There was a lane that traversed the far back. Every car terrified me, every headlight resembling a sprinting phantom coming for me, finally. Even when I had beseeched myself a thousand times or more that it was just a car, the luminescence still made me shudder. Watching them frolic in and amongst my periphery, feeling them grasp my coat and pull me off the wall atop which I had so delicately perched myself upon. Some squawk inevitably shattering the veil once and for all. Their bony hands making the ride throughout the intermingled dirt and stone path that bit more uncomfortable, as they dragged me off to some unknown, godforsaken place from which I had emerged all those years ago. Some hellhole I presume, buried beneath a sewer. A fitting burial site for a rat.
I have twin track thoughts, they run parallel to one other, always onwards. One track keeps me safe in the culture of this era of money and materialism, keeps me in a home with food and safety. The other questions everything in this society and world, always asking how we could do better, love stronger, take care of nature. That way, when a chance for change comes I can take it, I can take it because I allowed twin tracks to grow rather than narrow my brain to the choice menu of generations before.
When I was eight months old, I knew every corner of the house because I had just learnt to walk. By the time I was ten months old, I hadn’t left any spot in the sunflower field untraveled. That’s how my mother liked to say it.
She once told me, “When you took your first step in that field, when I saw how balanced those tiny feet were, I knew my baby could run; I knew I would be so proud of my baby.”
She was right; the pride in Ma’s eyes lit up like the fireworks on Fourth of July. Her baby had made her proud. I remember wrapping my fingers around the medal hanging from my neck, then letting Ma hug me so tight, almost suffocating me as always.
Two months after our chat, her baby ran again. Little did she know, I was running with a bag of weed, and almost a thousand dollars in cash. I only needed to get out of my head, and out of the town.
I haven’t seen those eyes again. Not when I had graduated middle school with all as from juvie, or even when I had decided Dusty’s life was more important than my own.
For the last six months, all I’ve seen is the disappointment in her face, dark like the sky over Carlson, all the stars dead with the death of the soldiers and the death of the veteran’s dreams
The forest hums with life all around me. I twirl about, gazing up at the canopy, searching for the birds that sing sweetly. The sun breaks through the cracks, lighting up the dirt path ahead of me, decorated with outgrown roots, wildflowers and fallen leaves that crunch beneath my bare feet. I trudge on, taking in the fragrance of minty grass and the damp earth. Each breathe is like water, fresh and cleansing, flowing freely into my lungs.
On the nights when he was with her; when she would stay awake waiting for the inevitable. Just waiting for his terrified eyes to meet hers, waiting for him to mutter about guns and friends departed. She would trace the faint white lines lining his back - new stories that she would never gather the courage to ask of. He always looked so confident in his uniform, but when the clothes come off she would see the damage that lay in their wake.
To break me, you must show empathy. Yelling and shouting your frustrations about my lack of work, or need to shape up, won't help your cause. I'll only stand firm in my resolution to not give in to your tempestuous voice. To break me, you must show kindness. If I have a low performance on tests, "Are you okay?" instead of, "STUDY HARDER, YOU IDIOT!" will make me try harder. I want to please those who care. I want those who love me to see me do well. If you love me, and outwardly show it, you will break me.
On the cosmopolitan streets they people walk in the heat of the cool season. They chatter and stroll, a river that flows between the silver-grey skyscrapers. From here you could imagine that this was all there was, yet from the hotel you see the soft gold of the desert sands, an older Dubai.