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Grade
8

I’m home. I check on the seeds I’ve planted in my small garden, and they’ve grown. Tiny stems, slimmer than pencil lead. Tiny leaves, smaller than my pinky.

The seedlings are so fragile. So soft, so vulnerable, as if they’d shatter and die at one small touch.

My dog Treacle bounds towards me in joy. Normal dogs bark when they are happy, but my mom made him have devocalization surgery. I know it had to be painful. Barking was probably one of the things that made life happy and meaningful for him as a dog. At first, Treacle was very mad and frustrated… but now he can cope.

I hug him and let him lick my face, over and over and over again. I know that Treacle is free when I am with him—when I get home.

But I can’t say the same for myself, and it’s not because of Treacle—he’s my best buddy.

I lift him up and carry him inside. I feel immediately trapped. I despise being in the house. I close the door, and lock myself in my own prison.

My mom has been trying to shut me up ever since I was born. I know she’d give me devocalization surgery if that were legal, but it’s not as if that matters. It’s almost the same thing. I’m not allowed to say things she wouldn’t want to hear.

I hate having to suppress things. I wonder how much longer I’ll last.

--

 I slam my glass down on the dinner table with a clatter. “I get it! I’m sorry! Just leave me alone!”

“Ashlyn!” Mom calls after me, furious.

I pay her no attention. I am too busy stomping across the living room, up the flight of stairs, through the hallway, and into my room. I am too busy swinging my door shut with a dramatic slam. I am too busy hooking it locked.

Breathing unevenly against the wall, I drown into a pool of sorrow and despair. I’m tired of my own family telling me that I’m useless, hopeless. I’m tired of them saying that I won’t be able to amount to anything. As if I don’t already know.

I think it’s amazing how some kids can take it so stoically, like that girl sitting all by herself at school, staring off into nowhere, whilst aware of all the insults and gossip. Also, that boy on the playground—he quietly listens to all the jeers and laughs directed at him. There’s the hated gay couple, too, ignoring the countless number of fingers pointed their way.

I don’t get it. How do they manage? What’s their secret method?

I am so angry, but Treacle is scratching against the door. I open it slightly, just to let him in, and close it again. Treacle climbs onto my bed, and gives me my space. 

--

I tear and bite at the thick ropes that hold me down. I hurl myself against the walls that trap me inside. I want to break free. But I cannot. I can’t get out.

Anger. I feel it bubble and boil in the depths. I feel it creeping up. I feel it flow all over me, like lava. I feel it embrace me. I feel it become me. I let it.

I lash out at myself. For a while everything is a blazing forest fire—fiery red, mixing with the blue and yellow and orange and black, dancing before my eyes.

Then it’s over. Dying embers, sinking flames. I open my eyes, and a sea of green is stretched in front of me. A flock of seagulls are flying overhead, in a loose formation. I let out a relieved sigh. A wave of calmness, of tranquility. After that, the scene starts swirling away. All is black.

I wake up the next morning to find claw marks all over my chest and arms. I know I need to stop, but I don’t have a reason to. For all I know, no one cares… And I don’t have a good enough, working alternative.

Feeling like a zombie, I trudge to the bathroom. I take a quick, refreshing shower and stare into the foggy bathroom mirror—so many lines of red against the cloudy, misty air. They are traces of the times I’ve felt alive, and a reminder that I am dead again… until next time.

I check my watch and it’s time to hurry up. I pull on a turtleneck sweater and jeans—I am used to the rough fabric clinging to my skin. I brush my hair down one, two, three times, and step out into the chilly autumn air.

--

There are tears remaining in my eyes when I finally lose myself to the monotony of sleep. 

Reality flickers away. From now, everything is fantasy and imagination. Everything is just desire.

Someone leans into my ear. She whispers, “It’s fine. It’s normal. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to express feelings. Don’t swallow it all in—it’s not healthy. 

Surreal-Me raises her head. There is no one next to me.

But the voice speaks again. “Come on, Ashlyn, let it out. Just let it go. I can listen.”

Surreal-Me starts talking. Sooner or later, it’s me. Me, not Surreal-Me. It’s me pouring my heart out. It’s me with the tears and snot flowing freely. It’s me liberating the feelings and secrets I’ve been suppressing under a heavy boot my whole life. She’s silently hearing me out. I’m not being judged. The best part? I’m not apologizing.

When I’m done, someone is patting my shoulder. Who is it? There is no one—simply the wind, softly caressing me.

The soothing voice speaks one last time. “You’re floating on a fluffy white cloud, and there’s no one. No one will force you to shut up or stay put. You’re safe. All will be taken care of. In the morning, the sun will shine again.”

“Really?” I ask uncertainly.

“Of course,” she replies. “Go on. Go to sleep.”

Surreal-Me falls asleep, and it is comfortable. As if a huge burden has been lifted off of me, bit by bit.

I could fly. 

Next morning, I remember. Are things really taken care of?

--

It is very late. Yet I’m awake and out. 

The streetlamps are in neat rows along the sidewalk. They give eerie glows in the darkness, somewhat like balls of sunlight, stored and suspended in still, motionless space.

The city is asleep. There is no one outside. Only the occasional cat peeking out from the bushes. 

“It’s okay to express feelings.”

So I release my anger. 

I scream and shout until my lungs are ready to burst. My heart pumps wildly, my throat throbs.

The city sleeps on, but I am more awake than ever. Fresher than ever. Freer.

It’s not normal to feel so good. I pull up my sleeves to check. There is no fresh weal, no bright blood. If this is what life can be like, I want to live. Just like this. Every day.

--

What a curious emotion, anger. It displays itself in so many colors, so many forms. So vivid, so real—some even say that it is tangible matter, cold to the touch but burning underneath.

The fact that so much of it was buried inside me, for so long, is scary. I’m not completely free of it now. Life never goes according to plan, and it’s never fair. The barriers I had before—they’re still there. But I have my methods. You have yours.

I’m healing. I’m not giving up.

Many think that strength means holding on. But sometimes, it’s letting go and just reaching for happiness. I want everyone to know that letting go takes an incredible amount of strength.

I’m slowly learning to forget bad memories, forgive myself and others, and begin again… like those seedlings, except now I’m far stronger, more resilient than ever.

I could fly. Far, far away from my past. And I am. I realize now that I don’t have to be so angry. It doesn’t have to hurt so much again. Never again.

--

“Open up your heart and see where it leads you…” –Deidre Knight 

“In the end, some of your greatest pains becomes your greatest strengths.” –Drew Barrymore 

-- 

The End

Author’s Note: This story is has some realistic aspects, while other parts of it are completely fictional. For various reasons, details have been sharpened and blunted accordingly.