For me, life was perfect. I had great friends, a good education, and a nice life, working in the bakery my mom and dad owned. I was too naive to wish that everything had stayed that way, and my biggest problems were what to wear to school and how to solve my algebra homework. Then the virus hit. The next few weeks were a blur of confusion, sadness, and hope. Yet the hope was quickly crushed. “See you in two weeks!” turned into “Wow, it's been longer than we expected.” which turned into “I can't believe it's been a whole year.” I was crushed. Not only was I confined to our suddenly very small apartment, the bakery was suffering, which meant we were skimming. Mom and Dad didn't like me hearing about that, but because of our paper thin walls, not even their whispering could conceal the truth. Don't even get me started on online school. Even if my internet was working, it was still a gamble that the teacher might not realize that their mic is off for the whole class, despite many students warning them in the chat. (Ahem, Mrs. O'Henry.) Plus, it was obviously hard to be with my parents every hour of every day. My only escape was putting on headphones and dancing around my room, but then mom would come in and yell at me for “being too loud.” I think she was just looking for someone to yell at. Dad says she was just stressed. Even so, I still didn't say a word to her at dinner. One day, a cat showed up on my fire escape. I snuck some chicken in to feed her. I know we were going through some rough times financially, but she was just so skinny. Everyday, she started coming back just after dinner time, and I would always try to sneak something into my pocket for her. I invited her in when she ate, and sometimes she would let me pet her. At one point she even laid on my bed. Most times after that, when I would open the window, she would run onto the bed. One day, when she was on it, dad called me to show me a video he thought was funny. ”Stay there, Kitty.” I said, as I shut the door. Midway through the video, I heard Mom gasp, then run out into the living room. Uh oh. “Sabrina Ivy Jones, do you want to explain yourself?” “What… do you mean?” I asked, trying to play dumb. “Why, in the world, is there a cat in this house?!” I told her the truth. I was sent to bed without dinner, and she actually put a lock on my window. A lock! Like she thinks I'm going to sneak out in the middle of the pandemic! “Don't you think you're being a little harsh?” Dad asked her. “I mean, that cat is one of her only sources of entertainment.” “Are you telling me I'm wrong? She openly deceived us! We're running out of food and she's giving it to some cat?” “But if she hadn't, that cat might've starved. She's it's only family.” “There are other families.” My mom said, her voice burning. “This is New York! There are SO many other places.” Thus the fighting began. Day and night, they fought and fought and fought. I feel guilty, knowing I started it all. Mom walked in on me crying one day. “Why didn't you knock?” “I'm your mother and I will go in whichever room in my apartment that I would like to at any given time. You don't pay for this place.” “Fine.” I say. “What's wrong?” She asked. I see my father lingering at the door. “Everything! We can't go outside and I can't see my friends and the stupid internet is always down and you and Dad are always fighting and you're probably going to get a divorce and it's all my fault!” I yelled, tears streaming down my cheeks. Dad walks in and they both give me a hug. Mom wipes the tears off my cheeks. “I've been way too hard on you. I'm sorry. I want you to remember that your father and I love each other very much. None of our fighting is your fault. Things are hard with being so close all the time and… well, money.” Mom said. “I know.” I said, curtly. “I'm sorry about the cat.” She continues. “It's too late. She's gone, anyway.” I retorted. “Why don't we just unlock this for now?” Dad says. “Incase she comes back.” Mom hands him the keys. “Brina, we're sorry you heard us fighting. We're gonna try to stop.” “Okay.” Several months go by. Things are better now. We can go outside, run the bakery again, and I can see my friends, even though I have to wear a mask that makes it hard to breathe. Mom still yells at me, but she stops herself more now. She's trying. Which is much more than I expected. As for the cat, she came back, and we adopted her. She can now be found lying around the bakery, and the fuzzy rugs or on the counters, (although dad shoos her off of them when he catches her.) We named her Tony, and after a few months and a lot of love, (and food), her ribs aren't showing anymore. Slowly, life starts to return to normal. A news report says we can go outside without masks, and I finally feel it, for the first time since the pandemic started. Hope.
"An unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates My mother would always wake me up and say, "Come to pancakes." I was somehow a sleepaholic, and it was very difficult to leave my bed, to be honest. However, the fragrant smell of strawberry pancakes led me towards our small kitchen. My mom started laughing at me; she knew how to wake me up. I had never missed my morning classes because of my mom. Everything changed after COVID-19 was found in Uzbekistan. The pandemic of COVID-19 was officially announced in our country as well. My mom is one of the experienced nurses, and she went to the block areas of treatment for some unknown period of time. The first time, I had not been woken up by mom. I was too scared of losing my mom forever. Every day, I went to sleep and closed my eyes with only one dream: "Please, mom, wake me up." After some time, I raised the question of why I didn't do anything to help my community while my mom was combating this illness. I thought if we helped each other, it would be easier to fight against COVID-19. I texted all my classmates, and we made a solid decision to help our community. I organized a volunteer group called "Help for the Needy." Mostly, we delivered necessary products and medicine to elderly people in our neighborhood. Initially, there were 13 participants in our group, but a week later, another 18 people joined us to play their part in our community. I was not supposed to say I had done something big, although it was really helpful to combat this illness. It is worthy to say that our neighborhood is one of the first places to be considered free of COVID.Two months later, my mom came back home. She continued to wake me up like old times. Although I was mature and started to wake up by reminiscing. Honestly, COVID was a very challenging period for each of us; however, it taught me to be a part of society and truly wake me up to my own understanding. Moreover, I recognized the true values of each of my family members, friends, and relatives. This difficulty made me more sensible and mature. Life is an invaluable gift for all of us. Thanks for the challenges that forced me to value my mom. But I'm still loving my mom's voice: "Come to pancakes."
No matter how sad this story may seem to you, believe me, this day is one of the happiest days of my life and the reason why I always thank God for this day. Since I was a child, I grew up with my grandparents, I gave them all my love and received love, energy and knowledge from them. I would share all my dreams and goals with them. Together with them, I chose the university where I am currently studying. My presence in the ranks of 2021 requirements made my family members proud of me. A new city, new people and a different environment were all foreign to me. For a girl who has never been away from her family, it is difficult for her to go out with people, these 2 contributions were more difficult. As soon as the first month ended, I returned home on the eve of the holiday, I learned to value my loved ones while away from my family. After 2 days I had to go back to study, I come back, I accidentally remembered that my shoes were left at home, it was too late to bring them, there was a long way to go home, at that moment my grandfather drove a car after my taxi in a hurry, I was very happy because I have such loved ones... I returned to study, and living in a foreign city after a long time became easier with the support of my family members. we started the week of midterms, my first exams. I'm always nervous about exams, and I was a little worried this time too. I always talked to my family on the phone, but for some reason I was disappointed and wanted to go home without any reason. God put something in my heart, I wanted to go home. As my exams were in the middle of the day, I thought of going home without permits. It was a real risk for a girl who dreaded exams, but I still didn't understand why I was so anxious to get home. I also returned home As soon as I entered the house, something stuck in my throat, I missed my family so much - it was longing and love, but there was something else, it was scary and ... as soon as I entered the room, seeing my grandfather brought tears to my eyes, I could not cry properly. But all my feelings were reversed and I was a little upset that they hid the changes in my grantfather's health from me for so long. I tried not to show my feelings, after all, they wanted me to be busy with my studies. that night, my family and I had a full meal together, but my grandfather had a hard time sitting with us, so they were at a separate table, but this moment was an incomparable happiness. At night, when everyone was going to sleep, my mother told me some things, "your aunt came yesterday, and before that, your sister, but your grantfather was waiting for you, they kept repeating, "Mohlaroy, my daughter, are you here, my grantfather was healthy, they could recognize everyone, but for some reason they were calling your name" I'm really full emotion even though it's night , I hurried to the evening prayer, I'm in the room connected to my grantfather's room, I'm praying to God, I was just asking for my grantfather's health... In the meantime, my grantfather's coughs are coming, and at night my grandmother, who is taking care of them. I envied their love... I went to sleep with tears in my eyes, morning came, I was busy with household chores, after a while I heard my father's voices, my heart hurt, I lost my father. I cried, but I thought deeply that Almighty God commanded me to go to my grandfather without any reason even on my impossible day, and I was able to see my grandfather for the last time. I thanked God, I was able to be with my grandfather for the last time. Allah gives you such invisible gifts that you can taste their real taste only if you understand them in time...
As the world struggled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there were many stories of despair and hardship. People lost their jobs, their loved ones, and their sense of security. But amid all the chaos and uncertainty, there were also stories of hope, resilience, and kindness. One such story was that of Emma, a nurse who had been working on the frontlines of the pandemic since it began. She had seen firsthand the toll the virus was taking on people's lives, and she was determined to do what she could to make a difference. Emma worked long hours at the hospital, often going days without rest. She saw patients of all ages, from newborns to the elderly, and she did her best to provide them with the care and compassion they needed. Despite the challenges she faced, Emma never lost her sense of purpose or her dedication to her patients. One day, as Emma was finishing her shift, she received a call from her sister. Her sister, who lived in another city, had just given birth to a baby girl. Emma was thrilled to hear the news and couldn't wait to meet her new niece. However, with travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic, Emma wasn't sure if she would be able to visit her sister and her new niece. She felt a pang of sadness at the thought of missing out on such an important moment in her family's life. But then something amazing happened. When Emma's colleagues at the hospital heard about her situation, they rallied around her. They came up with a plan to cover her shifts for the next few days so that she could take some time off to visit her sister and her new niece. Emma was overwhelmed by their kindness and generosity. She had always known that her colleagues were dedicated and caring, but this was something else entirely. It was a reminder that, even in the darkest of times, there were still people who were willing to go above and beyond to help others. With tears in her eyes, Emma packed her bags and headed off to see her sister and her new niece. When she arrived, she was greeted with hugs and smiles and the sweet scent of her new niece. She spent the next few days with her family, holding the baby, laughing with her sister, and taking long walks in the fresh air. As she made her way back to the hospital a few days later, Emma felt renewed and re-energized. She knew that there were still many challenges ahead, but she also knew that she wasn't alone. She had her colleagues, her family, and a newfound sense of hope to carry her forward. From that day on, Emma made a point of looking for the bright spots in each day. She smiled more often, laughed more freely, and took the time to appreciate the little things in life. And as she continued to work on the frontlines of the pandemic, she knew that she was making a difference – not just in the lives of her patients, but in her own life as well.
Dear Father of mine. The love I have for you is a bittersweet love. In the beginning, a doting single father raised two kids. By all accounts a perfect father. You loved and supported me to be the person I am today. I will never forget how great you were. But somewhere somehow I missed something about you. Something so crucial that'll affect me until my last breath. It was my last 6 months of high school when you cast me out. Just one month after my 17th birthday when you discovered I had snuck before work to see my boyfriend one fateful Saturday morning. Work started at 9 am I left at 8. For 15 minutes I sat in my boyfriend's room talking before we both went in. At some point, my manager asked me if I could go to another store to help. I called you to let you know and you informed me you saw I wasn't at work at 8 am and my heart went through the floor, then I knew what was in store. The screaming match that ensued when I got home at 1:00 am kept me awake until 5:00 am knowing I still had to work at 9. This was my last day at your house. But nothing. Not the lying about where I was. Not the sneaking behind your back. Nothing but the fact that you thought, just thought, that I was with a boy was what made you cast me out. Still, I invited you to my graduation for you are still my father who I still love and respect, but I never saw you. I knew you were there with my sister. But because you saw the boy who had taken me in, you left before I ever saw you. Not a word. Not even a text. Still, I had hope. I keep turning over and over in my head the words you said about my mother. “How could someone ever choose drugs over their kids?” But I believe addiction to be harder to kick than prejudice. To make it worse. She had always, always tried in the 10 years we had no contact with her she always tried to talk. I can count on one hand the number of times we've talked since that Saturday. Once for the graduation. Once for my enlistment. One happy birthday. And once before I left for basic. I remember so vividly that last one. Because it's what gives me hope today three years later. You had told me all you needed was a little time to come around. Let the dust settle from my escape. Let you grasp your feelings. I told you then that the boy wasn't going anywhere. We'd been together a year by that conversation. We spoke about how I'd reconnected with Mom and how she seemed to be much better and I was hopeful for the relationship. You reminded me we'd done this song and dance before. Unfortunately January 1st, 2022 the day before I left for the second part of my training she took her own life. I was too drunk the night before partying with my best friend and boyfriend on New Year's Eve to answer her call. I never got to tell her I got married just 10 days before. Married in the back of a hair salon by the barber who'd only performed 1 wedding before mine. I didn't want you to know and out of fear she'd talk to you about it I didn't tell her the last time I saw her on Christmas Day. I haven't heard from you since. Didn't see you. Didn't call you. I gave up then. A part of my soul died whether I knew it or not. Yet in all this turmoil, my now husband by this time had stood solid. An ever-present wall for me to lean on. My anchor to reality. So I left. Off to Fort Sam Houston, I went. Luckily the army gave me the money and time off to fly home for her funeral. I decided to leave you and everything else during those months. My husband and I moved to San Antonio 1100 miles away. So here I am in Texas working as an EMT. I make enough money to provide for the family I want to build with the love of my life who's never wavered by my side. I'd be lying if I said there weren't hard feelings from him towards you. You never gave him a chance. I got his parent's blessing to marry him and you haven't even met him yet we've been married almost two years. Maybe it's hopeless. Maybe my brain is right. But my heart still beats for the chance you'll be there for the wedding ceremony my husband and I swear we'll have in the home we're set to buy in a few months. I still love you Dad, And somewhere in the bottom of my heart, I know that great father is still there. I'll be waiting at the altar for the day you can accept me for who I am. The photo attached was the last photo taken with my mom on December 15th 2022.
The screech of brakes momentarily stopped Sandra's heart. Instinctively, as only a mother can intuit, she knew something awful had happened to Warren. Letting slip the dish cloth from her shaking hands, not caring anymore about the chore, Sandra sprinted out of the kitchen. Her heart once more stopped for five long seconds when she saw the open front door. “Dad,” she called to her father, “where's Warren? Warren!” she yelled for her six-year-old son. He was mildly autistic and tended to wander off if unsupervised, which was hardly ever, but this afternoon she had left Warren in the care of her septuagenarian father, assuming he would be safe. Before she reached the door, her father said, “He's in the garden, Sandra. But don't worry; the gate's closed, dear.” Sandra nearly stumbled upon sighting the open gate which led straight to the busy road that ran in front of their modest two-bedroom council home. Warren was nowhere in sight. Behind her, Gavin stepped out of the house to follow his daughter. The old man was shocked to see the wide-open front gate. “Sandra,” he called out, “did you find Warren?” The old man was now beyond panic; not seeing Warren in the yard where he had last left him caused Gavin's breathing to increase with the onset of heart palpitations. “I'm checking the road, Dad,” Sandra yelled as she stepped out into the street. Her worst fears were realised when she saw her son slowly rise to his feet, mere meters away from the front bumper of a stationary panel van. A crowd had surrounded the scene. “Dear God!” Sandra gasped upon spotting the blood pouring from a deep gash on Warren's forehead. His left arm was bent at an unnatural angle, clearly broken. With a heartrending scream Sandra ran to Warren, reaching him just as he tumbled back to the ground. “Mama. Van bump Wallen,” he said before passing out. “Ma'am, ma'am. Please, let me put him in my van to take him to hospital,” someone said to a distraught Sandra. She looked up at the stranger, her brain making the connection that this was the driver who had knocked her son over. Before Sandra could fling recriminations and curses at him, he said, “He came out of nowhere, I swear!” Picking Warren up gingerly, Sandra said curtly, “Take us to the closest hospital,” not trusting herself to say anything more. Sandra felt she had buried her heart with her little boy. She stared at a framed photograph of Warren, tears streaming copiously down her cheeks. “How can I go on without you? You were the love of my life, Warren, my whole world,” she sobbed on the third night after his interment. Minutes later she fell asleep, only to wake to a warm glow in her room. “Mommy, I'm here, always. God loved me so much He wanted me with Him, but He told me my spirit will be with you forever.” Sandra stared in disbelief at the vision, convinced that she was dreaming. But then she felt Warren's small, soft, baby hand wiping away her tears, and with his touch, a profound sense of calm descended upon her. “Be happy for me, Mommy. I am whole now,” Warren said, smiling that special smile of his. He embraced Sandra in a comforting hug before slowly vanishing from her arms. As if her beloved, departed son's touch had healed her broken heart, Sandra's tears welled up anew. This time, they were ones of gratitude for the merciful miracle she had been granted. Six months later, Sandra sat beside Warren's grave, holding a beautiful bouquet of flowers she had lovingly created. Sandra gently replaced the wilted flowers in the graveside vase with the fresh arrangement. “Hi, beautiful boy,” she greeted Warren. “I feel your presence nearly all the time; I know you're no longer in pain. I've got news for you,” she added with a smile. “I'm getting married next week, and I'm pregnant. You were my special gift, Warren, and this new baby will learn all about you. I promise.” Sandra left the cemetery with dry eyes, her heart overflowing with immeasurable love and peace. Image: Courtesy of Nancy Herrendoerff
She lay sprawled on the couch as sunlight slowly warmed her body. For Agnes, it didn't get any better than that. Everyone told her that she was gorgeous, and she knew she was: one foot tall, piercing copper eyes with the softest black hair imaginable that covered her entire body, and a resting facial expression that can only be described as a person impatiently waiting to speak with the manager. Gorgeous was the only word that made sense. The humans, or staff to Agnes, shouldn't be back to the office until later so she planned her day: napping until whenever the hell she felt like getting up, eat some food, and wait to glare at her staff when they walk in the door. “DING DONG!” Agnes jumped and stared. She knew that sound. That sound came from somewhere above and usually indicated that her staff was arriving. Why are they here? She didn't even get a chance to take a nap or have her fourth breakfast. Agnes rolled over, sat back on her legs, and glared at the front door. The door slowly opened and one of the humans walked in. They walked over to her and Agnes, a gracious host, allowed three (only three) strokes of her hair before she needed to get on with her day. Shortly after, the other human came home. What the hell is going on?! Why are they both here?! Both seemed frantic which was amusing to Agnes. She kept hearing “COVID” and “stay at home”, but Agnes isn't bilingual, so she ignored the words while purring at the chaos. Time went on and Agnes saw the days getting longer. WHY ARE THEY STILL HERE?! Everything is all wrong! Agnes is unable to sun herself in her favorite spots because one of the stupid humans put something called “desk” in her morning nap spot, the other is on the phone CONSTANTLY, and both are here…. every…freaking…day. What did she do to deserve this?! Agnes acknowledged that she could have been nicer, allowed for more hair strokes (employees deserve bonuses), and could have encouraged autonomy but damn it she had a schedule! While she did her share of complaining, she did notice some perks with them being there. She was able to get her favorite snacks throughout the ENTIRE day, began a rigorous cardio routine because the humans released the very fast red bug from the small silver tube that flies along the floor while Agnes sprinted to keep up, and she finally trained them to stroke her hair in a way that was enjoyable for both parties. One of the humans also made space on the thing called “desk” which has now become her primary napping spot. Agnes missed her alone time, but she started to see the benefit of working with her employees. As time went on, Agnes noticed the humans weren't as annoying as they were before. In fact, she enjoyed their presence! She greeted them when they walked into the room, allowed for them to pet her as many times as they wanted, and couldn't wait to nap with her staff on “desk”. Subtly, her staff would be away from the office for periods of time which worried her, but they were still at the office most of the time. This changed when the word “vaccine” started to creep into her ears. Being the most intelligent of her kind, Agnes learned that “vaccine” was going to allow her employees to leave the office for longer periods of time. She became frantic. Does this mean that the one named “Ben” won't be talking to her while they are both at “desk”? Will the one called “Michael” not be giving Agnes snacks throughout the day? What's going to happen to the little red bug in the tube if they are not released? She needed to know and was determined to keep her staff at the office indefinitely. Agnes created a three-step mission that would interfere with anyone attempting to leave. First, she planned to throw her entire body weight on their clothes before they change. There was NO WAY they would be able to move her. Next, she would sit in front of the kitchen counter where her humans get something to drink. Clearly, they wouldn't dare to move past. If all else failed, she would rub her hair against their legs while purring to emotionally manipulate her staff. The staff loved the silkiness of her hair. Unfortunately for Agnes, her plans haven't worked, but she is hopeful and consistent. Each day, Agnes continues her efforts to keep her staff at the office, and each day her staff thwarts her plans. While this may be defeating for some, it is not for Agnes. She knows that they will be coming home and knows that they will be so happy to see her when they walk through the door. Agnes fondly remembers playing video games with her staff, weaving between their legs while they are cooking, watching movies that scare the one called “Michael” while making the one called “Ben” laugh, and waking up from her many naps to see her staff working away. Today, Agnes sits on “desk” and watches her humans walk out of sight. She knows that they will be back, tomorrow is another day, and her plan will work. But right now, Agnes can't help but wish that they were still here.
“On that day, for the first time, an angel emerged from the will of God. Just like a human, he gained willpower. That day, fate was rewritten and something unthinkable happened. One of the angels fighting in the devil's lair betrayed the others. The archangel and all beings in that hell died with their souls melted. Everyone gathered in one body. The crystals used overflowed like buckets dipped in the river where their souls flowed. As soon as the crystals in his hand were filled with this power, he turned into the most powerful being on earth. He can be now both demon and angel. The two ends of the scale...” He looked at the other wizards, who were watching him in horror. Marleos continued, “Supreme Council, I hope you all understand the coming storm. The angel we are talking about came out of the library of Overion in the great desert. He knew that when he stabbed five crystals in his face, no magic would affect him. And he comes in this place. Comes to conquer even our will.” While Marleos speaks to the Supreme Council, he eyes to eye with every member of Council “I have bad news, brothers. I fought the face with five crystals. I lost half of my warriors. These three noble brothers sitting near me are witnesses.” He pointed to the three nobles sitting near him. They brought a cage to the middle. Here was a resurrected knight that Marleos will spoke of. With his face melted and rotten from demon magic. In his eyes were same as angelic magic, his brain was like being controlled. “The knight who died by the magic of the devil was resurrected by the magic of the angel. And it attacked us, my brothers. While the living fought side by side against him, everyone who died was on his side. Our loved ones, our brothers and my people... They are now part of the hive mind.” A great grunt appeared from the crowd, eyes looking around in fear. It was the night they heard of face with five crystals. A young knight stood up and spoke, turning to Marleos on the pulpit. “Wise Marleos you fought him, is there any way to stop him? According to you, we can defeat the enemy if we remove the crystals from his face. Or is there a different alternative?” Everyone was silent. They were looking at the man in front of them. This silence was interrupted by the howling wind. This is the sign of storm. Storm that Marleos knows very well. He looks outside of window and see the eye of the storm. And replied calmly: “There is no man can defeat him. We will ask him for what he wants.”
I swore I would destroy it in the past. I would have given anything to hunt him under this endless sky. But some things must be exploited before they are destroyed. I can never explain this to those around me, they will not understand. Angels have only one point of view, they cannot go beyond the rules. But I don't believe in limits. Because I reject God's will and rules. We should only protect the living, even from himself. If God doesn't do it, I will. I woke up from my thoughts and looked around. Everyone is lying around the campfire. I saw the old man, who taught me everything I know. On the edge of the cliff, looking at the sky, he was praying with a necklace in his hand. And he looked down and saw something in this great desert. Our eyes met, and he put one hand to his face, making a sign of silence. He gestured for me to come near him. I silently walked over to him and looked down. There were the footprints of the demon we've been searching for three years. We woke everyone up quietly. I looked at the crystals in my bag as I gathered our things without making a sound. One, two, three, four and five; none were missing. I looked around, no one should see these crystals, I shouldn't be suspicious. We packed up and came to the entrance of the devil's lair. I lifted my head up and "Let me succeed. Let me fix everything. You know I will."
I didn't know when it started or how it started. Or what was the real reason to happen for all of those things? No, in reality, I knew the reason. I just didn't want to accept it. Maybe, I was too scared to accept it, after all decisions that I had made. Now I think that it does not matter, I mean “the reason”. What does matter is that those things have happened, and have happened with me… I decided to talk about the period of my life that I have tried to avoid thinking about for a long time. To be honest, I had never imagined that situation, certainly, those feelings were going to happen to me. I think when all of those things happened, nobody knew or realized them. How were they supposed to know? Even I was shocked by those sudden feelings. Also from the outside, it seemed like I was living in my best time ever. Finally, I was a student at one of the prestigious Universities in my country. At first, it seemed to me that I had lived for this moment only. Unfortunately, it did not last long. After a few months in my first student life, those dark feelings became to walk inside me to the outside. I felt lost. I felt something wrong with me. I felt like I had missed an important thing, the thing that I should not miss. Then, after my lessons, to avoid those feelings I got used to sleeping, even though I had never been a fan of sleeping a lot. Why all of a sudden I changed dramatically? There was no answer. I became not to read books or not to watch movies, even music became to irritate me. I didn't understand myself… I just cried and slept… I hated every single thing and person around me. Before that, I had made too many plans for my future, especially, for my student life. But I could not remember any of them... It lasted long, I mean, the pick of my “strange feelings”. If at that time, Death came and took my life, I would say nothing, even, would feel happy for his coming and making me free from those feelings. I asked God to take my life because I did not want to make my parents upset by committing suicide. Then, after “years” of that period (it seemed to me lasted that long). I tried to find the strength to do my favorite activities again. Because it is the fact that despite those feelings I used to go to my lectures and lessons every day. Also, I continued to smile at everyone and make some jokes as well. I watched movies, but not like in old times, I just watched beginnings and endings. Because of it, I had a habit of watching various videos and news on the Internet, I had never had a mobile phone, so it was new for me. During my “searching activity”, I found interesting news about “The most handsome men in the world”. I was interested in who is the first one on this list and it was some Korean boy who I didn't find handsome. After that, I searched his name on Google and found that he is a member of a famous Korean boy band. I was really surprised and interested at the same time. Then I tried to find a few songs of them on YouTube and watched some music videos of their songs. The next day while walking to my University Campus on my way, I listened to their songs, and one of them attracted me, the rhythm was really interesting, although I couldn't understand their language. I watched the music video of that song with subtitles and the song was about "dream". And there were words like “What do you dream about?” For a moment, I just froze, as it seemed that question was given to me. I realized the thing that I had never done before was "dream". I had never dreamed. Yes, there were the things that I wanted to have, or wishes that I wanted to make true. But I didn't ask myself a question, the most important question “Are they things that I want?” After that event, I became to give questions myself “What are dreams?”, “What I should dream about?”, “What makes me happy?” Day by day I understood that all my old wishes, even University decisions were made by others. In other words, people around me affected me and the decisions every single time that I had never known before. The society in that I lived was the pressure and the reason to make me do this or that decision, which was sad… sad side of my life that I had been trying to avoid. I was limited by them and just said “yes” to all their offers without thinking. “Those feelings” were my hidden emotions which I had kept deep inside for a long time. This story is not about “my dreams”. It is about a song that I found accidentally. It is about the song that helped me to find my true way. This song is not the best song ever or something like that, for others it is just a simple song. But it was the song that could be the only light for me when I was in the dark. When even though I didn't try to help to find a way to escape from those feelings to myself, a song and a boy band became “my only hero”. It might seem unbelievable, but it is true, true story about an ordinary song that taught me to dream!
I'm going to tell you a story, and it does not start with "Once upon a time...", but she might wish it did. For then, she too would be blissfully fictional and not painfully human. It is about the girl like any other. She liked the smell ground after the rain and hated the ultimate heat of the summer. Loved to get lost in the known parts of the woods and enjoyed how a creek can wash off all kinds of emotions. She loved dogs. Had two. She often admired her yellow cat for the simplicity of the days... Candles were for tough days and something sweet for every. Wind could make her feel alive and soothe the anger of raw emotion and strange people. She adored smelling that celestial aroma on her wrists, but often forget to put the perfume on. Loved ladybugs and nightingales, but never actually heard the exact lullaby. Fireflies were the magic and leaves could tell a story, though often a gloomy one. Spring could make her feel the pain of melancholy and autumn would make her feel alive again. Blood would make her wonder and people made her sick. Some days all the bottles of laughter she cherished so fondly were cracked and leaked in places, in time, melted with pain and grief. And when all that heroic pain became a burden, she'd start to grieve for the person she was before... the softness of a pillow, hot showers, and chocolate... the best thing for the worn-out soul. so that's when she'd realize that grief was just wild and forgotten love. Eyes are the mirrors and grin is a battle scar. Nothing can turn back time. Except for memories. And sometimes she hated that wretched window she could easily open. But through the image, the glass was already gone. So she would think of salt as an ocean and not a drop. Wild, ultimate, and free. The smell of the ocean always brought smiles and with the scent of pines, the moment of freedom. Cold is clarity for her and heat is too much. She likes the color blue and the sky with puffy clouds. In fields of green, she's frequently looking for clover with three petals, because that brings peace to the storms in the force of life around her. December sun can make her soul warm and she would smile like a new miracle was found. Every night they met, she often asked the Moon if she can make her full too because she was torn between the wonder of thoughts and wounds of reality; that didn't make her bitter, just more human than she knew. So, you see, all people enjoy Earth and what they think magic is in their different, but just another way of understanding the real world around them. Romanticized by the poets and worshipped by the nature. And sometimes air around you shifts and the path for the day goes well off the tracks... and the whole world is against you. Those days you frequently ask yourself about the mere purpose, but there's no known response that can bring you enough wisdom or happiness. It all belongs to you. All that pain and joy. Mind is a strange struggle itself, and I believe completely in that quote I bear in my mind; it sometimes creeps in, like a phantom and I find it sipping herbal tea, oblivious to my fear... "Not all those who wander are lost." So when our girl, that this story is about, goes looking for that particular wardrobe, blue box or huge hole near the tree... or even second star in the night sky... don't you dare to stop her! You can join her of course, and bring a book! She might not be fond of people in general, but I can tell that she likes humans with a rainbow in their eyes.
Before the pandemic, I lived in New York City. On one of my mom's visits, we were sitting side by side on the subway heading downtown. I think we were talking about what to do about dinner that night. Suddenly she turns and asks me, “so, how many men have you slept with?” I'm used to questions like these coming out of the blue. Luckily, she says it in Greek. I began to argue with her, also in Greek, in a half-empty subway car, in the middle of the afternoon… about sex. Particularly how it wasn't really any of her business. “You came out of me,” which is her argument whenever I ask for privacy. Which I'm certain is a Greek thing. “Just tell me that there have been men!” She shouted. Was she asking if I was a lesbian, or if I was a virgin? “It's just sex, it's like a sausage going in and out, it's no big deal.” She was calling me a prude. “Okay, please stop talking, I have had sex,” I might have shouted in English, my mother then sighing in relief and going quiet. I would be remiss if I didn't say this is how most of our conversations go; me exasperated and mortified, she going silent or moving on to some sort of small talk. Our relationship has always been a tug and pull, mainly between my mother's traditional Greek ideas and values, and my yearning to be just like any other American Girl. My mother only come to the country in her early twenties, newly married, and not knowing one word of the language. Even so, she adapted to some American thinking and raised her three daughters with notions of getting an education, being independent, and never having to rely financially to anyone; especially a man. But some of the greek traditional ideas leaked through now and again. And then the entire world stopped. I was in New York when the pandemic came to the United States. We quickly became the epicenter of the crisis, sirens wailing at all hours, make-shift hospitals being pitched up in Central Park, and millions of people all around us completely devastated. It became too much for me. I started having panic attacks, not sleeping, and worrying about how I was going to survive. New York is expensive at the best of times, so I decided that it was best to move back home to save money. So I'm back in my childhood bedroom living with my mom and our cat Violet. I'm 30. I quickly had to set some ground rules. See, mom doesn't really know what a closed door means. She comes into my room without knocking. This would not work if I was in the office in the middle of a zoom meeting or filming a self-tape or writing. So I had to explain if the door is closed, you cannot come in. No, you cannot come pee while I'm showering. Have I mentioned my mom is bad with boundaries? She thinks I'm messy because I leave plates in the sink and she has accused me of loving Violet more than her. We've had a lot of difficult talks. Some even about sex. I told her about a guy I invited to stay over after we stayed out really late; how he offered to sleep on the floor and that nothing had to happen. “So he slept on the floor, did you give him enough blankets?' “No Mom, he slept in my bed because I wanted to have sex.” My mom shuttered. “I thought you wanted me to tell you about this stuff?” “Yes, but not all at once, Niki.” She's learned about online dating which she calls appointments for sex. Which I encourage because it's hysterical. On our family trip to Greece the summer I was 13, my aunt, my older cousin Eleni and I were sitting in a cafe. A really obnoxious sports car drove by, I think it was lime green, and my cousin said how much she liked it. Without a second thought, my aunt told my cousin, “if you marry a rich man maybe he'll have a car like that and you can ride in it.” I was shocked, so I asked my aunt, “why couldn't Eleni get a car like that for herself?” She looked at me with pity, “that's harder for girls to do.” My mother would never have said that to me. If I wanted a fancy lime green Ferrari she would say, “you'll have to work very hard.” I realized how different the two women were. My aunts do not know how to drive a car, they don't own their own property, do not have a bank account separate from their husbands, and don't work. Leaving in her early twenties made all the difference, not just in how she carried herself and lived her life, but how my mother raised her daughters. I'm brave because she was. I'm moving back to London in September and my mom is not very happy about it. She's just always going to worry about me when I'm somewhere alone with only me looking out for me. That's just the way it's always going to be, because I'm her kid. We keep having our hard talks, she keeps walking into my office without knocking. But we make sure we have an outing every Sunday, and she makes me laugh because she's the funniest person I know. And we talk. I haven't told her how many men I've slept with but I put the dishes in the dishwasher now. She's still learning about boundaries. And that's okay.
I don't believe in love. With my generation genuine love is hard to come by. No one wants anything serious anymore. For some “I love you” is a meaningless statement, you can't truly love someone if you can get over them in a week. I was under the assumption I would never find real true love. My heart was already torn. I didn't want some silly boy making it ache. My parents got divorced when my older brother and I were young. Since then I never wanted anyone too close. Close enough for me to let my guard down. Figuring being insincere by not letting anyone in, I can't end up hurt. My “childhood” and so far teen years have been very hectic. So I never had a want for a relationship. I've been told to never settle young. I am young. Observing friends and couples around me. I never thought there was any point. Maybe further down the road, but not yet. Then this boy, this boy wasn't any boy. He was like finding a blue lobster, instead of 1 in 2 million, he was a 1 in 7.7 billion. Something you'd never find. There he was at my fingertips. When our eyes met, everything stopped, like the world stopped spinning. Mine did. The vast rush of butterflies I got when his striking deep pools, of glacial blue eyes met with mine is unexplainable. He has a dreamy smile, and an enchanting personality. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, with respect on another level something that most guys our age don't have anymore. I've never met a more gentle and genuine soul like his. The way his finger tips meet with mine, they're right in line. My heart in my throat everytime he spoke. A simple thought of him made my pupils dilate. What we have is fate. I believe in love.
In the beginning of 2020 we used to hear about Covid 19 very often. Different rumours spread all round the country. I was on the eve of having a marital vacation. Despite the fact that our government tried to defend the people from the pandemy the first person who has “ the virus” was defined in our country when I went on the marital vacation. When I was going to give a birth to my baby daughter it was hard to reach for destinations as the movement of transportation was forbidden. Finally, my baby daughter was born on 4th April. Because of the pandemy we hardly got the maternity hospital when my baby was going to see the world. At that time I can say that the only thing the country's medical system was struggling against was “ the virus”. For that reason having a baby during that time was hard for me. Undergoing that difficulty my immunity was low, moreover looking after my baby was also tough job for me. . I have a son and he was going to be three that summer and he was pampered when I was feeding my baby. I felt terrible pain on my body at that time. However, because of my naive character, when I felt better I tried to do house affairs, help my in-laws. I was so naive that I didn't look after my health. There fore, the problem on my health became bigger. It turned out to be mastitis. Time by time I felt difficulty of moving. Specialists said that it needed to be cut. Yet my mother advised me not to have cut it as, althoughit would recover it would hurt any time when it is cold. So we tried to recover it with another way we did different treatments. My mother helped me a lot to recover from that illness. Finally, I got recovered. Now it seems to me as a nightmare and I am a happy mother of two cute children.
14 July 2011–Italy “No. This can't be right.” The words slip out of my mouth before I can stop them. I hear them recoiling in the still air of the kitchen, dropping heavily on the floor, and staying still – like forgotten corpses. The soft chatter that had filled the kitchen until that point ebbs into silence. My eyes are still locked on the mobile screen, but I can feel everyone's stare piercing my head. It's Dad who talks first: “What happened, son?” I switch off the screen, take one big gulp of air, and try to smile naturally – but my throat feels like a tender patch of heat. “Nothing…I…I just have to use the washroom…” I know they can sense the lie, but before anyone has the time to do anything, I jump off the chair and I'm already out in the hallway. My mind is clouded, I can feel the blood rushing to my head, but I keep walking straight. I reach the bathroom, open the door, and lock it behind me. One single tear slides down my cheek, just kissing the edge of my mouth before I brush it away with a quick jerk of the hand. “Unfortunately, we decided not to publish your story in our publication. We received so many good applications and we just couldn't publish them all. We thank you for thinking of us.” Reads the beginning of the email, and until here it's all in the norm. I have already received six or seven of these, no big deal. But the following lines…I don't even want to read them again, and yet the words lie there on the arrogant screen, undeniably clear: “Usually, I don't add anything to a rejection letter, but I feel obliged to in this case. I strongly encourage you not to stop writing: you are not talented enough. A twelve-year-old would have done a better job. Sincerely, M. Pifferi” I guess I should be honored. After all, I was nine. It's funny how high my expectations were the first time I ever sent out a poem: I was just waiting for a publisher to sign me and hear a limo honk outside my apartment to take me to the convention of young geniuses. The limo never came. I splash some fresh water on my eyes, before stowing the phone in my pocket and returning to the kitchen. *** The following days are harsh. I try to write a little bit, but every time I sit in front of the old laptop, my thoughts are brought back to the cursed prophecy: “you are not talented enough” For a while, I also think of quitting writing altogether, but something slowly begins to dawn upon me: I still love creating stories, and that letter hasn't changed it one bit. “I had been rejected, but I was still in love.” I resign myself to reading and analyzing with cold judgment. I make a list of all the New York Times bestsellers I can find on the web, and then go to the local library asking which of those titles are available. I read them stopping every two lines to write something on my notepad, forcing myself to memorize the sentence structure, the plot twists, and the descriptions. At times, it gets so horrible that I don't even want to start a new book for fear of the work that awaits me. The first stories I write are blatant copies of those I have read, sometimes a mixture of three or more different plots: multicolored yarns knitted together by clumsy hands. I spend the whole summer like this, and when the school year starts, I can't help bringing a book to the classroom and reading it (mostly) between breaks. Slowly, I start using one or two original sentences, then whole paragraphs, and before I even realize it, I'm writing new stories. Still strongly influenced by others, admittedly, but somewhat original. It's exactly one year later that I muster the courage to write a new short story and submit it to the publication that rejected me last time. It's a story about Kashmir and hunger, about food waste and the fiery battle waged against it. As I type the title, “How to Stop the Deaths of 1,000 Azrahs”, my heart is pounding. I don't know if I will have the strength to continue if also this story gets rejected. “No. It won't get rejected. I'm sure of it” I keep whispering to myself as I click the ‘send' button. But even then, I try to keep my expectations low. Everything considered I am still the same kid who was straining his ears to hear the honk of a limousine after sending his first poem to a publisher. *** One aching week has passed since the submission, and I'm in the kitchen again. Dad's old Samsung emits a soft beep, and I slide it out of my pocket. It's an email from the publication. As I read the subject, I can't help containing smile: “I stand corrected” This time I don't need to head to the washroom to read the rest of the email. “Your story has been published and selected as one of the best in this edition. Sometimes predictions can be wrong. I stand corrected. M. Pifferi”. From that day, I've developed a little voice that keeps whispering to me even in the hardest of times: gradatim ferociter. Step by step, ferociously.
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