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I Am Not The Only One
The soft caress of the blanket comforts me, as I stare blankly into the distance. We have been in the car for over eight hours, and my body aches. My ears have turned numb from the constant blast of my sister’s Meghan Trainor album. The constant wailing sound of tires on asphalt drones on as I adjust my neck pillow. My mind swarms with thoughts that bore holes into my heart. Staring at the coal grey factories and omnipresent billboards, I heave with a great sigh. This is, sadly, what I had expected. Our industrial nation has not failed to make its mark on even the most rural of towns. My brow furrows with an intense sadness for which I have no name. My fists clench as I resume looking out the window. My fingers brush the glass, then fall heavily into my lap. I bring my palm to my forehead and rub it, in an attempt to massage and calm my distraught mind. I continue to stare, the landscape of Arkansas disappearing behind our grey Honda CR-V.
I have always been a thinker. But also a feeler. There is an extent of knowledge and emotion, that should only be accessed by those who are truly capable of handling that gift in a way that does not drive them insane. There is a consistent loneliness that accompanies such deep thoughts, isolating me from others in a quite unusual way. Every day, I ask myself if I have gone mad. I spend my life reflecting on human nature and the cruelty of our race, but also the small beautiful moments. I think about how my actions impact others, and how easy it is to make the wrong choice… and there is a part of me, because of this, that has become broken beyond repair. I reflect, constantly, on the objects and organisms surrounding me, and how all of them were originally a part of the Earth. I close my eyes, just for a moment, to think. I think of the destruction, demolition, and pollution that acquiring all the materials to make the objects caused. I think of the animals killed in deforestation, the birds which have died from air pollution as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. I feel the pain of the organisms who have had their homes and families destroyed by single blasts of dynamite, in order for human highways to be built. And I feel deeper. Now, there is a vision, floating in the arid landscape. A frail girl, no older than two years old. She is grasping a small metal bowl, holding it out to me. Her limp black hair sways in the slight breeze as her dark eyes stare at me beseechingly. Her thin lips utter a single word, a painful word. Rice. She wants rice. I want to cry out, to help her. But I cannot. I am stuck in a car. I ask myself, if others think the way I do… would they be broken? If they could understand, and truly feel the pain and suffering in these people’s lives, would they too feel the insurmountable guilt, the gut wrenching, heart breaking pain…? And I continue to stare out the window.
Two days later, the car doors click shut behind me as I walk into the house of my grandmother, Grecca. She is in the tiled kitchen, preparing Easter supper for the whole family. My uncle Paul, and his girlfriend, Jordan, will be arriving shortly. I plop down onto the antique chaise in the sitting room of Grecca’s elegantly furnished home.There is a knock at the door. I look to the entryway, and Paul stands there with Jordan. Tendrils of an earthy aroma engulf my nostrils as they cross the threshold. I stare at my uncle. I know it may be rude, but I cannot remember him looking like this, ever. He had always been a portly man, but very tall and muscular. I blink, for this wiry man in a black beanie, with a chain wallet hanging out of his left pocket... cannot be my uncle. An aura of intense sadness radiates from him, but I cannot see his eyes and therefore cannot decipher his expression. Perhaps he does not want others to view his face, and this is why he has chosen to wear a thick pair of black shades. I hover a few more seconds, still tingling with nervous tension. Becoming increasingly uncomfortable, I turn on my heels and briskly walk into the room filled with pots and pans, steaming broccoli, and honeyed ham.
A day later, I am once again in the sitting room, waiting for family members to arrive. One by one, they file into the sitting room, the doorbell becoming a distant noise as a result of the loud chatter of my extended family. I sit on the chaise across the room from Uncle Paul, slowly sipping cranberry juice with a straw. He beckons to me, and I walk to him. His questions seem odd at first, but I then begin to understand. He is trying to connect with me on a deeper level.
“Rose… do you- are your dreams often vivid? Do you typically remember them when you wake up?” he asks.
Behind his dark glasses, he speaks with a strange intensity. A curiosity needing to be validated.
“Yes. I do remember most of my dreams.” I answer, knowing where the conversation is headed, but still feeling quite apprehensive.
Jordan stands beside him, staring quietly at me. Her soft eyes and gentle disposition console me, for I know now that I am in no danger. The presence of such a warm spirit has the effect of a tranquilizer, keeping all negative thoughts at bay. Paul’s intense presence provides a counter-balance to this energy, however.
“I have another question for you. When you're upset by something… where do you feel it? Where in your body does the heat start?” he questions me.
I am shocked. How- how does he know, how could he possibly be aware of the waves of emotion that physically manifest in my body? My feelings have always surfaced as patches of heat in various places on my skin, some white- hot, and some barely lukewarm.
“I feel it in my solar plexus. It’s an intense burning sensation, and it spreads through my limbs like a fire. There is also a pressure that starts in my head, like something is pushing from the inside out on my scalp.” I hope that this is the answer he was looking for.
Jordan smiles. I know why.
“That’s where I feel it, too.” Tears begin to build in Jordan’s eyes, and, surprisingly, my own as well.
“Rose… when- when this feeling comes to you, how do you feel in that moment?” Uncle Paul begins to cry.
He radiates a power and aura which is insurmountable. Nothing can put a damper on the amount of energy which swarms around him at this moment. This aura feeds into my own, our emotions connecting in the moment. We know each other in this time. On a conscious level, none of what is happening makes any sense, but my subconscious receives the intended message very well.
“I- I feel… like something is not right. I might be angry or sad, but the real feeling is- like I want to change something. Yes. When I want to change something,” Tears slide down my face, warm and…
I look into both of their faces, and see that they too are crying. Why does a conversation that has only gone on for a minute, and is not about a sad topic, have us three in tears? But the broken part of me understands. All three of us are connected by the way that we think. My uncle, his girlfriend, and a 13 year old girl, all with rivers carving canyons into our cheekbones. There is a spirit which brings our emotions together, because we all experience the same pain each day. The same haunting thoughts. The same horrifying visions. The girl. The rice. I feel her experience, her hardships. I know her in my heart, and her soft voice calls out to me. My soul fractures, because I am aware of her. But I can do nothing to help her. I am unable to feed her, but I can feed myself. I can sit at a table and eat Easter dinner… but she cannot afford to eat a single grain of rice. And it kills me. It breaks all three of us. And so we cry for her, for all of the other people across the globe who are not as fortunate as us. We wish the could change the way everything works, so that everyone can be fed and feel loved. We want to change the world. So that the little girl may eat more than just a grain of rice. So that she may sustain herself with the knowledge that she will not die tomorrow, or the next day, but instead feast and rejoice in the knowledge that her life will be long and prosperous. Until then, we suffer with her.
“It’s going to be painful… and other people are not going to understand like you do. But- you just need to understand that… that we are meant to be agents of change. Jordan, me and you. It’s not going to be easy, and you’re going to have a hard time getting through it. And, to be honest, we don’t know any more about it than you do!” he smiles. “But we are here for you. And if you have any questions about anything, please… just give us a call.”
“I- I will.” I smile back, as my voice cracks.
“It was great talking to you. Rose.” He leans down, and wraps his arms around me.
The heat comes in waves at first, but it then begins to fill me, engulf me. This tingling feeling immerses me in more powerful energy then I have felt in years. I place my hands on his back. His grasp is gentle, comforting. His hands are soft and kind, reassuring me that no matter how difficult my journey in life is, he will be there for me. As we embrace, an acute flame builds in my chest, and my body shakes fervently. Sweat and tears mix and fall together to the floor, as I look up into his dark glasses. He takes one hand, and removes them. His brown eyes are crazed, but aware. His grin is wide, and a single tear from his deep brown eye cascades onto my forehead. In that moment I understand… I am not the only one.
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I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. -Audrey Hepburn