Forgive Me When I Fall

essay by Julia Rusinek (written at age 15)

The last minutes before I fall asleep each night are my sacred moments. There, beneath the covers, with shadows dancing about my walls, I bask in the glory of a solitude. My thoughts settle like small birds flocking back to their nests after a long flight. The hues of the night, deep blues and blacks mixed with the moon's glow, flood my room. The trees, swaying in the wind, whisper as children who are afraid that their voices will beckon unwanted spirits.

As the magic of the moment unravels, the melts away, and I am left alone with the night. I face fear, yet I feel peaceful and thousands of questions envelop me. The sound of my heart grows louder. I close my eyes and put my head sideways, squeezing my pillow tightly. The warmth and closeness of a pillow can save me from everything.

My scattered thoughts and the visions are suddenly washed away by a memory. My close friend Josh has asked me to meet him in the city this afternoon. I figured that he has something serious to talk about. I wanted to be there for him. On the phone I detected an asking in his voice like that in the voice of a child, only more desperate. Josh lives in Manhattan. He does not get along with his mother. His father barely acknowledges his existence. He often sleeps over in friend's apartment. I spent one summer month with Josh at a program in New Hampshire. There was this incredible energy around Josh; he was quiet but I could tell that he was always thinking, exploring, trying to get to know this other side of life. There were times that Josh would pull himself away and sit. I would join him and his pain became mine.

I wrote to Josh once or twice and then we somehow lost contact. Suddenly; I began getting calls from him. We began speaking on a regular basis. Life had not eased up on Josh and he often turned to me.

I am meeting Josh in at 5 o'clock, in front of Madison Square Garden. It is 4:30 and the train is stuck at Woodside station waiting for signal. I always feel jittery before meeting friends whom I do not see frequently. This waiting does not help. I pick up a book but I cannot concentrate. Darkness begins to settle over the town. There is chaos within me. I am anxious and afraid. Guilt tears slowly and painfully at my mind.

We near Penn Station. I run over to where he should be waiting. It is dark now but I make out the figure of Josh sitting, huddled up in his coat against a wall. I walk over, shaking. Josh sees me approaching him when I am a good ten feet away and he starts to get up. He walks towards me and I see that his eyes are tired. It looks as if he has not slept in weeks and his face is stained with dirt. He starts to whimper and pulls me close.

"I was so afraid.... so scared you forgot me."

I can barely hear what Josh is saying. He suddenly pulls away and I see anger in his eyes. He begins interrogating me. There is a definite anger in his voice but he is weak. I stop in my steps and tug at Josh's sleeve. I look at Josh, I feel awful. I can see that Josh has been in pain and I feel his aching. How easy it is for people to hurt. I cringe, reach over to give Josh a hug but he is resists. I let him bark at me for another moment and then he lets me speak.

It is hard for me to say sorry. I feel so much smaller than my mistake, my responsibility. Josh needed me and I, like the rest of the world, kept him waiting. I give him my pathetic excuse and peer into his face, trying to read his expression, to see if I am coming across. I need him to know how much I care. Josh's voice comes out hoarse and faint,

"I forgive you, Julia", he says, "I forgive you... because I know you're trying... and that's all anybody can ask, isn't it?"

His words were so simple and I found myself in tears. It wasn't what he said, but the picture of him, disheveled and in need, and forgiving me. Josh needed me to listen to him that night. He revealed the newest dimensions to his myriad of problems. But tonight I also needed forgiveness from Josh.

On the train home everybody looks like they are heading somewhere beyond their physical destinations. With the night whizzing by, in my mind, we were all suddenly removed from that train car and we were in a web. We were all trying so hard to make something out of the confusion. I look outside the window into the darkness and feel a warmth inside my heart.

We are all hungry. Those of us who do not have to worry about where we are going to get our food in the morning, are hungry for other things. Hungry for distraction from confusion. We are in a constant state of dissatisfaction and when we try to satisfy others we rarely meet with unconditional success. Yet we keep trying. When Josh forgave me, he acknowledged my attempt. He acknowledged my human fear, my struggle.

I look around at the people next to me, behind me, in front of me... I must speak. I must keep risking putting myself forth. It is difficult because I feel everything and because every word, every look can evoke an emotion, can cause pain. I must try within this web of emotions and confusion. I must keep trying and when I see others around me trying I must know how to forgive.

I lie in bed once again, entrapped in a tornado of thoughts. Outside, the rain begins to fall and shiny drops congregate on the branches of the tree outside my window. I watch one silver drop of rain linger at the bottom of a branch, clinging to it with a quiet passion, and then falling with such a hesitance that I can almost hear it sigh. I put my hands behind my head and look up towards the ceiling. I am like the raindrop;, thrust into a society where the push is constantly forward, forward while I long to turn my head. The sound of the rain outside is soothing and for a moment I believe that all of it, even the sad drop which I watched fall to the ground, all of it is magic. I cannot convince or be convinced that this world is not bleak or grey. We will never be fed. Our questions will not be answered.

Nobody shall ever touch infinity. Nobody will learn how to fly. I will, however, spread my wings - and if you are waiting to catch me, knowing that I shall fall, this too, is magic.