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It’s darker than usual tonight, I noticed as I walked through the peaceful streets of my neighborhood. I walked to clear my head, so I could think straight. I always had and I had a suspicion that I always would. Something about the streets at night cleared my mind, and for just a moment, it became easier to breathe. It wasn’t working this time. The childish, innocent air of the town seemed threatening to me now. Like there was a certain undertone of menace beneath its quiet facade.
The sound of my rubber soles against the concrete sidewalk was all I could hear amongst the silence that seemed so freaking loud. It was like static on a TV, filling my ears and mind, making it impossible to think about something else. Every nerve in my body was on high alert, though my body itself seemed to be stumbling along through the dark, as if in a trance.
I could see it now. Up ahead, the sign to the neighborhood playground was barely visible through the darkness. It was seen only because of a small sliver of moonlight that shone down between the thick Maine woods and hit it just right. It didn’t matter, I didn’t need the light. I knew the way like the back of my hand. It was built into me on instinct, just like a million memories molded into my brain of a million nights just like this one. Then I had been happy, anticipating. Now I was dreading, knowing this was the first time I had been here in almost a year. Since what happened last August.
Light flooded in from all around as the automatic lights snapped on. I stepped towards the middle of the lot; I could see everything. Two lonely swings, swinging back and forth in the silent breeze. The jungle gym with its fluorescent colors, and just beyond it, the place that had been the destination of my nightmares for the last year, as well as my favorite place for six months before that. It was where we met, James and I. I would come here late at night; I don’t know how he knew, but he would always be there waiting for me under that tree when I got there. I started to wonder if he ever left.
We would sit by the edge of the woods and play card games as we talked about anything and everything. We would laugh until our stomachs hurt; I remember how happy I was around James. I used to think of him as my own personal sunshine. He lit up everything he touched; he could make anything fun.
We always talked about our dreams, and even made up one of our own. We middle finger promised that after we graduated we were going to leave this small town and never look back. We’d run from all the things that prevented us from being together, and drive to Vegas. We had both always wanted to go to Vegas. We’d make our fortune at the casinos, then blow it all on fast cars and expensive clothes. Then once we were done there, we would travel all over the world, only staying in once place long enough to earn the cash for the next trip.
James understood me. He knew what it was like to have an unlivable home life, to feel like a bird beating its wings against a closed window, just trying to break free. We were all each other had, and now I was alone.
With that thought, I snapped. I picked up the biggest rock I could find and threw it at the trees, screaming the foulest things that had ever left my mouth. Then I picked up another, and another and I kept throwing until the rocks were gone, my tears were dry and my arm was sore. Then I sat on the cold playground sand and pulled my knees to my chest. I closed my eyes in an effort to keep the memories of that terrible night at bay, though they came rushing back anyway and the only thing I accomplished was giving myself a headache.
I hated them with a passion. I hated them for taking him from me, and leaving me alone. I hated them for taking the one person I had dared let get close to me, the one person that I had really truly cared about. I hated them for the awful things they had done to James as I was forced to watch, as the terrified screams ripped themselves from my throat. The memory of them made my ears ring.
More than anything, I hated myself for being the reason James was not here. Just me, Alex Rose Walker. The girl that everybody overlooked. The girl that had never been special had been spared, when James Michael Smith had not. He had been my savior from my hell on Earth. He was better than me. He deserved to live.
It should not have been me that got the second chance.