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It’s funny how little things change who we are. Like a night spent waiting on a bench, or running in the park, or retelling a story by heart on a bus in the pouring rain. Looking back, it’s hard to imagine a time before fourth grade me.

/I’m not certain how long we’ve been sitting here but the bench is cold and it’s dark now. Dad is still talking too loud on his phone as fewer and fewer people come bustling out of the train station, the only thing in sight aside from trees and cool stone from our bench. Maddy plays Frogger on my little flip phone, a rare gift to keep her from her complaining because I know if I hear her voice any more I’ll surely burst. Every word is negative, another thing I’m sure I have to keep in check. Dad keeps flashing glances at the game in Maddy’s hands but before he says anything I reach over and hold the slim arrow until no music remains. Maddy takes no notice. She knows she can just turn it up again./

When I was nine years old I became superstitious.

/My two fingers are locked together. ‘please’ I think, closing my eyes each time I deliver a wish. ‘please, please, please let us find a hotel. please’/

Eye lashes and crossed fingers become a symbol of control and power, wishes to keep the peace. The chanting in my head held me together like a thin thread. It said that everything will turn out alright. I stuffed my problems deep down and turned into the perfect child, if only for a little while.

/‘I know it will be okay. I know it will be okay. It will. It always turns out alright.’/

I learned to be what my dad always wanted. I told myself everything would always turn out alright. I told myself there was nothing wrong. And when you tell yourself nothing is wrong, you can almost believe it.


/‘If there is no hotel available I can take Maddy and go to Mom’s. Dad could stay with Aunt Aldren, like he says he has been’ I reason./

Back up plans ran through my head when times looked bleak, my mind repeating them on an infinite loop so I wouldn’t forget. It loosened the tension in my chest, just as the presence of my phone did. When I wasn’t in school my phone was always in my hand or in my pocket or on the table next to me. It reassured me, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because if I have my phone I know I can always call my mom for help. Maybe it’s because if I have my phone, I can keep time.

/A yawn stretches my face and tears jolt to my eyes. Angry fists punch away the tears. Crying makes me angry. It makes me weak. My eyes were always beyond my control. When I was told to stop crying, as I often was as a child, my reply was always that my eyes had a “mind of their own”.

I rock onto my tippy toes to look up past the bushy trees at the Apple Bank clock, obsessively checking every minute as if the there is a specific time when everything will be magically fixed. But instead it still just keeps ticking forward. 9:32. I close my eyes and tell myself not to worry.


“Dad-”


“Honey, be patient. Go with the flow.”/


I hate when he says that, when he tells me that when my mom was pregnant she wanted me to be calm like him.


/I bite my lip to keep the angry words in and take a seat./


He didn’t trust me. He taught me not to trust anyone but myself. I entered the real world that year. I taught myself how to cope.


/ Dad’s voice booms, “We have a hotel.”/


I learned how to write.


/ My fingers wrap around Maddy’s wrist, my other hand pocketing the phone in her hand, and I drag her after Dad as he runs along the benches. Water splashes up from the puddles at our feet, as if dancing in celebration. My backpack flies as we run./


On trains, in hotels, and cold park benches, I wrote.


/My breathing is quick and my vocal cords feel like flames are licking them raw as I yell for my sister to run faster./


About everything.


/I don’t know where we are going. I don’t care./

About anything.




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ROYCEPHUSThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 21, 2013 at 7:22 pm:
This is great!
 
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