My Running Lights

“What was that?”

“Are you okay?”

“Where is he?

So many questions.

Voices in the distance. In order, my mother, father, and sister shouted. Everyone was scared. But it was too late. By that time, I was on the floor. Face down, my fingers swirled grains of sand from summers past into the splintery edges between the floorboards. I tasted something salty and warm. Salty and warm and sandy; I was at the beach.

“Why is it so dark in here?”

“What happened?”

“Where is he?”

More questions.

Voices coming closer. It had been the best day of my life. It was my birthday. I finally had the light-up sneakers I wanted since my friend had gotten them for his birthday. Best of all, they lit up my favorite colors: red and orange. I was dancing on a million stars, and I was happy. I had already noticed that my magic shoes illuminate their brightest when you run your fastest. And so I did. I ran as fast as my three-year-old legs could carry me. But in a flash and a scream, I was down.

Maybe I should have stayed in bed. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my new sneakers in bed. Maybe I shouldn’t have run downstairs. Maybe I shouldn’t have been tearing around the coffee table in the dark. Maybe I should have watched where I was going, instead of running and staring, mesmerized, at my new magic shoes. Maybe. But what’s the point of having light-up shoes if you’re not going to look at them? And why slow down when you can light up? Besides, everyone knows a shooting star falls fast.

It was dark. My body parallel to the floor, I looked for my shoes. I tapped my feet and a million stars swirled around me. I felt as if I was still running, flying far away from everything. I was happy. Everyone came running.

“Why is he on the floor?”

“What’s all that blood?”

“Call 911.”

Finally, an answer.

Voices in the room. Suddenly we were in the car. It was dark. My father was up front driving and I was in my mother’s arms in the seat behind him. We watched the streetlights rush by. We counted. We sang. The faster my father drove, the brighter those lights flashed. The faster you go, the brighter you shine. My beautiful running lights were everywhere. I was happy. Then I discovered that my shoes would light up if I kicked the back of my father’s car seat. The faster I kicked, the brighter my lights beamed. No one told me to stop kicking. No one told me to sit still. Moving through the dark night, sitting in our dark car, I made my running lights shine. My mother smiled. I was happy.

Suddenly, we were in a bright room. It smelled like birthday balloons and purple Play-Doh. The room was alive with beeps and clicks, and the hiss of machines. People were standing over me wearing blue masks and colored hats. I heard something loud and busy. Loud and busy and bright; it was my party. The front of mother’s white shirt had turned red. Her voice sounded squeaky. My cheek felt very cold.

“And what have you been up to, young man?“

“It’s going to be fine.

“Almost done.”

More talk.

Voices next to me. The doctor, my father, and my squeaky-voiced mother were smiling at me. That’s when I knew that I had done something wonderful, or that something bad was happening. My mother came closer, wrapped me in her arms, and hugged me tighter than ever before. She said, “Honey, please stay still. Let’s close our eyes now.” I heard someone scream. Twenty-five stitches in my face and a couple of orange lollipops later, we were in the car again. Now the sky was light. The sun was a giant orange ball in the middle of the cornfield.

“So dangerous.”

“So lucky.”


Stop talking.

Voices close around me. Wrapped in my blanket, sitting on my mother’s knee, I was still. My father drove slowly and we were quiet. The streetlights were dark. When I tapped my shoes together, their light was faint but I could still see it. Happy and home. Then everything faded.

This is my memory. I’m 16 now, and I found the shoes under my bed today. The shoes look so small, and they no longer light up. But when I found them, something lit up inside of me – something that had gone dark. I felt as if I was still running, flying far away from everything. The sandy floorboards are still blood-stained and my face is scarred. But none of that matters because I remember I was happy.

Tassilo Corsi, Age 15, Grade 10, Columbia Grammar-Prep School, Silver Key

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