A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY SHREYA KHULLAR
July 10, 1991
I walked to Elijah. He was wearing his signature beige trousers, harnessed by a pair of black suspenders. He sat under his cottonwood tree, the seeds falling, slowed by their feathered parachutes. Each twirled down, mimicking the pirouette of a ballerina. Elijah was oblivious to a stray dancer that had landed in his hair, however, she left as softly as she had arrived, swept away by a quiet breeze.
March 31, 1983
I remember that spring years ago when we would come back from school and immediately change out of our uniforms, so we could head to the forest at the edge of the schoolyard. My bare feet crushed the dried leaves under me, my tender skin naked against the cool soil. Feeling the shade of the evergreens above, we sauntered into afternoons that lead us through the blurred grove, getting lost in a labyrinth of trees. We strolled while leaving dull footprints that called us home when the sun was spent. Elijah and I slowly made our way through the woods while picking up every small branch or tuft of grass we saw fit, never forgetting our adamant customers at the recess-lotion-shop. We used the larger branches we saw as walking sticks, but then would grow tired, and drag them behind us.
Patches of sun spilled through the cracks in the leaves as we reached the edge of the forest where the trees began to clear, making room for a meadow. It was barren except for the daffodils scattered throughout the dry grass. The day was hot and Elijah and I were already covered by a thin layer of dirt and sweat, tired from our morning escapade.
June 22, 1983
The seasons turned slowly as they always do, and spring passed into summer, our favorite time of year, for it was when we were free of our beige sweater vests and ties that constrained us during the school year. With the turn of the seasons, our activity of choice changed as well. Play pretend shifted into frog catching, which shifted into soccer, our new beloved pastime.
Countless hours were spent in the dry heat, but we always returned home with grass-stained shirts and sun-stained skin. Elijah’s ears were too large for his face which made them stand out, even more, when they burned. His alabaster complexion never tanned, only seared into a rosy pink, which then peeled into a new layer of milky white. A striking contrast to my skin, which resembled the umber brown dirt we raced across every day.
December 25, 1986
We became drunk at the age of eight, and cigar addicts at nine. Letting out huge puffs of mist into the air whenever it was cold enough to do so. Champagne was a staple at my mother’s Christmas parties, and I grinned whenever she let me have even the smallest sip, stumbling around and running into shelves for hours afterward. Elijah and I would escape to the backyard with any alcoholic beverage we would find. We settled for wine, both red and white, when we could get it, but we knew we’d struck gold whenever we saw an unattended glass of beer, or better yet, champagne, left behind on one of the party tables. Acting like a drunkard was one of my favorite things to do with Elijah, second only to mock-smoking with rolled up school papers in the wintertime.
July 10, 1991
I remember the day I walked to Elijah. It was early, around 9:30 am. His silvery blonde hair is a messy heap above his forehead. He was in his usual attire of suspenders, strapped on to a white shirt, and beige trousers. The day was unbearably hot, and I was already sticky with sweat from my forehead, back, and underarms. Elijah’s house was on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, and his family often went on canoe trips on the water. That day, however, he invited me to come with him, but not during the day because we would get too hot, and not with his family because he thought his sister was an annoyance. Elijah, who was already red from the heat, had asked me to join him during the after-hours when the sun had set.
We reached the water at approximately 11:52 pm and set the canoe down on the tall grass by the seashore. The cicadas screamed at full volume, fighting to attract a mate. Each going through a life cycle of molting, leaving behind skins to scare our sisters with. Their screeching almost drowned out the crash of waves against the night sand.
I climbed in first, then Elijah, and we pushed off with our oars, floating away from land. The moon was a dull crescent in the sky, which provided little light in the ebony darkness. Time passed in slow motion as we thrust through the water, each sting of a mosquito adding to my growing list of grievances. The suffocating heat, which in fact, hadn’t died down since that afternoon, topped my list.
We had drifted so far from shore that I could no longer see Elijah’s seaside home. Soon, we were surrounded by a boundless expanse of dark water. The canoe bobbed on each wave, current, and ripple, swaying us with it. We stared into the hundreds of infinities, crisp summer air drying the sweat on our noses and foreheads.
Our skin soaked in humidity from the air, while our lungs filled with heat. We continued to row into the abyss, hoping to be carried by the ocean into a tomorrow that wasn’t as half lived as yesterday. The thick air was filled with a soporific fog, drowning us as our arms grew tired and our eyelids heavy. “Would you like to take a break?” I asked. He paused for a moment before replying, “Yeah, only for a while and then we can head back.” We set the oars down in the canoe beside us. It must have been close to 5:30 am, on the cusp of dawn, and a heavy drowsiness was settling upon us.
August 17, 1993
I heard soft crying, which took me a moment to realize was my mother. She was weeping softly in the corner of my hospital room.
The stink of rubbing alcohol and piss permeated the cold room.
I had to wait a few moments for my eyes to adjust to the glaring lights, and I wanted to itch the tape that held my IV badly.
“Did he have another episode?”
“Episodes” was what my doctor called the fainting spells I had been plagued with since the incident.
“Yes, um, was it the same as last time honey?” My mother asked, rubbing my forehead tenderly as if checking for a fever. I cringed and pulled away.
Her breath was shaky.
“Elijah…” I mumbled.
She muttered to the doctor again, when they stood a few feet away and whispered it usually meant they were discussing any concerning behavior my mother had noticed since my last visit, which was about four weeks ago.
Doctor Chou finally spoke, “Has the exposure therapy helped?”
“He never tells me after his sessions,” my mother interrupted.
“Do you feel better after the therapy sessions?” Dr.Chou asked, making direct eye contact with me this time.
“I don’t know… I feel the same,” I said indifferently, staring at Dr. Chou’s crisp lab coat, which was so white it almost blended in with the chalky walls.
She gave me a comforting pat.
“One moment please Ma’am,” said Dr. Chou, addressing my mother, who was still sniffling, but squeezing my shoulder now. She wiped the tears on her face then wiped her nose.
I heard Dr. Chou speaking with my psychiatrist.
“Increase Paxil dosage by ten percent.”
November 25, 2019
I still let his ghost visit me sometimes so I can reminisce in my dwindling memories of our summers together. Our frequent visits to the beach behind his house and swimming in the ocean water which made our legs dry from salt. The grassy field near the schoolyard where we had spent so many sleepy afternoons sunbathing. His cottonwood tree whose dancers we had wished upon countless times, blowing them away with our childhood dreams of new shoes and hard candies. The night we had drifted too far from shore, swimming in the same waves, drowning in the same current, only one of our heads breaking the surface in the end. Seeing the faded version of him in my bedroom some nights when the lull of waves pulls me back into the ocean, the tide, too strong for me to escape this time. And with the tide, I float slowly back into the sea with him. We swam in the same water that night- we all swim in the same water. It’s just harder for some of us to stay afloat.
Shreya is a 16-year-old from Iowa City, Iowa. She writes fiction and poetry but wants to dabble in playwriting sometime in the near future. Her works have been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and Teen Ink Magazine among others. When she’s not going on long tangents about her favorite novels she can be found reading, dancing, or practicing tricks on her skateboard.