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A Cold Glass of Water This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

It was dark and I remember that I wondered why no one ever installed streetlights, as I was walking through the neighborhood in the middle of the night. It seemed like the whole world was asleep, the houses around me were strong and still, like they were my guards. For some reason the dead, universal silence was something wonderful, peaceful to me. It was nearly new moon, it was dark, I was alone and I felt safe. Today, I wonder. Wouldn’t everyone be terrified by dead silence? By nearly total darkness? By being alone as a woman, in the middle of the night? Maybe it was because of the cocktails my friend Lisa made for us. We had watched old, romantic movies together, laughed and cried and had fun. At three o’clock I decided to go home, but because I was a little tipsy, I left my car at Lisa’s house and chose to walk home. My house turned out to be farther from hers than I thought it was. It felt like I was walking forever, but I enjoyed being alone with my thoughts. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I could have sworn I felt the alcohol slowly fading away. I felt myself sobering up. I immediately longed for more cocktails, because now all the thoughts, and with them the despair I tried to drown in alcohol, came back. I sat down on someone’s lawn, hugging my knees, crying like a baby. I knew it was ridiculous. I always made fun of these girls who wouldn’t stop crying because their boyfriends broke up with them. These girls who become desperate, who want to kill themselves. I used to laugh about all these girls who say life isn’t worth living anymore without him. And now that was exactly what I felt. So I sat in some stranger’s front yard, sobbing my heart out.
It was like my tears flushed out what was left from the alcohol in my body, because I started calming down, thinking rationally and getting really, really tired. I got up, pulled my skirt and shirt down, tried to fix my make-up, although no one would see me, and continued my way home. I tried to ignore the headache and fatigue the alcohol left. I tried not to think about him, and that he had cheated on me. I tried not to think about the day he would come to my house to pick up his stuff. I tried not to think about the day of the final goodbye.
I glanced at my watch quickly. It was 3:36; I focused on the sound my heels made on the street and my breath. Now the dark windows of the houses seemed to stare at me, black and evil. Nothing was left of the peaceful silence. It had mutated into threatening, scary silence that made me feel more than uncomfortable. Suddenly I had the impression someone was behind me. The area between my shoulder blades, the unprotected spot where someone could easily stab me with a knife, started burning and itching, as if someone was staring at me. I turned around but there was no one. Everyone is sleeping, I thought to myself, There’s no one out here. I took off my high heels - my feet started hurting - I tried to calm myself down. This night was full of trying.
The strange feeling didn’t go away for a while, but I wanted to get home so I moved on. I pushed myself to think about the sunny, wonderful day I bought the shoes I now held in my hands. That wasn’t a good idea. I had bought them with Rachel, a good friend of mine and the woman with whom my boyfriend had cheated on me. My eyes filled with tears and my sight blurred, but I pulled myself together. My intention was to get home. That was all I wanted to focus on. At this point, I got angry at myself that I didn’t stay at Lisa’s. What did I think when I decided to walk home? I should have known that distance seems a lot shorter when you drive it than when you walk it.
Absorbed in thoughts, I didn’t hear the footsteps at first. Whoever was behind me was making an effort to be as quiet as possible. The night was so unusually still that his careful steps seemed enormously loud. I quickly turned my head. There was a man, about 150 feet behind me, grinning and staring at me. I felt the panic spreading in my chest, running through my veins. I was terrified.
All of a sudden he began to speed up. I could hear my heart pumping and I hoped he wouldn’t hear that it was nearly bouncing out of my chest. Now that he knew that I had seen him, he wasn’t concerned about being loud and attracting my attention anymore. I heard his quick steps behind me, him coming closer, and started sweating instantly. I quickened my pace too, and hoped he was just taking a walk, or that he was on his way to the bus. But then he started running. My eyes widened and I stood still for two seconds. Then, I started running too. I ran, not thinking about anything. My mind was empty, my only thought: Get away. I don’t remember how long I ran and which turns I took. The seconds felt like minutes, the minutes felt like ages. A part of me was sure it would never end and I was going to die, but I didn’t want to give up my hope yet.
After a time that seemed like a decade, he was right behind me, so I could hear, and - I’m not sure if it was imagination or real - feel his breath. My lungs were burning, his hot breath on my neck, a low, gentle laugh on my ear. I was scared, terrified. I prayed to a god I didn’t believe in. I looked back on my life and the good and bad moments and feelings, on the ones I loved and sometimes hated, the ones I laughed and cried with, the ones that made me happy or sad, and I wondered who would miss me. I had already said my goodbye, already knew what my last words would be, already accepted my destiny, and thought my death would be something unavoidable, something definite.
I wasn’t crying but my tears were falling. I knew there was no chance for me to survive. I was surprised at what happened next: I dropped my shoes, gathered all my strength and sprinted faster than I ever thought I was able to. I don’t know where the new energy came from, but it allowed me to break through all my fear and see clear again. I found myself in the street where I lived in. Somehow my feet had led me to my house without me being aware of that. I closed my eyes. I thanked god and my subconscious mind for being there. It wasn’t far to my house anymore. And somewhere, hidden behind the joy I now felt, I heard the man tripping over my shoes, falling to the ground and swearing out loud. I kept on sprinting, sprinting towards safety, my lovely home that was already waiting for me. The man got up and started running again, but I was nearly there and I loved myself for always forgetting to lock the door.
My hands were shaking as I locked the door from the inside. All the tension relieved, my heart filled with joy, overflew and made me laugh. I was free. I survived. I survived although I had already given up. I leaned against the door, and laughed. I laughed for minutes. It was a mad, insane laughter, it sounded like I was nuts. I laughed out loud so that everyone could hear my victory. I wanted the man to hear my victory. I beat him. I beat death and I wanted everyone to know. I didn’t stop laughing until the skin on my lips was flaking off and my heartbeat was close to normal again. From one moment to another, my overwhelming joy was gone and left a faint, but comforting satisfaction. I was thirsty. I looked out the window next to the door. The streets were dark, and there he was. His white face was glowing in the dark like a flashlight. He was just standing there, no movement. I won, I thought, I won and you lost. And I turned around, knowing that he saw me, and went to the kitchen to get water.
The cold glass of water in my hands I sat down on my couch, looking towards the window again. He wasn’t there anymore. I took a sip. He had gone. I drank the water all at once. I was alone. The coldness was creeping up my nose. Sometimes, I thought, Sometimes you have to say goodbye to your life and everything that comes with it, pain and happiness and love and hate, to save it. Then I fell asleep, still holding the glass.





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