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The Drifting Youth
I was walking home from work one day and I happen to come across this bench in front of a playground. The sky was grey and the clouds made it darker. I was exceptionally tired and I decided to sit on the bench for a moment. I sat down and placed my brief case right next to me on the ground below. I then sat back and just tried to get my personal problems off of my mind. Looking at the kids, I was amazed at how easily they could get happy from the littlest thing. They all ran around, yelling, laughing, and smiling. I don’t really remember my childhood, honestly. Any memories I have are of me crying for some reason. I put my head in my hands and rested arms on my knees. Problems, problems, and more problems just ran through my head until this boy, who was holding this bright, big red balloon, came out of the blue walked up to the bench. He sat on the opposite end of where I was sitting and he just stared at me for a little bit.
He finally spoke asking me, “Sir, what’s wrong?”
I replied, “Nothing. Just nothing.”
“Something must be wrong, sir. I don’t know how anyone could be sad on such a beautiful day.”
I laughed softly and said, “But the sun isn’t out. It’s not a beautiful day.”
He responded, “Well you’re alive aren’t you?”
I paused and thought about the boy. I looked at him and he seemed vaguely familiar. He was wearing these generic black and white shoes, blue jeans, a green shirt, and a red baseball cap. He was slightly pudgy, and short.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It’s not hard to grasp, mister. You are breathing and your heart is pumping blood. Anytime that happens, you should be happy. No matter where you are, what your struggles are, or what is around, if you are alive, you should be happy.”
“Who are you?”
“That’s not important,” he replied. He got off the bench and walked over to the side where I was sitting. He still was holding onto his vibrant balloon. “You once had an imagination right?” he asked me.
“I still do,” I replied.
“Say something random,” he said.
“What? What do you mean?”
I began to become less and less patient with the boy. Yes, that is immature to get genuinely upset with a child, but I was seriously mad at him.
“You know what I mean, sir. Just think of something spontaneous.”
“No thank you, I’m good.”
“Why don’t you have some fun?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, but I really am not in the mood to do these childish things.”
“It is better to have the imagination of a child than no imagination at all, sir,” he said.
That really struck me. I knew exactly what he was saying. I thought more about my childhood in those seconds more than I have my whole life.
“As I became older, I would look into my mirror every day and feel I was doing a worse and worse imitation of who I am.”
“You let go of your youth, didn’t you?” he asked, while adjusting his grip on the balloon’s long, white string even tighter.
“I had to. All my life my parents stressed about how important my future was and I never really lived in the moment,” I replied.
“That’s what it is,” the boy said. “You were never one of us. I had a feeling you never knew me either.”
“Wait what?” I asked. I began to scratch my grey shaded beard in confusion.
“I figured it out. You don’t have to think about me anymore, sir. It’s ok.”
I was puzzled with what the boy was saying. I began to get teary eyed.
“Please tell me who you are.”
“You know exactly who I am. You just forgot I was here, that’s all.”
The boy began walking away and before he walked past the playground’s gates which led into the vast, cramped but lonely city, he turned around, and gazed at me. He stared at me and a big, raindrop shaped tear rolled down his chubby cheek before he let go of his beautiful, red balloon. I put my head down and wiped my eyes. By the time I looked back at the boy, there was an old, hunched man, limping on the same path the boy was strolling seconds ago. It was as if he let go of his own youth. When I saw that, it felt as if a part of me was taken away from my soul; not my body, my soul. I looked up for his balloon and just watched it. I watched it float away higher and higher into the skies above our realm. I began to cry unknowingly. I sat on that bench, in front of the playground, amongst the smiling, laughing children and just cried. I cried wishing for my balloon to come back, but it was gone. Oh god, how I would give anything to see my balloon again.