19. 6 years, and sometimes I can’t see anything except the radiation machines that clank against each other, metal shrieks ringing in my ear. 6 years, and I still cry myself to sleep at night. 6 years, and there’s always someone, somewhere, saying PTSD isn’t real. Just get over it. 18. It’s been 5 years. They say I’m safe now. They say it’s over. 18. Legal age. I can vote now. Does the world want me to change it? Do I, even have that right? 17. Oh my god! They took me! Ivy-bound. 17. Applying for college. Will Harvard take me? But they’re so good. Should I even mention the cancer? 16. My friend Vanessa said the scar on my chest looked like I got heart surgery. I was so scared. What if she found out? 16. I can’t tell anybody, right? What if they treat me differently? I don’t want all my friends to be friends with me out of pity. 15. My hair’s so short; I wear a cap everyday to school. Mom talked to the teachers, so they let me wear it in class too. I’m so embarrassed. 15. New school. New faces. Will I be okay? Why did I leave Hunter? 14. Chemo ends in March. They make me ring a nice bell to show I finished treatment. It’s shiny. Does that mean it’s over? Can I go back to my life? 14. I can’t walk in a straight line. My flute lies on the ground, abandoned. My paintings drape over the basement table. Mom and Dad shove my baking tools in an empty drawer. 13. Everyone wants me to say something. But I don’t want to say anything. My throat hurts. Do I have a voice? I think Grandma is asking me something, but I can’t hear her. 13. The surgery is tomorrow. I’m scared of this hospital. This place is weird and looks too bright. My eyes are angry. There are purple butterflies on the walls. 13. I ask Mom why my head hurts so much. Because she’s my Mom. She has all the answers. She looks at me, sad. She doesn’t have an answer. 13. My head hurts. Ow. This really hurts. 13. Jack of all trades. That’s what Grandma calls me. She says she’s proud of me because I can play piano and flute and I can bake yummy stuff and my art is really pretty and I do really good in school. 12. It takes 3 hours to travel to school every day. There’s so much work. It’s ok, though. Mom says it’s the best middle school. Mom knows everything. 11. I got into Hunter! Finally, wow, this took so long. 10. 9. 8. Little brother doesn’t want to go to kindergarten. He’s crying by the window. I go and calm him down. 7. Grandma says I’m her favorite because I can do so many things. 6. 5. 4. 3. I can’t sleep without Mommy. I piddle paddle to her room. Mommy and Daddy are talking, loud but whispering, quiet but angry. I fall asleep outside with my blankie. 2. 1. 0. --- Haley Sui is a sophomore at Harvard University, studying Creative Writing and Neuroscience. She is an active member in her college’s acapella group and dance club, as well as a fervent writer for the university’s science newsletter. When she’s not studying or working on club projects, Haley enjoys listening to lofi music and writing personal memoirs.
I just read this, and immediately liked it. There is a ring of truth, vitality in every line, something compelling in each, and they all add up to an original expression of the speaker’s feelings.