I graduated high school he could help me. I didn’t know what he meant so I left it at that. That night I told my mom about Mr. Alighieri and him saying he could help me and she told me about how she told him about her hunch on Daxton and him abusing me. She also told me how she actually saw Mr. Aligieri threaten Daxton to leave me alone or he would call the police on him. The following session I thanked Mr. Alighieri. He offered me the opportunity to escape after high school. He told me about a vacation home he had in Nevada that he would let me use until I could get back on my feet. I accepted. The weeks that followed were relatively the same, I would go to my weekly sessions go to school and come home. Except every now and then Daxton would attempt to try and talk to me. One day I let him and he told me how much he missed me and how he would never put his hands on me and like the fool I was, I believed him. I took him back.
The weeks flew by and Daxton and I were in bliss. We hadn’t argued, he hadn’t hit me and we even made some new friends. Not only that but graduation was in two days. I was ecstatic. Although we were back together, I still attended my weekly group sessions with Mr. Alighieri and when I told him about me and Daxton being back together he was highly disappointed in me and for some reason his disappointment didn’t sit well. I hated the feeling that it gave me. But deep down I knew he was right. I knew I shouldn’t have gotten back with Daxton but I missed the feeling of being with him I missed him, the good him.
The day before graduation I made an unexpected visit to Mr. Aligieri and I invited him to my graduation. He gladly accepted and promised to see me tomorrow. The next day I woke up early and well rested, elated to finally be done with high school. This was the day I had been yearning for. As they called my name and I walked across the stage, collected my diploma and realized that I couldn’t have been happier. As I went to go hug my parents Daxton came over angrier than I had ever seen him. “Who is he ?” I stayed quiet. “I said, who is he?” he yelled in my face. The vein in his neck started throbbing and I started getting flashbacks of that horrible night. As I started cowering away Mr. Aligieri came over and pushed Daxton away from me. That’s when Daxton swung on him. Next thing I know there were two men fighting in front of me and all I could do was stand there and watch. Finally they were pulled apart both of them huffing and puffing. Daxton had black eye and bloody nose whereas Mr. Alighieri had a busted lip. As I started towards Mr. Aligieri, Daxton grabbed my arm and started dragging me away, but that’s when I had enough. I realized I couldn’t do this to myself anymore.
That night I cried myself to sleep but for once it wasn’t tears of sadness but tears of relief. The following morning I packed my clothes up and went to Mr. Alighieri’s office to see if his offer for the vacation home was still available. He said it was so the following morning I said my goodbyes and fled to Nevada away from this madness I called life. When I arrived I applied to university and went searching for part time jobs I could get to bring in some extra cash.
It’s been five years. No longer am I that naive young child I used to be. I still have nightmares but Mr. Aligieri has been helping me to get over them. Speaking of Mr. Aligieri, I no longer live in his vacation home. I have my own place and even my own business. I own my own jewelry store in Carson City, and it’s quite successful if I do say so myself. I’m still single because I wanted to be able to know what love truly is before just jumping into another relationship.
The previous week I was in my store when I saw Daxton walk in. His eyes were bright and lively. He looked more muscular and his hair was shorter, but I would recognize him from anywhere. As he approached me I could see the shock in his eyes. Tears began swelling in his eyes as he grabbed my hand. I flinched and he released my hand immediately. “I’m sorry, I am so so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you and in my own twisted way I truly did love you.” I stayed quiet.“I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you, but I was diagnosed with schizophrenia in junior year and I didn’t want to tell you. I was afraid you would leave me. But then things got out of hand. The day I hit you for the first time was when I signed myself up for therapy and they gave me pills. For a while it was working so I stopped taking the pills. But I lost it, I lost my self control and I did it. I hit you again and put you in the hospital. That was when I vowed to never stop taking my pills. But it was too late. I had lost you, but then you forgave me and I had never felt happier. I did everything I could to make you happy but I knew deep down inside you would never fully recover and resented me for all I had done. Graduation was when I knew I had lost you for good. That look you gave me as I sent that first punch sent chills down my spine. The amount of venom and hate in your eyes were uncanny. I knew I had to let you go. I realized I wasn’t right for you, and our relationship was toxic and for that I’m sorry. You should never have been in those situations and I should have been honest from the start.”
The last thing I had ever told him was “If it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be living in Nevada, I wouldn’t have taken the path to find a better life for myself. I wouldn't have my own jewelry store and like they say PRESSURE CREATES DIAMONDS, so thank you for being the pressure I needed to succeed in life.
by Amelia F, 9th
Sorry is never enough. You said it all the time. Six years ago, when I was only five I didn’t quite get it because my ironbound mother always told me to apologize when I made messes and fell over all of the time. When I scraped my knee getting off the purple bike, my mother coddled me. Through my blurry tears as she put my colorful bandaid on, I could see your smirk of disapproval. Before, mother liked me the most but now, there was no one else to like.
I remember when mother was cooking chicken and I was sitting around our wood table which was shaky and one of its legs was about to fall. The door opened and I felt the cool wind brush against my shoulders as it closed behind you. You always made big entrances. It was barely two seconds before you started yelling at mother like the angry swans I always see at the park who squawk at me until I have to cover my ears and pray that they don’t get up out of their little tranquil green pond and follow me home squawking, squawking, squawking; all the way home. You angrily dropped your backpack on our rickety old floor and said; “Mom, I don’t understand why in the world I can’t I go to the movies tonight, all of my friends are going and this isn't fair, you never let me do anything, ANYTHING!!” Our mother stood as still as the footprints I make with my big snow shoes that remain traced in the powdery snow forever. She was good with anger, she had to be with my dad. “Honey,” she said with barely any tone, “Today’s a school night and well I’m not going to sugarcoat this, your grades aren't exactly the best.” She sugarcoated it. You were smart but things sometimes, well, always, got in your way.
I remember the time you yelled at me so loudly and the rain and dirt splattered on my yellow rain jacket. I was walking outside to jump in puddles and feel the raindrops drip down my long face until they filled up my sneakers with pools of muddy water. You hated rain and told me it was the sky crying. I always said they were happy tears. I was looking at the grey sky and wondering why it changed colors all the time. Most people just saw it as you did, a generic shade of blue, but I saw as black, grey, and so many unique shades of sapphire. During sunrises I would climb on the roof just to see the sky’s beautiful shades of deep purple and orange embracing around the wispy white clouds and hugging the golden sun. You looked at me the way you did whenever you're about to say something you don’t mean and I just started thinking about the puddles in my sneakers and the grey sky. You began yelling but I couldn’t hear what you were saying over the claps of thunder. I could see you grow tense when I didn’t respond so I ran back inside our house, the muddy water dripping all over our narrow hallway. I pretended to sob into my arms to give you satisfaction and run to my room. When you came inside, you didn’t look the least bit satisfied and I couldn’t tell if your face was covered in warm salty tears or rather the skies tears; raindrops rolling down your red face.
I woke up this morning just in time to see the phoenix of dawn sweeping the empty night sky, warming its dark colors in its fire and I stared intently through my boring old window. The great bird sometimes left white puffs of smoke in the morning sky. They looked like frightened animals that were running away from something, not nearly fast enough and all of us down here couldn’t see anything but ourselves. I crept down the musty hallway and peered into my mother’s dreary room. She was passed out and her snoring sounded like a broken vacuum cleaner. I sighed and made my way to the mudroom which barely fit all of my rain boots that were filled with oceans of the brown remainder of the puddles I had stepped in. I slipped the driest pair on, grabbed my seeds I bought from the market two days prior, and my watering can that was covered in green tangled vines. It must be nice to be a flower, pretty to look at no matter what— and to have a beautiful aroma that is so intoxicating it lures people in as days pass by.
I opened my door and felt the crisp moist air settle on my face. I bent down to touch the dewdrops that had formed on the lush green grass below my feet, clearly not perfectly trimmed. I looked behind me at the elaborate web some lovely spider had decided to weave at the front of our porch. Isn’t it weird to think a creature so small and different can make such a thing? The dewdrops on the spider’s web glistened as the sun gently became a wondrous shade of dandelion yellow. Satisfied I trotted down to the end of our street as I heard the world lazily wake up. But did it ever fall asleep in the first place?
I turned right and crossed the never ending street until I reached you. I didn’t expect anyone to be here other than me, you, the morning and the garden. I stood before your grave and instead of my systems flooding with emotions like before, the dam I strongly built prevented the crooked river full of poisoned fishy thoughts to flow. I knelt down to brush my rough hands against the silkiness of the orange marigolds I know you would have loved. You would say “Isabella, you should wear that color more often. It goes with your eyes.” I knew I would never sparkle like you do in any clothes so why bother trying like a fool.
I clutched my watering can until my fingers were red and throbbing with pain and let go. Sometimes we yearn for pain when we don’t want to actually feel it. Sometimes I wish I had never felt pain, but I heard it was needed to feel happiness. Why don’t I feel happy then? God, sometimes it’s just too much and I just close my eyes and count to ten and hope it will all start over again. I forget you are not here sometimes and every time I hear footsteps down the hallway I turn my head to gleefully insult you and ask you how failing school was. Why do people have to die? I mean I know it’s natural and all, but we need you and mom needs you and think of all the people you could have met who needed you.
Yesterday morning I saw an old man with a wrinkly face standing at the grave next to me, and I expected him to start crying, but instead he started smiling and laughing up at the sky. He placed a small toy train at the foot of the grave and left. My hands smell like lavender all the time now, because of the garden which I guess is a good thing. My mom says I need to be more practical and stop playing in the dirt, but I think she misunderstands what I am doing. She is sad enough as it is, so I don’t pursue my opinion.
Anyways, I miss you and I know sorry is never enough but I hope this garden is.
Oakland Youth 6th-12th