Hard Time of Year
By: Colin Kinkade, Class of 2014
I found myself in a dark place emotionally and mentally in late 2013. Just as the vibrant, warm autumn leaves flourished and danced before the wretched winter winds violently plucked them from the comfort of their once living branches, so too was my optimism deflated. Typically I am not the individual to place my heart into a glass case on display. However, this is the exception. Strangely it is the same wind, the uncertain breath of life itself, which once made the leaves happily dance has now cast them far from their home.
What good is a house that doesn't feel like a home? Most students struggle in various ways when a family fades merely into a group of individuals that occupy the same residential building instead of living together and sharing memories. Dad is never there, yet he would give a stranger the shirt off his back. Mom is always there, yet she sees all and needs time away. Brother is there when you need him, yet moving out of reach across the country. You are there in a haze, contemplating your next move.
Secret vices morph into unrestricted addictions; a way of life becomes an outcry.
All too often we see lost souls burning their ambitions and drowning their sorrows in search for answers. Ironically, individuals seek refuge in empty substances that leave them feeling empty and without substance. Now is the time to adapt before things fall apart.
By: V. Sobeck, Class of 2014
I lean back in the foldable chair I had pulled out and massaged my hand that I had previously burned on the curler I was using to do Mandy’s hair. The burn’s red outline grew more distinct under the harsh fluorescent lights in Rick’s basement. Mandy and I had already made our rounds, saying hi to those we knew and to others we didn’t as one typically would at a small party. She migrated over to the stone wall where her boyfriend, my childhood friend Sam, was posted.
The music played loudly over the voices of good company. It was just the right amount of chaos and activity to be predicted at Rick’s--a game of cards, gossip, dancing-- I also expected not to hear much from Sam or Mandy tonight. He sat isolated and silent in his own corner. She followed his lead. In this un-insolated basement, where it was hard to stay still, the two were still against that white stone wall. They remained there for what seemed an hour before I approached. “Get up! I need more players for cards,” playfully I tugged on Sam’s arm. As lifeless and colorless as the wall, he shook me off, and without a word pushed past me with rebellious force. I caught abandoned Mandy’s glance and in mutual silence we shattered all the denial we had left.
Sam had always been quick to change his mood. Even when we had been next door neighbors back in elementary school, it was tough to tell when his temper would rise and erupt like an unexpected volcano. But Sam was never violent; the cold shoulder was his vice.This was their routine by now. Even the multiplying, oblivious crowd paid no attention when one of Mandy and Sam’s dramatic arguments occurred. Tension would rise, Sam would flee the suffocating scene, and Mandy would follow to simmer him down. So right on cue, Mandy trailed after. I despised this maybe just as much as they did. But Sam had developed this problem somewhere along the time that I had lost touch with my old friend. Now I watch my new dearest friend fights Sam’s battle against the addiction of heroin for him, because Mandy always follows.
I cross my fingers hoping it’s the last time and try to occupy myself thinking that will keep me distracted from their weak bickering voices and the unbearable cold as the clock rounds two AM. A sharp pitch became audible through both the music and the basement door. “Everyone sees your arms! Don’t you care?” Mandy’s usually quiet voice made this voice unfamiliar. “Look me in the eye! … Open your eyes!” I didn’t notice, but now the party attended the disturbance. Her words were sharp and heated. I only recognize a few full sentences because her words come too fast, and then nothing, and then a scream.
The simply curious company might as well have already had every ear pressed against the door. I made my way out the basement door and up a small flight of aged concrete steps to find Sam still in signature slouched position, shadowed over by Mandy’s threatening yet retreating body. Sitting in the dead patch of grass with thin arms crossed so tightly, it almost seemed like a response to his girlfriend’s vomiting rage. He wasn’t awake though and not even a stagnant sentence was spoken. With her fists clenched as if to reinforce this newfound defiance, Sam and her appeared frozen in time even as a crowd began to bloom outside. Someone with aface I didn’t care to recognize, bulldozed past to check his pulse. It was the boy who sold him heroin, of course. Her concentration was broken and clumsily backed into me with all breath already being knocked out of her. I held Mandy feeling helpless. I wondered why had I been an observer this entire night. I thought, “When I tell this story, I will have played no role in it.” Stunned, cold, and without emotion, I observed strangers crying and faces just as young as mine all mirroring similar reactions. “Are they going to look back and wonder what I’m wondering now? Do they even know Sam?” I cornered these thoughts in my mind and held them on replay. It seemed to drown out the panic coming from others I was unconcerned with. “Should I call my mom?” One girl would say while her friend shouted hysterically at Sam to “wake up”. It wasn’t until ambulance could be heard roaring down the icy street did I feel relieved of the drowning voices.
The red lights appeared and everything slowed down only the slightest bit. No one touched or moved Sam from the stone wall outside until the paramedics acted “with the quickness” as Sam would say. The paramedic man held and lifted him, and I watched him get tucked into the back of the big white car with red and blue lights. I realized every stranger, every acquaintance and friend, had even gotten to see it pull away before we made our way back through the basement door where it was warmer.