What I Knew

She was normal –

That’s the first thing you would have noticed if you met her. It’s first the word you would have used to describe her, at least until you really got to know her. Then you would realize she was crazy; and you wouldn’t tell her, but you would whisper it to me as you walk away. You traitor. You thought you knew it all. And me, what did I know? I knew her so well, it was like we could read each other’s mind. I knew what flavor of ice cream she wanted, why she hated me sometimes, when she needed a hug.

But inside her there was someone else, someone who I didn’t know , and it felt sometimes like I was only hugging the earthly shell of some extraterrestrial being. There was a passion inside her, a passion to be someone, to do something. To be more than normal…I mean, she was more than normal. But she wanted everyone to see it, that she was something special. And no one, no one except maybe me, ever did.

And she thought she knew it all, too. She thought she knew that she would never realize her dream –

Sometimes the knowledge and the dream would crash within her with the forc\e of a chemical reaction, and she would shoot off like a star exploding out of her shell. She would pace back and forth silently around my room, trying to work all that radioactivity out, moving faster and faster. Then she would freeze, hanging on one foot, right there in front of me. She would see if she could balance, and hold herself still in the spotlight of my eyes for eternity.

But she was human, and she always fell –

I know, it seems like I should have been able to hold her up and keep her with me. I mean, I was her sister and I knew her so well, I should have been her savior. But this person – this person wasn’t her and I didn’t know what to do.

I wanted to rest her fevered head against the cool windowpane, but she was too scared. She got this fear later on, you know, of what she would see out the window. I think she was scared to see that the carefully preserved order of our world had fallen apart. No more pretending that we all belong, that we all care. Either that, or maybe she was scared that the illusion was still there.

In those times, it was like she went to another world. It was a differently populated kind of world. No one lived there, not even her. She wasn’t really living then. Just existing.

She would come back eventually, from that world of hers. Sometimes she would be unchanged, and I would hug her close, just glad with the feeling that she was all there. But sometimes, when she returned, it would be with a new scar.

She came back once with an infatuation for diving. She dove off of diving boards and trees and fences, into ponds and lakes and pools and oceans and parking lots. Her muscles would tense up like she was getting ready to freeze, but instead she would spring. For a brief moment there, she would fly, before she began to fall.

I asked her once, don’t you get scared, risking everything like that? I couldn’t bring myself to say what everything meant, but that didn’t matter. We both knew. She looked at me long then, smiling at my naivety, smiling because I would never understand. But she loved me anyway, and she understood my need to know, so she tried to explain the inexplicable. I can’t be scared, can I? She asked. Not scared to live, not scared to die. She grinned.

Not scared to know that I am alive –

That day, I finally managed to watch her dive without clenching my disbelieving eyes shut. It was the most perfect dive I have ever seen, silhouetted there against the clear blue sky, the reddish cliff looming behind her. She really flew that time, soaring upwards towards her dreams, and I soared with her. I felt the wind rushing though my lungs and the electricity in the sunlight, and I could have laughed and sung then. But all of a sudden gravity reached up and claimed us as its own, sucking her down as the earth rushed up to meet her. And she fell, again, back into the clutches of human mortality. Slipping away from me. Like always. She fell.

I reached into her mind that day, to try to read it, to know her like I used to. To try to know if she needed a hug or if she wanted ice cream. To know where she was going so I could follow and bring her back. So for the first time then, as she fell, I rose up into her world.

I looked for her everywhere but I couldn’t find her. Like I said, nothing lives there. She had left that world behind, too. Her thoughts still lived there, though, and they showed her answer to me. I saw her like a meteor: flying, blazing, searching for the stillness that only comes after the falling and the breaking and the cracking. And she wasn’t just any shooting star.

If you had seen her at first, you would have thought she was normal, or maybe by the time you got to know her, you would have thought she was crazy. I thought she was crazy, but I know her now.

She was the only one, really, who was sane.

Amelia Goldberg
Age 14, Grade 9
Hunter College High School
Gold Key

Leave a Reply