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Along the dry creek bed I walked, explored, and reflected. More or less anything that was impossible to do up on the real walkway, which was crowded with people. Down there, I was all by myself, completely ignoring civilization, while it returned the favor.
Looking up at the sky, I noticed ugly, colossal clouds were rolling over and onto our small little town. The ruined festival would definitely be worth it, as long as this long drought would come to an end.
When I brought my eyes back down to earth, I saw other kids were getting inspiration from me.
“Whoa, what’s that girl doing?”
“Mom, Brian’s playing down there too, can’t I?” That’s my cue to leave! So much for ignoring me…
I clambered up the small cliff of the creek and stepped with bare feet onto manicured grass. Bending over slightly, I tossed my flip-flops on the ground and stepped into them. As I looked around me, I scouted for the best way to avoid the throng of people that were making their way to the fairgrounds. The only things worth looking at were the makeshift parking lot, the rather long line to get tickets, and a large crowd of people playing basketball.
Picking randomly, to quickly get away from humanity, I headed for the stairs next to the lake. Going home was a very real option, though it was much too early on a Friday afternoon to be home. Not only would my parents have been suspicious, they would have been worried I was sick. That was the last thing I needed: my parents’ attention. So I walked up the steps, felt the stairs working my legs in a way I was not fond of, and caught my breath at the top. Being outside was really the best thing for me, anyway. After everything changed so drastically in my mind, I felt almost off-balance, like I had just come ashore after a sea-faring trip, and I had to learn to walk again, to think again. I pondered this and continued to walk around the playgrounds by the lake. After a long, thoughtful trip, I headed back toward the hill I originally came from just after school got out. Approaching the footbridge, and wanting to be alone even longer, I decided to go underneath it, back to the creek bed. It was a little wetter at this part along the natural canyon, more puddles at least, so I squatted and rolled up the bottoms of my jeans.
The perspective from down there was so different. The loneliness caused me to think more, and I was happy to get my mind off the break up. But alas, life isn’t kind enough for things like that. My mind drifted to the subject often. Questions like “Why,” and “What did I do?” came to mind, but there were no answers. I didn’t want to know anymore, I just wanted to stop caring about it. I wanted to stop worrying about him. I wanted to stop going over impossible, imaginary conversations and scenarios in my mind. As I approached the place the kids had overrun, I began to feel the first drops of rain and my mind became slightly more optimistic at the thought of the coming storm.
I heard voices ahead of me.
“Oh, great,” I said to myself. They were still there.
My steps became smaller as I tried to prolong my time alone with my thoughts. With the final bend in what used to be and what will soon become a rather swift creek, I came into sight of the group of kids I had heard earlier. They were jacking around in MY haven, moving boulders and hanging from branches until they break. Watching them was aggravating. I knew most of them, too. They were freshmen, and putting names to them was difficult, but it stopped me from screaming at them.
As I saw one of the more obvious, more familiar members of the group, I stopped in my tracks and began walking the other way. Not soon enough, though.
“Autumn!” He saw me and called out my name. So he’ll talk to me in person now, will he? The I-think-we-should-just-be-friends text didn’t cover it, then?
He was so messed up morally, but he covered it up well, especially at the beginning of our relationship. He slowly leaked hints of how cowardly he was, how he’d rather make fun of other people’s faults than accept his own. He’d rather yell at his own girlfriend, put me down as far as I would go, than admit he was the wrong one. But I stayed. I was SO SURE there was a way to get through to him, to let him know that he could be a great person if he’d work and focus on his own weak spots in his life.
But he would never even admit that he had any issues to resolve, let alone fix any of them. And after he yelled at me, after he put me down day after day, week after week, after I tried to help him be happy, HE’S the one that dumped ME?? I came to the realization that he was a deep-down terrible person. A lost cause. I may know that now, but after believing in the wrong thing that whole time, it was hard to trust in the exact opposite.
I began to run from the group of kids, back to where I came from. I began to run away from my hate in my heart; toward the happiness that I didn’t yet know was waiting for me. I began to speed toward my future, and race away from my past. I heard footsteps behind me and only quickened my pace. He had no sense in his head at all.
As I ran faster, I felt the coolness of raindrops on my face and shirt. He was running faster to try and keep up, and in response I went to an all out sprint, trying not to lose my shoes, nor trip over any rocks.
This boy stood no chance against me. He never was much of an athlete, but I kept sprinting anyway, letting all that pressure that was building up inside me, power me, fuel my body to keep me going faster and faster like a bottle rocket finally set off. The boy soon was a long ways back and I stretched the physical space between us, like he lengthened the emotional space.
The bottle rocket lost momentum, so when it reached the bridge; it collapsed with a clang on the metal that was slippery with rain. It was pouring now, and people were going the opposite direction I saw them going just an hour ago. Drenched and shivering, I lay there defeated, crying, knowing that the boy gave up on me when it began to rain, and hating him with a deep gut-wrenching hatred for his actions, expected as they may be.
I cried and cried until I felt warm, powerful arms around me, pulling me into a warm, dry lap. The sobbing got worse at first. This comfort was familiar, I knew, and so was the soft voice hushing me, calming me down. That knowledge helped me realize the way I must have looked, and made me want to wear a paper bag over my head.
But he was so warm, with that smell he’s always had. As my tears slowed to a stop, I took in deep breaths, memorizing that smell for later. Like for my dreams, maybe.
“Let’s go home,” he said quietly. And we got into his truck and I left my past behind.