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It was still ten o’clock at night; I had another three dreadful hours to go. Perfect, just perfect! My job as a nurse was to stare at the computer monitors that showed all the patients in their rooms, and keep an eye on them.
Two girls cried tonight. Nothing very interesting; the patients in the psychiatry ward were all cry-babies. Oh, there she goes again! I alerted another nurse, who comforted the girl. What was her name? It started with an A but I just couldn't care enough to remember.
I stared at the screen with mild interest and my eyes fell on the brown girl who previously complained about my uncaring behavior. She had stayed the longest among all the patients and was quite sarcastic. Her hands were on the window, as if she was trying to communicate with the outside world. Maybe she noticed the walls were ugly verdigris and the tiles were cryptocrystalline quartz of jasper that sparkled at certain angles. I guess one notices little things like that when in solitude for long. The patient probably missed the breeze across her face and the petrichor scent after rainfall. Finally, the girl climbed down from the window sill and disappeared under her blankets.
Soon after, the girl’s legs began to twitch. She shot up from her sleep, breathing hard. I got up and trudged down to her room. I could hear her heavy breathing and she was covered in a blanket of sweat. I turned on the lights, and sat in the small sofa next to the bed, expecting her to tell me what happened.
Visibly shaken, she rubbed her eyes, gathered herslef, and started talking: “I had a nighmare. I dreamt that I was at a crossroad. One road had my friends and family urging me to come down one path. Behind them there was beautiful scenery: sparkling lakes, green grass, and the crisping curls of hyacinth bloomed everywhere.”
Trying to sustain myself from rolling my eyes, I asked her, “Alright, what was down the other path?”
“Well it was a second version of myself. She was standing in front of a vast graveyard with decaying trees. Her clothes were torn, her skin was bleeding, and her eyes stared back emptily. The girl was so different; I did not immediately realize it was a reflection of me. I went down that road. I could hear my parents and friends screaming and crying. They begged and begged for me to turn the other way, but I did not.”
“Okay, but what is the interesting part?” I interrupted, thinking that this girl made me get out of my chair for no reason.
She stared back with surprise, and then continued assuredly, eager to share her story.
“Well, me and my alter ego started walking together. We did not say a word to each other, and soon the cries of my close ones faded out. Finally, we reached a pit with an empty casket in it. The ghost version of me took a seat in the casket, and laid down comfortably. She tapped the spot next to her, and I got down into the casket and settled down beside her. I remember the sound of shovels gathering the loose soil and dumping it on top of us. It was quiet and peaceful down there. I was not squirming for air because I had given up. I was done. Then something happened.”
“As I sat there, sensing the pressure of the wet soil on my chest, I felt like everything was over. However, I heard a voice. It was my voice, but a voice that I had when I was a child. Innocent and full of compassion, I could hear my five year old voice beg me to get up. She was sobbing and her words were sad as she pleaded: “Please! Please. Please get up!"
“I began to squirm. My legs began kicking at the wood of the casket. The shock of my voice as a midget jerked me out of my half-conscious state. I violently threw my arms, striking the wood that was only a few inches above my face. I made an effort to scream, but my lips felt as compressed as my limbs. I threw my hysterical body across the wood, trying to break free. My tongue could taste the blood as my teeth sunk into my trembling fingers. A small bone under my teeth crunched. I couldn't breathe.
Slowly, the muffled heartbeats left my ears and retreated safely back into my chest. The unimaginable longing for freedom pushed me for one last attempt to escape my sealed fate. I threw my entire body to the top of the coffin. The lid came off and I dug my way though the dirt to the voice that was imploring me to get up. That is when I woke up.”
Talk about nightmares! That is one way to wake someone up at three in the morning. My eyes widened from and I asked the patient, “Well, how you feel now?”
She gulped down some air and responded peculiarly: “Enlightened.”
“Enlightened? How can you feel enlightened after having a horrible nightmare like that?”
“Well I was hospitalized, and I had given up. Everything was just too much, and I left my own life roll over me. I lost myself. I so badly wanted time to stop, at least just for a minute, to catch my breath. Everything was just too much.”
“But how do you feel enlightened, though?” I interrupted the young girl's somewhat tacky lines.
“I was reminded that we have to keep fighting. We have the duty to preserve and safeguard the innocent child that we buried deep in us-the child that was unafraid to dream, explore, and live life to the fullest. We have to keep fighting for ourselves, and if not for ourselves, then for that child we have ignored within us.”
After a pause, the teenager asked, “Do you remember who you were before the world told you who to be?”
I did not know what to tell the troubled youngster. I finally got her to lay back down in her bed, and turned off the lights.
Later, I couldn’t help thinking of her clichéd, but honest lines. It is hard to protect our innocence but we owe ourselves the obligation to do so. The dream she told me about was not a doleful jeremiad of her problems. In fact, she hardly talked about her problems. I knew the last thing she wanted was the sympathy and attention of others. Therefore, I did not really feel sorry for the little girl.
In the strangest way, she had been enlightened. Maybe it was the gods or by pure luck, but at the lowest point of her life, she was firmly reminded of our duty to protect that child we push away. All the child had to say was "please".