Everyone carries the stories of their lives wrapped around their shoulders. Some people carry feather-light stories; other people’s stories, heavy as bricks threaten to break their spirit as they carry its burden. In my opinion, the best stories – fiction or not − begin with the famous and treasured words of “Once upon a time.” So allow me to share with you my tale of a hellion land, filled to the brim with vagabonds in every corner, and survival of the fittest.
Once upon a time, in a world of its own, stood the prison-like building of Nichols Junior High. Unimposing to any untrained eye idling by on the streets passing by outside, the green and blue clad crowded halls harbored the mischief of troublesome youth running wild. Meanwhile, all others hid in the shadows waiting for the bells to sound and the leashes to be loosened in a mockery of freedom. The cacophony of shouts to gather allies, competitions for dominance, and trade in some good or another only to be smashed under the watchful eye of the wardens draped the entirety of the building. Only when the cells were filled to the brim did a frail sense of quiet try to fight the inevitable losing battle of madness until uproar in one of the cells shattered it once more.
In this land of chaos I was neither a part of the shadows or chaos, merely a slightly tanned wraith surviving by the tip of my nails. While some of the less willed escaped with help from those on the outside or found their own release – usually from drugs or an adrenaline rush of pain from a razor to the wrist – I endured the tedious routine. For better or worse my endurance made me an even bigger target as well as if I’d thrown away the prison uniform and worn the denim clothes of the free.
By the time my name had been changed to that of some degrading star I’d never even heard of I’d established my fort in the sanctuary that none with any curiosity for better worlds, hidden within such things as inconspicuous as words, would look. I’d befriended the wardens who shared my wonder for the fantastic − all the while slowly drawing my meager allies closer. However, trapped in the cramped plaster cell looking at the educational nonsense, their whispers still pierce my ears and despite my best efforts at keeping nonchalant my barriers that kept everything at bay were slowly being hacked away at one sledgehammer blow at a time.
Finally the day came, about one month away from gaining true freedom from the leash, when the wall crumbled and I hid away in the Reading Warden’s cell to escape from the constant greeting of a name assigned to me by people I wished interminable torture upon. Slyly she began a meaningless conversation that unwound the pulsing waves of rage and knotted them up. By the time the bin was full with the vile thread a soft peace had settled in my mind. The rough cement blocks that had been blocking everything out were swept away, replaced by a warm quilt of peace.
I survived and came away with another story to add to the book of my life. That teacher stayed with me even when I left and moved away. She showed me how to move through issues and find the solution even if it’s meaningless words that serve only as a distraction. My shoulders are one story lighter and experience has brought me closer to a small peace.