Dear World: The Night Glass Shattered On A Dirt Road

Dear World: The Night Glass Shattered On A Dirt Road

The ability to see our lives as stories and share those stories with others is at the core of what it means to be human.

Anisa Bills

Recently, I was fortunate enough to take part in an international narrative movement. "Dear World" is a traveling photography project that uses words written on individuals' skin to facilitate the storytelling of millions. They are currently embarking on a college tour across the planet, and my college, Florida Gulf Coast University, was lucky to be one of the many institutions to experience it.

As a writer, I enjoy and am accustomed to, storytelling. But my storytelling is usually through a means of pen-to-paper methods. When I first heard about this event, I was incredibly intrigued by its concept. I really wanted to take part in this movement, but I had no idea what story to tell. I didn't think I had anything important to say, not in just a few words at least. The program leader who supervised and facilitated the event at our school, Casandra, was wonderful. She helped me dig deep to find a moment, a memory, that impacted my life a great deal. When I was finished speaking to her I had seven words scrawled on my arms with black Sharpie: "The sky was crying that night, too."

To explain what these words mean to me, I'm going to go back in time to ten years ago. Dear World, this is one of my many stories...

It's late, at least 10 o' clock at night.

While elbow-deep rolling dumplings in a basin, my mom gets the phone call. Wisps of her coily, raven hair pulled back into a tight ponytail at the base of her neck, her hands heavy with the sticky concoction of water and flour. She fumbles to wipe them clean with a washcloth and then nonchalantly fishes the blaring device from her apron pocket. I sit on a bar-stool nearby swinging my legs underneath me, waiting for dinner while I skim the pages of the third book in the "Maximum Ride" series.

In the background, my sister and brother argue about what channel to change the television to. My sister wants to watch Disney. My brother prefers Cartoon Network. I have just turned the page to chapter six when my mother’s shrill and confused voice grabs my attention.

I look up from my book.

Concern lines her face, the cell phone pressed desperately to her ear. She speaks quickly and I can barely catch her words. Her lips spit out impatient questions.

I am more interested now and place my novel down on the counter, my finger still wedged between the pages keeping my spot.

Before she hangs up, she’s already moving. She tears off the dirty apron and abandons the dumplings entirely, shoving her feet into slippers. She's frantically calling our names. Telling us to put on our coats and shoes. My siblings push themselves off the couch and approach slowly and hesitantly.

"What's wrong?” My voice seems small and unimportant in the face of the urgent situation.

"Your father was in a car accident,” she huffs breathlessly, snagging her keys off the foyer table.

And we run. Time stands still and speeds up at the same time. My feet move quickly but not quickly enough. I gulp, and my senses jump to life, almost accelerated, intensified.

A digital picture has been taken of the world around me. Suddenly everything is put into focus. The once fast-paced ever-changing environment slows to a stop in a millisecond. The sink faucet left on dripping in a rhythmical pattern, my Maximum Ride book falling from my hands. Things I would never have noticed before transfix in razor-sharp detail. Eating mattered so much a moment ago, choosing the right TV show did too. The irrelevant tidbits of everyday hover, awaiting something. Maybe a filter to make the ugly image of the truth easier to look at. Or maybe for the image to be erased entirely in denial. Or maybe just edit out the bad news completely.

A sort of adrenaline floods my veins and tingles my nerve endings for the unexpected and almost thrilling event. The walls run by in a slow-motion blur as we all fly to the garage and pack into the silver Honda. My mom drops the keys twice before getting them into the ignition.

The whole drive I am shaking. Even though the heat blasts, a cold still seeps up my spine. We cut across lanes and speed at least ten miles over the limit. I grip my seat belt, praying we don’t get into an accident before we can reach my dad's.

Up ahead I make out lights. Red lights, yellow lights, orange lights, blue lights shrieking wildly into the dark, desolate night. Flashes of the neon hues spin intensely as we get closer and closer, becoming brighter and brighter and making my head hurt.

The Honda skids to a stop beside the chaotic scene on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road. My mom jumps out of the car and dashes into the chaos.

I tentatively climb out of the backseat next and my siblings follow. The colorful sirens of the emergency vehicles and the moon illuminate the pitch black dirt road and murky waters of the canal.

My jaw drops at what I take in next and I almost fall to my knees. My dad’s black BMW. I hardly recognize it. Lying on its side, only three feet from the canal, the windshield and windows have been smashed in and the whole thing almost completely crumbled inside.

I want to run away. I don’t want to be here. I want to go back to just a few moments before when our only problems consisted of figuring out which TV show to watch and how my book ends. Judging by my siblings’ faces I can tell they would agree.

I crane my neck around all the adults milling around to find my dad. Some men approach his car with a large noisy machine that resembles pliers and rumbles like a chainsaw eating away at the car doors. The roaring metal beast terrifies me and I don’t understand its purpose until they pull out a man with a large frame and long legs from inside the dilapidated vehicle.

“Daddy!” Someone screams. “Daddy!”

My sister tugs on my wrist and I realize the voice belongs to me. My eyes sting. I run the back of my sleeve over my cheeks and it comes back wet. Tears had escaped my eyes and were streaming down my face. My lip quivers out of control. My little brother, only six, confused and naïve and unaware of the severity of the situation stares wide-eyed at me. He must finally understand because he begins to sob. My sister, older than I and struggling to comfort us, chews on her lip to avoid crying. She turns twelve tomorrow. Happy Birthday.

We all huddle together and mumble soothing words to one another.

Not far away, two teenage boys who look to be in high school stand with their shoulders slumped over and hands stuffed into their pockets. They converse with police while the officers jot down information on legal pads and gesture towards another wrecked car near my dad’s. The boys have foggy reddish eyes and slow speech. One of them wears a green t-shirt with a skull design. The other has a pierced ear and scruffy brown hair that he constantly runs his fingers through nervously.

They don’t have a scratch on them.

I’m knocked out of my train of thought when I notice my dad stretched out across a gurney, his body limp. A shredded button-down shirt halfway untucked from his creased slacks hangs onto his torso for dear life. One of his feet lacks a shoe and I have a sudden desperate urge to find it for him. His arm bends kind of funny and a gash on his right cheekbone gushes blood.

His eyes remain open wide as if too shocked to look anywhere else but at the sky.

As the paramedics wheel him to the ambulance the police instruct him to promise us he's alright. He repeats the words stiffly, almost robotically, and I know he's lying. He can’t even turn his head to us. A neck brace stops him from doing so.

A few moments later we pile back into my mom’s car to follow him to the hospital.

My mom begins to talk. Despite her throat being clogged with her own tears, she rambles on about any and all details of the accident. The teenaged boys had swerved into his lane and hit him head-on. My dad wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. His car almost slipped into the canal. He gained consciousness long enough to call the police, and then my mom.

I stare out the window and imagine my dad driving down the road when a set of headlights veers into his lane, temporarily blinding him. His airbag explodes into his face, his lip busts, and nose swells. I think about how the two boys escaped without a scratch on them. Words I am not allowed to say burn on my tongue. My blood boils and heart pounds in my chest.

A digital picture has been taken of the world around me. Suddenly, everything is put into focus. The once fast-paced ever-changing environment slows to a stop in a millisecond. But the Earth will still resume turning. After that millisecond of oblivion that the camera clicks, everything unfreezes, and life goes on. The car engines of the drivers beside us, peaceful and happy, unaware of the terrible scene that just unfolded. While the air inside our car, thick with gloom.

My brother still quietly weeps beside me. His tiny arms wrap around my stomach. A cold rain begins and fat gray droplets pelt the window, obscuring our view of the outside.

"Look," I whisper into his ear. "The sky is crying tonight too.”

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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You May Have Worn The Prom Dress With Him, But I Get To Wear The Wedding Dress

You had him in high school, but I get him for the rest of my life.

High school seems like the best time of your life when you are in it. You think that all of your friends will be with you until the end, and that you will end up with whoever you are dating your senior year. For very few, that might just be the case. For all others, that is far from true.

You thought that you would marry your boyfriend and you thought that everything would work out how you had always imagined. I don't blame you though. He's great. You wanted everything with him, but you were just not right for him.

I wish I could say that I am sorry it didn't work out for you, but I can't. I can't because he is mine now, and I get to cherish him forever. You didn't do that right, and you were not meant to be together. You will find someone too, but I am happy that you were not the one for him.

Sometimes I have issues with jealousy, and I hate that you got all of the high school stuff with him. You got to go to games and support him. It kills me that I couldn't be there for him because I know I would have actually been there wholeheartedly. I would have done it out of love, not as a popularity appearance.

I hate that you got to go to all of the school dances with him. He got to see you all dressed up and probably told you how great you looked. I'm sure you did look great. Prom dresses were always fun to pick out and so colorful. It was exciting to match colors with your date. I am sure you had fun choosing his matching tux to your dress.

I find myself getting jealous, but then I stop. I am getting to match his tux with our wedding colors. I got to go dress shopping in a sea of white, and he doesn't get to know one detail about that dress yet. He will get to see me walk down the aisle and then every day forever. I get to love him forever.

I try to not get jealous of all of the things you got with him because it is all in the past. You had your time, and now I get the wedding. You got to dress up in high school, but I get to dress up for my wedding with him. He may have put a corsage on your wrist, but he will be putting the wedding ring on my finger.

Cover Image Credit: Jessy Scott

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I Expected It To Have It All Together By 22 And I'm Still Far From That

What we expected and what reality actually is, are two completely different things...


Oh our 20s, how we expected them to be so different. We expected to graduate college at 22, have a career by 23, be engaged by 24, married with a house by 25, kids by 26-28, vacationing with the family by 30, and retired by 60. We expected college to be parties and cute boys/girls. Instead, we got late nights of studying and crying after a job that barely pays for our car, food, dorm, and textbooks. We get no social life and if we do our grades suffer for it.

Our 20s were expected to be all fun but all we got were struggles and stress. I mean I don't know about you but I expected, to have it all together and I'm nearly 23 and far from it. I had all the scholarships and great grades, and I still don't have any type of degree.

Reality hits after 18. Most of us don't have the help of mom and dad anymore. We have to find our way and make a path for ourselves. Sometimes our dreams and goals have to be put on hold for that. The 20s isn't fun. It's about discovering who you are, who you want to be, and where you want to go. Some of us serve our country, some become incarcerated, some of us parents, some teachers, others cops, others travel or study abroad, some dead, some ill, other managers, others homeless, some still living home, and some even addicts.

The weird thing about your 20s is everyone is doing something different, but yet everyone is confused and comparing themselves to others. People feel if they're not doing what others are doing, in their age group then they have failed themselves. What people forget is that with life comes obstacles and sacrifice and everyone's life and situations are different. You are where you need to be right now, for you, and I think that's something to remember in your 20s.

Another thing about your 20's is you're free to think for yourself now. No more having to follow a religion you dislike or hold back from things you love. The world is literally yours to discover and learn from. Possibilities are endless! I think your 20's are the years you create yourself to the best version of you and build the foundation for your future. Just remember, we all build at our own pace.


The lost 22-year old that believes in you

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