City, 43,528, 675,933

Surrounded by so many,
yet so alone.
Millions of identities
Are so close, but a lifetime away.
They say solitude can be found in the country,
But who needs rurality
When you have urbanity?
Twinkles of lights illuminate the night sky—
Each with its own path,
Each with its own story.
But you will never know them,
You will always be one of someone else’s million,
Just as they are unbeknownst to you.

She sits, rivers of tears dry on her made-up face.
The pot with his tea has been whistling
Ever since she made it at eight,
Perfect timing for his arrival home.
She still holds the phone in her hand,
Though the operator tries and tries
To beep her back to reality.
She once heard that the beeping stopped
After two hours.
Whoever said that was wrong.
She knows now that he won’t come
But she sits and waits
As she does every day,
As she has for seven years,
His newspaper growing yellow on his leather armchair.
Her blood begins to thin.

The cell phone rings quietly.
Procrastination’s calling.
He removes the phone from its “hiding spot”
Checks the screen
And sticks it into a pillowcase for the fourth time.
Bubble sheets and thoughts of his mother swim in his mind.
“You need to bump your score up by
70 points a section at least!
No school will want you!”
The pencil he’s barely used yet
Traces light swirls on the page.
You’ve gone and done it again.
He opens his second desk drawer
Reaches to the back
And pulls out an old Altoids tin.
He quickly opens it,
Swallows two beautiful, shiny pills,
And gets to work for the first time that morning.

Alicia Schleifman, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Silver Key

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