Be Your Own Damn Hero

Now that she’s round, her church clothes cut off her circulation. She was in the car and couldn’t bend over to put on her damn socks because the clothes, formerly figure flattering, were too tight. Two years ago, the sweater she wore now used to fit her like an oversized dress because it was so large, and she was so small. Now, it bunched up at her waist and was tight on her arms, restricting movement.

Before she was too round, a couple years ago, her mom suggested she lose a couple pounds. Just a couple. So she prayed for an eating disorder; she got the wrong one.

Now that she’s round, she dreads just walking into church. She fears the judgment from people she knew from high school. One look into that girl’s eyes, and glimmers of boosted confidence and smug gratefulness and self-congratulation flash briefly but brightly. One look into that guy’s eyes, and any flicker of interest or fiery playfulness or piqued curiosity is quelled.

Now that she’s round, she must walk inside with her skinny bitch sister on one side, and her skinny bitch mother on the other.

Now that she’s round, she calls the people she loves skinny bitches because she’s jealous and ashamed of the consequences of her insatiable need for food and its medicative properties.

“Honey, you look fabulous,” her mom said, giving her a once over as they walked up the stairs (she was breathless, of course; her mother, however, walked up the stairs with ease).

Now that she’s round, people use cop out words (“fabulous”) to compliment her features. She gets it though.

Now that she’s round, she feels unworthy to get up and go to church. She really, really doesn’t want to be seen. She’s scared to see him.

But now that she’s round, she knows she needs to not be. Remember the runs? You loved them. Remember the strength in your legs and the sunrises you saw? Remember. Throw off the darkness and cling to those rays of light that pierce through ethereal wisps of cloud, shining on your bloated face, reminding you with whispered words that you are Mine, beloved.

Now that I’m round, I need to quit whining and be my own damn hero.

Advertisements

A Deeply Personal Essay About Her that I Wrote for British Literature Written in the Style of Virginia Woolf

Rainey called out rather exasperatedly to her mother that she would be downstairs shortly.

She stood rigidly in front of the mirror and began to open her tube of mascara. Taking a deep breath, Rainey angled her head back and opened her mouth slightly in the shape of an O, sweeping her soft, downy lashes with the rather clumpy mascara wand. After much preening and prodding, Rainey meticulously scanned her eyelashes for any discontinuities before deeming her work worthy of public display.

What a morning—the syrupy rustling of sheets, sweet and slow. Saturdays always had this effect on her. How simple and serene it was to wake up to a family bustling about in the kitchen downstairs rather than the miserable caterwauling of a frantic alarm clock reminding her that it was time to get up! Get out of bed! She must walk—nay—frolic about the school with a syrupy smile painted on her powdered face; she would laugh; she must bat her thickened, blackened eyelashes at the myriad of watchful, careful students milling about. The bile that rose in her throat was accompanied by its bosom friend, a black, endless, bloated, dreadful thing in her stomach. How unwelcome the dreadful thing was! And how resolute it was to remain! For having attended her little private school—how many years had it been? around six, to be sure, —one would think that Rainey was well liked; adored, even; attentive to her work; well-suited for public office within student government, an office given to a student based on frivolities like popularity or what a person wore.

The yawning cavern of bleakness within her person seemed to widen and expand; the bile returned, rising accordingly. Indeed, one would think! Did it matter, she wondered, fluffing her hair, moistening her lips, and walking downstairs into the kitchen, did it matter how delicately she traced her eyeliner, what shoes she donned, the chokers she clasped about her neck; did it matter that everyone older than her gently reminded her that none of it—high school—mattered? and did she wonder whether or not she herself mattered; did she resent the materialism of her generation or was she consoled by it? and somehow, though she choked upon the feelings of inadequacy, feelings of loneliness, she survived, her classmates survived, lived and breathed alongside one another. They were all too afraid to simply say, I am this, I like this. Her fellow classmates each struggled with their own bit of calamity. A tempestuous time it all was, that first year of high school. And so they resolutely remained irresolute and resolved to simply bat their eyelashes and smile saccharinely.

It was a Saturday morning. Rainey sat rigidly at the breakfast table, appreciative of the spread laid out before her by her mother; her two older sisters observed her quietly, their eyes darting away quickly when Rainey’s eyes coldly collided with theirs. Food fascinated her; the way it smelled; the way it paired nicely with other foods; the way it didn’t pair nicely at all with others; the way it baked and heated; fried and chilled; mixed and molded and ripened; crisped, sizzled, melted. But what was she thinking of, really, when she admired (she could never tell her mother such a thing; heaven forbid her mother know of Rainey’s love and appreciation!) the Saturday morning breakfast spread before her? What lay within her heart, truly? She longed to feed her soul; to gorge herself on the freedom of self-forgetfulness; to fill herself with sunshine and forget-me-nots and just simply forget. Oh if she could just depart from her body, just for a little while; just for a little while!

“Pass the toast,” she said, immersing herself in her phone, its screen illuminating her stoic features. “Pass the toast,” she repeated, and she scrolled aimlessly through the smiles and the colors and the inside jokes smugly spread throughout the comment sections; taunting and reminding; isolating and breaking; and Rainey’s heart beat; eyes blinking; and she wondered, did it matter anymore? and her sister passed her two slices of toast. Buttered! She looked up at Miranda, quirky and ever the optimist; a rounder face; far too interested in everyone she met and talked too much for Rainey’s taste; tried too hard to gain her approval, and the approval of others around her. Rainey dismissed Miranda’s hopeful expression, rolling her eyes; she snatched the buttered toast and set her phone down. Rainey hated the idea of her; her confidence and her ability to talk with whomever she pleased. Not everyone liked everyone! Not everyone loved life! Why couldn’t she see that? Years of living in her shadow, everyone expecting her to be as pleasant and over-eager; and of course one couldn’t forget about her other sister, Brooke, a senior in high school; she was cheer captain (of course, one couldn’t have a lithe, trim figure like that without working hard for it), and she was radiant; she prayed a lot; her faith was strong; resolute. Rainey nibbled on her toast pensively—she wished she prayed more; but what was there to say? Was she even worth listening to? Not now. No. This hatred! this self-loathing! When would it all end? Her head hurt considerably, even after the accident (a dreadful concussion that rendered her quite unable to cheer that year, and her doctor—that godawful doctor—forbade her from trying out the following year, too) that occurred almost a year before; throbbing was all she felt anymore.

“Rainey, come take your headache medication,” her mother said sharply, rather annoyed at Rainey’s petulant demeanor, and she plopped two oversized pills beside her plate. Rainey sighed and placed the pills one by one into her mouth, followed by a sip of water, and she cast her mother a bored, haughty look as her back was turned. Dr. Browning had insisted that these two large pills must be taken twice a day; breakfast and dinner, for the headaches; the self-righteous know-it-all. Rainey had mentioned her dark thoughts to him; the swirling, death ones that lit her eyes with an unsettling desire to touch one of those kitchen knives to her skin; to stab at the aching, bleak feeling within her and somehow puncture it; to be rid of it once and for all (how unwelcome it was); to trace red ribbons into her skin to distract her from the throbbing; those incessant throbs and aches; they drilled holes in her temples, and it was there, through those little holes, she supposed, that all of her being seemed to seep out. Her classmates isolated her. Forgot about her! They smiled those syrupy smiles at her when she approached and then—and then tears ran down her cheeks.

It was a Saturday morning. Rainey’s mother was worried. She could stand it no longer, the tears; the darkness that swallowed her daughter whole, its bubbling, rancid saliva deteriorating her will to live. She knew how Brooke prayed; she smiled sadly as Miranda could only offer toast (buttered!); and what more could they do? especially when Dr. Browning exuded confidence in his medicinal prowess; the medicine would work; breakfast and dinner, don’t forget, he would say. There was nothing the matter with Rainey, he would say, and she needed to give the medicine time to work. The pain would abate soon. But Rainey’s mother wasn’t the idle type, the type to wholeheartedly believe (like Miranda would have, no doubt, trusting to a fault—the poor little thing), the type to nod her head; smiling; swaying patiently, hands clasped together in a relaxed, gentle manner. Not Rainey’s mother. Not a chance! Not on my watch! she thought, picking up the phone. She dialed a phone number and promptly asked for that lovely psychologist, the one Miranda went to for the eating disorder and the depression—if only Rainey could remember that everyone, even the bubbly and light-hearted, combats the swirling darkness; it just swirls about in different forms, manifesting in different ways. And so the appointment was set for that very day.

Rainey walked into Dr. Wren’s office and sat. Once, twice, thrice, she tried to speak, but the darkness refused to spit her out; its mouth was clamped shut; so was Rainey’s. Around and around the second hand went, ticking and ticking.

Speak. Speak! the lovely, intuitive woman thought; hands bearing naught but a simple pen and a yellow pad of paper, but silent she remained, her heart breaking for the young girl in front of her. How can such a beautiful girl ache so?

“I want to hurt myself, sometimes,” Rainey began; nervous, so nervous. Would she listen?

“I see,” Dr. Wren murmured. Her quiet demeanor infused Rainey with confidence, with hope. Is there a God? Is there? Rainey longed to switch those two words, Is there?, and place a period at the end; an exclamation point, even. Perhaps two.

“I was going to kill myself today,” Rainey said, the darkness spewing her out of its mouth.

And so Rainey confided in Dr. Wren. She told her of the plans she had to end her life (that very night), where the knife would go (her stomach), what the note would say (I just… couldn’t). And when Rainey’s mother was told by Dr. Wren that these thoughts, the suicidal thoughts, the swirling ones brought on by the darkness, could possibly be linked to the pills prescribed by Dr. Browning, she stopped and her hands writhed by her sides; clenched; unclenched; and her anger manifested within her in various forms, like the grinding of teeth and a furious attempt at blinking back hot tears. She would be okay, her Rainey; her Rainey Diane Whitman born on July 17th, 2003; 9 pounds, 3 ounces; an infectious giggle that lassoed the heart of everyone fortunate enough to be within her vicinity; her snarky wit; her goofiness. No, the darkness could not take her; the loneliness would not overtake her; the materialism of her generation would not seep into her bones; the knives would not pierce her flesh; safe, she was.

Rainey could escape! could be utterly free—could breathe again, would breathe again, and she would laugh and revel in the life that beckoned her; the trees beckoned her; her passions beckoned her, all sorts of smells and foods and friends; her family beckoned her; buttered toast beckoned her. Who was responsible for this sudden elation that bubbled within her? now that she knew her suicidal thoughts were largely due to the medication she had been prescribed to combat the headaches left behind from the concussion? Who was responsible?

It is God, she concluded.

For there He was.

The Billboard – A Feature Story I Did on My Dad One Time

The smell of fried chicken evokes many different feelings for all kinds people. For some, it’s the smell of an impending heart attack. For others, it’s simply the universal scent of the South. For one man, fried chicken smells like home, hard work and humble beginnings.

For Jeff White, 53-year-old owner and operator of two Chick-fil-A franchises in Dallas, Texas, coming home to his family smelling vaguely of chicken nuggets and peanut oil is an affirmation of his success and devotion to his calling. Donning a tasteful button up, a coordinating tie and a welcoming demeanor, he skillfully engages with customers, busses tables or even hops into the dumpster, jumping repeatedly on the garbage bags underfoot to make room for more.

“It was at the age of 21 when I began to fall in love with trash,” he says, chuckling lightly, smiling at his wife as she bustles about the kitchen while simultaneously marinating chicken and inputting invoices into the computer. “To this day, as CEO of my $11 million enterprise, I make sure the outside trash area is very clean.”

From the time he was young, White says he has always striven to perform even the most menial of tasks with excellence and diligence. All throughout his childhood, White never hesitated to get up early and help his father, who was a Dallas police officer, with raking and mowing the yard. White’s passion for accomplishing tasks and accomplishing them well transcended beyond the simple chores and tasks of home. White grew up with an innate love of sports, namely football and baseball, and he says he devoted himself to mastering both, but his heart belonged to the game of baseball.

“I loved it. But it all ended when I got orthopedic surgery – it was a torn ACL my senior year that ended my baseball career and any hopes of pursuing it in college,” he recounts wistfully, glancing out the window as two of his daughters practice their back-hand springs. “I was on crutches for a long time. That’s when I had to start thinking about community college.”

White, reevaluating his life after his catalytic surgery, determined that his next goal would be to get the 45 hours required to be a policeman. After obtaining more than 50 hours, he applied to the police academy and anxiously awaited his fate. It wasn’t long before he got the call: they would be moving on with other candidates. The quipped, frank voice calling from the police academy informed White that a few minor infractions caused some eyebrow raises, thus preventing his acceptance.

“At that point, I knew I needed to continue my degree. That’s when I picked up a paper to look for a job while I continued college,” he says with a knowing smile, hinting toward the redemption part of his story.

After applying and becoming the first male waiter of Chili’s in 1985 at age 21, White recalled his time back in the kitchen washing dishes and taking out the trash.

“The reason why I fell in love with the restaurant business is because I was able to work hard and get noticed,” he says fervently. “When you’re noticed for your hard work, people are going to say, ‘Wow, this guy is on our team and our company will be better because of him.’”

White is quick to humbly mention the source of his success, attributing his character and depth of transformation to Jesus Christ.

“It was December 31, 1984, that I decided to stay home instead of go out to a New Year’s Eve party. My life was all about four things: work, women, alcohol and cars. I changed that – or rather, God changed me – and I decided to go to church on January 1, 1995,” he reminisces joyfully, his wife Patricia joining him at the table and placing a plate of steaming grilled chicken and vegetables before him.

“I remember sitting down with Jeff early on and talking about our testimonies,” John Silvas, general manager of Chick-fil-A, says. “We have a lot of funny stories about crazy employees and heartfelt conversations with our customers, but most importantly, he’s my role model and one of my closest friends.”

White remembers vividly that after he gave his life to Christ, he went to work at Chili’s the next day and his manager pulled him aside, telling him to not talk so much about his religion. After deciding that Chili’s wasn’t the restaurant where he needed to be, he moved on to become general manager of La Madeline. Tired of working on Sundays, however, it wasn’t until driving into Downtown Dallas one morning when White says he found his calling. He remembers seeing the rays of the sun bounce brilliantly off of a billboard depicting three whimsical Chick-fil-A cows lacking the ability to spell correctly. After making a couple inquiries with Chick-fil-A headquarters, a few successful interviews with home office, and lots of prayer, he received his first Chick-fil-A restaurant to own and operate.

“We all have a platform, and I’m using Chick-fil-A as my platform to love and encourage everyone who walks through those doors,” White says, loosening his tie, eyeing the meal in front of him and grasping his wife’s hand lovingly.

“He’s the hardest working man I’ve ever met,” his wife, Patricia, says. “He loves getting to pour into people every day, and he is so passionate about the business.”

Every day after work, White comes home smelling like fried chicken. Every day after work, the family exchanges hugs and kisses. Every day after work, each family member lightheartedly teases him about the scent of Chick-fil-A permeating the air. But, as they hug him tight, enveloped in the scent of fried chicken, they smile and hug tighter, because for them, it means home.

Apply Texas Prompt B

Hands quivering, throat constricting, and confidence wavering, my 8thgrade self peeked from behind the curtain and peered nervously around the auditorium, observing the myriad of students sitting rigidly in their seats. My heart began to pump faster and faster. With each rhythmic beat, it seemed to be mumbling, You’re next, you’re next, you’re next. I gritted my teeth as I stepped back into the wings, retreating from the exposure of the stage lights above, and drew in a deep breath. Theatre auditions. What was I doing here? I’d never attempted anything like this before. The exit sign to my left drew my gaze, glowing a faint red.

I swallowed hard. Turning my eyes to the girl auditioning on stage, I listened to the rise and fall of the inflection in her voice and observed her wild gestures. My stomach churned and quaked with nervous anticipation as the director began to take notes. All too soon, the girl finished her monologue and returned to her seat in the audience. Clearing her throat, the director shuffled some papers and looked up expectantly. It was my turn. With one last longing look at the exit sign, I mustered every last drop of courage and emerged from the dark familiarity of the stage wings, striding onto the stage with feigned confidence.

The director offered me a small smile as I planted my feet center stage. Facing the bespectacled woman, I tried desperately to forget the vast sea of students just beyond her. I offered her a taut smile in return and bowed my head, so as to fully immerse myself in my monologue. After a moment, I looked up, instantly recalling the words I had been rehearsing tirelessly. I don’t recollect what happened next with much clarity. The adrenaline rushing through me rendered the entire audition a breathless blur. All I remember is walking off the stage as the director scribbled notes and thinking one thing: That was fun.

Many years later, I realize that as daunting as that middle school audition for Susan inThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobewas, it laid the foundation for the person I am today. I didn’t know it then, but the part of Susan would grow to mean so much more to me than a mere part in a play. After receiving my first dramatic role, I discovered my intrinsic inclination for acting and public speaking. With each audition and with each rehearsal, my confidence grew. My heart no longer beat with frantic dread, but, rather, it swelled with joy and excitement.

As I’ve worked alongside the cast members in various shows, I’ve discovered the value of team work, dedication, and leadership. The word cast has become synonymous with family.Theatre is not simply portraying a character. When I emerge from behind the curtain and all eyes turn to me, the blinding nature of the stage lights render me exposed and vulnerable. Ironically, portraying and embodying a fictional character allows me to become more authentic and in tune with the world around me.

Theatre consists of long nights, numerous re-runs, and seemingly endless pages of notes and critiques. Despite all of that, however, nothing trumps the depth of emotion I feel after a successful show when the curtains finally close and I take my last bow. The hugs and high fives are endless as the audience applauds with thundering admiration and vigor. And to think, all of this began with the simple decision not to disappear through a door beneath a glowing red exit sign.

That Time When I Plunged into a Difficult Situation – A Memoir I Wrote for Journalism One Time

A groan of disgust permeated the thin wall that separated the boys’ restroom from the girls’ restroom. Disinfectant bottle in hand, I stopped wiping the toilet in front of me and rose from my crouched position. Judging from the gagging and uneasy laughter, it sounded like the guys on my work crew had found something rather unpleasant in the boys’ restroom. I smiled wanly at the girl next to me who had stopped as well and paused to listen to the boys as they wailed with dramatic flair.

Having attended Frontier Camp for the past eight summers, I knew it was time to give back the time, energy and love that the counselors and staff had given to me. Every summer my parents would pack me up, drive me down and send me out for a week filled with fun in the sun and in the Son. This summer, however, was going to be different. It was time to apply for work crew. I remember as I was filling out my application, contemplating the work and the resilience that would be demanded of me, my dad placed his hands on my shoulders and murmured something I’ve heard all my life:Do hard things.

 This phrase is often repeated in our household. Ever since reading the book titled Do Hard Things, by Alex and Brett Harris, my dad started urging meto do hard things. My dad is one of the hardest working people I know. The best part about his work ethic is that it motivates others around him to do the same. “No matter what you do,” he’d say, “do it with all your heart as for the Lord and not for man.”He challenges me to ask the question “How can I help?” rather than “How can you help me?”

            Frontier Camp is the embodiment of all that I love and value. Mentored and surrounded by counselors who love the Lord as much as my parents do, it was hard not to consider them my family as well. Every summer at Frontier Camp molded, refined and fortified me for the school year ahead. The Christian teens who had voluntarily given up their whole summers to share the gospel with me infused within me the desire to do the same. Now, I got to be the one molding, refining and fortifying. Only, it wasn’t in the way I expected.

            Looking around the bathroom, shredded toilet paper scattered on the dusty tile floor, I contemplated my next move. The girl next to me still wore a look of disgust. I grinned, set down my spray bottle and dashed into the boys’ restroom, thinking: do hard things. As soon as I emerged through the door, my nose was overwhelmed by a revolting stench. I tried to contain my laughter as the work crew boys argued over who was going to conquer the clog. I snatched the toilet plunger that they were waving around frantically and winked at them. Dumbfounded into silence, their eyes bugged wide at the sight of the plunger clutched ominously between my fist. Seeing my unrelenting determination coupled with the willingness to pull back the curtain and go to war, they began to cheer me on. Nevertheless, they kept a safe distance away, backs pressed against the bathroom wall. As I pulled back the curtain and raised the plunger above my head, unearthly smells wafting toward my face, I remembered: do hard things.

Every day at camp, we’d sweep, clean toilets, vacuum, stock cabins and serve camp food. I have been molded, refined and fortified by my parents, my summer camp counselors, and my Wonderful Counselor. No matter what situation I am confronted with, whether that includes a plunger or not, I am prepared to do hard things.

A Tube of Clumpy Mascara – An Essay about Beauty

Rachel, my youngest sister, stood rigidly in front of the mirror one Tuesday morning before school and began to open her tube of mascara. Taking a deep breath, Rachel angled her head back and opened her mouth slightly in the shape of an O, sweeping her soft, downy lashes with the rather clumpy mascara wand. After much preening and prodding, Rachel meticulously scanned her eyelashes for any discontinuities before deeming her work worthy of public display. Meanwhile, I sat at the breakfast table and ate my oatmeal slowly, glasses resting atop the bridge of my nose, my face void of any makeup, and my hair still wet from the shower. I scanned her with thoughtful eyes as she fluffed her hair, licked her lips, and walked into the kitchen. She met my gaze haughtily and stalked into the pantry. And she’s only in 7th grade, I thought, impressed by the fact that she seemed to have bypassed an awkward stage altogether. It was unfair that my rite of passage into adulthood was marked by oily, acne prone skin, those pink, wire-rimmed glasses with rectangular frames, and red Under Armor basketball shorts. And yet there was my little sister pouring a bowl of cereal with impeccably straightened hair, a face powdered to perfection, and a golden necklace resting daintily beneath the collar of her school uniform. In light of her perfection, would now be a bad time to mention that my awkward phase included an affinity for a certain pair of pink and orange Croc flip-flops? Perhaps it would be best if I didn’t mention those.

The juxtaposition of our childhoods and personalities struck me that Tuesday morning during my senior year. I grew up playing with my pink Nintendo DS and training my Nintendogs while Rachel watched YouTube tutorials on how to create the perfect contour. As we meander through time and wade through a mire of cultural change, I can’t help but notice that those younger than I are undergoing maturation at a faster rate and at times skipping much of the blissful innocence that childhood has to offer. Materialism is seeping into the minds of the young and impressionable, distorting what it means to attain and appreciate beauty. How can we combat the corruption of our culture? It is impossible to dispute the fact that when the pages of a good book are opened and poured over, truths are gleaned and flaws are acknowledged. A book is a mirror for the reader to peer into and examine the soul. By analyzing life through the lenses of profound literary works like Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, one will find that literature can serve as a way to caution its readers against the pitfalls of humanity, namely the allures of physical beauty created by mere powders and creams.

In the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, Willy Loman, the main character, embodies the everyday man and displays the tragic consequences of superficiality and disillusionment. His greatest ability, an innate, whimsical ability to dream, is revealed over the course of the play as the hamartia that leads to his tragic end. Willy Loman, haunted by dreams of success that will never come to fruition, represents the bleakest part of our culture. He mistakenly buys into the lie that it is far better to be well liked by others rather than to love others well. He believes so strongly in the power of image that when he doesn’t get the respect he yearns for, he resolves to simply improve his physical appearance in hopes of obtaining it. Willy admits to his wife, Linda, that he knows he is “‘fat’” and “‘very—foolish to look at,’” and believes that while his work colleagues “‘do laugh at [him]’” behind his back, he thinks that perhaps he simply isn’t “‘dressing to advantage, maybe’” (Miller 24). Instead of pursuing character growth and authenticity, Willy Loman decides to don other attire in hopes that a new outfit and an improved appearance will exude superiority, thus covering up his own inferiority. He mistakenly believes that “‘It’s not what you do… but who you know and the smile on your face’” (Miller 62). Willy aligns beauty with success and considers the summation of one’s character to be defined not by one’s actions, but by one’s appearance and charm. Willy Loman’s shallow convictions and aimless wanderings in life lead to his tragic, delusional suicide. It is this event that goads the audience to look within and examine their own purposes for living. Is life about hiding the ugliness of a broken soul wrought with a myriad of insecurities, and resorting to cover it with a garish, shambled façade? Or is it about acknowledging the beauty of brokenness and reaching for the hope of redemption? Despite the somber, pensive tone that shrouds the last few pages of the play, it is Biff, Willy’s son, and his escape westward that reminds the reader of redemption in tragedy. Biff chooses to relinquish the ideals his father had clung to and instead to pursue the hope that redemption, embodied by the mystery of the west, offers him.

As Rachel sat down at the kitchen table with me, a cereal bowl in hand and a cloud of perfume enveloping her person, I peered at her over the rim of my glasses (alas, they were not the pink, wire rimmed glasses of my youth). It was to my advantage that she was far too absorbed in her cellphone to pay much attention to the attention I was paying her. Although I’d already said grace and finished my oatmeal, I couldn’t help but pray yet another small, earnest prayer. Dear God, the voice in my head pleaded, may Rachel one day know that her value is not equated with her charm or beauty, but in her depth of character. Instill within her a yearning for Your approval, not the approval of others. Be with her during this time of self-discovery, and thank you that she never has to wear a heinous pair of pink and orange Croc flip-flops. Amen.

 

As it came time to leave, we put our dishes away and got in the car to drive to school. I started the car as Rachel flung open the passenger door and slid rather self-importantly into her seat. Not a word was spoken the entire ride to school. We finally got to campus and found a parking spot. We sat motionless for a moment, no words exchanged or muscles moved. I turned to her and smiled. Meeting my gaze, she considered my smile and narrowed her eyes. That’s when it happened: the briefest glimmer of a smile appeared on her face. Real. Genuine. Beautiful. There was hope for her yet. There was hope for the Biff Loman within her who yearned for the freedom of the west, who yearned to break free from the superficial, materialistic cage of her rather Willy Loman exterior. Freedom was calling her name, but I knew she would have to die to herself and the ideals of the society around her before she could grasp onto hope. But there was hope nonetheless.

By peering into the mirror that is literature, perhaps we can reverse the inclination towards narcissism within not only our youth, but our society as a whole. However, sometimes it takes witnessing a Willy Loman taking the fall to realize that there is more to who we are than what we look like. Sometimes it takes opening one’s eyes and noticing the Biff Lomans of the world that reject the materialistic mirage that can shroud the human heart.

A Short Story About an Accident Prone Woman That I Wrote in 8th Grade

That day, I remember, was the day she came into my life and totally destroyed all normalcy. My day was going just fine. I had stopped by Starbucks and ordered the usual, a tall non-fat white mocha with whip. I walked the streets of New York, coffee cup in hand, sharp winter air numbing my face. Entering my building, I passed the waiting area and waved at Patty, the elderly receptionist, with my free hand. Walking down the short hallway leading to my office, I unlocked the door and strolled in, shrugging off my coat with ease. I hung it on the coat rack by the door and walked to my desk, turning on the lamp. I hadn’t even had time to sit down when the crazy lady burst in my office, hair frizzed and wild.

“Hello, ma’am, have you scheduled an appointm-“ I asked as politely as possible before being interrupted by the woman.

“Appointment? Oh yes, well seeing as how this was an emergency I didn’t think to-“ She said with vigor. Patty waddled in with a speed not yet known to me before then.

“I am so sorry, Roger, I couldn’t stop the woman. I tried to keep her in the waiting room but she just ran right on past –“ Patty explained in an apologetic tone. Patty, Patty, always the people pleaser, I thought. Just before I could reply, the psychotic female swung her hands out wide in exasperation, slamming Patty in the face. Right then, chaos abounded. Patty screamed as she held her nose, trying to stop the blood from seeping between her fingers and on to her flower printed sweater. The Klutz stammered her apologies and tried to help her clean up her bloody nose. Her assistance only resulted in poor Patty getting her arthritic foot stepped on. The elderly woman, outraged and mortified, struggled from the Klutz’s arms. Brian, one of my colleagues, appeared in the doorway and took a swift intake of breath.

“Brian, get Patty some Kleenexes and close the door! Maybe some Advil too!” I shouted over the havoc, prying Klutz from Patty. He nodded quickly and ushered the pitiful, elderly woman from his office.

As soon as the door closed with a resounding thud, I eyed Klutz, annoyed, hoping to come across as intimidating. She gave me a small smile of apology, her face falling when my critical expression hadn’t changed. I cleared my throat and cocked an eyebrow, impatiently waiting for her to begin. She paled slightly and sat down in one of the leather chairs.

 

********************

Great. Now the therapist hates you, I thought. This day just keeps getting better. I tried to look him in the eye, fumbling about my vocabulary, trying to find the best way to begin. I smiled apologetically, but his face remained stone hard. Sitting down in the modern, leather chair, I cleared my throat and began.

“ Um, hi there. My name’s Beth and I, uh, really need your help,” I said, glad I had even gotten this far.

“Clearly,” Roger grumbled. I could tell I wasn’t the usual client. I knew that, right at this moment, he wished he weren’t a therapist. I sighed, and gathered my strength for the spilling of my life story. He forced a smile and took out a notepad and a pen, straightening his tie after he was situated.

“I guess I’ll begin with this morning, then,” I said, looking for a sign of approval. He nodded slightly, “Alright! Here it goes! Well, this morning, I lay in bed, staring aimlessly at my ceiling. I watched as the fan spun—“

“Look –Beth is it? –I’m really not in the mood for theatrics or pretty language. Please proceed.” He looked annoyed. Some therapist, I thought.

“Well, alright-y then. Seeing as how it was cold, I tried to pull up the blankets but my hand slipped and I punched myself in the face. Pitiful, I know, but I thought I’d do you a courtesy by explaining the bruised nose. I tried to rub the pain away, but it didn’t work. I attempted to go back to sleep so I lay on my side. That’s when I saw the time. It was 8:20. Fantastic, right?  I was late for work!” I scanned his face. He didn’t look surprised.

“So, continuing, I sat up and got out of bed but, lucky me, the sheet caught on my foot and I fell with a clatter to the floor. My face was mangled (more than the usual anyway) and my nose was probably broken for the seventh time… I yanked my foot out from the sheets and stood up shakily, walking to my bathroom. I remember looking in the mirror and seeing a slightly purple face and a bloody nose. Need I mention that my hair looked like an Afro—“ That’s when Roger interrupted me.

“What do you mean looked? It still looks like an afro…” Roger, my-oh so-understanding-therapist, said dryly. That one hurt, but I wasn’t going to let him ruin my day…more.

“Anyway, I began to wash my face when—drumroll please—soap got in my eye. There I was, Roger, my eye smarting and turning red. I screamed and tried to wash it out. I tried to find the handle when my head ran into the faucet. After finally feeling the sweet relief of water, I dressed hurriedly in my work clothes. Doctor, that wasn’t even the worst part! After that ordeal, I attempted to go downstairs to breakfast. We’ll skip over the fact that I fell all the way down the stairs and probably broke my toe. I made my cup of coffee and poured it in my extra special birthday mug. As soon as I walked outside to my car, a stupid bird—you won’t believe this Doctor—flew over me and pooped in my coffee. See, without my coffee, I just can’t function—“

 

“Clearly,” Roger said again, writing furiously. I rolled my eyes and continued.

“I was angry, so I screamed and threw my arms out—“

“You mean like with Patty?”

“Stop interrupting me!”

“Stop throwing your hands out.”

“Touché…” I sighed, pressing on, “ Unfortunately, when I threw my hands out, my coffee (with a dollop of doodoo) splattered on me. My extra special birthday mug flew out of my hands and into the bushes. The broiling coffee burned my skin and soiled my clothes. Disheartened, I climbed into my car, now extremely late to work. To my disadvantage, my fingers got caught in the door as it shut. Now one’s dislocated, one’s purple, and I can’t seem to find the other three—“ He looked up in horror. “Just kidding, doc, they’re all to be accounted for… But in all sincerity, I just decided to call in sick and come straight to a therapist. Please help me, Roger. I need some suggestions! I’m living a nightmare.” I pleaded with him.

*********************

I smiled politely, still not quite sure how this poor, frazzled woman managed to survive in New York. Talk about danger; whizzing cars, angry people… I wouldn’t be surprised if she was dead within the next 24 hours. I tore the piece of paper and called Beth forward, handing her my suggestions. I stood up and quickly ushered the woman out, hoping to be rid of her before Havoc came to knock at my door again. Before she walked out of my building, she looked at me with those pretty blue eyes and thanked me for my time. She tugged at my heartstrings, with that look of hers. I pushed her out the door and told her to stop by if she ever needed anything. I saw Patty’s death stare in the reflection of the glass, still cradling her injured nose… and pride. I turned my gaze back on Beth and watched her go. She waved once more but, her luck being as it was, the piece of paper slipped from her hand. She raced out into the busy street, running dangerously fast in those Steve Maddens. She bent down to retrieve it when, all of a sudden, a green smart car rammed her in the rear, slamming her battered body to the ground. How unfortunate.