I glance around the big playground, taking in its emptiness as I step off the asphalt path and onto the hard-packed dirt. It’s always been a great place to escape to, as basically only people who go to Bach Elementary know it exists.
A breeze blows across the field as I grab the ropes of the spider web structure and pull myself up onto it. I think back to the way I snapped at my brother, Emmett, when I left the house. I know I need to figure out why I’m feeling so exhausted after school and why I can’t be the same friendly person I was there at home. So I think back to the first day, and in an instant I’m there again, reliving that memory.
I come around the corner of Community, and there are people. Everywhere. I guess we’re meeting on the front lawn, I observe, all logic. My emotions seem to have abandoned me, as if I’m not finally getting to see my classmates for the first time in a year and a half. As if I haven’t finally reached the point where things finally start making the shift back toward normal.
How am I going to get to the bike racks?
I circle around to the sidewalk, scanning the seemingly impenetrable crowd of people. They’re talking, laughing, and despite their masks, it feels like the pandemic’s actually ended. I almost can’t believe it’s true, but it’s right there in front of me. It’s hard to not believe something if you’re staring right at it.
I know I didn’t feel much of anything at the time; my emotions only became apparent when I walked in the door after school and the exhausting, wrung-out feeling of being emotionally drained washed over me. I think it must be partially because I haven’t interacted with people this much since pre-pandemic times, but that can’t be all, because I’ve never felt this emotionally drained after school before.
I frown, thinking about it. I learned two major things about myself during the pandemic: I’m a lesbian and I hide myself, I recall. The former was a shock to me and the latter I’ve been working to correct, wanting to have the strength to share who I am. What my strengths and weaknesses are. I don’t want to hide in the metaphorical shadows, a nobody because I’ve never told anyone anything significant about me.
That’s it! I suddenly realize. I’m opening myself up more, which means opening my emotions up too. I always hid them at school. And I’m talking to more new people.
I let out a breath, looking out over the trees. A breeze kisses my cheek.
I feel fine now, but I’m not sure if I will when I leave this place and its peaceful quiet. But I know I have to. I promised Emmett I’d play something with him once I went on this quick walk.
I let out another breath, standing up. This is just a challenge, like opening up was. Like losing Brenda and realizing I had a crush on my best friend. And I made it through those things. I can make it through this.
I jump off the ropes, landing lightly on the wood chips. I feel confident, finally, and alive. All it takes is persevering and confronting my fears.
Pushing past them to get what I want.