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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It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.

Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

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The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

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The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.

Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

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There Is No 'Right Way' To React To A Shooting

Everyone is different.


After the shootings this year in New Zealand, Brazil, and close to home for some of us Aurora, people have been reacting in different ways. With some offering their thoughts and prayers, donating money to help pay for the funerals of the victims, fighting for action in regards to ending gun violence, candlelight vigils basically anything that can help them in this time of grief.

There is no right or wrong way to react to a shooting — everyone grieves in their own ways. We should not judge one another for how we grieve in a tragedy.

People have been saying that thoughts and prayers won't do anything. However, maybe it can be a comfort to some people—a way to let people know that they are thinking of them and that they care.

Sometimes people may want to donate money or blood to help out any survivors who may have suffered from blood loss or create GoFundMe accounts to either help out with medical expenses or to pay for the funerals of the victims or even start charities like Islamic Relief USA. Donating your time and money is a good way to help out because you are making a difference that is a form of action you are taking.

There is also grieving in the form of vigils. One example of a vigil is this guy who makes crosses every time there is some kind of tragedy. Vigils are often a good way to remember the victims, to pray for the healing of the survivors, to talk about what they were like as people.

Some people even want to take action by demanding that the laws change a good example of this would be March for Our Lives, which happened after the Parkland shooting last year. This march was fighting for gun control or should I say changes in the gun laws America currently has.

Some people also do acts of solidarity, for example, wearing a hijab like the prime minister of New Zealand did when she went to go visit the Christchurch shooting survivors. My community college had something a couple of years ago called Hijab Day to help show solidarity with our friends. I participated, and it was quite an experience—no one should ever be afraid to be who they are.

There is never a right or wrong way to react, and no one should ever criticize one another for how they react. It's not a test where there is a right or wrong answer—everyone is different and that is okay.

No one should ever have to be afraid to go to school, go to work, or go to their place of worship or wherever they decide to go. Whatever we decide to do to make a change, as long as we are taking some kind of action, is good enough for me.

Nothing ever gets done by sitting around and doing nothing, so whatever it is you do, get out there and do it. As long as you are showing support it doesn't matter how you show it.

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