The first time Avery asked about her mother, she was five. She didn't remember much. Just bits and pieces. But she did recall her and her dad were outside, sitting on their favorite bench – An old, worn-out piece of furniture they liked to lounge on to pass time. All starry-eyed, she asked her dad and got the standard, out-of-the-textbook answer. “She's in a better place hon,” he said, carrying her into his lap. She remembered looking into his eyes. “A better place?” She was confused. “What could be better than being with us?” He laughed and looked into the distance. “You're just going to ask her if you ever meet her.” Six years later, Avery finally understood what being in a better place meant. And to be honest, it didn't bother her as much as she expected. It had always been her dad who had been there for her. Plus, she had never met her mom before and didn't mind cutting her out of the picture. Personally, it was okay with just her and papa anyways. So, it could be imagined the shock fourteen-year-old Avery got, walking in on a phone call her dad was having. “You can't just –!” He was pacing up and down, a habit of his when he was nervous. “Thirteen years Kate! You didn't even call!” Avery moved her feet and began to climb the stairs. She knew when somebody needed their privacy. “But she's our daughter. Your child.” Avery stopped in her tracks. “Couldn't –” He paused. “Couldn't you come to see her at least once?” Silence. Then a muffled voice. And a sigh. Avery couldn't recall what happened exactly. All she remembered was the crushing feeling she had when she realized that her mum was actually alive and probably didn't want her. The shock went just as fast as it came. She made no indication that she knew, and her dad didn't deem it fit to tell her. So, life went on, until it didn't. At least for her dad. Avery was proud to say she didn't cry. Not when she found her dad on the floor. Not when he was rushed to the hospital by the neighbors. Not when she came to visit him and saw him all pale and haggard. Not when she heard the news. Not even after the funeral. She told herself over and over again that she would not cry, and she didn't. People she had never met. People she knew. Everyone told her it was going to be okay, that they understood. But Avery knew that they didn't. After the funeral, Avery had to stay with her dad's sister, Aunt Veronica. In order for that to work out, she had to move. New house, new school, new friends. It was all very strange for her. Everything seemed to be happening too fast for her to catch up. Nobody thought to ask her how she felt about it all, until she met Mrs. Ada. Mrs. Ada, the temporary stand-in for Mr. Jacobs, the English teacher, was petite, brunette-haired lady who was said to be too nice for her own good. After class one day, Mrs. Ada called her back. “Avery?” Mrs. Ada called. “Could I see you for a moment?” Avery took a seat, wondering what this was about. Sure, she wasn't a star student. But she definitely wasn't failing. And even if she was, Avery didn't think Mrs. Ada had it in her to chew her out. Mrs. Ada pushed her glasses up her nose, a comforting smile on her face. “I've noticed you've got a lot on your mind lately, and I was wondering if you wanted to talk about it.” She paused, scanning Avery's face. “I know being a new student and all that can be a little too much –“ She continued, “ – but I just wanted to say that I'm here if you ever got anything troubling you, okay?” Avery muttered something along the lines of a thanks and began to stand up. “Hold on.” Mrs. Ada interrupted. She bent to bring out something from her bag. It was a black notebook with some words on the front. “I heard about your dad.” She placed the black book in her hands. The front cover read: 'There's no greater agony than keeping an untold story inside of you' – Maya Angelou. Mrs. Ada winked at her, “It's my favorite quote. For times you don't feel like talking, it might surprise you how well writing helps.” Avery rushed out of the classroom, a stuffy feeling in her chest. When she got home, she brought out the book and stared. After a minute of silence, she opened to the first page and began to write. About her dad, the mom she never met, how she felt, her new school. About everything. And for the first time, Avery let the tears fall.
A few months after Mabel's 16th birthday, her parents died in a tragic accident and now a blind Mabel was a ward of Aunty Kay. In her absence, Mabel would fall prey to her cousins' incessant bullying and tricks. One day, they had put peanut butter in Mabel's favourite sneakers. A fuming Mabel rushed into Troy's room and delivered a stinging slap with the one sneaker in hand to his face. I told you she was a blind psychopath Troy shouted. Sensing Mabel's distress, the guy introduced himself as Leo but an embarrassed Mabel scurried away. For the next few months, whenever Troy had his friends over, Leo and Mabel would secretly meet in the kitchen. He was 18, fascinated with cars and her first crush. Reality rudely intruded on their secret meeting spot by Troy whose shouts brought his sisters rushing in. An angry Adele, who was liked Leo viciously slapped Mabel d as she let loose angry words and barbs at Mabel's ploys. Mabel, immensely hurt rushed to the safety of her small room. After what seemed like hours, the door creaked open and Leo called out. Mabel flung her pillow at him and told him to go. Leo persisted and pressed a soft kiss to her lips telling her that she was a breath of fresh air in this hell-hole. He continued to caress her neck and shoulders. Kisses turned heated, caresses became more frantic and clothes discarded as Mabel's heart and innocence were offered up and consumed in the lusty atmosphere. In the dawn, after kissing a clinging Mabel, Leo left. Mabel blurted out her love when her cousins barged into her room unannounced. Troy and Adele laughed as they boasted of the bet Leo was a part of or else he would never look at a blind nerd. In the coming weeks, Leo was MIA! One Saturday after dinner, Mabel overheard Aunty Kay on the phone talking about the Johns moving to another state. This hurt Mabel to the quick who vouched to never fall for such a ploy! In the 5 years since that fateful day, Mabel blossomed into an intelligent, caring and capable young woman. Despite her disability, she successfully pursued her passion of cooking with the upcoming release of her first cookbook. That heart wrenching summer with Leo was pivotal for Mabel. Lost in her happy thoughts, she nearly missed her beeping phone signalling that her publicist and best friend, Maria had arrived to give her a lift to the venue but then encountered a slowly deflating tire. Luckily, the service guy Zack, was nearby to pick up the call. With both ladies safely ensconced in the truck, and their vehicle in tow, they made their way to the garage. Mabel smiled as she overheard Maria flirting with Zack. Before long, they arrived at the garage. The door creaked open signalling someone's entrance. After a shuffling of papers, a masculine voice called out Maria's name. Mabel froze in disbelief as her friend went about her business. She could never forget that husky baritone. It was LEO! As Maria concluded her paperwork and payments she hollered to Mabel which grabbed Leo's eagle gaze. The air was tight with tension as Leo stumbled over Mabel's name. As Mabel hurriedly nudged her friend to go ahead, a strong, calloused hand grabbed Mabel's wrist. Mabel was having not of that and delivered a stinging slap to an unshaven but hewn jaw. She was overwhelmed by repressed hurt. Maria tried to calm the situation down with the ladies hurriedly escaping after a few attempts. Zack met a stunned Leo standing in the same position, weary lines on his face. After some consideration, he held up a business card with a naughty smirk. Mabel refused to talk on her way back to the hotel but lying in bed that night, her memories came to the forefront. After a sleepless night she called Maria to confirm her schedule. A barrage of questions of Mabel's well-being were fired by Maria, which Mabel answered quietly. Seven o' clock sharp, the doorbell rang with a sombre trip to the restaurant. When the meals arrived, a frizzle of awareness ran up Mabel's spine. A voice which haunted her dreams announced Leo's presence. Crossing her hands across her chest, Mabel sat back without a word. As soon as Leo broached the topic of the first time they had made love, Mabel lost it and flung her plate of spaghetti at him. He made light of the attack and pleaded that he was threatened by Adele the morning after their sweet night. She had maliciously filmed them entwined asleep and would share a copy with the entire school. He had stayed away to protect Mabel's reputation. Troy had lied to the Coach which got him kicked off the team. His dad had gotten a job transfer out of state which was a clean break. Leo continuously professed his love whilst raining kisses along Mabel's face, hands and wrists. She softly returned her love enveloped in those strong arms that were imprinted in her memory forever and a day.
I have seen in my own experience that the Covid-19 has had a strong impact not only on people's lives, but also on the economy and education. It was the year I started working at the school after just graduating from university. Since I did not have experience of working with school students, I mainly took classes from primary school and less senior classes to teach. It was just my first year of working at the school. I was having my fair share of challenges working with pupils of varying learning abilities. In order to help them, I had to work with pupils who have difficulty in learning for free. When it was the last weeks of the third quarter, which is the longest study quarter in the schools of Uzbekistan, a week-early vacation for all kinds of schooling was announced that people infected with Covid-19 were also detected in the territory of Uzbekistan. The vacation lasted for several weeks, and the prohibition of going out became stronger as the days passed. In such days, I began to think about such questions like "what will happen to school education?" "How to continue studying?" As the most of my school children were small, there was a high possibility that they would forget their knowledge if they were not engaged for a while. When it became clear that the situation would not improve for a long time, it was decided that school education would be continued online, and teachers of each subject prepared and broadcast video lessons on television. In addition, we prepared topic explanations and gave tasks as video lessons and shared them with the students, and checked the tasks they completed all through the Telegram network. The course of the lessons in this form was a convenient environment for students to copy from each other, at the same time to get grades without studying and effort. This could be seen from the fact that many students (of course, not all) did the tasks and exercises in the same way. It was especially noticeable among primary school pupils. However, warning parents about preventing plagiarism could not help much. This was how the last quarter and the 2019-2020 academic year ended, and the students went on summer holiday. On September 19, which was the beginning of the new academic year 2020-2021, students started going to school following the sanitary rules. In the process of learning new themes with students, the fact that pupils could not master the lessons well during online classes had a strong impact on their ability to understand new topics. Because in the textbooks, the themes are always arranged step by step to study, depending on each other. As older students, who had had less difficulty, developed independent learning skills, it caused elementary school children could not understand the new lessons that during quarantine they had not been able to learn the topics in live examples during face-to-face lessons with the teacher. Their lack of understanding led to the fact that they had missed a lot of knowledge without mastering it, and as a result, the students' knowledge decreased. Not having live lessons with schoolchildren, especially elementary students, brought many difficulties and problems to teachers too. Despite the fact that the quarantine is now completely over, teachers are experiencing the difficulties of filling the "void" in the minds of many students. Because the greatest failures of the future will come because of the poor quality of education today. For this reason, the responsibility of successful future forces teachers to eliminate the problems caused by Covid-19.
“We've been over this, Leah," Cole told me for probably the hundredth time. "I'm not about to do that to you.” “But you wouldn't be doing it to me," I argued, determined to convince him of the merits of a long-distance relationship. "You'd be doing it for me." “Go ahead and rationalize, but I can tell you now it's not going to change my mind.” Cole sighed and kissed me on the forehead when he saw I was pouting. “Come on, Lee. We've talked about this. You're gonna go off to college soon, where I'm sure you'll meet a lot of great guys. I don't want you to miss out on anything just because you feel obligated to stay with me.” “It's not like that, though. I want to stay with you. I love you, Cole.” “I love you too, Lee. But trying to maintain a relationship when we're thousands of miles apart… it just isn't feasible.” “Are you afraid I'm going to cheat on you or something? Because I swear I would never-” “Who said anything about cheating,” he asked, confused. “No one, I just… I know that's a common fear people have when it comes to long-distance relationships.” “Not me,” he asserted. “That's the least of my worries.” “You mean you trust me that much,” I asked, touched. “Well, yeah. Of course. But I also just know you don't….” Cole stopped talking suddenly as something occurred to him. “You know I don't what,” I pressed, feeling my heart start to race. “I just… I meant that you… that I know you don't….” Cole looked like he was trying hard to come up with something to say. Though Cole hadn't answered me, the flush in his cheeks and his refusal to meet my gaze told me all I needed to know. “How long have you known,” I asked him quietly. He took a second before responding. “I… have had my suspicions for a while now, but I didn't feel comfortable making that kind of assumption,” he admitted, somewhat sheepishly. I fell silent as I considered how this new information might affect our relationship. It was a long moment before I mustered up the courage to finally ask him my next question. “So… knowing what you do now… that doesn't… change the way you feel about me?” I resisted the urge to cover my ears, afraid of what his answer might be. “I mean, I know there are certain… expectations that come with being in a relationship, and there are, you know… needs that have to be met, and I'm just not sure that I can-” “Don't be ridiculous, Leah.” To my utter confusion, Cole laughed. “This isn't funny,” I told him, irritated. “I'm being serious.” “I know you are. I am too.” “Then why-” “I don't know what it's going to take to get you to believe me, so I guess I'll just keep saying it until you do. I love you, Leah Rose. I love everything about you, and I do mean everything. And I would never, ever pressure you into doing something that you didn't want to do.” The expression on his face was so intense it was almost a little scary. “I need to know you understand that, Leah. Please tell me you do.” “I… I don't….” Much to my dismay, I burst into tears and started sobbing into my hands. “Sweetheart, what's wrong,” Cole demanded, clearly concerned. He wrapped his arms around me in a tight embrace. “Nothing,” I wailed, sobbing into his chest. “So then why are you crying?” It took me a second to compose myself enough to answer him. “Because I'm just so happy right now,” I sniffled, swiping at my eyes. Cole released me then, and I looked up to see that he was smiling and shaking his head at me. “Come here, you.” Before I could react, he pulled me closer, holding me tight against his chest. Cole gently tilted my chin up to kiss me lightly on the forehead.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman named Sarah. She had always dreamed of becoming a successful businesswoman, but she knew it would take more than just hard work and determination to make her dream a reality. She would have to move mountains to get what she wanted. Sarah grew up in a small town where opportunities were few and far between. Her family didn't have the means to support her education or her career aspirations, so she had to figure out a way to make it on her own. She worked tirelessly at her part-time job, saving every penny she could, and studying business in her spare time. Despite her hard work and dedication, Sarah faced many obstacles on her journey. She was constantly told that she couldn't do it, that she wasn't smart enough or talented enough to make it in the business world. But Sarah refused to let anyone's negativity bring her down. The first mountain Sarah had to move was getting a college education. Her family couldn't afford to send her to college, and she didn't have the grades or test scores to qualify for scholarships. But Sarah was determined. She took out student loans, worked multiple jobs, and even took classes at night to make it happen. It was a grueling and difficult process, but Sarah finally graduated with a degree in business. Next, Sarah had to find a job in her field. She applied to countless companies, but was met with rejection after rejection. She was told that she was overqualified, underqualified, or just not the right fit. But Sarah didn't give up. She took on any job she could find, from waiting tables to working in retail, all the while networking and building connections in the business world. Finally, Sarah landed an entry-level position at a small marketing firm. She worked tirelessly, going above and beyond her job duties, and quickly moved up the ranks. But even with her success, Sarah still felt like she wasn't reaching her full potential. She knew she had bigger ideas and bigger plans, but she didn't know how to make them happen. That's when Sarah decided to start her own business. It was a daunting task, and many of her friends and family told her she was crazy for even considering it. But Sarah was determined. She spent every spare moment researching and planning, and finally, she had a solid business plan in place. The next mountain Sarah had to move was finding funding for her business. She applied for loans, but was denied again and again. Banks and investors didn't believe in her idea or her ability to run a successful business. But Sarah didn't let that stop her. She reached out to her network, and eventually, she found a group of investors who believed in her vision. With funding secured, Sarah was finally able to launch her business. It wasn't easy, and there were many times when she wanted to give up. But Sarah's determination and hard work paid off. Her business was a success, and it quickly grew into a thriving company. Years went by and Sarah's company had become one of the most successful in the industry. She had finally accomplished her dream and had moved all the mountains that stood in her way. But Sarah didn't rest on her laurels. She knew that there were always more mountains to move, and she was ready for whatever challenges came her way. Sarah's story is an inspiration to many, proving that with hard work, determination and a never give up attitude, anyone can move mountains and achieve their dreams.
They were the worst days of my life due to the virus in the shape of a crown. Initially, days were not the darkest for me and my family at all owing to the presence of my unique and kind father who was a doctor at hospital and caught coronavirus. Despite all the danger that he encountered like high temperature and harsh cough, he was alive. This was the only thing that encouraged us to live and be hopeful for bright days. One day was so terrible that I felt as the most despondent human in the world because of the absence of my brilliant dad. On that day all bulbs in our city were switched off. A day before that day one doctor who was responsible for my father brought him to our home and mentioned not to approach so as to prevent the infection to be caught by us. On a spur of time, I listened to the conversation between my mom and doctor when he was emphasizing that the disease which is virus was terminal. As soon as I realized it, I was unable to speak, I stood straight as a sculpture. At that moment, I really wanted to die as I could not imagine my life without my father if the event mentioned by doctor came into reality. Fortunately, it did not take place. However, after a day I felt as if I witnessed the life without a shoulder to rely on for a while. At the time when lamps were off, dad stopped breathing for approximately a minute. At that minute I could not manage myself and forgot my identity; there was no difference between me and a dead person. A minute later, when my sisters, brother and I hugged our father and, to our immense happiness, he took up breathing in again and it made cry out of joy. My father told us with a muffled sound that he would never leave us alone and promised to be rally around. After a week, he recovered from that illness as well as started his job regardless of our disagreement and possibility of catching the virus for the second time. He said that he had held the responsibility for ill people due to his job. After that everything was going well in our family. On the other hand, a wide variety of things were forbidden such as going to school, college or university and so on. Furthermore, places that where plenty of people used to go, were closed, for example, markets. There was a dull life at home as I was really into studying. When I explained my mother that I wanted to go somewhere, for instance, to my grandparents' home and stay there in order to spend my time intriguing, she reminded me the condition in which a host of people were dying in hospitals without seeing their family for the last time. In my opinion, it was the worst thing. I changed my mind immediately since I realized feeling bored is not more important than being together with family and agreed to stay at home reluctantly. Another terrible factor of COVID_19 was that education level of children was decreasing as the days passed. In my humble opinion, one of the reasons was that schools were closed due to the pandemic. In fact, students in our country were giving up distance learning day by day. As a result, when pupils returned to schools they had missed lots of things in terms of school programme and were not able to catch up. If my assumption is correct, they lost almost a year of studying, which meant they did not know particular information that must have been taught in specific classes. However, teachers tried to teach students in the period of Coronavirus and some of students, fortunately, did well. In a nutshell, there is an old saying that everything happens for the best and COVID_19 had a huge impact on our lives: we learnt countless things such as appreciating what we have, being ready (to get used to any circumstances) and we learnt from the start to be grateful for the things we have in life.
August was always one of my least favorite months. It was hot, sticky, and there were bugs everywhere. I wasn't an outdoorsy person, or very social. I would spend my summer days in the house, with the air conditioning and a book in my hand. I would spend my summer nights the same way, although I would trade the book for a movie, or some music. I had 5 siblings, all younger, though there were times they made me want to rip my hair out. I can't help but adore the feeling of having people to protect, I love having people who need me. Earlier in the year, I had found out my mother was pregnant with another baby for me to protect. I spent time thinking about all the ways I would love this baby, thinking about who it would grow up to be. I watched as people bought clothes, as we prepped what having a baby would be like in the middle of the pandemic, and how naming it somehow became the hardest task. In the middle of the night, on August 9th, the baby finally came. I was woken up by my grandmother the next morning, she woke me up with such excitement in her voice, and tons of pictures of the little newborn. My mother and step father had decided to name her Kenza, which is funny because up until that night, it wasn't even top 3. I hadn't seen my mom all day, and my impression of the baby came in poorly taken pictures and the occasional video. Due to the covid restrictions, I was unable to visit her. I had never felt such impatience in my life, I was like a child watching their mother unwrap a lollipop, I was like a road trip passenger, waiting for a rest stop. My heart was beating, I was stressed and all that kept me going were those poorly taken pictures. My stepdad was in and out of the house, giving us status reports and trying to keep our mind off it, but his efforts did not work, my mother was in the hospital for about 3 days before coming home, for 16 year old me, that was a lifetime of torture. I wanted to hold my baby sister, and kiss her, and show her off on social media. I wanted to sing her lullabies at night and to be the first one to make her laugh. When she finally arrived, the house was decorated for her arrival. Thanks to mine and my grandmother's efforts, there were signs on the doors and homemade pictures hanging on the walls. We had given the house a welcoming touch, which was something it rarely had. I was one of the first people to hold her, and I felt an immediate connection. It hit me on that day that August 9th would always be important. Along with November 11th, April 28, March 3rd, October 8th and November 14th, August 9th would go on the list of days the number changed. It became one of the days I would cherish and celebrate, because it gave me one more person to love and protect. It gave me a new piece of my heart and it became unforgettable. With that day approaching, and the time coming to celebrate the aging of my last sibling, it's hard not to get teary eyed or emotional, this is the last of them, the last time I will be able to say “my baby sister's one” or “ wow she isnt a baby anymore,” those have been replaced with “you're almost as tall as me!” and “look at how much you've grown” I used to hate August, I hated the heart, and the stickiness and all the bugs. But it's become one of my favorite months, one of my most beloved times of the year, and all becaused it changed a simple number.
I was taken in by one of the oldest tricks in history. In the spirit of “no good deed goes unpunished,” I was robbed of hard-earned monies through a combination of writing flattery and low self-esteem. The curtain rose on this drama when my ego was stroked by the invitation to edit research material for a seminar on racism. It made sense during a pandemic year that saw the birth of Black Lives Matter. Racism seemed like an interesting and news-worthy subject--something a college-educated audience might discuss and debate in a summer school seminar. Racial incidents involving Blacks and law enforcement had tarnished the national scene, their convenient timeliness suckering me in even further. How had “Jennifer,” my client, located me? That too made sense. She had consulted the directory of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, a national organization to which I belonged. Jennifer first contacted me by email, which is normal when you're a freelance writer. So this too did not raise any of the normal skepticism that anonymous mail might cause. She explained in broken English what her project was. She was organizing a seminar on systemic racism at a New England college. Could I edit her research materials into a more accessible format so that she could have them translated into various languages? I remember worrying if she had plagiarized some of the content since it lacked attribution. But I reasoned that paraphrasing the material and disguising her style and syntax would work to prevent plagiarism while preserving the content. I hurried to finish the editing to accommodate her schedule. Caution and logic, however, had not completely deserted me. Before I began the project, I insisted on payment in full with a bank check. Jennifer agreed and the deal was officially struck. No contract, just a verbal agreement via email. After the check landed in my snail mail, everything began falling apart. Jennifer took too little interest in my rewrite and too much interest in how swiftly I could complete the assignment. Yet now that I had the money I had less reason to doubt her sincerity or honesty. After all a bank check is as good as gold, right? The strange part was that the bank check was for a larger sum than the fee we had agreed upon. In a trifecta of naivete, low self-esteem, and avarice I thought that perhaps Jennifer hadn't realized how much work the rewrite had entailed and was rewarding me with a bonus. Turns out I was dead wrong in more ways than one. Jennifer called and told me to send the extra monies to her in several U.S. postal mail orders. I began to get suspicious then, but when you're in the midst of an assignment, you concentrate on satisfying the client, not judging her. Then she threw in the clincher that she needed the monies quickly because her father had recently passed away from COVID and funeral expenses were high. I expressed my condolences. So far I was willing to follow her directions since the pandemic was at its height, and Jennifer sounded both sad and troubled by the supposed death of her father. In the end and through a convoluted series of bank transactions and mail orders, I ended up losing not only the $1,500 fee she had promised but also around $3,000. In hindsight it seemed ridiculous that a grown woman of more than average intelligence fell for such a preposterous story. But the situation had turned into a perfect storm. It appealed to vanity--that of the many competent authors in ASJA, Jennifer had selected me—and my desire to add another academic notch to my writing credits. When her excuses for forwarding my owed monies became lamer and lamer, I realized I had been hooked like a great white whale. The bank where I had first cashed her check now told me the check was bad. She had mustered enough logistical strength to reel me in. And then she just died. Yes, Jennifer literally died, at least according to her boyfriend, who reported to me that she had become infected with COVID. By that time anger had eclipsed any desire on my part to reframe this experience as the sad joke it really was. Naturally I never heard from the boyfriend again, and all the googling in the world did not yield results when the names were fake. Scams like this are met with a smirk and shrug by the police, so I chalked it up to a growth experience. It was my first real scam, and it taught me a good lesson. This week when I was approached by another scammer about my so-called $350 purchase of a three-year contract for Norton Security System, it didn't take but 10 minutes to uncover the deceit. The giveaway was when the scammer tried to convince me I had mistakenly credited his account for $3,500 instead of $350. I shelved my anger and congratulated myself on my newfound knowledge of scam artists. I was finally in the right place at the right time. My skepticism had reached epic proportions and I took out my furor by castigating the felon for his scurrilous trickery.
The weight of the world sat squarely on his back, pushing life free from his lungs with every passing second. Yet, even as he felt death's embrace, he showed them respect and kindness. He thanked them for their service and they squeezed the life out of him. That boy's name was Elijah McClain, and the Aurora Police Department murdered him. I learned about his death last year, but he had already been dead a year by then. As I stared at his face on my screen, all I could think was what if that were my son? When my son was born we planned on moving to Colorado, but the plan always got sidetracked. One minute we don't have enough money, the next the military called and then doctors diagnosed my son with Autism and we decided Colorado, the haven we dreamed about, was going to have to wait. What if it didn't? What if we moved when my son was born? We got a delightful house with a backyard where he and I would build a treehouse. I could watch him play and laugh from the window. Listen to him live his life to the fullest. Let's say we took the leap and ran from the racism that is the south for the beauty of the mountains. He would feel safe and we would feel safe. Then one night he'll walk to the store to get something to drink. A neighbor will call the cops because he's a young Black man at night. What if we went, and he lived his life to the fullest only for me to bury him? My son can't speak, he wouldn't be able to calm the police like Elijah. My son panics easily. He wouldn't have been able to understand the events like Elijah. It would terrify my son, like it did Elijah. He wouldn't have made it home like Elijah. What if I moved to feel safe? Only to find out there is no safety for people of my skin tone, wouldn't that be a terrible thing? So, I sit in the racist south. I hold my family close and I wonder what if that were my son?
I opened my eyes at the insistent sound of my alarm. It was such an annoying sound, I hated waking up like that, but I had to, I needed to revise something for school and I couldn't ask my parents to wake up at 5.30am so that they could wake me up, right? It would be extremely selfish. Especially because the reason was not a real reason. I opened the window and the sun rays entered my room. I didn't even bother putting some clothes on, nobody would notice anyway. I know I'm lazy, but online school really brings out the worst part of you. I experienced it in my own skin. As usual from a month or two - I lost track of time, every day is just exactly like the one before - I sent a text to my best friend, Anna, asking her how she was. She had Covid-19 and she was at the hospital. I couldn't go visit her, but that was fine, we always FaceTimed each other, at least once a day. I revised history and at 7.30am I checked my phone: no answer. Maybe she was still sleeping. I turned on my computer and clicked on the link our Italian teacher sent us. Great, another Italian lesson where she won't stop talking. She's a good teacher but since we're in lockdown, she just goes on and on and on with our school program without ever stopping. It's April and she's already doing something we should do at the end of May. At 10am I check my phone again: still no answers. But I mean, wouldn't I sleep until 11am if I could? Most definitely yes. I had a 20 minutes break, so I decided to have breakfast. I can eat at any time and sometimes I just forget to do it in the morning: it's not healthy, but I still do it most of the days. I returned to my online lessons: I had history, the teacher was going to test some people. I wasn't even that anxious, I had my book just next to me, if I didn't remember anything, I could just look at it. But then, then something happened, something I could never even imagine that would happen. I received a call. Obviously, I did not answer for two reasons: I was at school and it was an unknown number. They called again 5 minutes later. And again 10 minutes later. The fourth time I left the zoom call, the history lesson, and answered. I would just say I had “internet issues”, it's not like they can know in any possible way. I heard a voice I did not recognize. Maybe a male? I wasn't sure. They said “Hi, is this Valentina?”. I answered affirmatively. It was probably just a call center, always calling at the right times of the day. “I need to give you bad news.” They said. Oh no, I didn't like how that was going. They hesitated. “Come on, just say it, this way you're making it worse.” I said. “Anna has passed away this morning. You were in her “favorite contacts” list, therefore I thought I should call you.” I froze. “Yes, great nightmare, now can I wake up?” I whispered to myself. “I'm really sorry.” They said. Wait, was that really happening? It couldn't be possible, Anna was 18, she was in good health. It must have been a nightmare, right? “What is happening?” I asked. “I'm sorry.” They said, and then they hung up. I looked around me: everything was in the right place with the right colors: it couldn't be a dream, it was too vivid. I fell on my knees, finally realizing it: Anna was dead because of a stupid virus. I was sure she was going to get better soon enough, I was so sure. How did that happen? I felt a tear rolling down my cheek. I couldn't move. I don't know how long I stayed in that position, I just know that my memories after that moment are very blurry. I remember my mother hugging me, I remember walking upstairs and laying on the bed. I remember crying until I passed out. The next thing I remember is going to her funeral. No, it had to be a nightmare. Just let me wake up.
-“What? No, I am not going to treat you until you say yourself what your problem is.” -"Aaaaa.! Aaaa.!" (Trying to talk) -"Yeah! What? What? Say, Where have you been hurting?" -"Aaa.! Aaa.!" (pointing at her leg, hand, neck) A woman on her 30, with bruises on her full body, is holding her daughter's hand. Two men are standing beside her. -“What did you use to beat her up? Rod?” the doctor asks looking at the man standing left. -“Gajari (Shorea robusta) wood” the man answers nonchalantly. -“What do you do for a living?” -“Motor van driver, sir” -“Why did you beat her up? -“Very stubborn, don't listen to me.” The doctor orders his assistant to bring some medicines and injections. -“Try to talk, please. Otherwise, it can be fatal for you. Try harder” doctor is trying his best to make her talk. -“Who are you to her?” the doctor asks the man standing right side. -“Brother, sir.” -“Did it happen before?” -“I don't know sir, She never tells anything to me.” -“How did you know today?” -“My niece called me, saying that her mother is dying” I notice a girl with a faded face is holding her mother's hand tightly. She is so frightened that is not looking at anyone properly. It does not take me a second to get that she is so traumatized by this whole thing. -“What's your name, honey?” asks the doctor. She says her name. -“Lovely, can you tell me how your mother did after being beaten?” The girl starts to cry and says, - “she was rolling over the ground and hitting her chest” -“Did your father beat your mother before? The girl now looks at her father and then the doctor. -“Don't be afraid. No one will hurt you. It's needed for your mother's recovery. You want her to be healthy again, right?” -“Yeah, Abba(Father) beats Ma(Mother).” She holds her mother's hand more tightly, tears are dropping from her eyes continuously. My mind becomes numb thinking about the fact that it is not her first time going through this kind of situation. I just couldn't think more. The assistant comes back with the medicines and injections. After doing some treatment, the doctor starts to make his efforts again to make her speak. -“Okay, now answer my question. If you don't answer, I am going to take it as yes. So, do you want me to call the police?” The woman is trying to say ‘no‘ to him with all her strength. Pointing at her daughter, she is showing the doctor two with her hand and doing some gestures. With her gestures, it was so clear for everyone there what she is trying to say. She is trying to say that she has two more children if something happens to her husband, her children will suffer. And it's okay for her, she will be alright and not to take her husband to the police station. -“Okay, you did well. Let's try harder after taking one-hour rest”. -“And you.” pointing at her husband says the doctor. -“Beating a weak doesn't make you a man or a strong person. There are millions of girls in this world, you can't even stand before. Try to beat one of your equals. Let see how strong and manly you are. At this rate, you will kill her. Think about your children at least. What Will they do without their mother? Now, wait outside. Let her rest.” He goes outside. His eyes, I see no empathy or regret in there. I look back at the girl holding her mother's hand tighter than before. A thin teary wail of her hits my ear, which is saying; _"Maa"
Today I had a vision in my head of sitting at my favorite coffee shop and unleashing my thoughts that have been writhing inside of my mind, calling out to me to be expressed on paper. Life has been a little busy lately and I haven't gotten to sit and express deeply in so long, my heart was excited for the time that I had planned. I was going to one of my favorite places, which held beautiful views and great coffee. It started out magical. As I entered, the smell of freshly brewed coffee welcomed me. Though the morning was brisk, the sun was pouring over the views of the city as I watched from inside. Breathing in the beauty, I took a sip of the hot coffee that I held in my hands, letting the moment soothe my soul. Opening my laptop to a blank page, I was ready. A few moments passed as I began to write, my heart racing at the feeling of freeing my mind. Soon after, the business started to pick up. A kind man approached and asked me how my day was going. His smile was sincere and his eyes were inviting. I smiled back, recognizing a familiar face from the past. The first thing he asked me was about stocks, leading into the covid vaccine, and politics. I sat quietly and let him talk, never letting my smile fall, I listened intently. His colleagues arrived and it was clear that they were having a morning meeting. I ended our conversation, "Nice seeing you," and I turned back to my writing. Only it was short lived, as the shop began to fill with conversation of politics, the noise of the disagreements and opinions starting to overpower my peace. I should have brought headphones or something to block out the noise, right? Wrong. I have never been one to wear things that block out the "noise" of the world. I have always been intrigued with what's going on around me. I CHOOSE not to participate in the noise or chaos, but I can listen with an open heart, learning and growing as I take it in. Sometimes the "noise" of the world is beautiful, even if it's not what we want to hear. We are all human beings, whether we believe the same or not. Letting something destroy our peace is our choice. It took me a moment, but I jumped right back into my thoughts, and this was the result. I gained inspiration from the brief disturbance of my thoughts. My peace is my own, my thoughts are my own, my actions are my own, and what I choose everyday is up to me. I choose peace.
I am staring at the Van Gogh Picture as the dawn breaks in a sleepy little university town called Shantiniketan. After being holed up for months at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic (and immunocompromised family members), I feel like I can breathe again. I experience a rather unfamiliar sound at midnight- the sound of a barking deer. The house I am staying in has a haunted tale of its own. Many years ago, Maloti, an accomplished dancer and academic, died by suicide here. The neighbours attribute it to a lovers' tiff. Out of curiosity, a fifteen year old me delved into research about this mythical and mysterious Maloti. Maloti was as beautiful as she was sophisticated, with razor- sharp wit. She cared very little for social niceties and turned heads, wherever she went. "She was a true artist", said one of her uncles when I met him. " A true artist misunderstood by the world." Those words left quite an impression on me- a young person chasing their own dreams. Unlike Maloti, I wasn't an accomplished artist- but a young person that harboured those dreams. Even daring to articulate those dreams would be met with ridicule, and sneery value judgements. Wanting to prove myself and ultimately being burdened with the weight of other people's expectations, trying to be true to myself and authentic and being cut short by people in positions of power. Wanting to break away and experience freedoms but knowing that fending for myself would involve taking the already trodden path. I had already experienced the disdain that artists were met with. I read of freedoms in books and watched it in movies, but I wondered if a life like that would be possible for me. Sunflowers fascinate me. The reason they do is because wherever the sun moves, the sunflower turns its head to face the sun. In the biting cold, it is hard to think of sunflower fields. The first time I took comfort in looking at bits of a sunflower was when I chanced upon Ai Wei Wei's Sunflower Seeds at Tate Modern Art Gallery in London. I was then a 21 year old university student, with barely any money, and big dreams. The art installation was a commentary on the mass production of Chinese goods and how they were subsequently sent to western countries. Each sunflower seed was crafted with porcelain and the feeling evoked by witnessing and experiencing that piece of art was understanding that artists could pour their frustrations and political thoughts into their work. That their art indeed was, political. I realised that my writing and my own art could become a tool through which I could shake off my own oppressions- being a woman, being a person of colour, being a young person whose work and words were not taken seriously, an individual who had no wishes to conform but was forced to do so, being reminded again and again through paperwork and through legislation that if I did not toe the line, if I wanted more for myself than was acceptable by my surroundings and my current context, the situation for me would prove to be dire. I sought my own experiences and my own joys from the world. What books could not teach me, I sought to teach myself. I worked in villages in India with no clean drinking water for months. I slept under the stars on a quiet night sky- the sound of lethal mosquitoes buzzing above my head. I worked with asylum seekers and refugees, which was actually one of the redeeming features of my week. Here is an excerpt of a letter I wrote to a friend, describing that time of my life : "Every day, I see ordinary people -people like you and I-wearing tattered clothes, with paint on their faces and pencils tucked behind their ears, sweating it out. There's this boy I see every day, he's about eighteen and if given a choice, he'd probably want to go to college as well. He often stops me on the street and asks me about what I study and I think he's quite a bright spark- and then I think about all the people back home, who should get an education and are not, it makes me very sad. I hope I don't grow into one of those people who shuts everything out and never does anything constructive by way of ensuring that kids are educated and well looked after. And working with children of refugees actually makes one understand how destitute these kids really are, unsheltered, unprotected, not knowing what tomorrow holds for them. Some children have never known their own homes, being carried from one shelter to another; they come from countries like Ghana, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, The Ivory Coast. Many of their parents have been intellectuals in their own country, they have spoken out against dictatorial regimes, they have condemned massacres, some of them will be executed as soon as they set foot on their home soil again. Most of these people are Asylum Seekers i.e. those who have not even been granted Refugee Status. Some are condemned because of their homosexuality and others, because of their religion." I hope I never stop feeling.
The man and the woman, a union ordained for bliss Bliss ethereal yet tangible, like the honeyed taste of a kiss But this bliss is sent to hell, when the man says he is a beast Of course not with his mouth, but when his pride becomes his fist. Iya Bisi said "For my children I will stay". "I need to be around to get the daily bread in place". Really, she had hidden fears about what people would say If she fled for her safety, away from Baba Bisi the Great Should we wait until her eyes are swollen and black? Before we see that our vision is blurry and dark Mandela's hands in the air spoke of a freedom age Why do the hands of our brothers speak of bondage? Zainab swore she would go to the university But Hassan came with naira for his bride Thus scissors went into her private princess parts Another child has become wife. Bolanle's oranges were neither ripe nor exposed And her thighs were warmed by a baggy pair of clothes She was three days in as the latest teenager on the street Then three rounds of rape sent her hanging on a rope. The pandemic strolled into our world Then quarantine drove us into our homes But Ogechi's home was a prison, and she was a detainee She lived in a ring with a stronger opponent and no referee In fact if their common name was Floyd, He would be Mayweather and she would be George. She was one woman with one thousand responsibilities. Everyday came with reasons to stretch her abilities. But even elastic strings have their limits Maybe hers would be the day her heartbeat is quiet. This message to our society must go viral. We must wake up to cherish our women. We are blessed to have these living, breathing temples Who are we to desecrate deity?!
I have absolutely no tolerance for rude people, especially when they're rude to the handicapped. There is really no excuse for them. Here is an example of what drives me absolutely batty: Mom and I were at a store and she needed to use the ladies' room. Okay, not a problem. Since mom uses a walker, we head straight for the handicapped stall where she can have more room to maneuver her walking aid. Only this time, the stall was locked. It was in use. There were still three other stalls that were vacant. I heard a voice coming from the handicapped stall indicating someone was using their cell phone. Okay, again, not a major dilemma. It happens. Leaving the walker outside the tiny stall, I helped mom inside then turned away to block the door and give her some privacy. Mom was almost done with “her business” when I heard the lock click in the door of the handicapped stall. Out walks a girl who looked about 16 years old, talking on a cell phone and absolutely no handicap. I stared at her and said, “Really? You used the handicapped stall when there is clearly nothing wrong with you?” She looked at me as if I had 5 heads and said, “I wanted to make a phone call. I wanted my privacy.” I told her everyone in the restroom could hear her so what was the point. Again, she looked at me as if I were crazy and left the room. Now, the way I look at it, these stalls were made bigger to accommodate people with wheelchairs, walkers, mothers with small children that need assistance and mothers with infants that need changing on the installed changing table. They are not made for kids who want to use their cell phones for what they think is a bit of privacy. I can't tell you how angry I was to know that my mom had to be so inconvenienced by someone so inconsiderate. And what if she was in a wheelchair and need me to help her from the wheelchair to the toilet? She would have ended up messing herself. And for what? For the use of a teen using her cell phone?
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