Puddles This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 29, 2008
Rain pelted my jacket as I ran down the sidewalk, dodging puddles scattered along my usual path to the bus stop. Five minutes later I was in the warm and squeaky interior of the Bronx 16. I settled down, gazed at the water cascading down the windows, and listened to the windshield wipers patiently groaning back and forth. I was relieved that the wettest part of my day was over; the storm would clear up by noon and I would get home unscathed. As it turns out, I was only the latest in a long list of unfortunate people who have tried to anticipate the actions of a very fickle Mother Nature.

Later, it was still raining with a vengeance. I found myself looking out the window at the torrential downfall, this time from my third-period physics class. It was Friday, and my teacher crooned his lesson to a class sedated with anticipation of the weekend. I, on the other hand, was preoccupied with greater issues: namely, how I was going to cross the quad, the central area of campus where students convene in the morning, to my math class in the midst of this terrible squall. I mentally kicked myself for leaving my raincoat in my locker. The bell rang and the class sprung to life with a newfound vigor. Either because I did not want to deal with my red-faced and irritated math teacher or because I was too lazy to make the four-flight pilgrimage to my locker, I chose to run the gauntlet without my jacket.

The adrenaline kicked in as I approached the door. Yes, I, John Kelly, was about to embark on a daring journey across the quadrangle, relying solely on my acumen and superb knowledge of the terrain. I blew past a group of hesitant onlookers and into the heart of the storm, running hard to math. I carefully weaved around various puddles (deftly stepping in others in the process), and all the while rain soaked my maroon sweater-vest.

Then I spotted the mother of them all, the queen puddle of the quad. So big was it that it could engulf even the most bulky (or in my case lengthy) adolescent. I shuddered at the thought of slipping into it; every part of me screamed AVOID THAT PUDDLE AT ALL COSTS. With that in mind I began the nimble crossing between my newfound nemesis and the mighty oak outside the freshman building.

I made it past the tree just in time to see Thomas, a member of the football team, breaking through the rainy haze and barreling straight toward me. Attempts at avoidance were futile; I was caught off guard and the next moment was lying flat on my back, immersed in the very thing I had tried to avoid.

I lay there for a moment letting reality and puddle seep into my consciousness, Mother Nature all the while relentlessly running up her water bill. I cannot recall my surroundings too well, but I do remember thinking, How did this happen? Why was I so careless? Why didn’t I just take my time and take shelter under the umbrellas of less forgetful people? Thank God my book bag is waterproof! But the main thought going through my mind was: Of all people, why me? Clearly, I have enough problems as it is, and now this?

At that particular point in my high school career, this was an especially damaging blow. My actions seemed irrational, unfounded. Falling into a puddle is possibly one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a person, something that seemingly happens only in movies; yet here I was, sopping wet, the victim of a cruel, humiliating baptism. I got up and walked slowly to class. What did the rain matter now?

Needless to say, the rest of my day was horrible. Or rather, it would have been had I not put what happened into perspective. As I sat at my desk, wallowing in my misery and replaying the events in my mind, what had happened seemed oddly familiar. Yes, the circumstances were different, but looking back I realized that this was not the first “puddle” I had fallen into.

Many times in my life I had “run all out” for something, full of enthusiasm and elation, only to be knocked flat on my back by some unexpected force. This was only the most recent time that it had happened. Thinking back to when I had encountered major setbacks in the past, I also noticed a pattern in the way I reacted to them. Rather than being assertive, I tended to feel sorry for myself, as if I hoped to elicit pity from those around me.

Sitting at my desk, water dripping down my forehead, my clothes too close for comfort, I was pitying myself all over again. But then I stopped. Moping was not going to make my clothes any drier. I left math class that day not only with a distinct squelch, but with the determination to approach future failure and disappointment with a more level-headed outlook.

Two years and many challenges later, I look back on that day with unusual fondness. The crucible in the pavement where I fell has since been smoothed over and forgotten, but throughout my life I will always remember the profound lesson I learned on that rainy October morning.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 7 comments. Post your own now!

S.I. Fan Club said...
Feb. 6, 2009 at 1:53 am
What a great essay. I have to get some "patiently groaning wipers" for my car!
erinkelly said...
Feb. 5, 2009 at 10:40 pm
great article!Excellent use of imagery and sensory details! You taught an important life lesson through an ordinary experience . You are a skilled writer.
IsaiahM said...
Feb. 5, 2009 at 6:07 am
Great. That's incredible writing; i actually felt as if i were experiencing it. Ms. Negrin would be proud ='( lol.
hp said...
Feb. 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm
Nice work. Well said by above writer, I felt like I too was in the puddle.
jake'sgirl said...
Dec. 3, 2008 at 9:12 pm
hey this is an amazing one hope to see many more
zen said...
Nov. 14, 2008 at 9:32 pm
You write so descriptively! good job and you were right, I wasn't disappointed.
diakkk123 said...
Nov. 7, 2008 at 4:37 am
This is a really great article, I loved the imagery and the way the story is told in a sort of battlefield mentality.
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