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This Place is Home. This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

This place is something different from the rest.
The feelings that consume me have been bled into this dirt, have seeped into the foliage and been drunk by the water. They are what this place is. This place is alive.
Life has never been simple. That’s the way it is. Situations are complex, and people make them worse. Feelings abound and living is an ever-binding sum of our actions. And this place has a memory.
The crisp air gusted off the surface of the water, rushing up to me. The old wooden section of dock I was sitting on had baby trees growing up through the cracks, but the planks forgave them a space and somehow I thought to myself that it doesn’t mind. It’s been cast off and forgotten here, just like me.
The trees, in their early bright autumn colors, hushed and shivered in the breeze too, the one that’s always coming off the lake at this spot. The water sparkled and danced like it was happy to see me, the wind sending scintillating quivers over the surface. Of anything, the water is the most alive. Sharp and excited at times, angry and frothing in the hard winds, gentle and placid in the early morning light. It lapped gently at the corner of the dock that was closest to the water. The lake was heavy with rain that day, and everything felt fresh to my senses. I closed my eyes.
It’s so easy to clear my head here.
For a moment I wanted nothing more than to ease the corner of dock out of the water and save it from the doom of rot, but again I was stilled by the overwhelming feeling of serenity and the sense that here, in this place, everything was as it should be.
I took a breath before I allowed the emotions to flow into me, as I’d always done when I came here. It was a place to think, a place to cry. A haven for the lost, if you will. It has seen the best and worst sides of me, and somehow still loves my company. I fit in here like the leaves fluttering to the ground, like the squirrel shimmying up the tree. I am me here, if nowhere else.
Oh, history, flooding me now. The first time I came here, I was mad at my brother. Somehow sitting here and looking at this place made it seem childish, even if I was still a child myself.
The time I found out I would have braces, the time my fist cat died, the time I first talked to a boy that I thought liked me. When I fell in love. When I lost my parents. When I fell out of love. When I met the boy that made me realize it had never been love in the first place.
I smiled to myself, thinking about the times that I soared over this lake surface and felt like I could never fall down. The wind kissed my cheeks when trails of tears traced down them as I remembered the times I felt like I’d sunk so far I’d never breathe again. Such a unique feeling. Elation and depression, swirling together and bringing me up and down almost as quickly as pages flipping around in this wind.
I had to wipe my tears from my face before they froze. The wind had already risen gooseflesh on my arms and turned my cheeks a pretty shade of pink.
“I love you.” I let the wind carry my words away; they were only a whisper, anyway. It was a tentative admission, but one that was the truest animation of my heart. I was leaving this place soon.
Oh, the wind whispered to me, like it could understand.
I won’t be back for a while.
The leaves spiraled around in a circle, lifting up on the wind and twisting away. They always seemed to come back, though. I reached up and caught a leaf out of the grasp of that playful gust and spun it around in front of me. As I watched, I started to remember a time when there were no fluttering leaves, no honey-colored skies or soft-hearted birds chirping. The thought plunged me into a memory I could not resurface from.

I tripped over a branch and fell onto my hands and knees, ripping my jeans and cutting my palm. I didn’t stop, though, and as I flung myself onto that abandoned, beached section of dock, I felt like a martyr throwing myself onto the chopping block. I heaved a wracking sigh and let the tears fall down my face in a flow that I knew wouldn’t stop for a long while. The sun traced its fiery path across the sky, and hour by hour it waited, patiently, for a reprieve.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the emptiness inside. It wadded up in my heart and gripped my mind with such a force that it left me breathless and strangled. The hurt I felt was unlike anything I had ever really known. That crushing reality threw out all the notions I had ever had about fairness, life, loss, and desperation. That vast abyss inside my heart consumed me then, and all I knew for a short while after that was darkness.
When I finally awoke, with a shiver and a start, the sun had started to fade behind the skyline. I sighed and felt that pang of hurt again. Grabbing at my chest, I knew with sudden clarity that this would always be there. I took a deep breath and let out a shaky whine. I looked at the dock under me. Its forgiving planks had given me a soft place to rest my head and work through the shock. I gave it an affectionate pat as my eyes started to well up again. A sudden tendril of wind arose then, lifting with it a single leaf, and tossing it gently by me, back the way I had come.

Blinking, I snagged at the tears under my eyes. Oh yes, this place had a memory in it. It had a memory of my life. Of the time I came here after my first kiss and couldn’t stop chattering to the trees about how wonderful it was. About the time I came to sit and think about how life was throwing me over the side. About the time—the only time—I had ever shared this place with the only person I knew would understand. It had taken him three years to earn my trust in that way, and the time we spent on this lonely, motherly wooden slab together had been the most intimate moment of our entire relationship. He’d just kissed me on the top of head, hugged me close, and whispered “They’re here,” with such a definite assurance that actually made that sad, lonely, broken heart of mine feel whole and… fixed.
I cried that day. They were the happiest tears that had ever trailed these cheeks.

I sighed, just so the noise would bring me out of the past. I smiled a sad smile at my little spot, my secret hiding place. I knew it was time to go and I really couldn’t stall anymore, so I stood up, careful not to ruin any of those baby trees, and stepped aside. I already felt more whole, having shared the thought of leaving with this place. It would remember me, that was certain, and I would always come back, full circle, just like the patterns of the leaves caught in the wind. How could I not? This place is where my heart is.




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