This story is one of the May Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
The light filtering in through the blinds seems broken, or maybe I’m just projecting. My home is quiet, and everything is still. I’m the only one here. My parents are together in a different state, and they are so happy. I like them like that, happy. The picture of the two of them on the hearth makes them seem like the perfect family; its golden frame has a certain radiance that is blinding. I can’t help but wonder how they ended up with a daughter like me.
I try my best to be good. A smile here and a laugh there is all they want from me. As I walk through my empty home, I see the piano that my grandfather gifted me. He knew what I was really like. He was the only one who wasn’t fooled by my flawless facade. I try to escape my mind by walking out into the dazzling light of day. The Alabama sun is warm, and the humidity is not messing around. I walk through the grass with my bare feet to the creek that cuts through my backyard. There is a bridge that crosses the crystal clear water, and on the other side is a garden bursting with flowers. There are so many colors and smells, and the sounds of bumblebees buzzing all around me in their busy little lives wrap around me like a cocoon. Nature never ceases to amaze me. As I stand there, awestruck, I feel the tightness and twinge of loneliness in my chest melt away like butter. I can hear my neighbor’s baby goats in the distance, and their chorus of hungry cries makes a smile appear on my face as if by magic. I wish the world could always be like this, no screaming or hateful words. I wish there was nothing other than warmth and colorful days.
I follow the path that winds through the flowers back to my house. The only sound that greets me is my footsteps on the wooden floors. I walk into the kitchen and sing James Bay and dance, even though I have no rhythm, while I bake a cake. I have learned what to do when the emptiness in me tries to rear its ugly head. I have a secret weapon against the ugliness inside of my mind. I do things that make me warm. I drive the cold heaviness out of my bones, and I surround myself with golden things. I think of the time I saw fireworks on the beach in Washington, I think about making cookies with my grandmother, and I think about my clumsy dog with her floppy ears and big eyes that look at me like I’m perfect. I have learned that I am nothing more than a story, and a story is made up of a collection of moments. So, if I fill my mind with happy memories, I will become a great story. I don’t know if that makes sense, but to me that explanation is flawless. I look around my hollow house, and suddenly it doesn’t seem so empty. There are so many memories here.
I sit on the porch with legs crossed and eat my strawberry cake. I know I won’t always be as happy as I am at this moment; my mind won’t allow it. However, I will fight the sticky heavy feeling that makes it hard to breathe. I will fight the voice in my head that tells me I’m worthless and destructive. I will fight it with flowers, strawberry cake, and flowers. I will not succumb to the numbness that shadows my every move. I will fight it because that feeling is not who I am. I am a human, and all I want is happy memories.