Today’s songs are:  “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson, “Unfold” by Marie Digby, “Perfect” by Pink, “Last Song” by IA, “Deep Sea Girl” by Miku Hatsune, “Error” by LILY, and “Titanium” by David Guetta.

At the beginning of my freshman year, people were already talking about the future. My peers were coming up with plans for getting into the colleges they were aiming for, and carefully considering what they would study when they got there. As for me, I would think about the future and try to picture my life as something other than the mess it had always been. However, no matter how hard I tried, I could never see anything ahead of me – just endless darkness. Somehow, it felt as though I was being smothered and saved at the same time.

It’s hard to explain, and I doubt most people will understand this unless they’ve actually felt it before, but there’s more to wishing for death than just wanting to die. Sure, I had things I wanted; at least that part of me was still like normal human. However, I didn’t care as to whether or not I obtained those things. With or without them, I’d still feel the same, so why even bother striving for them when I was already so very tired?

Despite my internal despair, I still somehow managed to find myself surrounded by friends. It was the first time since before my family broke apart that I actually felt close to other humans, and it was very troubling for me.

On one hand, I was able to smile and laugh when I with those people. There were even a few moments when it seemed I had completely forgotten all my troubles. On the other, however, I felt that I couldn’t tell anyone about the things I been through in the past or what I was enduring at present. I was too afraid that by involving my newfound friends in my personal life, they would either get hurt, or they would come to hate me as much as I hated myself. So for me, almost every smile was always somewhat halfhearted – somewhat of a lie. I felt dishonest, guilty, anxious – never saying a word about home and always deflecting topics that pressed on how miserable I really was. I had firmly decided that even these people who had been so kind to me could not be allowed to come too close to the sides of myself I was hiding.

During those times, I always, always, felt twisted up. I thought of myself as worn out old wolf, plagued by regrets and old wounds that just continued to fester no matter how much time passed. So one day, I made a decision. I decided, that if by my eighteenth birthday, I hadn’t regained the will to live, I would simply put an end to my own suffering. Until then, I would try everything I could to take back that once overpowering will that drove me forward.

So, bit by bit, I allowed myself to get closer to my friends. Every now and then, I admitted that I was troubled about something. For example, shortly after the start of my sophomore year, poor financial choices resulted in some serious debt for my mom. At that time, I had one pair of tattered pants, three shirts, a pair of worn down sneakers, and a raggedy old jacket I had picked up somewhere. When people began asking me why I always wore the same things, I just told them I didn’t have anything else.

That November, I found a Kohl’s gift card shoved in the hinge of my locker door. There was no indication of the sender or the amount on the card. I expected it to be about twenty-five dollars, fifty at the most – it was an one-hundred dollar gift card. I used every penny of it and bought myself several new outfits and a winter coat. I wished I could’ve thanked whoever left it there for me, but all these years later, I still wear many of those same clothes and that same winter coat.

Between my sophomore and junior years, I dropped down from weighing one-hundred eighty plus pounds to weighing only one-hundred thirty-five. It was the skinniest I had been since I was twelve years old and was put on steroid laden medicines for my asthma. Don’t get me wrong though, it had nothing to do with any sort of special diet or exercise program. There just wasn’t anything to eat in the fridge at home.

In fact, that year, I even told mom I’d start packing a lunch from home rather than buying one at school, so that we could save money. Mom, however, took that to mean I would somehow magically provide myself with something to pack despite not having any money of my own and being unable to get a job in light being a student and having no means of transportation.

When the school librarian, Mrs. Pike, noticed that I spent lunch time everyday in the library, she became a bit concerned. When I fainted from anemia and hunger in the middle of one of the aisles of books, she secretly hired me to run errands around the school for her, and paid me some spare cash every week, so I could buy bread and lunch-meat.

It’d be nice if I could say that everyone’s kindness alone was enough to save me back then, but what happens behind closed doors can kill faster than the threats that come from outside. At home, mom got drunk and high almost every night – and she was not a pleasant drunk. She would shout all night about all her misgivings. Things from her childhood, things from her marriage; whether or not I was responsible, it was still my fault, and she still saw fit to take it out on me.

Most of the time, it was just a tirade of verbal assaults. But every now and then, she’d really lose it, and there was nowhere for me to hide. If I locked my bedroom door, she’d either pound on it until the lock busted, or she’d get a screwdriver and take the knob off. Then, she’d just carry on, saying things like, “I bet you and your father would like it if I blew my brains out with a shotgun.” or “Your dad wants to make sure I end up poor and miserable! Well maybe I’ll just go prostitute myself – I could make lots of money moaning under fat ugly men like him!”

She had tto control everything, and I wasn’t allowed a moments peace unless it also benefitted her. When I got frustrated and started hurting myself again, my high school counselor, Mrs. Warek, found out. She urged mom to put me in counseling, and because I was still striving to regain my will to live, I went along with it. This time around, mom wasn’t allowed to sit in on the appointments. However, I learned very quickly, after I informed my new therapist of my plan for when I turned eighteen, that the moment I said something concerning, they would most likely report it straight to mom. Not to mention, after every single appointment, she would drill me the moment we got in the car. If I didn’t tell her everything or she felt I was withholding something, she pursued me for the rest of the night, doing all she could to make my life a living hell.

Once, when she cornered me, I snapped and told her to fuck off. She slapped me and began shouting about how my appointments were costing her so much money and I caused nothing but trouble. My cheek burned as angrily the blood and adrenaline pulsing through my veins. I shoved mom back as hard as I could against the wall – I just wanted her to stop screaming in my face.

She smirked and said, “You gonna hit me just like your bastard father?”

To say that I screamed would be an understatement – what ripped out of my throat as I slammed my right hand straight through my bedroom wall was more like a roar. In the end, as much I hated how she made me feel and the way she treated me, I just couldn’t hit her.

Before I knew it, my senior year arrived, and every day was countdown to my last. In my mind, I had tried everything. I had made lots and lots of close friends. I started writing a story. I had been going to therapy for two years. I made plans for a college I wanted to attend – and even got accepted. Nothing had worked – I still felt dead and hollow inside.

It wasn’t even so much that I wanted to kill myself; I would’ve preferred to have ended up in some tragic accident, to have gotten sick with a terminal disease, hell, even being murdered would’ve been nice. But, since nothing of the sort would happen to me, I knew I’d have to take things into my own hands.

I had it all planned out. I’d fix a nice dinner, a meal I had been wanting for a long time. I’d sit down and eat with some family and few friends. Throughout the day, I would dose myself with sleeping pills and painkillers at regular intervals, since I had heard taking too many at once would only make you throw-up. Then, after everyone had left or gone to bed that night, I’d go up to my room, snuggle up in bed with Sazuru beside me, and take the final dose. It would be peaceful, just like going to sleep, except I’d never have to wake up again.

Perhaps it was because I was afraid of an afterlife that I chose to finally tell my therapist everything I had been keeping secret for so long in what was to be my final appointment on the day of my eighteenth birthday. Part of me thought that at least this way, I wouldn’t have any unfinished business to cause my soul to linger around or anything like that. And at the very least, I wanted someone know why I had died.

So I told my therapist about my parents’ divorce, about how a family member had molested me as a child, about the night terrors and being locked in the shed, about watching my brothers overdose and attempt suicide, about my mother forcing me to cut off contact with my dad, about my guilt for turning my back on him, about every horrible thing that had ever happened to me and had been weighing me down for so long. Everything I had forced myself to forget was now fresh in my mind once more.

And when I was done, she just stared at me and said, “Well, it all makes sense now.”

Maybe it was because my mind was foggy from the pills I had already taken, but when she asked if I was still going to go through with my plans, rather than keeping my mouth shut, I blurted out, “I already have.”

This resulted in me being detained, shipped off to the hospital, and later that night, being institutionalized in a mental care facility. I remember I cried and made a fuss at first, upset because I wouldn’t be able to fix and eat the dinner I had planned. Then I was scared, not because I was in a mental ward, but because I was still alive – and now there was a whole file containing nearly every dark secret I ever had.

Believe it or not, the mental ward wasn’t actually that bad. I was put in with the children’s group instead of adult’s, and quite honestly, none of them were bad people, they were just people from bad circumstance. I spent a week there, was prescribed some medications, and then went back out into the world. Before being discharged, mom met with the doctors and therapists several times. She seemed so sincere when she apologized for everything she had done and promised that things would change.

Upon returning to school, I was surprised to find so many people concerned about my sudden and mysterious absence. You see, mom had never called in once to tell anyone anything, so none of my teachers nor any of my friends knew anything about what had happened to me. In a way, it really touched me. I had been so sure of what would happen when I died; I knew my parents would argue, I knew Danny would probably cry for me, I doubted Alex would care, and maybe a few of my friends would be sad – but everyone would just carry on as usual.

Since I was caught off guard by everyone’s worry and I didn’t want to trouble them further, I lied and said I’d been hospitalized for a severe respiratory infection. One or two of them might’ve suspected otherwise, but no one ever found out the truth. Just that I knew the truth about everything was hard enough though, because after remembering everything I had forced myself to forget, I couldn’t lock it all away again. I started having nightmares again almost every night, until more often than not, I didn’t sleep until I was so exhausted that I simply crashed.

On the last day of my senior year, I went around and said goodbye to all my friends. I smiled and told them I’d come back to visit soon. I was lying and I knew it. As soon as I got out of that house, I knew I was never going back.

That summer was awful. I got a full time job a hibachi restaurant to save up for dorm and school supplies, which meant busing tables and washing dishes for twelve hours straight, five days a week. Unfortunately, half of every pay check went to mom for threats that she might otherwise just kick me out of the house. After all, since the child support had been cut off and the hospital bill from my suicide attempt had come back, I was no longer anything but a financial burden to her. I’d like to say that I at least still managed to make some profit, but the other half of my paycheck was nearly always stolen by Danny, who was living with us at the time. I didn’t have my own bank account, so the best I could do was hide my cash somewhere in my room and hope he didn’t find it.

After two and half months of grueling hard work, I just gave up, and resigned from my job. I figured, if I wasn’t going to have any money either way, I’d just as soon spend the rest of my summer lazing on a sofa and looking forward to moving into the dorms at the college I’d be attending.

The following December, rather than returning to my mom’s house for winter break, I went to spend it with my Dad and his family. Of course, mom threatened to cut me off again. But this time, I followed through on that threat.

When I came to collect my things like she had told me, she screamed the entire time, throwing her usual tantrum and calling me traitor. My hands trembled the whole time; I could hardly believe I was actually going to finally be free – and when I was, I couldn’t stop myself from crying. All the happiness, the relief, the sorrow, the anger, it all flowed forth and I felt like a small child, sobbing in the back of a friend’s car as she drove me to meet my Dad.

Not long after that, I really did develop a serious respiratory infection and I was hospitalized. My doctor suspected it was from some mold that had built up in the old dorm I was staying in, although, I think the stress played a part too. I was unable to return to college that semester due to the toll of my illness, so Dad took me in and gave me a new home. He paid my hospital bills, helped me move all my things, and even allowed me to bring Sazuru along.

We butted heads on lots of things at first. He didn’t very much approve of my irregular sleep habits, my reclusiveness, or my depressing outlook. We avoided each other a lot those first few weeks, and then, Dad sat me down one day and refused to move until we talked.

I said nothing at first, and he scolded me in return – and then I just felt so pissed off that I went off and told him everything. I felt pathetic, sitting there and sobbing in front of a man I barely knew. I hated how weak I was. I hated that I had gotten sick and was unable to return to college for the spring semester. I hated that I couldn’t sleep or think about anything other than all the horrible memories haunting me. I hated that I was still alive when I so obviously should’ve died the year before on my birthday. I hated how easily I had been thrown away by mom. I hated how much I hated myself.

I was terrified that this was the end of everything. That my failures so far meant I was doomed to lead the same sort of life I had always led.

But Dad had other plans. He listened to every word I said and comforted me. He got me the help I needed, and then helped me apply to a new college nearby. He taught me how to drive and helped me get a bank account, things that may not seem so impressive, but helped to put me back in power of my own life. I can honestly say, without a single doubt, that Dad saved my life.

In a single year, I can hardly believe how much I’ve changed. I can sleep at night now, and I rarely have nightmares. I can smile and laugh wholeheartedly. I’m doing well in school. I feel safe and at peace for the first time since I was child. I don’t have to lie and pretend that everything is fine when it’s really not. I can joke around and smartass with my Dad – we’re not just strangers anymore, we’re Father and Daughter. Most importantly, I don’t hate myself anymore.

I’ve had my share of tough times. I’ve been betrayed by people I trusted and I’ve lost people I loved. I’ve been hurt time and time again and mingled with death as though it were an old friend. I have my share of regrets, but being alive right now is definitely not one of them. For all I’ve had to suffer, I’m grateful I’ve made it to this moment, and I’m grateful for everything that’s to come. There’s a saying, that even when you can’t see it, the Moon is always there to watch over and guide you through the darkest of nights. For as long as I live, I’ll continue to look ahead to the sky above me, and whatever song is in my heart, I’ll sing it proudly. This Wolf will not be broken.

Thank you all for following along and reading this blog until now. Even though this will most likely be my last post, feel free to leave me any comments or questions you might have.

Sincerely,

– Azariah

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Today’s songs are: “Paradise” by Vanessa Carlton, “In The End” by Linkin Park, “When Did This Storm Begin?” by Shiny Toy Guns, and “Sigh” by Rin Kagamine.

My new home was a three story house we rented along with my mom’s boyfriend, Chad. I couldn’t think of it as being as beautiful and full of adventure as my childhood home, but with its many rooms and enormous yard, it was undoubtedly a nice place. This new place was four hours away from the old one – here, no one would know about all my family’s dysfunctions. In my mind, everything was perfect. I felt as though that summer was the beginning of a brand new life that would surely burn bright enough to illuminate even the darkest parts of the past.

In the first two weeks, Sasha and I spent hours exploring together – inside or outside, it didn’t really matter. There were no grand old oak trees in this place to shade under for a midday nap, but there were plenty of dainty little dogwoods sporting their snowy four pronged petals at the tips of every outreaching branch. That summer, my mother would plant out a new garden much like the old one from our old home. We planted snap peas, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, radishes, basil, rosemary, mint, and sage. Mom and I hadn’t done anything like this since before the divorce, and even though the initial work was harsh, it still felt like a return to normal for me.

In the evening, Chad, mom, and I would all hunker down together in the living room to watch our favorite evening television shows. Meanwhile, dinner would be cooking in the kitchen, and we’d periodically pause things on the DVR in order to check how it was cooking and to eat when it was ready. Those first few weeks were wonderful – full of new adventures and hours spent imagining how my new life would progress once I started school, met some new people, and finally made some friends.

Of course, after two Wednesdays of not seeing my Dad, I felt a little uneasy. When I asked mom, she told me that since we now lived so far away from each other, I’d only see Dad every other weekend. It was a little sad in my mind. I did miss my dad after all. However, when I remembered that angry look that had been plastered on his face after the court case, I felt somewhat relieved that I wouldn’t have to face him again so soon. Then I began to think about Danny, and how he was sitting in jail – supposedly because of me. Just like that, guilt and shame once again began to claw at my insides. I asked mom if we could visit him sometime – we had gone to visit him in a penitentiary before when he had been incarcerated for DUI and resisting arrest. When mom said no, I asked her why he was in jail…was it really my fault? She then told me that Danny had been arrested because he had admitted to using drugs while on probation. I still pitied my poor big brother, but I was relieved to know that his tribulations had nothing to do with me.

Several more weeks past and still there was no word from Dad. I asked mom about him over and over; she told me that it was up to him to arrange for visitation, and she hadn’t heard anything from him. It was then that I began to wonder if Dad hated me and just didn’t want to see me anymore. It was a very lonely feeling that sunk like a stone deep into my core and festered there like a gruesome wound.

One day, I went to ask mom if she would call Dad for me, so I could talk to him. Suddenly, she became angry and starting yelling about how he had dragged her through court and cost her so much money, and now he wasn’t even sending his child support checks. Mom criticized me for wanting to see him and shouted that he didn’t care about taking care of his children – that he just wanted us to suffer. Already, I had begun to feel as though he had abandoned me and didn’t like me anymore. Now, I just felt mad and hurt, and I wondered why he no longer cared about me. When Dad had explained the divorce to me on that first Wednesday visitation, he promised that no matter what, he would still be my Dad – and he would always love me. Had all of that just been a lie?

After that, things slowly but steadily began to slide downhill. Mom started coming home angry again. She would walk through the door shouting about something awful that had happened at work. Then she would move onto yelling about Dad never sending child support and about Danny and Alex probably ending up dead on some street corner because they were so hooked on drugs and no one was taking care of them. Every time I asked about Dad or even mentioned him, mom and I would somehow end up in an argument. In fact, pretty soon it seemed that was all we did whenever we were together.

One evening, while we were all watching television in the living room, Chad got up to check something on the stove. It had been awhile since we had done anything peaceful together, and I missed my mom, so I scooted over to the middle seat where Chad had been, so that I could be closer to her. When Chad returned, he demanded that move back over. I refused and told him I wanted to sit beside my mom.

Then I asked him, “Why can’t you just sit where I was sitting? There’s plenty of space.”

Chad narrowed his eyes at me and replied, “Because that’s my seat, and I want to sit by Margret.”

“Well then, what if Mom sits in the middle? Then we can both sit next to her.” I suggested.

“That’s my seat. Move.” Chad commanded a little louder.

Feeling a slight bit miffed, I defiantly looked up at him and said, “No. She’s my Mom. I want to sit by her.”

Chad turned to mom and sneered, “Margret, tell your daughter to move.”

Mom cast a sideways glance at me, not really letting our eyes meet. Then, as if I was nothing more than a nuisance, she sighed, “Azariah, stop being a brat and scoot over.”

I could feel Chad smirking at me in victory, and I couldn’t believe my mom had so easily taken his side. It wasn’t like I said anything unreasonable, I just wanted to be close to her.

Chad grinned at my defeat and said, “Hurry up and move.”

Maybe I overreacted, but as I got up and pushed past him, I glared and growled, “Burn in hell. You’re not my father.”

That night, Chad and mom were screaming at each other until nearly three in the morning. They would continue to fight, almost every night for the next three and a half years. Shortly after that though, Chad told me I wasn’t allowed in his room. The one time I did go in there, I was invited to watch some T.V. with mom. It was after a long day at school, and I hadn’t slept very well the night before due to all the noise. By accident, I fell asleep snuggled up next to mom as we watched NCIS. Of course, Chad threw a fit and went off to seclude himself in some other part of the house. That night, when I went upstairs to retire to bed, I turned on my lights and found him sprawled out across my mattress.

“Get out of my room.” I angrily ordered.

Chad didn’t move a bit, except to close his eyes and say, “You wanna steal my bed, I’m gonna steal yours.”

At that point, I snapped, “Get the fuck out of my room you rotten bastard!”

Mom heard my shouting and came upstairs. Rather than telling Chad to leave, she instead told me to pick out what I was going to wear to school tomorrow, and then to go sleep downstairs. I wanted to scream – to hit someone – to break everything around me. Instead, I grabbed some clothes and went across the hall to the guest bedroom. I called to Sasha and waited until she followed me in. Then I slammed the door as hard as I could, locked it, and turned the T.V. up as high as possible. Within the hour, Chad was back downstairs, fighting with mom. Rather than returning to my bed, however, I turned off the T.V. and spent the night in the guest room. The next day, after I got home from school, I stripped my bedding and ran it all through the wash. I wouldn’t sleep in blankets he had used – I hated him that much.

That year was a difficult one for me. Part of it was because of mom and Chad, but there was also the fact that I really struggled to understand and connect with my peers at school. Furthermore, my asthma (which I had first developed shortly after my parents divorced and my mom started smoking around me), took an extreme turn for the worse. I went allergists, pulmonologists – hell, I even ended up in the hospital several times. I missed tons of classes because of respiratory infections so severe, I couldn’t even get out of bed without running out of breath. My doctors put me on two different inhalers, an allergy medicine, and a nebulizer treatment for when the attacks got really bad. Unfortunately, because most of my medications had steroids in them and I couldn’t really do any athletic activities with wheezing and gasping for air, I ended up gaining a lot of weight – which of course only added to my difficulties towards making friends.

Disillusioned with the new life I had hoped for, I became extremely depressed. I couldn’t ignore my own past, and my present was just as horrible, so I mostly kept to myself. I spent most of my time at school hidden away in the library, with my nose in a book. At one point, I came across a story about a girl who had lost her family in tragic murder. She had then gone to live with her aunt and uncle, who were both very abusive to her. Not long after, they all ended up in a car accident in which the aunt and uncle died, and the girl lost most of her memories from her childhood – and therefore was able to live without sorrow once more.

I didn’t finish that book; I got too caught up in imagining how wonderful it would be to be able to simply forget all the horrible things I had witnessed as child. Things like Danny hanging from a tree the first time he had ever tried to kill himself, or the way Alex’s body had twisted and convulsed when he overdosed, or the horrible thing that one family member had done to me when I was six – they were all things I desperately wanted to forget. Again and again, I thought, “It’d be so nice if I never had to think about those things anymore.” And then, one day, I just didn’t…I couldn’t. Strange as it may seem, I had willed myself to forget all of the awful events that had occurred. Even so, I still felt miserable. I couldn’t shake off the wounds left behind from those times. The only difference was, now all those hurtful feelings haunted me even if I couldn’t remember why.

So, I retreated further. I made up a world where my Mother was the wind, my Father was the moon, and I was a wolf living with and leading my own pack. This world was so enthralling, that I even began dreaming about it at night. It wasn’t perfect; there were just has many hardships as when I was awake. However, at least in that world, I was never alone – I always had a family and comrades who loved and cared about me.

For a while, I survived my reality by escaping to my dreams. And when that wouldn’t work, I would injure myself on purpose. This way, the pain I felt matched up with something physical, and I could pretend that everything made sense. Every time the darkness inside me swelled up, I used whatever was at hand to carve out a little piece of myself regardless of where I was, as though it would also rid me of that feeling. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best idea. Eventually, I hurt myself at school, and the librarian caught me.

After that, my middle school counselor pretty much strong-armed my mom into putting me in therapy. Once again, I got hopeful. Unfortunately, before every appointment, mom told exactly what I could say and what I couldn’t. And afterwards, she drilled me on everything I had talked about with the therapist. I wasn’t allowed to talk about Chad or mention that my mom was dating a married man who treated us both like garbage.  I was, however, encouraged to talk about Danny and Alex’s drug issues and my Dad’s absence – that was about it though.

One night, after returning from therapy, Chad lit into my mom about expenses. They argued and argued, giving me no chance to catch a wink of sleep in preparation for school the next day. By four forty-seven in the morning, I’d had enough.

I stomped downstairs to where the screaming match was taking place in the middle of our dining room and yelled at the top of my lungs, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

Chad and mom went silent, and then Chad turned slowly and asked, “What did you just say to me?”

I was scared of the look on his face, but I held my ground and shouted, “I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU STUPID PRICK!”

Chad charged at me. I knew he would hit me, and all I could think was, ‘Do it. Give it me something to show the counselors at school tomorrow. Then you’ll be gone for good.’

And that one time, mom interfered and protected me, screaming as she shoved Chad aside and stood between us. So, life continued that way, and I wished for that man’s death every waking moment.

At the end of my eighth grade year, tragedy struck. Sasha, who was nineteen years old by then, suddenly became ill. The veterinarian could do nothing – it was a matter of age. I had always known cats didn’t live as long as humans, but I had put it out of my mind. Sasha was all I had; I decided and thoroughly believed we would never be apart. Still, I could only watch as she grew weaker and weaker with every passing day, and I was terrified. One morning before school, I lay down beside her and cried, begging her not to leave me alone. I repeated over and over how much I loved her, as if it would suddenly make her well, until the very last minute when mom chased me out the house and down to the bus stop. I never said goodbye – I refused to admit it would come to that.

When I came home that afternoon, mom was waiting for me on the living room sofa. Once again, she wouldn’t look at me. Instead, she merely called to me, “Azariah, we need to talk.”

She didn’t have to say anything. I knew. I had felt it all day long. Sasha was gone. I really was alone now.

That summer, we moved again – not as far this time, but still out of the school district I had been in so far. Dad filed suit to lower the child support payments. Mom got angrier. Danny moved in with us. The arguing increased. I became more and more depressed.

When Danny moved in, I finally learned what had really happened that day in court, back when I was twelve years old. He had testified under oath that he had done drugs with mom while on probation. Apparently, that was enough for him to be sent to jail, but not enough to prove anything against mom. At the very least, I knew he wasn’t lying about that though. My mom was drug-addict. In the last few years, I had caught her cutting cocaine on a small mirror multiple times. I had seen her dig at her face for hours on end until it was covered in bloody red sores. No, perhaps I had known it even before then, and I just didn’t want to believe it.

It didn’t matter anymore though. At that time, I was like a walking corpse. There wasn’t even a flicker of life in my eyes. I barely even got out of bed. I spent the vast majority of every single day locked up in my dark room, sleeping.

The weekend before I was to start high school, mom came home with a green plastic box. She set it down in front of my bed and told me to open it up. The very second I began to peel back the tabs, out leapt a blur of black and white fur. In a flash, the little bundle bolted under my bed, far beyond my reach. Mom had brought me a new cat.

She looked at me expectantly, as if waiting for me to say, “YAY! A new kitty! This totally makes up for you taking Sasha to be euthanized while I was away at school!”

I didn’t have to tell her to get out, the look on my face made her.

It wasn’t that I hated this new cat; a part of me was desperately hoping for a new companion. But it also felt like a betrayal; no one could replace Sasha. Besides, this kitten wouldn’t even come out from under the bed for food.

The next morning, I was surprised to wake up to that tiny black and white kitten curled up on top of my chest. It warmed something in me that had gone cold as ice since Sasha had died a few months earlier. Carefully, and as quietly as possible, I lifted my right hand to stroke the kitten’s silky ebony and ivory fur.

“Sazuru…” I hummed in sing-song tone.

She purred and arched into my palm. As tears silently rolled down my cheeks, Sazuru let out a soft squeak and snuggled herself deeper into my comforter. At the very least, I wasn’t alone.

To be continued…

Okay, so I lied…or rather I made a mistake. This is way too long for just two parts, so even though it won’t be a mandatory entry and I don’t know if it will count into my grade, part three will be up on Friday. Thanks for reading and thanks for your patience.

–          Azariah

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Today’s songs are: “Waterfalls” by TLC, “Follow” by Breaking Benjamin, “Guilty Filthy Soul” by Awolnation, and “Safe and Sound” by Taylor Swift.

So, since I only have two more entries left including this one, and I can’t really think of any little bits and pieces of my story to split off and make a lesson of, I think I’ll just tell the whole thing now – in two parts of course. It’d be a bit too long otherwise. Now mind you, this certainly isn’t a tale for the lighthearted. I’ll tell you what lessons I learned at the very end on Wednesday’s post, but you’re welcome to take whatever messages you want from what you read.

Now then, let’s get started…

The earliest conscious memory I can recall is likely from the time I was about three and half years old. I’m making this assumption based on the fact that in this memory, there were two women dressed in traditional kimonos standing in the kitchen with my mother and handing her gifts – what I assume were probably going away presents. Since we left Japan just a little while after I was three to return to the states, it seems this memory is most likely from that time. 

I recall I had been playing with a set of colored wooden blocks, alone in the living room of an unfamiliar house. Now I doubt it was the first time I’d ever done it before, but I stood up and realized consciously for the first time that I could walk. To me, this was such an amazing thing that I just had to tell my mom, so I scampered into the kitchen and began calling her name and tugging at the heel of her pants incessantly. When finally, she turned to look at me, I received a scolding for interrupting and was told to go back and play in the living room by myself. You see, this memory isn’t significant to me because I think my mother’s scolding was unjust – she was right to tell me I shouldn’t interrupt. It’s important because of the feeling of being alone that seems to encompass most of my childhood – and that was the first time I remember it.

After my family left Japan and returned to the United States, we stayed in a Days Inn Hotel for awhile. We did have a house, but it was undergoing renovations and wasn’t yet prepared for us. Aside from having to share a tiny sofa bed with my two older brothers while my parents got the main mattress, living at a hotel was actually sort of fun. My brothers, Danny, Alex, and I, would go swimming in the pool almost every day. Every morning, we would sneak downstairs early to raid the continental breakfast for all the best pastries and first dibs on the waffle-maker. Now that I think about it, we were probably a bit of a nuisance, but I remember it being a great deal of fun. I really only have one awful memory from then: It was a weekday morning and both my parents had gone off to work. Alex was taking a shower and Danny had gone to fetch us breakfast. As for me, I was sitting alone at the island counter in our little kitchenette, when suddenly, I spotted something moving out of the corner of my eye. I turned to get a proper look, and there on the far edge of the counter top, was an enormous black cockroach. Being the little tomboy I was, I was determined to finish the vile fiend myself, and quickly wound my hand in toilet paper from a role we were using as napkins. Raising my hand as high up in the air as possible, I swung my palm down with all my strength. Then, to my horror, the tissue paper unraveled and flew off, and my bare hand came crushing down on that horrid monster sized cockroach.

At that point, I let out a long wail of distress. Within moments, Alex was stumbling out of the bathroom soaking wet, and Danny burst through the door to our room with a hand full of breakfast goodies. They frantically asked me what had happened, their eyes full of concern. Still sobbing, I lifted my palm for them to see and cried, “It…it got on my hand!!” I’ve loathed cockroaches with the passion of thousand burning suns ever since.

When at last we moved into our new home, I was once again reunited with my closest and most beloved childhood friend, a cat we had adopted in Japan and brought back with us, Sasha. Since we couldn’t keep her with us in the hotel, a family friend had been tending to her and I hadn’t seen her in months, but now we were together again and as close as ever. If you walked into my childhood home on an average day, you were more likely to see me crawling on four legs and meowing after Sasha than you were to see me playing alongside either Danny or Alex. Even though Danny was a really nurturing big brother, he often preferred to sit alone in his room and draw or write in privacy. Alex, on the other hand, only ever acknowledged me when he wanted someone to bully. It was Sasha who was constantly at my side; Sasha who comforted me at when I awoke from a nightmare – hell, Sasha even saved my life when I was four years old by going one on one with Coral Snake.

I had just got home from Pre-K and had gone to play outside when I spotted something moving by a tree. I went to investigate, saw the snake, and screamed, and before my brothers and our father could come to my rescue, Sasha had shredded that vermin and had come out of the fray without a mark on her. Sasha was my sister, mother, friend, and hero – the fact that she was a cat made no never mind to me. And unlike other cats, who tended to have very little tolerance for a child’s foolishness, Sasha never once hissed at me or scratched me, no matter how many times I pulled her ears, or picked her up wrong, or even fell on her.

Not long after that, the memories of the fighting begin. They made no sense to me; I never even saw them firsthand – Danny would always hide Alex and I in his room when the screaming and slamming of doors started. Then one day, the screaming changed focus from my Dad’s drinking, to Danny’s behavior. Danny suddenly began to change; he became reclusive, effeminate, and short tempered. He was only thirteen the first time I wandered into his room and caught him smoking pot with a group of “friends.” Not long after that, our house, and several houses in the nearby neighborhood were all robbed. Danny was found to be involved in the thievery, and soon after, he was sent to a boys’ home.

With Danny gone, there was no longer anyone to shield Alex and I from our parents’ constant fighting. Most nights, mom would light into us one by one as we each arrived home. As soon as Dad got home, she would pester him endlessly until the argument started – and eventually, Dad would just storm out and not return until the next day. Even after Dad fled, mom would still continue to yell about him drinking too much and Alex and I not doing enough around the house even though we were only nine and five years old respectively.

Danny eventually returned home, but he was never the same. He was always angry and would tell Alex and I about hearing voices that told him to kill us as well as mom and Dad. The only time Danny wasn’t angry was when he was blitzed out of his mind, not to mention, he was always in and out of trouble with groups of lowlifes and drug addicts. As for Alex, he seemed to simply hate me. He tormented me nonstop – making fun of me or ignoring me at school, beating me up at home, even sneaking into my room at night and pretending to be a monster until I would start crying. 

This went on for a few years, and then when I was six, Dad just didn’t come home one day. I waited and waited, and asked my mother again and again where he had gone, but no one would tell me anything. A few days later, on a Wednesday, my Dad came to pick me up from school. That was when I finally found out my parents were divorced. I later learned that they’d even been seeing a marriage counselor for several months, and both Danny and Alex had been asked their opinions on the impending doom of my parents’ marriage. Only I wasn’t told – not ahead of time, not during, not until nearly a week after. And I must admit, as my father sat with me in the quiet of his car on that Wednesday afternoon and explained what “Divorce” meant and that we’d only see each other on Wednesdays and every other weekend, I felt a bitterness rising up in me, burning up in my chest in an explosion of loneliness and desolation. 

A few months after that, a close family member betrayed me in most horrible of ways. He threatened me and told me not to tell anyone else what happened – and I obeyed. No one was listening anyway. At home, my brothers were both turning into doped up delinquents. The only time my mother paid me any mind was right after she got home and went on tirade against Danny, Alex, and I. There were constant disputes between mom and Dad, several drug overdoses and suicide attempts by my brothers, and various investigations imposed by Child Services based on the urging of people who saw fit to pry, but didn’t truly care. The cops were always coming by – in fact, they probably knew our address from memory.

I withdrew from the world and spent most of my time either reading, sleeping, or playing pretend in my room with Sasha. At seven years old, I began having night terrors – nightmares so horrific, that even after I woke up, I could still see the shadows of monsters from my dreams creeping in every dark corner of my room. I would wake up screaming and crying, absolutely terrified – too afraid to even run to my mom…not that I could. At first she tried to comfort me, but every time I closed my eyes, the nightmares returned. To quiet me, she first tried shutting me in an upstairs room alone. One night, when that wouldn’t work, she dragged me out the backdoor, across our backyard, and locked me inside a metal shed Dad had built when we first moved in. I sobbed and begged her to let me out, but until I was so suffocated by darkness and fear that I couldn’t make a sound, she wouldn’t open the door or turn on the light. When she did, I would be so relieved and so happy that she came back for me, I would start crying again, and mom would lock me back up all alone. I cried myself to sleep that night in the shed and woke up the next morning back in my room, my voice hoarse from screaming, my hands red from beating on a metal door, and my feet still dirty from the dusty floor of the shed. From then on, whenever I woke up from a nightmare, I muffled my cries with my pillow and tried to be as quiet as possible. I was only seven years old, and I was just as frightened of my own mother as I was of my nightmares.

Some nights, Danny would quietly come to my room and lead me back to his own, where he comforted me and helped me back to sleep. Then he left and moved in with Dad and I had only Sasha. She slept in my bed every night, curled up on my pillow beside my head – and when I woke up crying, she would lick the tears off my face until I calmed down. Most cats have sharp bristles on their tongues, but Sasha’s always seemed soft.

When I was ten and he was fourteen, I caught Alex stealing drugs from our mom’s room for the first time. He shoved me up against a wall and said he’d kill me if I told. I looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Do it. I want to die.” Alex pinned me against the wall with his forearm pressed tightly against my throat. I couldn’t breathe and it hurt quite a bit, but I wasn’t afraid. I grabbed his arm and held it there, until Alex panicked and pulled away. As I gasped for breath, he looked at me with fear and desperation and told me, “Don’t ever say you want to die again!” He moved out and went to live with Dad not long after that, and then, I was almost always alone.

At eleven, I lost my faith, a story I’ve already told. At twelve, my parents had one last contest for custody in which I was told I had to testify. Several months in advance, mom began telling me that Dad was planning to kidnap me and take me out of the country so we could never see each other again. She bought me a cheap cell phone and told me to call her if anything happened. An adult would’ve seen through this ploy, but I was scared. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. Mom told me what I had to say to everyone – she drilled me all the time. She also took me along with her everywhere, even when she was going to get drugs. I remember two of her contacts, and African American man everyone called, “Doobie,” and a vicious old woman named, Kathy. 

I hated them both. Whenever we went to see Doobie, mom would disappear into his trailer for a long time while I waited in the car. I despised the way Doobie looked at me when he and mom came back out – he was a greasy man with a slimy and discomforting smile. Kathy wasn’t nearly as disgusting, but every time mom turned her back, that cruel old witch would cuss at me and hit me. Even when I told mom about these things, she would just shrug it all off, as if I didn’t matter in the slightest. This of course made me yearn for her attention, approval, and love all the more. Secretly though, I still wished for something awful to happen to both Doobie and Kathy.

The summer of my twelfth year, my parents met in court for the custody battle regarding me. Before the trial started, mom told me that afterwards, we were going to move away somewhere new, so we could start over and I’d never have to be afraid again. However, she also told me I couldn’t tell Dad or my brothers, because they would kidnap me and I would never see her again. When the judge called me into his chambers, I told him everything mom had told me to say.

At the end of the day, mom, Dad, and Alex emerged from the courtroom. They all seemed extremely angry, but I hadn’t been allowed in the actual proceedings, so I didn’t know why. Suddenly, Alex stomped up to me and said, “Danny’s going to jail and it’s all your fault!” My mother quickly snatched me up and pulled me away. We packed up and left that night. I was scared and I felt awful about what had happened to Danny and about the way Alex and Dad had glared at me, but I looked out the window and up at the night sky. In my mind, I thought about starting over in this brand new place. I thought about finally being able to live in peace without constant fighting and visits from the police. There were tears of guilt and shame falling from my eyes, but I smiled. “It’s alright.” I told myself, “From now on, everything will get better.”

That was what I believed…I didn’t know just how untrue it was.

To be continued…

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Today’s songs are: “Boku wa Haineko (I’m A Grey Cat)” by Len Kagamine, “Speeding Cars” by Imogen Heap, “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield, and “Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Bublé. Also, today I’m doing another poem, since they seem to be some of my most successful posts and I only have two more after today to garner as many view/subscriptions/or likes.

 

I will fall down,

And then I will brush myself off and get back up.

I will make mistakes,

But I will learn from them and laugh away the embarrassment.

I will sometimes cry,

And then I will dry my eyes and smile once more.

I will get scared,

But I will grit my teeth and face my fears.

I will get lost,

And then I will find my way by making a new path.

I will worry,

But I won’t hesitate to move ahead.

I will get hurt,

And then I will heal and become stronger.

I will lose some loved ones,

But I will also meet many new people and make many new friends.

I will have my flaws,

But I will use them to improve myself.

I will have my troubles,

And I will overcome them to be the best person I can be.

I will sometime struggle,

And then I will enjoy my accomplishments all the more.

I will have my doubts,

But one day,

I will fall in love.

– Azariah

Next week is the last week of this assignment – that means two more posts until I’m all done. Feel free to leave me some comments or feedback on something you’d like me to write about or which entry had been favorite, or even just you feelings on any particular entry – I’d really love to read them. Thanks to everyone who’s been reading up until now.

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Today’s songs are as follows: “In the Arms Of An Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Greenday, “September” by Daughtry, and “Ue Wo Muite Arukou” by Kyu Sakamoto.

Growing up, I was raised Greek Orthodox. It was my Dad’s religion – I don’t really know that my mom ever had one of her own. I was baptized in the Greek Church where both my Dad and my Godparents attended services. As a baby, I was given an icon of the Holy Mother Theotokos* and infant Jesus. My parents even gave me the middle name, “Christa” in reference to the Greek word, “Christos**.”

As a child, I can remember my family often attending Sunday morning services at Saint Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church. Every Sunday, in fact, my brother, Alex, and I would always manage to wake up early by accident. We’d sneak into the living room and turn the television to good ol’ classic Looney Toons, but we’d keep the volume especially low so as not to wake our parents.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like going to church. To the contrary, I loved that old cathedral. I loved the sweet smoky smell of the incense. I loved the little amber candles that we would light and stick into the metal vats of sand when we first arrived. I loved the ornate and colorful icons that depicted angels, apostles, and various scripture. I loved the soft mystical hum of Greek hymns. Most of all, I loved the light of the morning sun streaming through the many stained glass windows, casting a rainbow of glimmering little shards across the outer pews.

Of course, at six years old, it’s sort of hard to stay awake in such a quiet, dimly lit room. Not to mention, being the tomboy I was, I wasn’t particularly fond of the frilly dresses and the stiff shoes I was made to wear to each service. But those things aside, I still admired nearly everything else.

I remember that there were several priests at the church, but the one I was most fond of was Father Klaus. He was a kind man with a gentle smile and the patience of a saint. When I got kicked off the school bus for a week for fighting with another kid, I was too scared to tell my parents, so I went to Father Klaus and he agreed to talk to them with me. His wife was very kind too. She was a tall, thin woman with wiry black hair and a shy smile. I could never seem to say the word, “Presbytera***” correctly, so she told me I could just call her, “Potato.”

Back then, I was what most people in the church would have considered, “a good little Greek girl.” I was ladylike in public. I was respectful of my elders. I sang in the children’s choir. I did my Sunday school homework. I even said my prayers properly in the morning, and at night, and before every meal. I never even asked for anything special; it was always just, “Dear God, bless Mommy, Daddy, Danny, Alex, and my kitty, Sasha. Amen.”

Of course, everything changed after my parents divorced. My mom didn’t take my siblings and I to church, so we only went every other weekend when my Dad had custody. I still continued to pray, but after a while, it got harder and harder to believe that anyone was listening.

I was a child living in a chaotic world that seemed to be falling apart right in front of me all the time. There were domestic disputes, court cases, drugs, alcohol, overdoses, suicide attempts – a whole seedy underworld swallowing up my family and my childhood. By the time I was ten, both of my brothers had gone to live with my Dad. As for my mom, she spent most of her time outside the home or on the computer chatting up strange men. I was almost always alone, and when you’re alone that much, you have plenty of time to think.

Unfortunately, sooner or later, all that thinking leads you to ask a very choice set of questions – questions to which no one can give a satisfactory answer. And at that point, there’s no turning back.

“Why is this happening?” or “Did I do something wrong?” or “Why won’t anyone come to save me?” and even, “Why won’t God help my family?” – I was just a child, but in a world I couldn’t possibly make sense of, these questions became my obsession. So eventually, I did the only thing I could think to do. I waited until it was my Dad’s weekend, and after the Sunday morning church service was over, I went to talk to Father Klaus and ask him my many trifling questions.

That day, I remember I saw his gentle smile vanish for the first time as it was replaced by an expression of pity and concern.

“There are three types of religious folks.” Father Klaus sighed, “There are those who use their religion as something to live by and better themselves with. There are those who use their religion to persecute and put themselves above everyone else. And then there are those who live however they please, and then turn to their religion only when their usual ways have failed them. Azariah, you’re surrounded by difficult and much less than fortunate circumstances, so I know it may be impossible for you to become the first of those three, but please never allow yourself to become either of the latter two.”

Not long after that, we stopped going to church altogether. Back then, I worried that maybe Father Klaus had gotten mad and told my Dad about my questions, and that was why we never went anymore. Now and days, however, I understand that it was probably more that my Dad was ashamed of the social pariah his family had become in light of his acrimonious divorce and sons’ constant run ins with the law. Greek families tend to be patriarchal, so maybe he felt that a man who couldn’t keep his family together was a disgrace.

Though I didn’t know it at that time, very soon, what little threads of my faith I had left, would also be crushed.

When I was eleven, Alex came to spend a weekend at mom’s house so he could see his best friend Jerry. However, that night, he stole some drugs out of mom’s room and accidently overdosed. I could only stare on in horror as mom tried to wrestle him to the ground, and instead, Alex flipped them and began strangling mom. Her face turned red as a fresh sunburn and her eyes bulged as she yelled at me to press the emergency button on the security system. I was terrified, so I smashed every single little knob, and then ran to my room in a panic and lock myself inside.

In that room, I sat alone and sobbed, asking myself over and over again, “Why?” When no answer came, I looked to the icon of Theotokos and Jesus that had always been hanging on my bedroom wall as long as I could remember, and I was suddenly filled with rage. I screamed that question at it until my voice went hoarse and my head felt like it might explode, then I ripped the icon off the wall and chucked it across the room. Nothing made any sense to me; I had always been a “good little Greek girl.” I had said my prayers properly and had never told lies or disrespected my elders, so why wouldn’t God help me?

Later, the paramedics and the police arrived. Mom and Alex were both rushed to the hospital. A police officer found me sitting alone in a corner in my room, crying silently. He told me everything was alright and drove me to the hospital as well, where I was checked out for injuries and then handed off to my Dad.

While we sat together in the lobby waiting for news about Alex’s condition, I turned to Dad, my voice a harsh croak as I asked him, “Why won’t God help us? I said my prayers like a good girl.”

Dad wouldn’t look at me, but he pulled me close and wrapped me in a hug as he told me, “Sweet pea, no one in this life is gonna do for you, so you best learn how to do for yourself.”

Since then, I’ve never prayed again. Although, in the last few years, I have occasionally attended the special services at my childhood church just for old time’s sake – things like Lamentations and Paschal on Easter Sunday. I don’t know if God exists or not, and it’s not really for me to judge. Quite honestly, I respect people who have a strong faith in their religion. For me, it’s just as simple as, “I can’t be sure of anything but myself, so I’ve to be strong, take action, and hold my own.” See, I’m determined to never be someone who is anything less than resourceful and capable of contributing. I’ve my fair share of bitter seeds, and every now and then, they grown thorns and prickle at my heart – but I won’t let them consume me. We can’t help but rely on others sometimes, but it’s important to be self-sufficient so you can offer the same when the favor comes back around.

When worse comes to worse, I still calm myself by singing, “Kýrie eléi̱son, Kýrie eléi̱son, Kýrie eléi̱son.****” Then I think to myself, “Alright, what’s our next move?”

–          Azariah

*Greek for the Virgin Mary

**Greek word for Christ

***Greek word for a Priest’s wife

****Greek for, “Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy.”

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Today’s songs are: “Just Give Me A Reason” by Pink, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac, “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips, and “Keep Your Head Up” by Andy Grammer.

So today we go back to full length posts and I want to talk about something that’s really very important to me: Friendship and the effect just a little kindness can have on saving someone. Personally, I’ve always thought that humans and dogs have a lot in common. The best of both would stick with you even if you were trapped in a burning building. Meanwhile, the worst of them will shit and piss all over and tear up your whole damn house no matter how kind you are or how hard you try to teach them otherwise. Call me a cynic if you want, but the similarities are pretty easy to see when you really think about it.

Now I don’t talk about them very often, because I find that the more you brood over something, the more it drags you down – but I will tell you I have my fair share of regrets; some a little mundane, and some downright staggering. And probably, the ones that burden me most all relate back to the very people who first saved my life: my friends.

Strange as it may be, I didn’t actually make any friends or really socialize with people up until I started high school. I wasn’t home schooled or anything, it’s just that from the time I was three years old until shortly after I turned twelve, I lived in a quiet little town where everyone knew everyone else’s business. Naturally, my family being the way it was, this meant that everyone from teachers and other adults all the way down to kids my own age all viewed me with a certain sort of stigma. I kid you not, when I was first grade, only one girl in the entire school dared to play with me…and then one day, she just didn’t anymore. I remember stubbornly asking her why again and again while she struggled to ignore me, and finally she told me, “My daddy said you’re family is a bad influence.”

After that, I suppose I just gave up. All around me, I could only see adults who treated me like a contagious disease and children who followed their example and scorned me just the same. Nearly every day I ended up someone’s target, so nearly every day, I also ended up in multiple fights. Of course, regardless of who said or did what, my family’s reputation preceded me and when it came to discipline, I was always seen to be the one at fault. My only defense was to be as invisible yet intimidating as possible, so I kept quiet and made it so that even my relaxed expression was that of a cold and indifferent glare. To be blunt, I had no personality, no sense of self, and no social skills – which of course gave me a hell of a time when I suddenly relocated to a place where no one knew my family or my past and so of course, didn’t treat me like a filthy stray to be shooed away.

My seventh and eighth grade years were awkward to say the least. Imagine being dropped in a foreign country where you know you don’t belong, but strangely enough, no one else seems to recognize the obvious differences. People walk up to you speaking a language you don’t know and reciting customs you can’t understand, and all you can do is freeze and stare at them like a deer caught in headlights because simply lack any ability to communicate. I didn’t really come into my own until I started high school, and by then, I had already made a bit of a reputation as an oddball.

My freshman year during the first week of school, I was spotted out by some of my peers for my eccentricity, and when they tried to bully me I reacted exactly as I had learned to during my childhood years. Unfortunately, my new home wasn’t like my old one. The bullies there rarely picked physical fights, they just used their words to spread rumors and humiliate you as best they could – and since they weren’t really looking for a confrontation, the moment I called them out their crap and stood up for myself, the spineless cowards ran off to the school administrators. Next thing I know, I’m being pulled out of class and my locker and backpack are being searched for some “hit-list” I supposedly said I had. Truth be told, I was terrified. I knew how to fight, I had even held my own against a rag-tag gang of druggies one of my brothers had stiffed, but in the face of all these adults scrutinizing me and treating me like a criminal, I feared I would once again have to regress to the kind of life I lived before. So, when the administrators began to interrogate me mercilessly, I shut down. With my lips sealed shut and my hands clenched at my side so they wouldn’t tremble, I donned the familiar glare I had once perfected. I despised and distrusted “adults”, and if I was going to be put down by them, I certainly wouldn’t let them see me cry.

When they called in the school counselor assigned to me, however, I was caught off guard. Instead of looming over me, Mrs. Warec actually sat down across from me. She smiled at me kindly rather than turning up her nose at my glare. And then, she asked me for my side of the story – and just like that, all I could do was bite my lip and swallow down sobs, struggling to speak clearly as I told her everything that the other kids had said to me. For the next four years, she was one of my greatest allies.

Along with Mrs. Warec, I also had Mrs. Williams – my science teacher freshman and junior years. I was horrible with the subject, so she made time to teach me everything step by step, even if it meant coming in earlier to help me. When I needed  to vent to about my home life, she and Mrs. Warec always had a moment to listen. In my senior year, Mrs. Williams paid for all my graduation fees. Later, Mrs. Warec nominated me for the local Rotary Club’s Challenge Scholarship, and when my own mother refused to take me to the luncheon to receive the award, Mrs. Warec was the one who drove me and stood beside me the entire time. On the day of the Challenge Scholarship luncheon, my senior year Journalism teacher, Mrs. Waddens, and my Spanish teacher, Senora Uraz, brought me dress clothes, a pair of nice shoes, and even arranged for the school cosmetics team to give me a makeover. It wasn’t just them though. My junior year Journalism teacher, Mrs. Bagell, encouraged me to write and set a goal for my future, and was the first person who ever took the time to read any of my stories.  I had never met such kind adults; they restored my faith in humanity and gave me a future – no joke.

Aside from them, I also managed to make many friends from various social groups – all whom treated me with kindness and kinship despite how much of an oddity I was considered to be by most of my peers. I hate to be grim, but if not for them giving me something I would’ve regretted abandoning, I likely would’ve killed myself before my eighteenth birthday.

Still, it’s a strange thing how often I found myself betraying my own standards as soon as I had something I wanted to protect. At my house, I was dealing with my mom’s drug-addict and abusive behavior, as well as the behavior of her married coke-fiend boyfriend, Chuck. I was severely depressed, barely sleeping at night, and at times, even hearing voices. Even so, I woke myself up every morning, went to school, and smiled and laughed with my friends no matter how much I was hurting inside. I never wanted them to find out about my family or my home life because I was afraid of both having them turn away from me and also of having them become involved in things that would only hurt them. I kept so many secrets for people who didn’t deserve my loyalty and told so many lies to the people who did, and when I graduated, I smiled and pretended I’d be able to keep in touch and that we would remain close. I never got to tell any of them a proper thank you. I never was able to explain just how much they meant to me or how much their kindness saved me.

It’s been over two years since then and I’ve been dreaming of the day when I’ll be able to travel back to that place and see those people face to face again, so I can finally tell them everything I should’ve said the first time around. It’s one of the main reasons I’m so intent on getting a job. Sometimes I think back to the first time I ever told a friend about my, “Dogs and Humans are alike” theory. I remember she looked me in the eyes and said, “Maybe so, but you’re different, Azariah. You’re more like a wolf – you’re fierce, wild, and mysterious, but gentle, loyal, and entrancing all at the same time. And even though you try to act all tough and independent, you still treat everyone equally and look out for us when we’re in trouble.”

Honestly, I’ve only recently come to hold myself in as high a regard as that person did. If I must say so myself though, it’s only thanks to the pack-mates who made me strong and helped me survive. After all, before I was a “Wolf”, I was just another stray – weakly staggering about and seeking out the comrades that would give me a “Home.” I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again, but I’ll never forget any of them. And if you ask me, each of them was as great and true a wolf as I’ve ever seen.

– Azariah

By the way, I reached 100 views yesterday!! Thanks so much to everyone who has been so kind as to read along! Two more weeks until this assignment is due, so I hope you all continue reading. And once again, don’t be shy and leave me some comments – I’d really love to hear some feedback.

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I’ve a bit too much on my plate tonight, so it’s time for another poem rather than a full length entry. I’ll make it up to everyone on Wednesday though.

Today’s songs are: Hello/How Are You?” by Miku Hatsune, “I Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot, “Forget It” by Breaking Benjamin, and “You Learn” by Alanis Morissette.

Deception –

It’s a broad smile,

A friendly disposition,

Keeping the world at bay.

Holding up a cracked shield,

Because honesty is too bitter to the tastes,

And even with with pearly fangs hidden –

Well sharpened swords,

Sheathed by sealed lips –

Hidden wounds betray themselves,

A dark twinkling in red rimmed eyes,

Beyond the perceptions of most –

So strangely,

Powerfully

Intimidating.

 

Unorthodox and eccentric –

Perfect words in an awkward definition.

Fierce and guarded,

Very much like a wolf

Torn from her territory

Cornered, caged, and whipped,

Unable to regain full semblance

Of its former sense of self and belonging.

Mostly tender,

Composed of fresh scars.

Desperate – 

A mute struggling and praying to be understood.

 

Shattering memories –

They’re like constricting ropes,

Twined tightly on a neck,

So that air burns like fire.

An unsure heart,

Fluttering with the hum of crippled wings –

Lacking rhythm –

Yet still striving to reach the harmony,

In a desired far away horizon.

 

What is wanted might be impossible –

However,

Just by wishing for it,

There is born the possibility of a greater existence.

Enduring –

Tiny little flame in a tempest storm,

Requiring a brilliant strike –

Azure lightning,

Sparking the wick. 

Plain tallow turning into a constellation,

Stars to be embraced by the sky,

And illuminated by moonbeams.

 

This life is already aged –

Much more than the years spent on it,

And the summer of adulthood,

Has preceded the awaited spring of youth.

Integrity and character remain,

But the strength of conviction has faltered –

Vanished –

Words tumble out messily,

Because the lies used to protect,

Have only served to isolate –

Disorient –

Confuse.

 

What I’m aiming for –

Perhaps it’s “Home”

Or “Comrades”

Probably “Salvation”

From the self-loathing,

That long ago swallowed this life,

So maybe one day,

It’ll be possible to believe –

That as much as I’ve always disliked my eyes and hair,

Brown isn’t necessarily a disdainful color.

Isn’t it similar to rich soil?

And since I’m tired of hiding –

Always deceiving others,

Denying any closeness –

Just the slightest bit,

I might speak like a child,

Because the most profound and truthful words,

Don’t twist as violently on the tongue.

 

This battlefield –

Not far behind –

Sleepwalks,

Stalking after a retired warrior.

In every effervescently paranoid dream,

A fading image,

With a dispersed scent.

Definitely a burden.

By throwing away a former self,

Eventually the wounds will mend,

Live,

Embraced by the hands

Of a clock still ticking onward.

 

Today – 

I bid farewell,

To a past already expired. 

And tomorrow – 

I will be reborn –

As everything I’ve always been,

And something so much more.

– Azariah

 

Once again, thanks for reading. I’ve almost reached 100 views, but there’s still a couple weeks to the deadline, so let’s keep it up. Don’t be shy, and shoot me a comment sometime – it gets kind of boring if I’m the only one sharing after all. Here’s to everyone in Boston; best wishes and a speedy recovery to you all.

 

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