These Walls

by Lis McMillan

These Walls

She would have been to young to remember, but she did. The day came on like any other, sun rose, light shone through the window. Minutes ticked by, she was alone. The ring of a telephone awoke her mother. The chatter of language from the kitchen. A harsh tone, silence, and the click of the receiver. Her mother cried for a long time. Daddy wouldn't be coming home.

The rest of her childhood was a blur to her now, sticky purple popsicle juice on her face, mud in her boots, sunburned shoulders, and airplane rides to a place everyone seemed to refer to as 'home'. She remembers packing bags and suitcases, and the money for rent being spent on train tickets. She remembers a conversation with her best friend about a scheme resembling that from the parent trap. They were both moving away, innocently thought that a few tears, and whispered plans could make their stubborn parents stay in a city that steels souls, and eats friendships for breakfast.

* * *

Train thumped, and images whizzed by the window, scenes of people waiting for their own trains, their own adventures. Days ticked by like minutes. The view of a new city, a new province, a new world. The air smelled of salt and pollution, and it gave her a head ache. Childhood over, at age nine... She held her mothers hand and they traveled down an unfamiliar street. No blossomed trees here, harsh winters, she needed to buy warm boots. This place looked just like what her family called 'home,' but it wasn't. There where no accents, no friendly faces, no smiling grandmothers, only scary teenagers in black, garbage men with sad faces, and coffee shops that only sold one kind of coffee. She missed her room. Her toys. Her friends. Her home.

That night she slept on the floor at the house of a 'friend'. 'This will be a good life for both of us baby,' said mother, looking pleased with herself. 'Soon enough you will call this home.' She shuddered at the thought of this fish salt water land being a home.

School would start in September, the fourth grade. She would have English class, she didn't have that back home.

* * *

Nervous girl, her hands sweat. Hair pulled back in a pony tail, the temporary red dye faded away almost completely. She wore her best dress. The teacher introduced her and her new classmates said hello. She sat in the front row in a desk marked with someone else's name... ' Tessa.' Rumor around the class was Tessa had died, and they had sent this new one to fill the empty desk. Students who liked Tessa, Hated her.

The hate for her spread like disease. The rocks that hit her were hard, and the stares were cold. Boy spat in her face, and she followed him around the playground. She feared being alone, and she was. Countless times she dragged her feet home, and cried into her pillow. Kids here grew up too fast, nobody wanted to play. At least not anything that wasn't a sport. She didn't know any sports.

She started to build up walls, made of invisible bricks. The walls surrounded her like a room, and on the outside they were painted with what her peers thought of her. She hid in the shadows cast by her walls, her wonderful walls, that sheltered her from the cold of the winter, and the hot of the summer. She had school work, and glared at it sitting on her desk, hoping the power of her vision would make it disappear, or that she could possibly do it without picking up a pencil. She doodled on the edges of her paper. Someone upset her, and she'd cry in class, Her female school mates would say 'aw baby' and go back to their work, later when she would go to the washroom, they would talk about her. Sometimes she wouldn't go, but stand outside the door and listen. Her walls protected her from really hearing.

* * *

The grades were all smushed into one, long, memory of pain. Until the seventh year rolled around. And she met a friend. Alexah. Alexah was shorter than her, and had longer hair, a louder voice, and better posture. Almost instantly they became close friends. And Alexah had a jackhammer, Alexah broke down her walls, until they were only twisted fragments of younger days around her feet. She stood tall, and walked strong through the halls, a year, and nobody dared think poorly of her, for she didn't care. Not at all.

Alexah and her went through a lot together. Alexah called her mother, mommy, and She called Alexah's father dad. They laughed at jokes, and listened to music, and watched old movies, and swooned over boys. They made promises to each other their parents knew they couldn't keep. Month by month they dreamed of the future together, high school, how fancy it would be being 16,17,18. They slept in the same bed at sleepovers, and slept closely together. Alexah took the place of her old best friend, and slowly her old home seemed to dissolve in her thoughts, pushed to the back of her brain. This place didn't seem to bad, she molded to a teenager. And didn't consider building her walls.

The year passed and grade eight began. Alexah had changed, and she hadn't. The cliquiness of jr. high pulled them apart. Alexah ran off with the smokers, had a better life then her. Friends, Family, and roots in the city. She found herself alone, and floating from person to person, looking for sympathy. All she got back was the cold stares she remembered from elementary. The strong walls she had to protect her had fallen, and lay as mangled rock by her feet. All they saw was a whisper of a grown up child. Nowhere to hide, she was alone again, all alone. Old enough now to do something about it. She considered running away, getting change together, and riding a bus until it stopped.

The thought of leaving her mother alone terrified her more then school did, so she picked herself up, and dragged her feet through two more years. She did not know how to cope with anything, so she built her walls up once more. This time she was smarter, and made them out of steel.

Alexah came crawling back after a few years, but her jackhammer couldn't break the steel walls. Alexah's apologies about the previous years couldn't crack them either. She stayed behind her invisible walls, and picked up the pieces of her friendship with Alexah.

Highschool happened. They knew it was going to. And she made a real smart move, she didn't go to the school that her classmates where going to. She chose the bigger school. Hoped to make more friends. She made more then that, she made a life for herself. She fell in love with theater, and made friends who wouldn't leave her for the smokers... With Alexah by her side she walked with her head high, and was called outgoing.

People thought her walls were gone. Broken by the hammer of Highschool, of musical, of friendship. She was a shiny star and everyone saw. But truth be told, she never took down her walls. She just added a window.

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