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I held the box tightly across my chest. The box my father had given me before he left for the operation. I don't know what's inside. All I know is my father wanted me to have it.
“You open it when I'm gone, okay?” he said as he handed me the box,”when I'm long gone.”
I stood, filling up with anxiety more and more by the minute. I could hear the seconds ticking by on the wall clock. The hospital seemed to keep on stretching forever.
¨Vaerna, sit down,¨ my mother called.
But I paid no mind.
¨I have to go to the bathroom,¨ I said.
She looked at me, doubtingly.
She sighed, standing up. She walked over to me and placed her hand on my shoulder.
¨I’m scared, too, Vaerna. But we can only wait.¨
I held my ground. As I saw a doctor exit the operating room, I ran to it.
¨Vaerna!¨ my mother called in anger and shock.
I pushed my way into the room, but the doctor’s and surgeons started to push me out.
¨Ma'am, you can't be in here.¨
But still, I tried to push through.
¨You can’t - Ma’am-¨
¨I have to see him! I have to-! He can't-!¨ And as I tried to push through, I caught a glimpse of him. There he was. Eyes closed and motionless. There was an oxygen mask attached to him. I pushed through the doctors and surgeons and fell to the floor in front of the table.
¨Dad!¨ I screamed.
I ran up to him. But as soon as I reached him, the heart monitor broke into a lingering, penetrating beep, signaling his death. I stood there, shocked, not knowing what to do. The doctors pushed passed me and others took responsibility of taking me out of the room. The next thing I knew was seeing memories of him flashing before me. Every birthday I spent with him and my mom. Every Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s. Then came the day we found out he needed brain surgery.
¨His brain is too big and it´s pushing down on his spinal cord. We're going to have to perform surgery.¨
¨What kind of surgery?¨
My mother nodded, but I seen the bit of sadness in her eyes.
I knew that wasn't a good thing.
As I grew older, I understood more what this meant. He might not survive the surgery. Surgery never comes without its risks.
Life did not get easier from that point. My mother started drugs and alcohol. It was obligatory that I see a counselor.
¨I can't help you if you don’t cooperate with me,¨ Corey, my counselor, said.
¨I don’t need help,¨ I said.
¨Obviously, you do if you're here.¨
¨It’s not me who needs help. It’s the moronic people at school who do. I’m only here because they think I need to be,¨ I retorted.
Corey sighed,¨You're wasting my time.¨
¨Please continue to tell me about your problems.¨
She sighed again,¨Alright, what brings you here today?¨
¨The fact that I had an appointment scheduled for today.¨
¨Okay...well, how are you feeling?¨
¨I'm feeling that you're an idiot and I hate you.¨
¨Okay! I know I made an oath that I would help every patient I had get better, but my attempts to help you are unavailing!¨
¨For today, yes.¨
My smile faded,¨Wait, for today? But you said-!¨
¨I'm not giving up on my oath. I'll see you for your next appointment. Goodbye.¨
With that, I left. Corey had a conversation with my mother but I already knew what she was saying.
¨Come on, Vaerna. Were leaving.¨
As we exited the building, my mother took it out on me.
¨I'm disappointed in you, Vaerna. I take you here so you can get better, not so you can tell the counselor off!¨
It was beyond her cognizance that I wasn't paying attention to her. I never was. ¨Are you even listening to me?!¨
I lifted my hand to the side of my face then back down. I stared at her with a stoic expression as she shoved the keys into the ignition.
¨Well? Answer me!¨
¨Yes, I am.¨
¨Oh, don't lie to me!¨
¨I wasn't before but I started to after your little tantrum.¨
¨Don't talk to me like that!¨
¨It´s not my fault that everything I say goes over your head.¨
She then started to throw empty cartons of cigarettes at me and started to beat on the steering wheel. The deafening sounds of the horn attracted annoyed looks of bypassing strangers. I reached over to calm her down but she swatted my hands away from the steering wheel. When she started to become rambunctious, I exited the car.
I headed home and left the turbulent women behind. I shoved the car keys in my pocket I had taken to prevent my drunken mother from driving, but I knew that wouldn't stop her.
¨I had to hotwire my car because of you!¨ my mother screamed.
¨Actually, you could´ve walked or not gotten drunk and prevented that problem,¨ I mumbled, getting up to take care of my plate.
¨Don't be smart with me!¨
¨Would you rather have me be preposterous like you?¨ I questioned.
¨Don't call me prosperous!¨ she slapped the plate out of my hands and it shattered at impact with the floor.
Crouched down, sweeping up the glass shards, I reply,¨prosperous: successful. Preposterous: stupid. Guess again which one I said. Here´s a hint; it wasn't the first one.¨
¨First of all, I am not preposterous. Secondly-¨
I laughed at her ludicrous attempt at saying she wasn't what she actually was. People like this always bothered me.
¨That is such a fake laugh.¨
¨No, it´s real,¨ I said.
¨That was the most real, authentic, hysterical laugh in my entire life because you, in fact, are preposterous.¨
She scoffed at my comment,¨you're so ignorant.¨
I gave her a blank stare and asked,¨do you even know what ignorant means?¨
¨Yes, as a matter of fact, I do.¨
A moment of awkward silence passed.
¨Go on….¨ I said.
¨It means you're stupid and go to bed. Goodnight.¨
¨Uh- I'm pretty sure-¨
¨I said goodnight!¨
Sighing, I got up and checked the time.
¨It's only 7:30….¨ I mumbled to myself but headed to my room anyway.
I crawled into bed and lied there, staring up at the ceiling, contemplating my own death along with everybody else's.
I think I might be a potential serial killer sometimes.
After laying there for a few hours, I finally fell asleep. Something I was not hoping to accomplish.
I was drowning- no- more like some force was drowning me, keeping me submerged, preventing me from ascending to the surface to breathe in the oxygen that has kept me alive this long. My chest felt as if it were about to burst and I knew if I didn't get out in the near second I would die.
As I struggled to get to the surface, I noticed a glowing light deep in the abyssal ocean. I didn't know what it was but it was beyond my reach so I didn't risk it.
Even though this was just a dream I am living in my slumber, it always feels so real. I felt as if I were watching a 4D movie. But why did this particular force want me dead by one of the worst ways possible? And where was everybody else? I was dying and nobody was around to help me. Were they all dead or did they just not care?
Just as my time was up, I suddenly awakened. Pondering what my repetitive dream could mean, I tried to move but I was in a paralyzed state and even though I was no longer in the dream, I still felt weight on my chest. It was hard to breathe, I felt as if I were still trapped and dying. I attempted to speak but no words would escape my mouth. Not even a call for help. My attempts to do anything at all were pointless. All I could do was watch as I felt what life was left leave my body. My vision blurred and a wave of dizziness overtook me. Ringing filled my ears and everything started to go black. My eyes started to flutter shut and-
I inhaled deeply as my mother withdrew me from my episode. The pain in my chest lingered from lack of oxygen and head throbbed from dizziness. Relief filled me as I breathed in the wonderful air I sometimes wished I hadn't but the elephants pressure on my chest still remained.
After I calmed down, I said,¨what?¨
My mother looked at me in bewilderment, ¨what?! You tell me what! I hear all this ruckus going on in here and I come in to see what's going on and you tell me what?¨
I sat there, staring at her blankly until I came to the conclusion that I must have knocked something over during my episode.
¨Uh….yeah? Well, I mean, I didn’t know why you came in here screaming your head off for, so yeah.¨
She looked pretty puzzled so I explained what had happened.
¨I had a nightmare,¨ I said.
She sighed, frustrated. ¨Whatever,¨ she said and left without another word.
The sound of a siren filled my ears. I looked around for the source of the noise and it took me a moment to realize it was my alarm. I quickly shut it off and got out of bed. I refreshed myself with a quick shower and brushed my teeth after. I opened up my closet and stared at it, the box. Six years and I still haven't opened it. Snatching my black, white-toed Converse and grey jacket, I quickly shut the closet door. Grabbing my iPod and earbuds, I started to head out but seeing my mother passed out on the table made me stop in my tracks. She must have drank last night again. Sighing, I gently plucked the wine glass out of her hand and set it on the counter. Looking back one last time, I left for school.
It felt as if the day were going by fast. I wasn’t really paying attention- since most of what we were learning was review anyway- until history class. We were on the topic of slavery and the class started to have a debate about the resistance of slaves. I paid somewhat attention but then zoned on again. I overheard one of the students say,
“I think slaves made it harder on themselves when they were resisting their masters…”
...made it harder on themselves when resisting their masters…
For some reason unbeknownst to me, that statement had stuck in my head for the rest of the day. After having completed my homework, I lied in bed and listened to the soft whirring of the fan. I tried to resist the overwhelming sleep but my will wasn’t that strong and eventually I was trapped again.
I’m going to die, I am going to die, was all that was going through my mind. I don’t know how much longer I could cheat death.
As I was struggling, I suddenly thought back to history class.
“...slaves made it harder on themselves when they were resisting their masters…”
I suddenly realized it. I was the slave; the force, my master. I was only making it harder on myself by resisting my master that was trying to control me. So possibly, the only way to survive was to ….not resist. Weeks, months. All the sleepless nights and exhausting days and I had only figured it out now.
Instead of resisting the force, I accepted my fate and let it take me in. The force seemed to be unfazed by my sudden change of actions and continued to drown me. Suddenly, I remembered the light. I decided to go to it.
The light engulfed me the closer I got to it. I didn’t know what was on the other side but I didn’t turn back.
Everything went blank.
I don’t know how long I was out or if I was dead but when I opened my eyes I did not see what I had expected to see: my father.
“Dad? Am I dead now?”
“No, but you almost died. You made it.”
“What do you mean? Wait- what was that force?”
“That was your mind, Vaerna. You were trapped inside of it but you escaped. You were going insane without realizing it.”
“But what about that light?” I questioned.
“That was your sanity,” he said,”you see, you had to choose to either let your insanity overrule your sanity or to keep your sanity. And whatever path you chose, the other dies.”
“So you're saying I “killed” my insanity?”
“Sometimes to stay alive you gotta kill your mind. Stay alive, Vaerna. Stay alive.” that was the last thing he told me before he faded away.
I expected the sound of my alarm to wake me from my slumber, not the smell of burning bacon in my bedroom. I left the comfort of my bed and checked the calendar. Saturday. It was Saturday.
Descending downstairs, I noticed my mother in the kitchen. Did something happen to her too that changed her?
“Mom, what are you doing?”
“I'm cooking,” she responded,”do you want some hot chocolate?”
“Who are you? My mother was never in the kitchen and she certainly didn't make me hot chocolate,” I said in a deep british voice.
She laughed. Something I hadn't heard her do in a long time. There hadn't been much laughter at all since dad died.
“Well, she does now. My cooking skills might be a little rusty but I'm trying.”
“That's fine. I like my bacon crunchy.”
“Was that sarcasm…..?”
I left her there, puzzled, and went back up to my room. I opened up the closet door and stared up at the box that has sat on the top shelf in my closet, unopened, for over six years. I thought back to last night and decided it was time. I took the box down from the shelf and set it on the floor. Then I did something I never thought I would since the day I got it.
I opened the box.