Alyssa, 10th. Pleasanton, CA
I am a soldier.
The draft arrived, flowing quite prettily into my hands, on a humid afternoon, a peaceful day, clouds and the sky and the world all agreeing with each other. I opened the letter, read the lines, did not understand. Perhaps I wasn’t a full-ride scholarship to Harvard type of student, but I brought energy to my studies, composed tedious editorials for the school, and was class president. Really, to be fair, I was just plain too good for the war.
I told myself, I believed in myself, that secretly, under all my fear of the world, there was a secret reservoir of courage ready to be untapped when the time came. I truly believed that under certain circumstances, I would be able to become the hero, save everyone. Fresh graduate, politically naive, yet I knew that wars should not and really could not start without knowing why. Mid-July, the thoughts started coming to me. In the beginning it was so abstract, but eventually the shapes, and the colors, and perhaps later on the precise details all arrived. Then one day, something clicked; left, started running.
Now, I run and I run until I see the border to Canada, to freedom. Collapse on my hands and knees. I feel every grain of earth seeping into me, imprinting into my skin. The air of night like an ocean wave rushes up and down; pulsing warmness, drawing dew out from me. The icy dirt marks into my nails as I desperately tear at the frozen grass.
Here I scream and cry and wail. Until I can barely breathe, until I am panting. Until there is a puddle beneath my chin. My eyes puffy and each blink a burden.
Yet the clouds did not split open and let fall drops of eponine.
It shouldn’t be like this, summer of 1968. The dawns slice their way into the horizon, the sunsets are feathery and pink, and the brief nights are spark-filled with stars crawling all over the sky. July winds bring the noise of night, screeching and tumbling of pebbles, rustle of the leaves in the distance.
Inhale. I take another sobbing collective breath, feel a thick liquor, calm, keeping the parts of me together.
Decide. I need to do something. So I crawl over in the dark, find the wood, the grain of the boat, clumsily climb in. I row and I row until I see the other side, to freedom. My heart is pounding, I am still crying, loud. But my body refuses to budge. Here, I sit and feel.
When I first started to run, the shame overwhelmed me. The blood went thick behind my eyes. The voices, of every classmate, the entire town. Would they forget, only remember me every couple of years? Or would they continue to tease, gossip? Would my family ever forget? Did I even care?
Here, on the lake, the world is sinless, pure, refined, all the synonyms.
Here, half of me in Canada, half of me in America, I peer into the water, see myself for the first time.
Students 6th-12th Grades