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She layered her hair with the dye. It was thick and goopy. Thick layers of black covered her once blonde hair. With every layer it became easier; easier to forget what her life once used to be…she used to have color in her life, she had friends, and a boyfriend...she had a dad who would pull them all together, and she had a mother who acknowledged her.
“Melinda…your father is very ill, you have to understand that he will be in the hospital for quite a while…” my mother was still okay then. She still had hope left in her heart. “This is hard for the both of us; just work with me, please?”
My mom and I were alone. However, it felt more like it was just me. My mom worked overtime at her office job everyday now, being wary of how our money was spent. She became a penny pincher, but otherwise she was careless. I could see the change in her immediately. I didn’t see her much since she was at work so much, but when she was home, she never ate. She spoke little, and I never saw her sleeping. She missed my father, but she wanted nothing to remind her of him. It was as if she was afraid that the empty side of their bed would remind her of him, and she would break down and cry. I knew she didn’t want that she kept herself locked up.
“Mom, I know something is wrong…” I tried. She didn’t respond. “You should get some help, Mom.”
“I don’t need help, Melinda, I’m fine.” That was her automatic response. “I’m fine.” It was becoming her theme song. Clearly that she was everything but fine.
I felt weightless and invisible as I floated down the long hallways. I felt like a ghost, but I was reminded that I was still in existence every time someone shoved me against the hallway walls. I knew it wasn’t on purpose, but it made me feel worse and worse every time it happened. I just kept reminding myself that reason was simple - I had stopped caring to dodge people in the hallways. In fact, I had stopped caring about what people thought of me, or how I looked like. The constant crowded hallways had resulted in small bruises on my arms at the end of each day.
I felt lonely, but I didn’t want to seem like an invalid. I wanted to be the old me, but I felt a weight on my heart and I couldn’t bring myself to open up to anyone – not my mother, not even my former friends. They had been compassionate at the beginning, they tried helping me but soon they got tired of me being so gloomy all the time. I didn’t blame them, but I couldn’t help being a little angry at them, and in a way jealous that they still had fathers and mothers, and that their families weren’t falling apart just as mine was from the loss of my dad. The first week that my dad died, all I wanted was to be alone – until that is what I got.
Life was like a dream to me now. I felt so lonely; like the only person I could find comfort it was me. I had nightmares every night, so in comparison reality seemed like a good dream.
Lunch: always a bad situation. I stood there at the side of the cafeteria balancing my lunch tray, feeling clumsier than ever. Everyone seemed to be caught up in their own conversations. Chatter filled the large cafeteria. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice me standing there with the lunch tray. Everyone looked like they knew exactly where they belonged; except me. I stood awkwardly at the front of the cafeteria searching with my eyes for an empty seat. I wished that I could gather enough courage to maybe make some new friends, or at least apologize for being rude to my old ones.
At last I found an empty seat. It was at the back corner of the cafeteria in front of the dusty trophy cabinet that displayed the sport awards from as far back as the 60. The table was small and circular. There were two chairs – both were empty. I sat down and bit into my pizza. My stomach seemed to jump at the small piece. I hadn’t even realized how hungry I was.
School was getting worse and worse everyday so I was more than happy when I came home one day to find my mom sitting at the kitchen table eating a bowl of chicken noodle soup. She had The New Yorker spread out in front of her.
“Hey mom, what’s up?” I asked, dropping my heavy backpack on the floor, surprised that she was home as three on a Tuesday.
“Sweetheart…” she began, and then paused. She dropped the spoon in her bowl. I just looked at her urging her to continue on. “Well, I was thinking maybe it’s time for a change.”
“A change…” I whispered my thoughts out loud; I considered this and felt hopeful.
“Yes, well, this house is just so…big, and with daddy out, it just seems too empty and vast for the two of us…” she looked at me as if trying to get a reaction before continuing on. I didn’t know what to say so I just kept quiet. I liked where this was going. “So, I’ve decided to sell the house, and move somewhere smaller, cozier.” She looked up at me.
“That sounds great, Mom,” I said. It felt good to know that I would be getting another chance. It would be like starting over in a new school that where no one knew that I was the outcast who stopped talking ever since her dad died.
We moved there next month. I hadn’t bothered to tell anyone at school because I didn’t think they would care. Our new house was nice – small but cozy. It was a light blue color with a dark blue door with a small bay window facing the front yard – simple yet pretty in its own way. The new front ward was hardly half the size of our old one. The grass was a little patchy, but that was hardly a problem because they were hidden with the wild flowers that grew all over.
I stood in the entrance of my new room. It had plain white walls and a dark hard wood floor. The room was small, with a fairly large window on every outside wall. I could get used to this. My bed, along with some of my other furniture, had already been brought in. I thought considering this new space I have been given. I was ready to start fresh.
“Melinda, honey!” my mother called. I could hear her walking up the stars. “How do you like your new room?”
“It’s great mom, really. I mean I’ll miss my old room, but I like it.” As I said, I was beginning to like it here more and more.
“That’s good…” she said putting her arm around me. It was the first time she showed compassion toward me ever since my dad’s funeral.
“I miss him, mom.” I said quietly feeling tears gather in my eyes.
She sighed. “I know. I miss him too…”
“Can we please talk about him more often?” I said, then quickly added, “You know, so he won’t be forgotten.”
My mom was quiet for a minute, until finally she replied, “Yes...that’s a good idea.” She stood with me for a while longer before hugging me and turning to walk to her new room down the hallway.
A bright glow was shining through the windows in my room, and when I looked outside I saw the sun setting deeply into the small cluster of trees in our back yard. The sunset spilled various hues of gold, crimson, and orange unto the cloudless sky. I stared at it until it set far behind the white house of our neighbors. I breathed in deeply. I felt hope and a strange excitement for the start of tomorrow – a fresh new day, a new world, and most importantly a new me.