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Green. It was green. It did not mean go forward, it could not. The harsh emerald light warned her not to go. But what choice did she have? Any moment now, it would flash red again. Forcing one reluctant step forward, then another, she finally reached the other side of the street. Crossing the street, accomplished. But that was only the beginning.
A small sense of dread overcame her as she continued to walk, as though a dark threatening cloud was hanging over her head. This was the last thing she wanted to do. I have to, she thought, I must. After not too long she realized that she had one block behind her, than two. After the third, she took a quick break. Her feet not enough to support her, she momentarily sat down on the bench. Slowly she watched as a single bead of sweat began to drop from her forehead. Seeing it fall in slow motion, it glinted in the light for one moment, until after an eternity of diving it reached the ground. Splash. Odd, it was not even hot. I’ve got…got to keep…on…going…Dragging herself up again, she continued forward.
Left, right, left, right. One, two, three, four. She was looking down, watching each foot as it propelled her on, a metronome coming from those uncomfortable black heels. Oh these heels! She had never hated anything more! Pinching her feet, they were snakes, biting at her toes and heels. Why was she wearing them anyway? Her mother’s voice echoed in her head: “Now, honey, make sure to wear those nice little heels I got you. We must look nice.” Tick, tock, they went, tick tock, counting down the time she had, telling her to hurry. She was too slow, always behind! What had they said? A mile away? Or was it ten? How was she to know, now? Any sense of time was long lost. She was spinning forever in an endless vortex, tumbling and falling. The only way was forward, and so, she walked.
On her way, past memories began to swim through her mind. The sidewalk melted away like butter and was replaced by her brother’s face at ten years old.
“Aw, brothers are supposed to torture their little sisters, silly!” She cringed at the memory of being seven, constantly and forever teased. How she had resented him just then!
She shook it out of her head, and her brother’s face left as quickly as it had appeared. Pretending nothing had happened, she just kept on walking. On and on she walked. She must be nearly there. She had to be—she certainly had been walking long enough. And yet, somehow she wasn’t making any progress!
Years flashed before her eyes, and suddenly she was twelve again. “See, now why can’t you study as hard as your brother?” her mother’s voice intoned in her head.
The road stretched in front of her, getting longer and longer with each step she took. She felt like she was in one of her nightmares, trapped from ever reaching her destination. Caught on a ribbon of concrete, she pushed on, determined to escape the past.
“She’s just my little sister, ignore her.” “Hey, I’m fifteen!”
Yet she was still unable to control the remote putting her life on fast forward. She quickened her pace, but could not run away from her mind.
She could remember more than once that she had lashed out at him in a fight, telling him she hated him, if only for not wanting to stay with her. She winced at the taste of bitter regret. Why do we remember what we want to forget, but let what we want to remember slip away? Oh how I wish I could take back my rash words…
“Our boy will be the most honorable man there is, we’re so proud!” Ugh. They were so wrong! But compared to that, what had I ever done, the rebel? Could nothing, in my parents’ eyes, measure up to defending your country at that time?
Nearly there now. She saw the flying flag high above her head, silently mocking her, when once she had naïvely thought of it as a symbol of greatness, truth and justice. But what justice was there in war? She closed her eyes, but one last persistent memory remained.
“I know you love me, right, sis?” Yes, she thought, I only wish I had said so more often.
With that, she reached the group of people in front of her. Weaving through the sea of black, she finally rested next to her mother.
“Alice, thank goodness you’re finally here. We waited for you, and it’s starting now.”
The prayer began, but after the first few words the rest was lost in a fog and Alice stopped paying any attention. Instead, she stared down at the coffin holding her beloved older brother, and a single tear, the first of many, slid down her cheek.