April 13, 2008
By Alyssa Smith, Hamilton, TX

The warm mud molds to my bare feet as I survey the serene scene. My friends play in the bitterly cold water; they had given up on convincing me to join them hours ago. I can hear their laughter and high-pitched voices from where I stand. They can't see me; I'm hidden by the towering trees. They aren't looking for me, anyway.

Squish, squish. I hear you approach cautiously before I see you. The water-like mud makes so much noise at even the slightest movement. That's why I'm standing as still as these trees. You eventually reach the spot where I am standing, and you smile at me in greeting. I only reply with a slight inclination of my head, but you don't expect a decent greeting from me. You understand me, but I'm not sure I enjoy being understood.

Neither of us say anything; we have no need to speak. Our voices would corrupt the lovely sounds of nature. Listening to the lively birds chatter, the gentle wind rustle the golden leaves, and the swift river run over rocks is enough for us. I'm not similar to our other friends. They seem to rely on incessant chattering for comfort; I get vexed by pointless talk. You're somewhere in-between. You always are.

After at least a half hour, you end our comfortable silence with a whispered question. "Do you want to get closer to the river?" you ask in your soft voice. I nod; neither of us have any intention to get in the water. You loathe water, and I'd rather appreciate the beauty of nature than swim. We walk side-by-side slowly. "I'll race you," you blurt out in a rare moment of spontaneity. I sigh but nod my head in acquiescence. I never win arguments with you.

Your short hair doesn’t get in your face as you run, but my long, sandy-blonde hair does. It impairs my sight, so I’m not too surprised when I find myself flat on my stomach. I probably tripped over an unseen tree root. I use my long, athletic arms to push myself up into a sitting position, and I spit the inedible mud out of my mouth before wiping my face on my once-stainless shirt. You join me on the mushy ground after realizing that I don’t plan on standing anytime soon. “Are you alright?” you ask hesitantly, and I can hear concern in your voice. You worry about me too much.

Am I alright? My thoughts flicker to the countless issues I have with myself; the number of occasions I’ve been blamed by my parents for things I had no part in; the stress that comes with being looked down upon by our peers. No, I don’t think I’m alright, but you didn’t mean overall. “I didn’t hurt myself,” I say instead. It’s not a lie; you can see through those. It’s my version of the truth, and you believe it.

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