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The door was partially opened and through the crack, the room was enveloped in eerie darkness, except for a small lamp that emitted a soft, warm glow around a perimeter next to the bed. I slowly crept into the room, my heart thumping loudly in contrast to the silent environment. I saw my uncle’s limp body under a few layers of blanket. He was hardly visible due to his small frame, although his face was ghastly pale. This vivid and frightful image haunted my mind. I could not get rid of it, no matter what I did.
It was as if I had been accidentally walking through someone else’s dream. My uncle had arrived hardly a month ago and now he seemed to have…disappeared. I’ve only seen him a couple of times before and the things people say about him doesn‘t make him seem any more real. Do I even know him? The answer may well be “no” yet the impact he had still remained. He had trekked through my memory and his footprints seemed to have remained, even though there wasn’t much of it.
“Sophia, let’s go!” My cousin’s voice interrupted my train wreck of thoughts, and I was back in the present, obediently following her onto the plane.
An assembly of students, including my cousin and I, boarded the plane along with a small number of teachers and the occasional protective parent. All excitement of going to some of the most well-known cities had been temporarily forgotten in the midst of yawns. I staggered past the jammed aisle of the plane and plopped onto my blue cushioned seat, alongside a tired woman.
Beyond the window, the sky was a blend of pastel colors, like an artist’s palette, announcing the approach of morning. Light reflected off the lingering vehicles outside, beside one or two shadowy figures. In the dead of dawn, buildings stood idle, dark, and deserted.
During the ride, my mind wandered aimlessly into the unknown realms of my brain, while repetitively going back to the day of my uncle’s funeral. At one point, it stumbled upon another miserable memory.
I was five. In front of me, my grandmother’s face searched the crowd, but wait-it was only a still, black and white portrait of her plastered onto an intricately carved stone. A late summer wind whipped my short hair, and slapped it against my cheeks. I shivered and tugged at my jacket, hoping to acquire a bit of warmth. The image then began to fade...slowly blending with the present, until it disappeared into thin air.
Pop! I held my hand against my ears, shielding it from the forces of gravity as we began to descend. Simultaneously, my stomach grumbled uncontrollably. Ugh, when was the last time I ate?!? Exiting the plane, I gratefully spotted a flash of red and yellow, the notorious American fast-food place.
“Hi! Welcome to McDonald’s. How can I help you?” The friendly voice asked, dripping with annoyance at the half-asleep customers. I randomly chose a meal and paid for it.
“Hey! You’re one of my roommates, right?” said a voice behind me.
“Umm…I think so…what’s your name?” I asked hesitantly, as I turned around.
We then took our food and brought it to a nearby table, hungrily savoring our hot breakfast. It strangely occurred to me that I barely knew these 40 people, yet we had all gone to the same exact school for at least three years.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
About 45 of us sat at various tables, talking quietly amongst ourselves in the Hard Rock Café. Music played in the background and created a serene atmosphere. The room was dimly lit, with light bulbs hanging a foot above the tables. Along the walls, I could see the faint outlines of pictures and rows of guitars. The food was gone, and everyone was just relaxing in the warm restaurant.
"Okay guys, we‘re leaving," informed a parent.
We lazily grabbed our belongings and followed close behind. We went through a door and found ourselves inside the Hard Rock Café store. I walked around the store, constantly looking through the glass windows at the gloomy sky. I was supposed to be excited, being in New York and all, but I wasn't, which was odd, because this was the part of the trip that I had previously been so eager to go to.
"Now everybody, listen up! You can go wherever you want around this area, BUT you have to go with a partner!" Mr. Blair screamed. It was freezing outside, despite the fact that it was June. Students huddled in groups against the cold. No one had been prepared for this, seeing as it was probably about a hundred degrees in Texas.
"Where should we go?" Rabia chattered.
"Let's just start walking and we'll stop when we see a store we want to go to," I replied.
Rain drops attacked us, while the wind swirled around us. I crossed the congested street,, with angry drivers honking their horns in vain, my jeans trailing in the ankle-deep, polluted rain water. Great! Now I'm freezing and wet.
In front of me, stood the F.A.O. toy store, exactly like the one that I went to when I lived in California. I recalled going there with my grandma and brothers, and sometimes with my babysitter. It had been so many years since I had been to this store, and a sense of longingness engulfed me. "Let's go look in there."
It was just as I had remembered. Life-sized stuffed-animals stood against the escalator, and boundless shelves stocked with toys spread out into the distance. We didn't find much that we wanted, being too old for toys, but I left with a lighter heart.
The sky became pitch black and myriads of stars appeared, lighting the way back to the hotel. The charter bus rolled smoothly through prominent streets, but I just sat back and contemplated on the previous events.
Back in the hotel, my three roommates and I discussed our shopping experience, then tried to get a good night’s rest after the exhausted day. I had several unsuccessful attempts at falling asleep, before giving up. I turned on the television, with the volume exceedingly low. However, that ended up being unnecessary since no one else seemed to be able to sleep.
A realization hit me. We're going home tomorrow, and I may never see these people again. It became conscious that year after year, I discover more about my classmates and friends, yet when I think that I have them all figured out, they end up disappearing from my life. For instance, in the transition from elementary school into middle school, and then into high school, people have been regularly coming and going through my life. However, the worst conversion, which is yet to come, is from high school to college. Everyone appears to have a different dream, and a different path to follow. Sooner or later, you get further and further apart, and your paths may not ever meet again.
Maybe these were just obstacles that life threw at you. You simply go around it and get on with your life. Time goes by, you grow older, and you forget about the preceding events, or you try to at least. Perhaps, that is just the way it’s supposed to be.