She waits until everyone else is asleep to cry. Prying herself from a desk cluttered with essay drafts and math problems, she slips out the back door like a barely tangible shadow and wades in puddles of spilled moonlight glowing with a beautifully ethereal luminescence. The stars scintillate in her glassy eyes, blurring into a haze of gold against a backdrop of ivory-charcoal dusk. The tears drip slowly at first, then faster faster faster until they spill into the yellow puddles on the grass, grazing it with a premature dew, and finally evaporate into the celestial, seraphic beauty of faraway moons and clandestine suns. The rawness of the briny fluid she exudes is a testament to her emotions— indescribable, inexpressible in mere words. Her tears are vestiges of a bleeding soul, of a zealous girl without a perceptible passion, of a directed spirit blind to its destiny, of an eloquent voice still searching for the right words. Someone good, they say, but not quite good enough, she is taught to reflexively add. The planets orbit around projected paths, and stars slowly crumble millions of miles away, light still blindly traveling even as its origins combust into nothingness, leaving only dusted memory in its wake.
It is not that she is alone, or even that she enjoys to be alone. But somehow she finds ways to separate herself. It is a strange, unhealthy experimentation with self-pity, wallowing in the web strung with real yet unprecedented fears of letting down her family, her peers, her teachers.
How can success be so elusive and subjective yet concurrently so consequential? She has furrowed a retreat in the darkness, as if light were something dangerous, as if she could only afford to appreciate its brilliance from a place far away.
Youth are invincible, she is told. I’m vulnerable, she whispers back. Tell us what you want to be, they say. But I’m only eighteen, she protests feebly. Do what you love, they offer vaguely as she dejectedly drowns under the dull light of her desk lamp, pencil exhaustedly scribbling until it is already tomorrow. Don’t stress out, but also, where are you going to school? Where did you apply? What are you going to study? Was that your first choice? And in accusatory whispers behind her back, you could have done better. She wants to scream but remains complacent, quiet, an inevitable pawn of the system she so readily despises yet so dependently relies on to meet the stringent, albeit impossibly nebulous, definition of success.
And high school hurts. It burns like a failed test, a wrong answer, a rumor concerning her name. It aches like silent friends, backs turned, tears ignored, panic that rips her from a troubled sleep at 3 AM and makes her arms tremble uncontrollably. It throbs like unintended loneliness, like a college rejection, like fiery jealousy, like a secret crush that calls her by the wrong name.
But high school assuages, like the teacher who gets it, like a friend that comforts and cries and screams by her side, like the group chat that blows up too late at night (or is it early in the morning?) and reminds her that she’s not the only one still awake. It is a study in contrasts: laughter and tears, failures and successes, triumphs and tribulations. It sculpts versatility, strength, camaraderie, nostalgia. And the voice in her head at seven AM, barely coaxing her out of bed when she absolutely swears she can’t do it, is mere proof of vivacity, of the peculiarity and wonder and resiliency of life. The sun rises, and it hurts, and it burns, and it throbs, but she can.