** contains some potentially triggering material such as mental health, and bullying**
I run outside, my face red and wet with tears. Gasping for air, my lungs penetrate as I flee with despair. Pain's surging through the body. Actual pain. How I feel- It actually physically hurts. My mind is racing. "Why. Why. Why. Why is this happening?" I'm still running. Running with no direction. But it must have been looking for something. A place. Anywhere but here. "I want to go back" Between the fragments of my conscious blurred vision, I find myself running somewhere familiar. My face is red and stings from my tears. "Bring me back, ple-please bring me back." I hear myself barely muttering between my sobs. I still can't seem aware of where I am, as it's still foreign. Like a lost memory of the past. Pain is tugging on my insides, and I can feel the wailing strain on my face." Please!" "I want to go back to before any of this ever happened. I trip, my body flopping onto the dirt ground. I lay there, unmoved gripping and clenching the floor as I wail.
As I lay there, I see something familiar once again. A child. Before me is Emery dancing in the humid air, her youthful face smiling. Approaching her is my eleven-year-old, and we begin to dance with each other. My other friends start to run from the forest towards our secret headquarters tree house where we are, sweaty and panting, and they join us. As we are all gathered in the woods, their laughter melts together as they echo in my ears.
I'm back to lying in the dirt again. I laugh a bitter hysterical laugh. My vision begins to blur. As my friends and I fade, I look to the left, still smiling, and see something. Something that makes me stop smiling, something that makes me freeze. The light around me begins to fade. Before me is a pile of molded wood. Previously painted, as it's chipped and fragmented in a disastrous unconstructed heap of scraps. It lays there right where our treehouse once stood. I pause. I feel numb. "Please bring me back," I desperately whisper to myself. At that moment, everything blacks out.
I wake up the following day, and the sun shines extra bright through the window, draping a beautiful glow within my room. My eyes are annoyed by the bright rays, so I throw a pillow over my face as I groan with despair. It isn't until I notice a glorious fresh smell circling around my house that I really wake up. Mainly for its delicious scent, but also because of its peculiarity. Our house never smells like this. Or at least it hasn't since I was 11.
Everything was better when I was this age. Instead, I'm about to head to college. But, when I was 11, it was before my parents divorced. Since then, I haven't seen my dad. I don't know why, but I knew I was never allowed to see him. He and I never had the best relationship. Yet, every day, I still feel this sort of void encapsulating my existence. Every day I wish we'd been closer.
Life never felt so full of life and so full of warmth and adventure. Like those weird, almost nostalgic smells and senses that become ingrained in your head as they begin to grow up and they slowly disappear without warning. Like, the smell of sweet sweat from playing outside with your friends or always being so sticky from honey, old ring pops, or melted ice cream.
I drop my feet off the bed and slowly follow the smell. On my way, I walk past a mirror in the hallway. I look at myself in a glimpse, then noticing something different about my appearance, I stop and stare. I look different. I'm looking at a girl. An eleven-year-old girl. My eleven-year-old self. As I look at myself, I'm in disbelief. I honestly must be going crazy.
The smell leads me to the kitchen. I-I I don't believe it. I really don't. What I see- I- It can't be real. I honestly begin to freak out. I think I'm hallucinating. Have I really started hallucinating? I can't handle this. Why is my brain doing this to me? Why is this happening? Have I gone crazy? Then he speaks.... to me.
"There's bacon on the stove for you." It comes from a man sitting in the kitchen as he flips his newspaper in one hand, eyes not separating from the page, and a cup of tea in the other. Seeing him move in the room, just a few feet in front of me, seems strange. See him in the flesh. Seeing his facial expressions moving in real-time. His voice really, indeed flowing through my ear drums. It's almost like watching an animatronic moving-I see him, and he looks like him; It just doesn't seem real. I sort of stare blankly at him, my mind in shock. My eyes begin to water. My thoughts race. I run over to my dad and embrace him in my arms. I hold him tight and cry into his chest as my heart pounds. I'm feeling so much. But what I feel is joy. Just joy. I love him so much, and I've missed him so much. I don't even care if this is real or not, he's here, and that's all I've ever wanted.
I sit in front of my father, and we have one of the best conversations I've ever had. We talked about our dreams, aspirations, things that make us laugh, reminiscing on old memories, school, and his work. At this very moment, I was experiencing the exact conversation and interaction with my father Ive been yearning for years.
It was getting later in the morning, so my father offered to bring me to school, as I suppose it *was* a weekday. Despite having my own driver's license, I don't think anything of it, but after everything that went on this morning, I gladly accept the offer. On the way to the car, my dad makes a remark- an offensive and almost aggressive- in passing, and though, then again, I don't think much of it, it stands out a bit.
As we're in the car, we don't talk much more, which was strange after the conversation we'd just had. Instead, I sort of just watched him with a smile as I enjoyed his presence. I also stared outside the window, watching the trees fade into a blur, and observed my surroundings.
As I'm looking, there becomes a point I realize that we're not in the city anymore. Right around the time my parents got divorced, everything else in my family went haywire. We hadn't moved by this time, so I was still attending my old middle school. I loved it there, despite the constant awkwardness one often experiences at this age. I had a good group of friends and felt like I belonged somewhere in the world. With them, I felt like I needed nothing else in the world. They filled my heart and made me feel most alive. We even had this little "secret society" we created. It was the center of most of our conversations and activities. Out in the woods, we had a little hideout- a treehouse out built and hidden atop an oak tree in the woods- where we'd have our meetings, play games, build, create, and play.
Over the years, it really developed a special place in our hearts. And that was all gone once I moved. As we're driving, I realize that not only are we not in the city, but we are, in fact, back in the town I grew up in. And not only that, my dad was pulling into my old middle school.
As he's doing so, My dad answers a phone call. I can't hear who's on the other line, for his phone's up to the ear, but it doesn't seem to be from someone he was hoping to expect. In the call, for most of the beginning, his face is stern and he sort of just stares, listening to them speak. As he begins to talk, I hear the person on the other line yell. Anger builds in my dad's face, and his eyes touch with flames. He begins screaming now, and his face is so full of aggression that it scares me a little. I never remember seeing him like this. Like in a way that he might actually be capable of something harmful.
At that moment, I see 12-year-old Emery- my best friend from middle school- running up to my car to greet me. Whether everything that was happening was real, I'd gone back into time, whatever it was, I think I was just beginning to accept it at this point. Though aware my dad was yelling, she seemed- almost from past experience- to know how to be there for me at that moment.
I roll down the window as she approaches with a grand, exclamatory expression on her face. My dad has hung up the phone. "C'mon, girl!!" She exclaims. "We're gonna be late for First period!!" I get out of the car, and we walk to class with linked arms.
By lunch, I'm already sitting with all of my friends from our secret society. It was just like old times. We gossipped, planned out our next meetings, and just laughed. Now that I think about it, It's been a while since I laughed.
When we've all spit to go to our following classes, as I'm leaving the lunch room, I hear a tall guy (or tall for sixth grade) mockingly shout my name. Though he wasn't necessarily tall compared to most people I'm usually around, in high school, I was back to being my small shorter self, and with that, his height made me feel small. I hadn't recognized him, but I still had this feeling inside me that almost felt like a habit of just curling into fear when I saw him.
He's surrounded by a little posse of friends, which makes me want to hide, as I'm standing there now alone. I can't remember what he said, as it all blurs together. What I do remember next is laying on the ground, bruised, and bleeding, with him and his pose walking away snickering in laughter.
The memories flood back. The evil, cynical laugh. The feeling of such inferiority and injuries flooded me as soon as I entered the building- so strong of an aroma it felt malleable- thick and hot, and so strong it squeezed on my insides. The teasing burned wounds on my skin as words echoed from the wicked man's mouth. I remember now. My eyes flood with tears.
Today school ended early, so I had to walk home from school. It was fine anyways, as I recalled. I often had to walk home from school at this time in my life.
When I arrive, I see my mom's car in teh driveway. As Imwalkingtothe front door, I hear her and my dad talking. I don't think they saw me walk in, so I decided to start on some of my projects for the secret society in my room. None of my friends from middle school are free right now, and I don't know what else to do.
As I'm working on my project, shouts from teh other room begin to gather in a dark cloud, pound on my door, and ring in my ears. The shouts escalate. I was never aware of my parents fighting before. I begin thinking about my day at school. All that bullying. I must have blocked it all out. Their words bleed through my ears, fading into a blurred as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. My time here has been mostly pleasant. Seeing my father again. Seeing my friends again. All of my encapsulated memories are fresh and once again present, allowing me to experience what I'd wished for years. Though not all of it, I'm content with many of my memories, experiences, and people within my life at this time.
I see Emery, laughing, running behind me. The whir of the trees flashing by as we run. We trip over a tree stump, stumble, and begin rolling on the ground laughing hysterically. It's noon on a cloudy Tuesday afternoon, and I'm lying on the ground, bruised and humiliated. Then, I see Emery come up to me and offer her hand. We hug. "Let's go kick their a**es!" she says next with fury. I see my father, mother, and I enjoying lunch at the park together and peacefully. "Arms extended in strength, Victoryyyyy!!" All the secret society members huddled in the forest by the tree exclaim.
The sound of yelling comes back into focus. As I lay in bed, motionless and staring at the building, I thought it was alright, despite the many conflicts. But it wasn't what I'd pictured or remembered it to be.