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Choking on Smoke

It was fall, and my teacher decided it was time for my class to create masterpieces that only second graders have the expertise to produce. Paint, hands, and paper. That was it. I doused my hands in the basins of red, orange, yellow, and brown like they had caught on fire. And after extinguishing the flames, I pressed my hands against the unadorned sheet before me, repeating the process until what seemed to be a figure of a tree appeared. Content with my showpiece handprint tree, I walked over to the classroom sink to wash my hands. Instead of waiting my turn, I impatiently asked my teacher if I could go to the bathroom to wash my hands. After I rinsed off what I could, the residue of autumn colors remained on my hands, and I noticed there were no paper towels, only air dryers. But I had to have spotless hands, so I walked over to a stall door and dragged my hands against each and every door in that bathroom.


A few minutes after I got back into class, the teacher next door asked my class what had happened in the bathroom, that there was paint smeared across the stall doors. Terrified of the consequences and embarrassment, I sat there as everyone turned to the Junie B. Jones of the class. She was forced to go clean up the mess, and out of guilt, I offered to go help her. That night I laid in bed, remorse leaking from my eyes and guilt corroding my skin. I told my mom what I did and because my grandfather taught at my school, I went in early with him the next day to confess and apologize to my teacher. She gazed down at me as I stood there, frozen; my mouth chattered and my voice quivered out. Tears timidly shot down my cheeks, in hopes of escaping the situation. But she assured me that it was alright and that she was proud of me for being honest.


It was in that moment, where flames of fear engulfed me, where my tears tried to extinguish them, where I was most vulnerable. That moment where I was choking on the smoke of a blazing inferno, where my words struggled to find a way to break out, the truth smothered the fire. I believe in the courageousness of fearful tears and the impregnability of trembling words. I believe in honesty.






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