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I stood at the podium, unable to breathe. They wanted me to speak? I couldn’t get a single syllable out, let alone an entire speech. Tears welled as numerous pairs of eyes watched my every move, reading sadness, pity, and anger.
That’s what I felt the most of. Anger against life, against God, against even myself for not being able to speak.
“Thank you, Ryan. You may step down now.” Pastor Earl said very softly. I nodded stiffly and walked over to my seat in the front row, sobbing ladies surrounding. Mom and Dad’s pictures stared at me, silent and unblinking.
It was wrong. They shouldn’t have been shown like that. Mom was never silent, ever. And Dad could never beat anyone in a staring contest. He laughed too hard and then gave up after like ten seconds.
It was just SO wrong…
I couldn’t take it anymore, as my parents old friends from college droned on tearfully about old college memories. Fury swelled in high tide, sweeping me out to sea.
And I had no life jacket.
I stood up abruptly, chair falling down behind me. Everyone grew silent, ladies near me looking in shock. Fists clenched, I all but sprinted towards the exit of the church. The moment I was outside, I let out a fierce, bloodcurdling scream.
Nobody followed me out. Nobody cared about Ryan now that his parents weren’t around.
I ran like I had never run before, all the way to the town park near the high school. I was breathless, and my ankle hurt, but I’d much rather deal with the physical pain than the emotional. I limped over to the swing set, staring blankly at the two beaten down blue rubber swings.
I looked at one of them, and remembered all the times Dad brought me out here when I was little, and I sat down on the left one, the one with the word ‘orchid’ carved on the top of the seat. I ran my hand along the cold metal of the ringed chain holding me up. I swung halfheartedly in it for a while, trying to bitterly hold back the tears that pushed and pushed against my eyes. I didn’t succeed.
Tears flowed down my face in thick rivulets, salty water running from my eyes to lips, to chin, to drop down to my pants. I watched in odd fascination as my black clad knee darkened with the water of my soul.
I could have sat there forever. Would have been content to just die there. Because why did I get to live while others died?
“Why are you crying?” I heard a small, girlish voice ask. “Are you hurt?” she asked, concerned. “I don’t see any blood.”
I laughed bitterly at this girl’s innocent naiveté.
“If only I was just hurt on the exterior. If that were true, I wouldn’t even be here right now. So no. You don’t see any blood. On the outside looking in.”
I looked up and saw a small pale girl around my age standing about a foot away with raven’s hair holding vibrant purple flowers.
“Here.” she thrust out one of the flowers towards me. “I want you to have this. Maybe it’ll make you feel a little bit better.”
I took it wordlessly, and she sat down on the swing to my right.
“Do you want to talk about what’s going on?” This stranger with the purple flowers asked me.
I say nothing for a moment, and then I nod almost violently. I don’t want to be so bottled up anymore. Ever since the accident, I haven’t been able to tell anyone how I really feel, and it’s kind of driving me insane. I wanted to get it all out, spill everything to this girl I had never even met before.
“Did someone die?” she asked quietly, titling her head.
“Y-Yeah.” I hesitated for a while, but decided to just go for it. “I was at their funeral, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. It’s just so wrong, you know? It shouldn’t be like this. At the very least, I should be with them. How am I going to live on without them? I’m only fourteen! I can’t do this. And I couldn’t even say anything. They called me up to do the eulogy. But- I just- I just couldn’t. I couldn’t say a word. I choked.”
I sobbed, crying anew, and I bent my head, tears falling to the grass in a silent fall.
That’s what death is like. We know it’s coming, but we don’t usually scream even if we know. And even when we do know, sometimes, MOST of the time, we don’t know when it’s going to happen when it does. I laughed sardonically, and twirled the orchid between my frozen fingers.
“What’s funny?” she inquired curiously.
“I just compared death to a tear.” I said.
She didn’t ask what tears have to do with death, and somehow I knew this was a girl who knew exactly what that meant.
“What’s your name?” she said, after a silence.
“Oh. Well, Ryan, I know you hurt right now, and that’s okay. It’s good, almost. But you won’t always feel as bad as you do now. Things will get better, I promise. But you can’t wish that you will always be like this, or like you want to be dead too.”
“But what’s wrong with that? It’s not fair that I get to live, and they don’t. Besides, who cares about stupid Ryan Parker? The only reason that people knew me was because of my parents. If anyone should have lived, it was them.” I said, avoiding her piercing gaze. As if she looked in my eyes long enough, she could see right through to my soul.
She reached forward and lifted my chin with her surprisingly warm fingers.
“Hey. Listen to me right now. Are you a big believer in God, Ryan?”
“Yeah.” I said, sniffling pathetically.
“Well, then think about this. People only die when God intends them to. It’s their time, the splash of their tears. But He left YOU for a reason, Ryan. If it had been your time of dying- you would be dead. But you aren’t, and that means something. The only reason God gives us things hard to handle is because He knows that we CAN deal with it. Do you think that your parents would have wanted you to die in place of them? No! If you asked them right now, they would have said that they would do it the exact same way. So, Ryan, you can’t think like that. Be PROUD to live on in their memory- you can mourn when you need to, but celebrate their lives. You will get through this.”
She stood up off the swing to stand in front of me.
“Whenever you need a reminder of what I have just told you, look to the orchid, and you’ll remember. I have to leave- but remember. Your tears haven’t fallen yet.”
She walked off, feet crunching, me staring after her, and as she walked, a single flower fell from her hands, and then she disappeared behind a building, the only trace she ever existed, the flower in my hands, the leftover swing of the swing, and the one flower on the white grass in front of me.
I never even got her name.
I stood up slowly, and walked up to the flower she dropped. I picked it up, gently, as it if was so delicate one rough touch would break it.
After several moments of doing nothing, I went over to the swing she was sitting in. I set the flower carefully on the ‘orchid’ carved into it.
I so, so slowly just walk away from the swing set. I walk until I can’t see it anymore, and the orchid fades out of sight.
I wonder if she carved the ‘orchid’ into the seat.