By Ashley Dayanara Campos
PROMPT—During Covid-19 ...
I never felt growing pains until I moved. Falling leaves of an assortment of browns, reds, and yellows lay on the dying grass. The temperature is 65, but my face says otherwise. My hands are shaking as I walk to class, eyes watering, that feeling I despise. It's a chilly day, but I'm sweating; the sun's just coming up, but I thought it was last night's dinner. I lost before I even tried; I was never made a winner. The burden of growing up will never cease. I was a professional translator by age seven, a lawyer by age ten, an accountant by thirteen, and on track to becoming a nurse by age thirty-one. Not because I'm in college, I'm not even close to graduating, but because I'm the only girl in my family, I'm the one. Once my parents retire, I'm the one left to care for them as they cared for me. Waves of fear and guilt suffocate me; I'm drowning. Time passes; September, October, December. The leaves are browning; take me back to November.
I feel guilty. Not because I did anything wrong, but because I realized my time was almost up when my father turned fifty. My fifteenth birthday was three months ago, and the wonders of my anxiety are all I behold—frozen dinners feed my body because my mom was on the job, number three. Eleventh grade rolled around, and I was on day seven, but all I desire is to be free. Free is a funny word because I am that, but it doesn't feel like that when my mind has a grip on me. The dread of homework, future college, and career all piling up. My future succumbs as my hope exceeds its limit. When have you ever seen someone like me in the elite? Someone so timid. People look at me and expect me to be loud and have an accent; to them, it seems like I don't belong; maybe she's an accident? Well, I'm sorry I "act white," but my father never taught me how to fly a kite. Instead, I was introduced to fix my hair, look presentable, stay quiet, don't speak unless spoken to. Stay quiet, Mija; your anger is what they cling onto.
Coronavirus made its entrance. The whole world on lock-down, used masks, piling toilet paper, and in my house, hand sanitizer was an abundance. Pandemic headlines reading "coronavirus is causing the historical decimation of Latinos," but I think another corona beat this virus to it. My brothers made it to grade eleven, but they didn't finish. Now the weight of succeeding is all left to me. In my first year of high school, my rates dropped. I was met with people who didn't look like me, nonetheless tried to see who I could really be. I left my hometown and my community. In this house, that separated my daddy and mommy. They're still together, but their work schedules don't align. Anyways, let me go see what homework my teachers assigned.
Yeah, it's the second to last house on Commack road.
The blue house with the red door.
When my parents originally got this house, the door was green. We kept it that way for a while, but my parents felt like our house was so dull. During the pandemic, my father kept on working, but he got some time off in the winter. It was time to put the red door on. That red door. It was so shiny and bright that people would walk past the house, and unlike before, their eyes turned to that red door. Something about it attracted such grand energy, but that didn't last long until it all got ugly. The red door began to chip on the exterior, and although it was peeled, it was still beautiful on the interior. I can't say much about the interior of the rest of the house, not the physical home, but the minds inside it. My father on the job, number two, just so he could provide; oops, I forgot to write my name on my homework, I have to resubmit. Red is the color of anger, and in my community, feelings are suppressed until they come out red, but as my mom said, that's all they cling onto; I thank her. I am that red door. My mind is that red door, an ugly exterior just waiting to open so all that suppressed red can leave and I can finally be free.
Covid still creeps, the second dose was two months ago, and I'm finally starting to feel like me. I dyed my hair to feel something; ironically enough, I dyed it red. Not like the door, but like the leaves that lay on the grass; they're all dead in November. Right now, it's only September, but all those old leaves will fall in two months, leaving the trees bald, making room for springtime to come and blossom new ones, giving them the opportunity that November does. November dies, so April can shower, bringing in all those new may flowers. After turning sixteen, like a flower, I blossomed; that June sun beaming was like November wasn't too far away. My brain let go of its grip on me; my mental health progresses astronomically. I sit at the kitchen table on the frozen dinner of week number three, working hard so I can succeed. I could be that nurse, but not by force, maybe through college. My dad maybe fifty, but he still sees what I could be. My mom is down to two jobs; we're all becoming mentally healthy. I sit back and listen not because I have nothing to say but because I prefer to absorb knowledge—time passing; September, October, November, hurry up.
My name is Ashley, but I prefer Ash, sometimes Dayanara, because it's my middle name. My favorite color is red, and my favorite season is Fall. However, November isn't my favorite season at all. It'll come at a close number three. It's September fifteenth, and I'm finally free, not because I finished all my homework, but because my mind finally let go of its mental grip on me. Now I can finally say that I'm happy, and the chains of my anxiety rarely get to me. Physically I'm sixteen, but mentally I feel like a newborn. I've grown mentally, not physically-- somehow, I've been the same height since I was twelve, at a whopping 5'3. I never felt growing pains until I moved, and after that, I was in so much pain I felt like I was 6'2. My favorite flower is the sunflower. I loved it so much that for my sweet sixteen, I was that, my friends and family the bees; I am finally the provider; of peace.
Ash Campos prefers they/them pronouns. They are 17 and are first-gen Latine and queer. Ash started writing for fun their sophomore year of high school and has fallen in love with it since. Most of their pieces are about self-reflection, grief, and their journey with spirituality and sexuality. Ash writes from North Babylon in Long Island, NY.