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Young Writers Describe Loneliness and Listening

Each week, Young Writers Project receives several hundred submissions from students in Vermont and New Hampshire in response to writing prompts and selects the best for publication here and in 20 other newspapers and on VPR.net. This week, we publish responses to the prompts, Alone: I stood at the window, watching the red tail lights disappear… Finish the story; Listen: Choose a moment and listen, then write about it; and General writing. Read more at youngwritersproject.org.

Prompt: Alone

I stood at the window, watching the red tail lights disappear. Vehicle after vehicle, I sat patiently and watched each car pass, and vanish in the distance. I walked over to the coat rack and removed my Bruins hat my grandmother had bought for me when I was 15, and which, 20 years later, still fits. I slipped on my old, worn-down sneakers and stepped outside.

It was October, and the sun was shining. The sunlight crept through the five trees that stand tall in my front yard. The breeze blew a few leaves off the old branches, and I caught them before they hit the ground like I did when I was a kid.

I took my keys out of my pocket; the metal from my key chain was cold and sent goose bumps up my arm. I got in my car and drove off, wondering if anyone was watching my red taillights disappear.

Ten minutes later I arrived at the graveyard. I sat in my car for a while, studying the sign that read “Oak Ridge Cemetery.” It was rusted over, and there was hardly any red paint left. It stood crookedly, and looked like it had never been replaced.

I finally got out and walked down the path, kicking the same gray stone along my way. I passed many graves, some more elegant than others and some with moss growing along the sides. I stood in front of a grave the shape of half an oval, and whispered the epitaph out loud, “a loving mother, friend, grandmother, sister, and wife. Never forgotten.”

I bent over onto my knees, and picked the weeds growing around the untended grave. I noticed a four-leaf clover hidden beneath the long grass. I picked it gently out of the ground, and placed it near the grave. I knew they had always been her favorite, as she told me many stories about her childhood and how she spent hours outside finding handfuls of them.

I spent some more time sitting near her grave, reminiscing about the time we spent together, some memories more vague than others. The day turned to night, and I knew it was time to leave.

I stood up again, wiping the dirt off my pants and hands. I walked away with the wind against my back, cold yet refreshing. I choked back the tears, as I have on this day every October for the past 15 years. Walking away from my mother’s grave, I took a deep breath and returned home to my family.

I stood at the window, watching the red tail lights disappear. I lingered for a moment, wishing they would turn the car around and take me back home. I looked down below at the sidewalk and saw a group of people walking toward another building. I turned away from the window towards my mess of a room and realized how alone I was. I walked towards a box and continued to unpack. For so long I had anticipated this moment, but now that I was standing in my tiny dorm room feeling as if it was the biggest, loneliest space in the world, I longed to be back in my own room with the familiar noises of my brother running across the floor and my mom stomping her heels on the floor, as was her habit. For as long as I can remember, I looked forward to college, anticipating every new exciting moment, but now I just missed home.

For hours, I unpacked everything that I would need for the next nine months. I began to feel more at home, but I still longed for my mom’s advice on where to place every picture and all my furniture, though I had previously ignored it. I longed for my dad’s careful hand to build every bookshelf and hang every picture with perfect precision, though I had previously found it annoying. When it was time to sleep in my own place for the first time, I felt more homesick than I ever had. I called home to say goodnight, and went to sleep with the familiar feeling of family.

The next morning, I awoke without the smell of my dad cooking breakfast. I got ready for the day without having to compete with my mom for the bathroom. Just as I was about to go out and find something to do, I heard a knock on my door. Then, a girl appeared and introduced herself as my roommate. Immediately, I saw her pile of books, modest clothing, and lacrosse stick and knew we would get along perfectly. I helped her unpack for hours and we joked about high school memories and how we hoped we didn’t get lost on the way to our first class. Before, I had thought I would feel so out of place coming from a small town, but after spending time with my roommate and meeting others on campus, I realized how small the world actually was. After just a few hours, I realized I wasn’t actually alone at all.

Prompt: Listen

“I didn’t even know what that song was about until a few days ago.” To what song she was referring, I didn’t care. I would like to tell myself that I was one of those girls. One of those girls whose only worry was if her hair was perfect, who keeps up with every new hit song. In all honesty, though, I’m not one of those girls. I tell myself that it’s a good thing, my mom tells me that it is a good thing, she tells me that I will get more out of my life, whatever that means. But it hurts, every time I sit alone at lunch, or am the only one without a partner in chemistry class. I am the only girl in my school who has to borrow her art supplies from the teacher because she can’t afford them. I am the only girl who walks to school.

Few teachers noticed my loneliness; the ones who did avoided confronting it. I guess that it’s not such a bad thing to be an outsider, you can think for yourself, break away from the pack because you have nothing to lose. I don’t have to pretend to care that a girl didn’t know what a song was about a few days ago. But it still hurts, being the butt of every stupid joke. When someone does talk to me, it’s only out of pity. But maybe it’s better this way, without the normal distractions, where it is so easy to stray from your mission. I’m going to be a writer. That is the reason that I jot down every silly quote by every boring, selfish “normal” girl. I am a writer, and I think I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

About the Project

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with audiences through the Newspaper Series (and youngwritersproject.org) and the Schools Project (ywpschools.net).

Next prompt:

Reflection. What is something you wish you’d been told when you were five years old? Alternate: Photo 6 (above). Write about this photo. Due Dec. 14.