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Olya Rizzo

First Place Winner
Scholarship Essay Contest, 2014
Olya Rizzo
Jefferson Central School

First place winner Olya Rizzo Jefferson Central School

Dreams of Escape

Everyone around here dreams of the day they’ll escape. You know, someday, just before winter, when the desperation and claustrophobia create the ultimate impetus. Your farewell to dented trucks with mismatched doors and tires stranded in the brown fields that emit the morning fog, is a silent acknowledgment. It’s the grinding of your boots, like two rubbing marbles, as they walk from the driveway, past the rusted basketball hoop and old Allis Chalmers’ tractor that may or may not run anymore. The horses are getting restless, pacing circles into their bedding, snorting steam into the chill, almost as warm as actual smoke. The smell of pine and hay and leather and grass-- the smell of your first kiss, your secrets, your home-- suddenly melancholy, but nothing’s changed. Nothing ever changes. The fiddles on the radio still turn to static when the light switch is flipped, even though you all promised to get around to fixing that. These are the same scratchy tunes that you swayed to in his arms when it was cold, his nose buried in your hair. The same ones you danced to until you lost your breath, belting every lyric with the girl you told all your secrets to while you got matching colors in your hair, a brand of friendship that turned ugly shades of green until you both agreed to dye it out.

You froze here. Worked so hard you felt your muscles tear, dried the pond water from your hair; long, a little shorter, god-awful short, then long again. You relaxed here, spitting spicy tobacco into the dirt, pretending to listen to your friends because the breeze felt so nice and you always thought you’d have forever to hear their stories. How many dead birds have you found, fallen from the rafters, hardly bigger than your thumb? How many rats have scurried from the shrill predictability of your scream? How many times have you gotten a mouthful of pond water, splashed by a playful palm, algae squishing beneath your feet like heaven, floated on your back to a quiet conversation? Lay in the hay as it poked through your torn, stained shirt, and known that this was exactly where you were supposed to be?

The snow comes and you wear three coats and long johns and chaps and curse at your pink fingers. It melts and cobwebs send drops of disintegrated winter to your forehead. The trees grow their leaves and you can smell sweet apple honey attacked by caterpillars, spend the day with their sweet aftertaste coating your tongue. The wind makes the tin cry, the roof pelted with hail, and you exchange sleepy, complacent remarks across the lantern, covered with hay and mud, playing cards spread across your lap, only a little bit scared of the storm raging outside.

You pass the corner store where you wasted your first paycheck on mountain dew and chewing gum. Past the green where you killed time on the swings, taking goofy pictures of your friends. Past the school, where you once skipped art to smoke cigarettes, holding back an inexperienced coughing fit.

This was your place of firsts, and now you force your boot on the gas pedal as you whisper the words to a song you’ve been hearing since you were a little girl. You’re watched by the Thomson’s bull, who you antagonized with cocky jeers, but who now silently salutes the ignorant bravery of a dirty ten year old girl. By the church that kicked you out for using the “D” word, nodding in respect to a foul-mouthed teen in ripped jeans. By the hidden creek, bubbling proudly for every infamous skinny dip. And you know this can’t be your place of onlys.