The air is humid and a bead of sweat drips down my face, into my left eye. The sweat stings my eye and I quickly wipe it. Loud noises strain my ears and I try to remain focused on the girl as a rush of adrenaline pumps throughout my body. I run through the dense crowd, struggling to keep up with my target. The shriek of a siren pierces my eardrums. I wake up drenched in sweat, and I hear the siren wailing outside my bedroom window. My apartment is near the hospital and the sound of patients arriving still torments me twenty-one stories up. I roll over to the edge of my bed and reach down to the floor. My hand is met by a familiar texture: the thick coat of my German Shepard. I clip on his big blue leash and he leads me out into the real world.
We walk down the street and past the coffee shop on the corner. We turn right and I hear Allan at the newsstand bellow his usual good morning. It is a beautiful day and the sun is shining brightly; a bead of sweat drips down my face, into my left eye. I quickly wipe it away and walk by Jim the hot dog vendor as the smell of hot dogs fills my nostrils. I enter the park following Captain, who could navigate the park with his eyes closed. The birds are singing and the park is crowded today, but not uncomfortably so. The grass feels lush under my feet; freshly cut, it emits the familiar odor of spring. My dog barks at squirrels, as he does every day, and I tell him to relax. He loves our morning stroll in the park, and so do I. A kid on a scooter rushes by, leaving a breeze where he had once been. Captain senses it also, and he jolts out of the happy child’s path. Captain leads me around the bend and down the hill, past the playground where I hear the piercing screams from children shooting down the slide. We enter the tunnel and I hear the echo of my feet and his paws hitting the pavement. Together our footsteps create the symphony that has become so familiar during the past three years of our lives. As Captain and I emerge from the shelter of the tunnel, our music comes to an abrupt stop, yet it continues to echo in my head. We approach an ice cream stand and I give John three dollars for two ice pops, one for me, and one for Captain. We sit on our usual dark green bench and enjoy our popsicles as we bake in the warm, morning sun. As the Popsicle melts in my mouth I taste its cherry redness. I feel Captain slobbering all over his Popsicle, which I hold in my left hand. When we finish, Captain leads me up the hill and out of the park. As we exit the park I leave my dream world, and re-enter my nightmare.
Captain is with me and it is another hot summer day, although this one feels hotter and more oppressive than usual. A bead of sweat drips down my face, into my left eye. The stinging sensation startles me, and I quickly wipe the sweat from my brow. I take off through a crowd of people, struggling to maintain my grip on Captain’s leash. I’m surrounded by jarring noises, but I am comforted by the sound of Captain barking, even though he sounds distressed. Colors flash by my eyes and everything is a blur, a fast and terrifying blur. The sounds get closer and louder as Captain picks up his pace, struggling to fight his way through the crowd. I can see panic in the small child’s eyes and I hear the piercing pitch of her screams. Blue and red lights from the ambulance flood my vision and I roll over, drenched in sweat. I hear the ambulance twenty-one stories below. After three years it should be a familiar sound, but it still startles me just as it did on the night of the accident. I reach down and I am instantly comforted. Captain’s coat seems especially thick today and I run my fingers through it gently. I slip on his leash and leave my nightmares behind once more.
We walk down the street and past the coffee shop. Today the sun struggles to find its way through the dense clouds, and there is a chill in the air. Allan offers his usual good morning from behind the newsstand and he fills me in on the day’s headlines. The Yankees won their 28th World Series. I used to watch all of their games. Despite the overcast sky, Captain leads me past Jim’s cart and I slip into my usual routine. I hear children laughing and enjoying the simple activity of flying a kite. The wind is strong today and the kite must be flying high with its tail flapping in the breeze. As the kite dances through the sky, Captain and I go around the bend and past the playground where the kids celebrate their imagination. I pass under the bridge and listen to the symphony of our footsteps. It is not popsicle weather so we continue past John and his cherry ices, the symphony still resonating in my mind. It begins to rain, but the park shelters me. A bead of sweat drips down my face, into my left eye, but I do not wipe it away. We exit the park and we leave behind our comfort, our nirvana.
It is dark and the subway reeks of the sweat of hundreds of other riders. It is my shift, and Captain and I stand at attention. Today the station is crowded and I am particularly focused. Captain, who has been my partner on the police force for the past ten years, seems to be uneasy, and his discomfort unnerves me. Loud noises ring in my ears. Everything speeds up, the crowd is moving quickly and the mass of people start to panic. We run through the crowd as I struggle to keep hold of Captain’s leash. I stare into the little girl’s bright blue eyes and I hear her screaming as she is snatched from her mother’s arms. I hear sirens leaking down into the subway as we pursue the man through the dense crowd. I see flashes of light followed by the thunder of a gun. I hear barking. Captain licks my face as I slowly fade. I roll over drenched in sweat. I open my eyes and I see nothing; I haven’t seen anything for the past three years.
I reach down to feel for Captain, my seeing eye dog, the dog who saved my life, my partner and my best friend. I feel his thick coat. Soon enough we are back in the park, living our dream and enjoying our daily celebration of life.
Age 16, Grade 11