From An Outsider’s Viewpoint This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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     “Right here, to the right!” I shout to the front seat. My friend’s mother nods and turns the wheel.

“There you go,” she says and smiles. After a long weekend, she is happy to be rid of me. From the back seat I can see my mother and my father enjoying the sun together on the porch.

“Good morning!” I join them; they both smile. My mother takes a sip of her coffee. As I sit between them on our rugged bench, I smell the coffee seeping from her breath and out of the cup she rests on her leg.

“I bet we could name every person who drives by before they pass the mailbox,” my dad comments as he tastes the coffee my mother just set down. They’re drinking from the same cup.

“Small town,” my mother agrees.

“Here comes Tom. Tommy!” my dad shouts, and waves his hand much too dramatically. Soon my parents come to an awful conclusion; we live in such a small town that we do know every person who drives by our house.

“It’s nice, I suppose, for the elderly. They probably love that hometown, know-all-your-neighbors thing,” my mother says.

“I suppose,” my dad agrees.

We conclude that the small town of Iola, although cute, is pathetic. My parents continue their small talk as the “Iolaians” drive by. We know everyone - which means they know us. From the outside, my parents look happily married, but anyone who knows us knows that my parents have been officially divorced since my fifteenth birthday.

I start to wonder if the Norwegians who drive past are judging us. My 150-year-old piano teacher putters by. She sees all three of us enjoying the beautiful spring day. Together. I can just imagine what’s going through her small, gray head:

Look at them, never would’ve seen it coming. They’re sitting on that porch together like nothing’s wrong. It’s a sin, divorce. I laugh to myself as my imagination soars, pondering what she will do when she arrives wherever she’s headed. She’s going to die soon and I’m going to be sad, but everything dies sometime.

Later, I have a conversation with my hairdresser.

“I saw you sitting on your porch Sunday.”

“I know. I saw you drive by.” I’m not really listening. Truthfully, when adults speak, I rarely listen. I’m too busy peering at myself in the mirror.

“You miss the country?” she asks.

“Definitely.”

“Sitting on a city porch just isn’t the same.”

She’s right. It’s not. It’s a big change. But everything has changed, hasn’t it? What was once good, beautiful and peaceful is now full of loud passersby and diesel fuel. The family Christmas, the board games we once played. Now, I’m planning to visit my grandmother for Easter, but my father isn’t coming. This year’s Easter will be exactly the same as all the previous ones, except he won’t be there.

“I just can’t imagine moving from such a big, beautiful house on a hill to a tiny home in the middle of ... I’m so sorry,” she remarks, as she snips my split ends.

Here it comes, the same sympathy I’ve been getting for a while now. Everyone thinks they’re the only one who really cares about me. They think they can make me feel better. They try to offer comfort. But to me, it’s like they’re re-picking a wound that was just starting to heal. It’s all the same “I’m sorry, you know it’s not that bad ... you’ve got it better than some ... divorce is almost normal these days” and if all else fails, they offer the classic “Just give me a hug.”

All hugs are the same, too. Long and strong, like they all don’t want to let me go. But I’m counting the seconds until I’m released and can carry on with my routine, hoping to forget everything, once and for all.

At night, my mother hugs me the same way, except she lets go when she feels me start to pull away. My father gives me a strong pat on the back and they watch as I walk up the creaking stairs to my bedroom.

After I wash my face and change my clothes, I open my blinds to look down at the road. A few cars drive by and I try to name the drivers: Dexter, Mrs. Johnson ... and then an old white car, which I don’t recognize. As I examine the rust stains, I am overwhelmed with an excellent thought - they don’t know. Whoever is in that car cannot tell. From their point of view, we’re one big happy family.

I close my eyes. A big happy family ... I remember what that was like. I start to forget my parents aren’t together. I try to imagine I’m sleeping in my old house, in my old bed, and I drift off, happy. I’m remembering the good times when what an outsider saw was what was really there.

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

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the October 2006 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.






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