21st century children

Submitted by Helena Mei to Contest #4 in response to: Write a story based on the song title: "My Generation"... view prompt

21st century children tell me of things that occupy their life; friends, instagram, sports, snapchat, dates, youtube. And they tell me they show instagram pictures to their friends, they snapchat their sports activities, they show youtube videos to one another on a date. What a web of intertwined images, I once thought to myself. I wondered if there was a relationship beyond the lucid reality we hold in our pockets. So I sat there in the distance, under the lonely Sun, and watched. I watched my friend curl her long raven hair with movements so gentle and delicate that they would put Sleeping Beauty to shame, and put on a dress that made her look like Aphrodite herself. She asked her grandmother: "Am I pretty?" Her joyful heart was dancing in the escaping melody of her larynx. But the old woman frowned her face. Her cold words poured over the young lady's head, like using a knife with your eyes closed when you know whether you open them and see what you're truly doing is up to you. But my friend was strong; it was like drowning a siren in a cruel ocean. On that day she posted the picture of herself on Instagram and the praise from her peers wrapped warmth around her heart. And the siren would swim again as the child of 21st century turned to a secret ace in their pocket.


On the same day across the universe, I watched my brother sit down with our parents for the first time in years and confess them his severe depression. Mum always said to tell them the problems we deal with, and everyone always says: mother's know best. I listened to his straining voice, resisting to come out and admit his struggles. Our mother widened her cyan eyes while our dad furrowed his eyebrows. "Getting out of bed is hard," my brother cried, "when I think that I have to get my left foot to the floor, and then the right foot. And then sit myself up straight. And then stand myself up straight. And taking a single step is a burden under which I fear I might collapse." But he wasn't met with sympathy he yearned for. Our father shrugged with a heavy sigh before murmuring something my brother could not understand, and with that our mother scoffed at her son. "You have too much free time on your hands," she said, "people who keep themselves busy don't think about this. What a rich people problem that is." And I have never heard my brother tell them a single problem again. I watched him log onto Facebook and message his friend with the same speech. Finally, his friend said he's been feeling similarly. "Let's talk about it," he said. And my brother never looked back.


That same night across the street I watched a girl take her shoes off in the middle of the side walk and sing out loud and she happily danced left and right, giving roses to old couples that passed her by. "Remember to be kind tomorrow! Remember to stop and smell the roses!" A grin grew across her cheeks as she largely inhaled the scent of rose underneath her nose before getting back to her happy feet movement. The looks those around her gave her were concerning, almost like a silent question: "Is this woman high?" She could feel the judgement creep up on her and she suddenly no longer felt like she's doing a good deed. There is no music to warm their hearts, she realized, and there is no dance to release their negativity. Her smile faded away, leaving behind an empty shell of a person's face. And she left the roses on the floor and put on her open toe sandals back on her feet. Strangers watched her take her leave with derision and mockery in their eyes, feeling smug to themselves how they made the lunatic realize of the world she's living in. They felt good about hurting her. I could see it; for they didn't try to hide it. The lonely, mocked girl marched slowly to her home where she opened her laptop and wrote about her experience on a blog. Within an hour, the community she belonged to showered her with love, understanding and compassion, not putting down the people who tore her heart apart; they asked of her to forgive those who did her wrong, telling her their souls are lost and wandering in the dark. "They don't know better", they said. And she was up all night talking to those who walked the same path she did, bringing her relief and joy as her smile found a way back on her face and a faith in people back to her heart.


As I walked back to reality of my life, I learned what drives the 21st century children. Their struggles are mocked and left behind, their problems are written off as non-important. We drove them away over time, and only in the end we realize the true consequences of our own eyes looking away. We close the gates of our hearts to them and yet, they try so desperately to walk the hallways of ice to knock on iron doors once more. It's only in the end, when they've already exposed themselves to the cold, that they realize the iron doors aren't just heavy; they're locked too. But the key is lost, swallowed by the monster beneath the ice. You can sometimes see it in your dreams as it lurks for you to do the same. My generation is not one of sadness, but one of rejection. It's the movement of people who learned to distinct between emptiness and nothingness, and search for comfort in their pockets with lucid reality. This story goes to you who truly reads; one days you will raise a 21st century child. It's okay if they walk the frozen isles and it's okay if the door is hard to move. But when they arrive, remind them that the key of the iron bars lies in their deep pockets, mixed with lucid reality.

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