These days, it seems almost utopian to have a “normal” life. Everyone has their journey, their story, their baggage. The difference in people is an amazing phenomenon, yet Stella seemed to top them all. She thought she would never be able to grow up – never experience what it’s like be at a loss while having to choose an outfit for a job interview, have the jitters before going on a first date, the good cry into your pillow for the nth time after your heart had been broken that always feels like the first, or the gratification of spending the money from your very first paycheck.
She was afraid to jump in. It was her favorite time of the year and Stella had spent the last two weeks not sleeping because she couldn’t wait for the bell to ring in the end of the school year. She was all the more confused now that she was so terrified of jumping – she had looked forward to this and was eager. This time, she would make it.
“Just jump – you can even crawl in… it’s fun”, her friend Teri shouted, already in the water.
Stella just stood there – her feet glued to the platform. The water looked like a cold blanket holding down too many secrets to count. Even the seaweed barely touching the surface was taunting her. “I can’t… It looks… cold.” “It’s like a hundred degrees, just come in, chicken!”Teri teased her.
She had already tried to go in a week ago… on her own. It seemed that if there was no one around, her fear would disappear all on its own. Turned out it didn’t. That’s when she started to perspire. Her breathing was heavy, and for the first time, she fainted. The cold smoke of her dad’s addiction woke her up on her parent’s couch the next morning. Her mom said she had been awake for a while, but did not speak. She only stared and wouldn’t move.
Stella was fixed on the cold, dark abyss, and looked at her friend, contemplating. “What if there’s something down there?” – “There isn’t, jeez… my fingers are already all wrinkly”. Teri had a way of wording things that would make it less appealing for Stella to jump. But she did. She held her nose, closed her eyes, and together with her fear, she jumped. The water felt cold, but nice. She panicked, but surfaced after what felt like an eternity.
“I don’t know where it is, mom. I just had it in my hand.”
“This is impossible – this is the third time that you’ve lost your license. Can you be like everyone else and just put it in your purse?” Stella’s mom was sincerely angry.
“That’s exactly what I did”, Stella defended herself.
Teri’s impatience showed that she had not been waiting for Stella for the first time. They were ready to go on a double date – Anthony and Ed were waiting in the yard. Stella was supposed to drive.
“Forget it, I’ll just go.” She decided.
“Have a good time and drive carefully. And tomorrow you’re going to the DMV.” Her mom shouted through the already closed door.
“What took you so long?” Anthony was just as nervous, and didn’t like when Stella got impatient. “I lost my license again. No big deal… I’ll get a new one tomorrow.”
They drove off to go bowling, and Stella almost forgot about how nervous she was to be on a date with Ed for the first time. It quickly came back to her.
The first jump is always the toughest. After the third or fourth time, Stella figured out that if she just did it, she would have a chance… A chance at everything. She didn’t always remember, but with each time that she traveled back, she got another piece to the puzzle. Unfortunately, it’s not always this easy or apparent. Especially when you’re 12 years old and deal with all the normal abnormalities.
The first time she grew up was after the first jump. The confusion was overwhelming – how do you tell someone that you’re older than you actually are, that you have another life? Her father had confessed that he had gone through the same in his life, but he wouldn’t tell her until said third or fourth time, when she finally confronted him.
“It seems that fear holds us back. It’s innate and you’ll never be able to get rid of it. It’s part of you.” Stella has this conversation with him sometimes when she’s 12 again… to remind her how gruesome it is to “chicken out”. It’s like starting all over again. It is also the only way that he can keep his little girl… and he would do anything… Absolutely anything, she thought.
Even when Anthony figured out what was happening. He had always wanted Stella. To him, she was perfect, but she went for the idiot. Ed was his best friend, and he needed to keep him in order to be close to her. She never so much as laid eyes on him… not even when he ordered her that beer in the bar. When he caught her in the street, or when he finally succeeded in travelling with her, to end up on her back porch to warn her, and return her license.
Teri stepped up behind him “What do you think you’re doing?” she accused him.
“You’re not supposed to be here. This is wrong.” He panicked and tried to explain himself, but failed. Teri knew that her “friend” had always been the popular one. “Screw you, Anthony! You couldn’t have told me?”
“She would never understand. I mean, you.”
Stella’s father watched from behind the porch screen. He knew why they had come. “Don’t even think about giving that back to her”, he warned them, pointing at the license that Anthony was putting back in his wallet. Before he knew what happened, Anthony decided to turn around and run, but the metal penetrating his head was faster. He fell to the ground, paralyzed. It was a crisp summer morning. The last thing he heard was a steady sound, and the water washing over him. Teri then turned the gun on herself – she was 12 again. Zzzzt zzzt zzzt zzzt zzzzt.
Fear holds you back. It is innate and meant to protect us from danger. It’s a lifesaver as to keep you from petting a dangerous animal or walking in a dark alley in the middle of the night, but there are other fears that we learn to identify. We can work with them in order to create something special. Using the force of our fear as leverage toward something that we never dreamed would happen is one of the greatest gratifications one can have. At least from my 32 years of experience ;).
Read Part I: The End
Read Part II: The Middle – Part I
Read Part III: The Middle – Part II
(#My500Words Day 30)