by Stephanie Tom
I believe in facing the future without fear of it. I used to get nervous when I thought about it. I was afraid of the unknown, the same way that I had started trembling at the knees when I stared down the dark basement steps when I was eight and my imagination raced faster than my legs could. (I remember the first time that happened – the door creaked, the knob slick in my hands, whether because no one ever touched it, or because my palms were sweating, I never knew. The basement, when I peered down, smelled like mothballs from the dollar store, old shoes, and insecurity. I swore I could have seen eyes, and that I could have never felt my heart beat faster.)
There was always a small part of me that was sure that the worst case scenario that could happen, would happen. Because of that, I grew to love things that seemed to stretch the spaces between time – songs that sound like eulogies; the silence of empty rooms; and sentences that took two breaths to say instead of one.
Here’s the thing about the space between time, when you listen too long to songs that sound like eulogies in the otherwise silence of an empty room – ideas begin to bloom, the kinds that have been sitting beneath the surface of your skin and finally crack you open inside out. That’s exactly what happened one Thursday evening, back in February, earlier this year. I was peeling apples over the kitchen sink, skinning the fruit with a spin of the knife as I looked out the open window into the dark of eight-thirty. My parents were out, my sister upstairs, and the only sounds that I could hear were the chirring of crickets, the crisp cut into apple flesh, and the soft pulses of indie rock coming from the radio.
I’ll admit that I hadn’t even noticed that I cut my thumb and that it was bleeding until I saw the white of the apple turn pink and I was forced to rinse it before the blood set in. It had been another one of those days where it was easy to get lost in thought over the depths of life, and I had been preoccupied with a speech that I had been rehearsing for a presentation that I had to give the next day. I’m not sure if it was the sharp crimson or the fleeting sting but in that moment, I remembered something that I’ve heard before. Jemma Simmons once said, ‘I believe in the First Law of Thermodynamics, that no energy is created and none is destroyed.’ Those were the words that she believed in until the day she thought that she would die. Surrounded by the weight of the world and everything crumbling around her, she managed to keep face and grace and hold on to the belief that everything was going to be alright because she was doing everything she could to fix the mess that the world had become.
Now, by no means was I on the verge of death and struggling to save the world, but in that moment, looking into the dark with the radio singing about hope, I felt something bloom in my chest, that had been aching to be acknowledged for a long time – the realisation that satisfaction is a matter of circumstance. As I cleaned my thumb and bandaged my cut, I realised that as long as I do my best, whether for a presentation or life in general, who I am and what I do, is enough – for today, for the future, and for all of time in which I exist. I’m no longer afraid of the unknown, because I know that as long as I try my best, I’ve done all that I can to live my life – and I’m okay with that.
Stephanie Tom is a high school student who lives in New York and likes to scour the internet for contemporary poetry. She writes and serves as an editor for both her school newspaper and literary magazine, and has more works in progress than she can handle at the moment.