"Literature is an ax with which we break the frozen sea within us." -Franz Kafka
Information about the English Department Writing Contest.
by Amber Pryor.
We had been planning this for a few days now. The plan was pretty simple and I was sure we'd get away with it. All I had to do was meet them at the school down the street and I'd be free. Trying to get ready was beginning to irritate me, especially with my mom barging in my room every five minutes. I always wondered, "Does she know?" Running away had become such a reoccurring event, I'd be surprised if she didn't. She had to know.
As I started shoving things I'd need in my backpack, his face came to my mind. This would be the first time I'd hang out with him without millions of eyeballs watching my every move.
Ever since I entered counseling classes at Kaiser with my parents, I feel like I've been under the "watchful" eye of so many adults. My parents are good people, but they're entirely overprotective. I rebelled against them last year and they've become crazy. Not to mention the fact that they think I'm an alcoholic at the age of fifteen. I just like to have fun, let me live!
My thought process was interrupted as I heard my parent's bedroom door open. I quickly shoved my backpack under my pillow and took my notebook out. As I pretended to write, my mom opened the door.
"Hey mija, whatcha doing?"
"Nothing, I think I'm gonna take a nap. I'm tired."
"Oh okay. I just wanted to make sure you were doing okay."
"I'm fine, Mom. Just tired."
I listened until I heard her bedroom door close, and I jumped up. This was my first and last chance; everything had to be perfect. I shrugged on jeans, a black top, and my Vans. It was too hot to wear a jacket, but I put one in my backpack just in case. Thankfully, my window was already open. Quietly taking off the screen wouldn't be so easy. Once I figured it out, I climbed over the windowsill and landed on the dirt. I pulled my backpack strap over my other arm and ran as fast as I could. Looking behind me twice, I finally reached the school. I was safe. Now all I had to do was wait.
As soon as I saw the red Corolla pull up, I knew where I'd be sitting. The entire drive to San Francisco I had to lie on top of three people in the backseat. The scorching summer heat didn't help one bit.
The trip was unpleasant at best; I was sure I was going to have a heat stroke. To add to my disappointment, he had chosen the passenger's seat and being as shy as he was, hardly said a word. I didn't understand how someone could be so talkative through a social network but in person be so silent. Not wanting to push my chances, I kept quiet also, yet there was so much I wanted to say. Without direction or a plan, we finally ended up at China Beach. I had never seen the Golden Gate bridge that close before and the scenery was to die for.
After watching the most beautiful sunset, we gathered wood to make a small fire. When we sat down in a circle around the fire, I took a moment to observe my surroundings and the new friends I was with. We all shared a piece of our story, some reason as to why we were attending counseling classes for drug and alcohol abuse during our teenage years. Three girls, three guys, all so different and unique, yet connected in the same confusion of where to go next. I had grown up in church my entire life; this wasn't the life my parents had planned for me. It wasn't the life I had planned for myself. I didn't even finish ninth grade and they already kicked me out. Now I'd have to spend extra time making up my credits attending a school where I knew no one. I tried to look at it as an opportunity to start over, a reason to find myself without the struggle of my past creeping up on me.
Someone suggested we play Truth or Dare, and I came out of my trance. I looked up and there he was. Sitting directly across from me, looking down, a smile painted on the left corner of his mouth. He looked down a lot, always so shy. It was one of my favorite things about him; I couldn't figure him out.
As each person took their turn of either being dared or having to spill their secrets, it was my turn. I didn't want to talk about myself, so I chose Dare. Before anyone said anything, I silently hoped they'd dare me to kiss him. I felt a knot begin to form in my stomach while they chose a task for me. Pretending to be confident, I looked up and to my left. Alyssa looked at me with a smirk on her face, and dared me to do the one thing I had wished for. I turned my face towards him, and saw his smile forming as he looked up at me through his long eyelashes. This was it, it was finally happening and I was scared to death, but it didn't matter.
I pulled myself away from him and plopped down in the sand. Did that really happen? Did I finally get to kiss this guy that had been on my mind nonstop? I sat silently in a daze as the others around me laughed and continued to play the game. His lips against mine kept replaying in my head and I turned to look at him. There he was, so beautiful: hair in a low ponytail, a white t-shirt, and those lashes. I remember the first time I heard him say his name. It wasn't until I saw his name written on one of his forms that I knew what it was. I had never heard a name like Biniam before, and I was certain he was the only one I'd ever know with a name that unique.
It was late when we began putting the fire out. The air was so fresh and the wind was blowing perfectly. It was a beautiful summer night in San Francisco and I didn't want this magical night to end. I suggested we go to a party I had heard about; everybody was on board to go so we left the city and headed to Fremont. After contemplating the situation, Alyssa decided she wanted to go home. I didn't want her to leave, but I was happy that I had a seat to myself once we dropped her off. I purposely sat behind the passenger's seat to be closer to Biniam. With my right hand, I tapped his shoulder in front of me. He turned slightly, giving me a glimpse of his oh-so charming corner smile, and dropped his right arm. He reached back and grabbed my hand. We sat in this awkward position, holding hands throughout the entire drive. It was in this moment that I knew how much I trusted him, how much he meant to me, and how much I wanted him to be mine.
The sound of my dad's white truck turning off made me look up. I couldn't remember where we were until I turned and saw the chapel to my right. My dream-like memory of last summer began to fade away as I got out. My father's footsteps in front of me were the only guide I had as we walked through the parking lot. We entered the doorway and I finally had the courage to look up. The room was filled with all kinds of people, all wearing black. Some had shirts made with his smile strewn across them, others were dressed more elegantly. I, on the other hand, wore his favorite jeans; the ones he said I looked "good" in. After looking around the room for what seemed like an eternity, I spotted Alyssa. Being excited to see someone I knew, I hurriedly walked towards her. Not knowing what to say, I stopped in front of her awkwardly waiting for a greeting. She looked at me for a few seconds then finally responded.
"Do you want to see him?"
She grabbed my hand, and we slowly walked down the center aisle. We stopped at the front row of the chapel. I looked over and saw his family. I hugged each one of them, holding onto his mother the longest. She had been so supportive throughout my time in counseling, always offering advice and just being the sweetest and most understanding person. She told me she loved me and I felt my eyes start to well up. I let go, turned around, and faced him. The face I saw was unrecognizable. His eyes were closed, hair cut short, but his mouth was what I noticed the most. Those weren't the same lips I had felt against mine; the color had faded, top and bottom forced shut. There was no shy smirk, or signature corner smile. I looked away, not wanting to remember him like this. After days of holding it all in, I let myself be vulnerable. In front of hundreds of people, I completely lost it.
I crawled into bed and pulled the blankets up to my chin, unable to process what just happened. The service lasted longer than expected, numerous people wanting to share their favorite memories of Biniam. I sat up, rearranged my pillows and stared at my dresser. Newspapers from throughout the bay area lay spread along the cherry wood finish. Bold words jumped out at me: Shooting, killed, Teenage Boy, Seventten. I read stories like this before, heard them on the news; this doesn't happen in real life. I picked up an article and began to read mindlessly. My brain wasn't processing the words, just going through the motions as I thought about him and the things we talked about. It was then that I realized how much he was able to teach me in such a small amount of time.
Amongst many things, Biniam taught me the consequences of regret. He showed me the hardships of having an absent father and how having more responsibilities will make you stronger, wiser. He showed me that not all guys are the same, and how to not judge a book by its cover. Most importantly, Biniam showed me how to love my family. He showed me that no matter the situation, family would always be there for you. Although I only had a year to spend with him, Biniam Yifru left an indelible impression on my heart that I cannot explain. To this day, I hold those lessons learned very close.