If Things Could Be Salvaged This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I try not to steal these things people give me, but I can’t help it. Until this point I have spent all my time throwing rocks and gluing bits of glass together. That’s how I ended up here. But well, I’m not exactly from humble beginnings and how should I put it – I won’t miss Auntie Junie. In fact I know that because of her, I stole and salvaged. But to you, it would seem like all I did was cause trouble and misbehave. How can I explain that I’m not all I seem to be? Instead of being the one who steals, I am the one from whom others have stolen.

Mom used to tell me, “You’re never broke if you have some change in your pocket, Bridge. If you can be glued back together at the jagged edges, you can be fixed.” She said a lot of stuff with double meanings. Probably because she knew she wasn’t going to live long enough to raise or teach me all of life’s little lessons.

I throw stones at a rich white house. I live with my Auntie Junie who is always in a state of euphoria due to some new drug to stimulate her already too-swollen head. She and my mother thought it would be best not to tell my father about me. He left my mother not knowing I would be born, which, according to my aunt, was about the best thing my mom ever had happen to her. I throw stones at a rich white house down the block because Auntie Junie tells me my father lives in a big white house. She wants me to hate.

I wonder how my dad could have left Mom. He lives in ignorance. I consider him to be one of those people who would deny my existence even if he had watched me being born. I throw stones at that rich white house because a happy family lives there, and it’s not mine.

I am not full of hate. Although sometimes I wish I could hate my mother for not telling my father about me. I wish I could hate Auntie Junie for not caring about me. I wish I could hate the happy family that lives in the rich white house. But I can’t hate! I can’t hate any more than I can love, because I can’t feel. I can’t. My Auntie Junie, with all her hate, has stolen all my emotions from me. I only know that life is short, so very short that there is no time for any emotion more demanding than vague acceptance.

You probably want to know how I came to think like this. What turned me into such a doubting, lackluster child? Where is the magic cure? That great fabled antidote? Who can save this disillusioned child?

I don’t know.

As I sit here by Auntie Junie’s pond among the broken bottles, I long for a tube of Crazy Glue. When I was little, gluing was my hobby. I made a string of broken Christmas lights into a swarm of bumblebees. I made a flock of geese out of Auntie Junie’s broken wine bottles. Out of old-fashioned soda bottles I made turtles. I always made animals that were headed home when the bad weather came, because my home was the center of bad weather. I live in the Snow Queen’s ice palace. I’m the child stolen from her parents only to be imprisoned in a palace of ice. But I want out. I’ve glued enough figures together out of sharp ice. I wonder if the cave of wonders I’ve fashioned will ever be valuable enough to buy my way out of this prison.

Overexposure to ice can do more than numb you; it can freeze your soul. Auntie Junie was always all smiles on the outside, but she destroyed her soul to hide the loss. She stuck tea bags under her eyes to stop the swelling. One night after way too much medicine from the long-necked bottle, she put the tea bags on her eyes. She fell asleep and woke up with two yellow circles under her eyes. She looked like a hoot owl. From that day on, I never liked hoot owls. What do hoot owls have to do with wisdom? With big eyes like that they look more like dragons on the hunt than benevolent beholders of night-time truth.

Gee, for a person who didn’t want to get all introspective, I’ve certainly failed. But with a past like mine, can you blame me? This is my last night out in the California garden of “Eden.” I’m more than thrilled to leave this paradise behind, snake and all. All I want to do is see snow. To roll and dance and make a snow angel in it.

I think maybe I need to get away and have a chance at living like a child. Not always





worrying if a teacher may show up and find Auntie Junie drunk and me burning pasta on the mildew-covered stove.

I’ve always taken care of things. At the age of five, I took care of my mother. She died anyway. I guess I wasn’t good enough at taking care of her. I wasn’t a good enough salvager, not yet, at least. Mom contracted AIDS from complications of my birth. She never knew her transfusion was tainted. Even though my mom died when I was young, she left an impression on me. I would have left California a long time ago if it wasn’t for her.

But I promised her I’d stay and take care of Auntie Junie. I think Mom thought if I stayed with her big sissy, then Auntie Junie would have to make her break with the bottle. But Auntie Junie thought it was easier to break walls and bones (mostly mine) than give up her wine.

Here I am, by this calm pond. I have a few of Auntie’s bottles, even uncorked a few and let its smelly liquor rain into the pond. After I emptied them, I smashed them one by one. I can’t stand smashing the bottles. I don’t think my problems can be solved by smashing. All my life I’ve tried to glue the pieces back together, but that hasn’t worked either.

I graduated early. I never told Auntie Junie. I was afraid she’d show up drunk. I graduated and was the only one in the whole school without family to cheer me on. I was also the only one with a broken arm. But Auntie Junie can never boast that she’s broken my spirit. I won’t let her do that.

I was accepted to Parson’s Institute and will leave for New York tomorrow. I don’t think breaking, or hitting, or drinking will solve any of my problems. Nor do I think that trying to fix everything will solve all my problems. But I know time will help some.

I am off on my own. I am not like a bird in a flock. Nor am I like a bee buzzing about. I am like a turtle, off on my own. It may take me awhile but I’ll find what I’m looking for. I am persistent. I will find a home. If things could be salvaged, then I’d have salvaged half the world with all my broken-bottle sculptures. But they can’t, and I can find only minor solace in gluing together the broken bottles. I will find what I’m looking for, even if it means gluing together all the broken bottles from across the country.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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