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Living is Easy with Eyes Closed This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

“Let me take you down, ‘cause I’m going to . . . Strawberry Fields . . .” Clear and smooth, my voice echoed through the stairwell, producing an ominous ringing in the sunshine-yellow walls. It was the only sound to be heard in our 3-bedroom shack in the small village of Hockessin. Not even the rustle of the winter wind just outside our house could pervade the thick air of a deep and sullen silence. At the bottom of the splintered, wooden staircase, my parents stood in anticipation. My father, handsome and tall with a scraggly beard, and my mother, as beautiful as the day of her 16th birthday, stared up at me from the bottom of the banister. Her bright red hair caught the light from the kitchen, giving the illusion that her head had been set ablaze.

It was my father that first caught my attention. He was smiling, but it was taught and forced. Around his eyes, his skin was red and blotchy, as if he had been crying. My father never cries. Both of them, with gleaming eyes and gentle tones, told me the inevitable truth that I had always wanted to avoid. It was that first painfully emitted phrase that began my spiraling descent. My mother – so captivating in her beauty – took my face in her soft hands.
“We’re sorry,” she said, a smile hidden behind the thick tears cascading down her face. I was younger and more naïve, but I knew perfectly well that nothing good ever came after the words “we’re sorry.”
“No,” I whispered, my voice miles away. She continued nonetheless.
“You’re dad and I have been talking –“
No. Stop. No more.
“– and over the past year –“
This isn’t happening.

“- we’ve discovered we aren’t as happy as we used to be –“
Look. My world; it’s burning all around me.
“- so, we’ve decided . . . I don’t know if I can say it.” She took a moment to wipe the misery-choked tears from her eyes.
“We’re getting a divorce,” my father croaked, every syllable crackled pain. He seemed so incredibly tired and aged at the time – as if the mind of an old man was trapped in the blood and tissue of a young man. Suddenly, it was all too much.

“No. You’re lying,” I moaned. I could see the sunshiny walls begin to melt. They seemed to morph somehow, bleeding the cheery shades of yellow out and giving way to a dull, mustard color. “You’re lying,” I repeated, desperately groping for something, anything that would end the ceaseless pounding in my skull.
“We’re sorry,” Mom repeated with a voice that was flat and distant. If she felt any remorse or pain, she would not reveal it; she refused to lose her flawless complexion. I reacted in the exact opposite. Choking on sobs, scratching at the interminable river of tears erupting from my eyes, I tried to ask how this could happen. I then realized that I’d made the fatal mistake of every child belonging to a dysfunctional couple: I’d forced myself to believe they were happy when in reality their commitment to each other was destroying them.

The tears were surging stronger than ever. I ran back up the stairs as fast as I could, tumbling over the last two steps on the way up. The door slammed behind me with enough force to rattle the lamp to the left of the room until it swayed dangerously close to and crashed into a bookshelf nestled in the wall. Great; another thing I needed was to step on a piece of broken glass! Then my night would officially be one of hellish proportions. I propelled myself onto the pathetic excuse of a bed in the corner of the room. It groaned in protest as I sat there drawing my knees to my chest and rocking back and forth. As I sobbed, I matched the motion of the sea, trying to escape to my sanctuary on Rehoboth Beach. I wanted to see the swell of the white-capped waves, smell the pungent and salty air, and hear the obnoxious cry of the seagulls as clearly as I would have on the many summer days I had spent there. I would do absolutely anything to be there at the time; to be anywhere else, for that matter. Then, a piercing shriek permeated the sounds of the peaceful daydream:

“No! Please! Mommy! Mommy! Don’t leave me! Please don’t leave!” My sister, Lila, just 8 years old, was gripped in the foul fingers of grief and betrayal. She continued her tirade with increasing volume. I heard no response from either of my parents. I wished they could make her shut up, anything to end the terrifying screams. I took my iPod from the desk beside my bed, turned it to full volume, and picked a song from my “Favorites” playlist. It was called “Strawberry Fields Forever.” I let the sound overwhelm me; the ringing to an organ in the distance; the rising crescendo of a choir of brass instruments; and the low, sultry voice of John Lennon echoing through my skull.
“Let me take you down . . .”
Yes. Please take me to the Strawberry Fields where nothing is real. Take me away from all this pain . . . all this hatred.

I had left the confines of the room into a world only the imagination could create. I could see hills of green and yellow rolling over a wide field of grass. An oak tree, tall and strong, stood in the distance bowing to the wind. A large estate loomed over a hill, its oppressive shadow dancing in the yellow fields. I looked down, and scattered about were clumps of strawberries littered at my feet. I could even see a young man alone on the tallest hill, singing so that his voice seemed to travel across the universe. I smiled and sought refuge in a world of notes and sounds. I’d found my real sanctuary. I could see the beautiful world around me . . . but I could also see the darkness within it: the pain of divorce and adultery, the miracle of mental rebirth, and the people around me in their rawest form - my mother and father, who tried but couldn’t disguise or hide the betrayal (“one thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside,”). If it weren’t for the wonderful message music taught me, I wouldn’t be here. My end would’ve been abrupt, like a story that ends with the main character’s dying words or a song that cuts of suddenly, leaving no room for even the echo of the piano’s last chord. I am content to know that I will fade with the beautiful remnants of a melody.




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