Bio: Amla Rashingkar is a 16-year-old from the Silicon Valley in California. She loves writing and hopes to make it a career one day. When not writing, she can be found drawing, playing soccer, writing and playing her own music, and spending time with her family, friends, and dogs.
Editor’s note: Amla’s piece is well-written, well-structured and powerful. Her mentor referred to it as ‘a very impressive piece of writing’, and we couldn’t agree more! In particular, we love the relatability of this piece – everyone can see themselves in the protagonist, and everyone could have used this advice at one point or another. A very deep and engaging work!
After what feels like hours of scrubbing my face clean of tears, I decide I look decent enough to leave the bathroom. The only redness on my face comes from rubbing it against towels, and my breathing is as quiet and steady as the world before sunrise. I shuffle away from the mirror and place a shaky hand on the doorknob. Grandma will survive this surgery. Do not cry about her. Crying is weak. And I am not weak.
I slip into an empty hallway. I am not one to talk about my problems, much less cry about them. I deal with them on my own and ignore them until the bottle I force them into bursts. My problems are mine and mine only; I see no need to involve others. This is strength. This has no weakness.
As my eyes scan the area around me, ghosts of Grandma’s presence crawl underneath the shadows. Sadness claws at my throat and shatters my calm facade. I sink my teeth into my bottom lip to stop myself from crying out. Tears sting my eyelids, and a bag of sand inside my stomach ties itself into knots. My mind races to a thousand places in hopes of distracting me, but it fails, and my thoughts are clouded with what I am trying to avoid.
Right as I take in an ice-cold breath, a door creaks open. I quickly wipe my eyes on my sleeve and see my friend, John, as he skips towards me.
“Hey! I was looking for you today,” he says, eyes as bright as jewellery reflecting sunlight. When I feign a meek smile in response, he furrows his eyebrows and asks, “Are you alright?”
I stare at my feet. Replying will unleash the hurricane brewing in my throat. John taps my arm, and when I look up, he studies my trembling jaw and glassy eyes. “What’s wrong? You know you can talk to me.”
“It’s hard to talk about.” My soggy voice trembles. Be strong. I cannot embarrass myself in front of him by crying. This is my issue, not his.
A tear tangles itself into my lashes and stutters down my cheek, leaving a shiny mark. John glances at it but says nothing. “I’m sorry about that,” I whisper. Do not show weakness. But before I can stop them, more of my tears betray me. I bury my face in my hands.
“Sorry? About what? Crying? You have to be joking,” John chuckles. When he realizes I’m serious, his smile dissolves. “Crying is normal,” he says, softly. “You don’t have to talk about whatever’s going on. Just cry. It is your reaction for a reason.”
I think about his words. It is your reaction for a reason. If I feel the urge to release a waterfall of tears, why do I resist it? I already know that I have found strength in dealing with this situation. Why do I keep trying to prove it by fighting my natural reaction? Crying is human. I do not feel better by shutting it away.
“It’s alright. You can talk to me about whatever’s bothering you,” John coaxes. He pulls me into his arms, and I bury my face into his chest. The world slips away from me, and in that moment, I can only smell John’s cologne, feel his arms around me like a shield.
The bottle I store my emotions in shatters. Sadness dances around shards of broken glass and explodes in my stomach. The boulder in my throat struggles to crumble into dust. Tension in my chest burns like my reddening face. A strangled sob escapes my lips, and instead of cowering, I continue to cry, and a Seattle rainstorm rushes down my face and sticks to my neck. I feel free. For the first time, I feel tears purify my body as I begin to cleanse my mind of its carried weight.