Snow falls. It is sunrise. Peace. White, delicate flakes gently float atop the pine trees. The smell of cold and warmth wafts through the forest ahead. The crisp air is the smell of cold. The fire burning is the smell of warmth. I am free.
Jolted. I am awake. I am no longer free. The sound of a door being slammed. “Brooklyn!” “Brooklyn!” My name is called in an angry, violent voice, fierce with rage yet slurred by alcohol. Nothing is delicate. Nothing is warm. Nothing is peaceful. “Brooklyn!” My father is here. He is drunk. He is coming. The door opens and my father is standing with bottle in hand, fist clenched, rage in his voice, and eyes piercing me. He will hit me again tonight. It has been fifteen years to which I have lived in a prison, in my own home. A home is a place in which one feels safe, secure, nurtured, protected. In my home, my father drinks to excess. He hates his life. He hates that he is here, now, left with the regretful choices that he has made in his life. He hates that he has to live with the pain of knowing that he is mean, a drunk, an abuser, unloved, unlovable. During my life, I have learned that I am capable to creating a sanctuary for myself. I am capable of dreams; of imagination; of hope; of creativity; of escapism. I have learned that I have control over my thoughts, if nothing else. I have the power to create my own peace, yet within my own mind. This is what I do when my father comes, as well as what I do when my father is away. It is more than daydreaming. I have created a place to go and I can escape pain.
As I hide in my closet I no longer am able to dream. My mind is rattled and I am scared. I wait. Slowly, I hear my father’s labored footsteps drag away down the hall. His voice has calmed and he has forgotten about me. Now he will go back to the bottle and forget his intention to punish me, once again, for something I had no part in doing, or something he himself likely did.
Across the street, out my window, there she is. I have seen her many times before. How different two lives can be, while seeming so similar. Stacey lives there. She is not like me. Stacey is confident. She has no worries, despite thinking that she does, any teenage girl would. Stacey lives in a safe home, a pristine home filled with people who provide her with whatever she desires, just because they love her and just because this is what parents do. Stacey knows nothing about abuse, or violence, or hiding. I am certain that she knows nothing about the ability to create a sanctuary in her own mind, where her mind drifts towards hope, and where her body finally, at last, experiences no tension.
We go to school together and we’re in most of the same classes. She doesn’t know me but I know a lot about her. She’s one of the top cheerleaders, worries about nothing, and has an unlimited amount of people that would die happily if she would just talk to them. She’s an average student with average grades but manages to maintain an above average social life. Everyone knows her and everyone wants to be her.
Down the slope, the wind blowing hard against my face, my skis sliding swiftly atop the snow. I feel as if I’m flying.
I feel a sudden awakening as the horn of a car sounds in my ears. My skateboard flies from under my feet. A lady is sitting in a car that is only inches away from my body. I look away from her embarrassed and start to walk away.
I walk up to my school with my skateboard in hand. Walking around the campus to go to my first class, I see her. She’s just a few feet to my left walking to the same class as me. My nerves kick in and I try to find the place I love the most, but I can’t get there. My mind won’t clear. All I see is her getting closer and closer to me. My breaths shorten and my steps become huge strides as I tried to get as far away from her as I can. She was at my side now.
“Hey,” she spoke, “You dropped this,” she said as she handed me my wallet. It must have fallen out of my back pocket. But when?
“I see you skateboarding every morning when I walk to school. I think you dropped it once you fell.” She saw me fall. The only thing I wanted to do was run. I was so embarrassed.
“It’s ok. Just take it.” I didn’t realize how long she was holding out my wallet to me. I took my hand out of my pocket and reached for it. My hands were shaking. She smiled softly and then started to walk.
“Do you want to walk to class together? We’re both going to the same class. I recognize you.” She knows who I am. She knows where I live. She knows me.
“Ok,” was all I managed to say. We started walking towards class side by side. I was in a state of shock. I don’t talk to people at school. People don’t talk to me at school. Teachers rarely even talk to me.
“I know you, you know?” she said.
“Nobody knows me,” I replied.
“I do. I live right next door,” she said.
“I know.” I said
“I can hear people screaming from your house? I hear things smashing too. What is that?” I was shocked she was asking me this. I don’t think she understands personal space is nevertheless privacy.
“It’s nothing.” I had no idea what to say? Does she expect me to tell her everything; that my dad hits me, that he comes home drunk almost every night, that my mom is oblivious to everything, that I escape all of these things through my imagination?
“You leave your window open a lot. Sometimes I catch myself looking in. Brooklyn I see it. I know.” She knows my name. She knows everything.
“You don’t know.” I said.
“I do Brooklyn. I can help you,” she said. A pleading look was written across her whole face.
“You can’t help me. I know you can’t.” I never cry, but for some reason my eyes began to water.
“I can tell my parents and they can help you,” she said.
“I love my parents, Stacey.” The tears began to fall. I wasn’t used to crying. It never happens to me.
We weren’t walking anymore. We ended up stopping near a column under a small bridge towards the end of the school’s campus. There wasn’t anyone around. Everyone had already went to class.
“Brooklyn, I know you don’t want to live like that. You can’t tell me you are happy. You can’t stand here and tell me you don’t want help.” She began to cry.
“What if I do?” I asked.
“Then you’re lying.” she replied
She’s right and I know it, but what can she do. Take me away from my parents? Take my away from my family? I don’t want that.. I don’t think.
“Please let me help you. You can talk to my parents. They aren’t perfect, but they can help you, I promise.” She grabbed my hand.
What would happen if I were to say yes? Would everything go away? It can’t be that easy.
“Please.” She squeezed my hand. “Please,” she repeated.
“Ok,” I said. I didn’t know what I was about to do and I didn’t what this was going to do to me, my family, my life. I wanted to be better. I know that.
Maybe one day I won’t have to use my imagination to escape pain. Maybe one day reality could be my happy place.