The leaves rustle gently in the wind, golden light streaming through the vibrant green canopy to touch the ground. Pushing a branch aside, I stare out of the woods, watching the kids running across the grassy hill.
There went Rebecca, yelling back at the pack of adolescents chasing her as she weaved her away in and out of the neighbor’s trees. Josh wasn’t far behind, five years and longer legs proving advantage as he led the customary pursuit of the next oldest sibling.
I watch for a moment, bemused, as my brother and his friends conclude their game, get reprimanded for chasing an eight-year old, and run off to play lacrosse in the street. Shifting my focus once more to the backyard, I see Rebecca dash after our beagle hot on the tail of the local garden animals. A voice coming from the other side of the house calls my attention and I turn my head, finally finding the kid I’d been looking for.
Tottling along best they could, left arm pulled tight and high above their head, left leg dragging behind.
“Wait for me. I want to play!” Jumping from stone to stone on the pavement half of the hill I grew up on, the kid chases after their older siblings, hair flopping all around their head when their sneakers made impact.
I can’t believe it all. Just how happy it all is. I notice the sun light shifting on the ground in front of me, and look down, seeing dirt not yet turned by what will be the graves of fourteen guinea pigs in years to come. They have no idea what’s coming, what lays ahead for them.
“I’m Peter Pan!” The kid’s crazy, standing on top of the dog house, arms outstretched. I feel my legs bend in time with theirs, remembering, as they launch off the roof, just how far they go.
A foot and a half, though it seems like more. A personal best. I remember how the air felt beneath my feet, the power that came in doing something my family always told me not to. It’s weird, that after all these years, after everything that has happened, I can still remember the feeling, the bubble of stubbornness and light that sat in my chest.
I stick the landing, taking only a few steps to regain my balance before running off to see if the toads are still under the loose stone.
Moving the tree branch out of the way, I take a step forward-left leg trailing slightly behind. Now’s my chance. I can see myself right there, sitting on the ground, no one else is around. I can warn her about what’s going to happen, how everything is going to change. Or at least, leave a sign so that when things get dark she knows that in some capacity she survives. My feet won’t move.
The sunlight dims as a cloud passes in front, but returns a moment later, it’s warmth relaxing my muscles. Mom calls from inside the house, and I watch as my younger self gets up and goes inside. There goes my chance.
I’ll never get to tell you, that the world won’t always be this sun lit place full of magic, that dark times will come but that they will always pass. I can’t tell you that family is the most important strength you have and that over the years it will shrink and grow, expand in ways you never thought of, that you should hold tight and tell them how much they mean to you, especially when life gets dark. I can’t warn you of the suicide attempts or the fact that in ten years you’ll go by a different name and pronouns as you fight for control of life. I lost the chance to tell you that there’s a thing you’re amazing at, I have to leave you with the question: will I ever be as good as everyone else?
That’s okay. The wind blows through the grass and stones around my feet, as I turn to go. I notice my sneaker’s undone and kneel to tie up the dust covered laces. I can’t help it but smile, because I know that someday you’ll be able to do this too, it’ll be a fight, against people and yourself, but you’ll figure it out.
Life is hard. Our life will seem particularly hard at times, it’ll seem unfair. But I have faith, we’re a strong person and we don’t need advice from our future to get through it all. Straightening back up, I pull my left arm down from its curled position and stick the thumb through my belt loop. I walk down into the woods, closer to the road, I can’t help but look back. The yard is empty now, children and dog all inside, no doubt arguing about something, as the sun paints the clouds a soft pink, it’s golden rays casting long shadows against the ground.
Life is coming and it’ll be full of twists, turns and falls. But that feeling of stubbornness and light that sits in our chest whenever we do something we shouldn’t, that’ll never leave.
Things change, people change, we have changed. Twelve years is a long time, and there are so many things I wish I had known in the past instead of just figuring out now. It’s better this way. Because without all the ups and downs, indecision and moments of lost hope, I wouldn’t be the person I am now. It sucks, sure, but someday I hope you’ll thank me.
The wind brushes past me more insistently, it’s time to leave. But not without leaving something behind. Looking at the house and I see everything inside illuminated gold by the setting sun, us sitting and drawing at the kitchen table.
“My friend, you are brilliant and life will show it.”
I turn away as the wind picks up, heading for the street with hands in jean pockets, left leg dragging behind. It’s time for me to go home. After all, there’s still life for me to live, things to feel, places to see. Carpe Diem, because I don’t want us to miss any of it.