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I stood on the edge
I stood on the edge. The very edge. That place between Earth and sky where the ground dissolves into nothing one molecule at a time, even as I shift my feet. I am on the line, the line which I am now blurring. There is nothing below me. Nothing important anyway.
How did I get here?
I remember brief flashes, visions forming in the air before me like long forgotten angels begging to be heard and loved once again.
There was a man, and a road. A journey. A flash. A crash. Silence.
Silence. Always the silence. The silence which blankets my mind- smothers the screams from my soul. The silence which shouts too loudly. The emptiness which insists on intruding into my core.
How did I get here?
I look over the edge again. There is something down there. Too far, deep below… a darker patch of white. What does it want? Does it have the answer? I doubt it. I don’t really know my own question. Could I ask it? Ask the silence? Ask the void? Can I ask if I can ask?
I feel dizzy, light headed. If my head is light, can I fly?
How did I get here?
It was a normal day- if there is any such thing. If normal means dull, frustrating, occasionally funny. I had left for school at the normal time, early. Too early for my neurons to be firing on all cylinders. I am the morning zombie shuffling up the road to the bus stop, a slice of almost cold toast in one hand and a straining bag over my shoulder.
Loud music pours into my skull from the head phones resolutely plugged in against the world. If I just focus on the beats, the world will fade away- it won’t be this early, I won’t be this tired. I won’t have a full timetable to deal with, no homework deadlines to fret over.
Then the bus comes, and I climb aboard with a flash of my pass. The driver nods in an annoyingly cheerful fashion. Doesn’t he know that I am in the throes of teenage misery? I don’t nod back. My small act of sullen defiance trying to encompass my depth of negative towards Wednesdays. They really are the worst day of the week: almost halfway there, tantalizingly close to the weekend, but not enough to be happy about- yet just far enough from Monday with its weekly renewed pledges of a positive outlook.
Closing my eyes, I rest my cheek against the window. It’s cold as the chill from the new-born autumn seeps into my awareness.
I was late, again. Late buses, oversleeping, traffic- will I never be on time? I am shouted at by my teacher for missing registration, for sloppy uniform, for not listening. I deserved the last one, giving her the thousand yard stare which says “I’m sorry Miss but the world inside my head is far more interesting than anything you have to say”. Eventually she gives my attention up as a lost cause and moves onto some other unfortunate. A year ago her scolding would have made me feel some kernel of guilt. Now I just can’t bring myself to care. I am past the age of easy indoctrination.
I sit in my lesson, gazing at the board on which the secrets of the universe are unfolding in geometric precision. I tune out the accompanying audio commentary, focusing on the beauty of the numbers dancing across the board in a ballet more profound than any managed by mere mortal flesh.
Then I catch sight of the boy who sits across the room from me. Sometimes he even looks in my direction. Not that I care of course- apathy is the key to teenage years. I don’t notice his new haircut, that I got a higher score on our last assessment, that he’s looking in my direction. Is he? No- he’s watching the girl on my left: blonde, painted nails, designer bag too small for her books. Of course. Typical. I never liked him anyway.
I drift through my day like a piece of flotsam on a tide. Walking the corridors, I am prey to the eddies and whirls of a thousand more just like me. The herd, the flood, the receiver of all the wisdom that our wise sages have to offer. A thousand hours, a million facts, are poured into the hungry maw of the beast which I am a tiny part of. It will never be enough even though it is more than we can ever absorb.
An undertow of younger students washes me towards the main staircase, before a wave of upper sixth sweep me back to the centre. The waterside predators, in suits and holding radios, lie in wait along the banks of our exodus.
There is so much noise, voices raised, then raised again to be heard by their friends who were trying to reply. All of them yelling, everything so important it must be said then and there. The strictest confidences hollered for all and sundry. Why not- since nobody is listening anyway. I ignore them as well, lost in my own head. A song from earlier plays around and around my mind, irritating and reassuringly familiar. I think someone called my name but by the time I turn to check, whoever it was has been dragged under the waves of people.
In school everyone can hear you scream… just nobody cares.
One lesson, another, another. So much information. My mind absorbs as much as it can, before reaching saturation point. My teachers continue to try and pour more into me, but it simply pools and runs off, away. All those facts and figures pooling in some alternate dimension. Perhaps someone else might splash through and learn something I could not pick up on.
And then the hands line up, the stars align and the planets spin in perfect choreography, and the school day comes to the end. I am free, free as a bird, except I am a bird who will return to the cage at the same time tomorrow.
I get out of the gates; feel as if chains I had forgotten about are suddenly loosened. My limbs are lighter, the cobwebs cleared from my mind. Is there more oxygen just beyond the school limits? I think so.
I look around the car park. I’m supposed to be picked up by my friend’s dad. With my mum at work that’s the only way to get home. The only trouble is my friend hasn’t been let out yet, and I can’t quite remember which one her dad is. There are so many adults hanging around, spotting their kids in the crowd, leading them away by the hand, smiling or scolding over uniform, homework. The hundred little things which make up life.
Scanning the car park again, I frown in concentration. I have always been bad with faces- practically notorious for it. He had dark hair?
A man in a cap approaches. A red cap, pulled low with a blue logo that looks like some sort of tree. It covers his hair. Is this my friend’s dad? He says he is, says he got a text from my friend, that she will meet me in the car. I nod- that’s quite like her. She probably left her pencil case or a book and had to go back for it.
I follow him to the car. Get inside. He closes the door.
A thought tugs at my brain. This car is a slightly different colour to the one I remember. It’s a bit dirtier too. That’s odd. Her mum is usually so particular. I stare out the window at the crowd of students milling around. There are less of them now, parents claiming their children, ushering them home. Where is she?
How did I get here?
I can’t see her yet. She wouldn’t take this long just to get a forgotten book. This car is too dirty. The colour not quite right. He was her dad- he had to be. Didn’t he?
I reach for the door handle. The child lock snaps down. The engine starts. And I finally remember what her dad looks like.
In school everyone can hear you scream… nobody cares.
He drives, and drives, and drives even further. He’s not heading towards my house. He’s not going near anywhere that I know.
The car is filthy, I can see some of the dirt rubbing off onto my leg, and I shift uncomfortably. He glances at me in the rear view mirror. I freeze.
Always when I watched films I shouted at the girl for not escaping, not fighting back or trying to run. But now I am locked in the car. I can’t think. Hundreds of cars drive past, a woman turns to look at me from another vehicle. What does she see? A captive, a terrified soon to be victim, or just another moody teen?
Everyone in the world rushes past me, no one stopping to listen to my pleading. I try to mouth ‘help me’ but the woman is already gone. Nobody else takes the time to glance in my direction again.
We are nearing the edges of town. Surely my friend back at school would be wondering where I am by now.
The car slows as we reach a crossroads. He is looking each way, his attention divided.
I attack the door, hitting it frenziedly. The car starts to move forwards. I use my fingernails to dig under the child lock. It hurts. Prising it bruises my fingertips. I crack a nail. I cuts deep and blood beads up.
I can’t get out. I can’t get out. I can’t-
Yes! Oh please let me out.
The man swears as the lock pops up, he starts to turn, one hand on the wheel as the other reaches for me. The car continues rolling forwards. He grabs my wrist.
Desperately I wrench backwards.
And then I see it. The other car. Going too fast towards my prison. And I know. I know it will hit. I know we will be smashed. I’ve seen it on TV. The car wrecks, the victims, the mangled remains. Is that how they will find me? Will I be trapped with this man for eternity- locked in some embrace forced upon us by cruel fate and harsh physics.
I close my eyes.
The image stays behind them. Imprinted on my mind.
His angry face, contorted and desperate. The red blur to one side which is the other vehicle. The dirt on my leg.
I stand on the edge. The very edge. That place between Earth and sky where the ground dissolves into nothing one molecule at a time, even as I shift my feet. I am on the line, the line which I am now blurring. There is nothing below me. Nothing important anyway.