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My skateboard clatters against the pavement as the cards and suburban houses whip past frame by frame, in a film scene I do not care for. Music blasts through my headphones and I finish my granola bar half heartedly, wind blowing my dark hair backwards and all around. It’s a cool sunny Friday afternoon and my schoolbag hangs heavy on my shoulders. Both school and home are a few miles the other way, but I have no intention of returning any time soon.
I stuff the granola bar wrapper into my pocket and take a gulp of Red Bull, watching my surroundings turn from neatly trimmed hedges and the smell of barbeque into rolling hills, thickening trees, the scent of pines in the breeze. I turn down a beaten dirt path, jumping off and tucking my board under my arm as dirt transitioned into rocks and clumps of grass and flowers sprouting through the cracks. Ten minutes and one can of Red Bull later I find myself in the small clearing hidden by shrubbery and young trees, branches curving into a protective wall. I drop my bag to the ground to lean against a set of thick tree roots and dip my hands in the small running brook; the ice cold water hits my skin and I splash my face gratefully.
I honestly don’t know why I return here all the time. I only found this place by accident when I ran from class a few months back being physically unable to stay in the room anymore. No one followed me, and no one has of yet, so I let myself slump into the dirt listening to the water bubbling and letting the soft breeze whisper past my skin. I turn off my music and throw my headphones and silent phone into my backpack.
The shadows elongate and change around me as I hand out breadcrumbs to occasional birds landing by, chest and stomach hurting but enjoying the temporary reprieve, the calm. I stretch, limbs hurting as I do. It seems that every part of me aches, slow pain that spreads in the veins to the bones.
I don’t know where else to go.
The light between the branches begins to fade slowly, then more rapidly. I only open another can of Red Bull and down it in a few goes, crumpling the can and stuffing it back into my bag. I take a deep breath and put my headphones back on, the music quiet enough so I can just hear the water in the background, the distant birdsong harmonizing with the beats and riffs. I sling my bag over my shoulder, grab my board, and instead of turning onto the dirt path back to the main road, I pick my way through the undergrowth, ducking beneath thorns and leaves.
The sun sets behind me, but I can only keep walking, through the trees, through the bushes, beside the ever running water.
Did I ever have any other choice?