The Second Original Writing Competition
Senior High School Group
Platinum Award

Written by 
Wang Zijuan, 1st Secondary School, Yuzhong County, Gansu Province, China 
Date: May, 2017

The purity and innocence of youth comes from its singularity; youth sends wishes upon the winds of chance – Xi Murong.

The sands of time slip by, leaving behind memories of the cheerful highs and the gloomy lows. A long-forgotten heartache came suddenly to mind. Memories of your flowing tears and your hopes and dreams returned in wave upon wave to my mind yesterday. I began thinking once again of that vivaciously radiant yet physically challenged young girl.

was reading a book on a pleasantly warm day in early summer in one corner of a field. I raised my head and noticed her in the distance under a tree. A light breeze was brushing her crimson-red cheeks and she was surrounded by a scene of peaceful tranquility. However, her furrowed eyebrows suggested a heart weighed down by worry. She was engaged in a fervid conversation with a nearby tree sapling. She was my desk-mate in class. Perhaps God delights in the bite that mars the apple’s perfection. Maybe He believes that it is the imperfections that make life truly interesting, like the poet Su Shi wrote: “Men face sudden changes in fortune; the moon waxes and wanes; changes of being full and crescent, cloudy and clear; perfection is rare and fleeting.” Her life reflected this truism. Born into a farming family, her congenital cerebral palsy led to mounting debt. She matured and learned much more slowly than others of her age. Her stuttering made her distant from her classmates. She kept herself in a “box” and suffered alone. That little sapling was her refuge. It listened without judgment and gave soulful sustenance. How many troubles did she unburden onto that tree? They saturated the tree’s youthful rings and will grow with the slow march of time into a tower of lonely solitude.

I have never told anyone about her habit of talking with this tree. I have always kept it to myself. During a rearrangement of seating assignments in our class, I made sure she and I shared the same desk. From then onward, we were desk-mates for a full two years. She became my friend – someone about whom I constantly fretted and worried.

Because of her disorder, her hands trembled uncontrollably. It was little wonder that she kept such a tight grip on her pencils and wrote with such bold, forceful characters. Her deformed legs made her unable to stand up straight and balance problems caused her to fall frequently. She worked hard to walk, despite the hard knocks and bruises … even when her shirt was soaked in sweat. After a fall, she would hold onto the nearest wall and pull herself back to her feet. The smile on her face was a cover for the bruises on her knees. She locked her pains up deep inside and bore them alone.

We grew closer in friendship with the passage of time. One day, she leaned over me and asked, “What do you dream of doing?” I was ecstatic, and shared with her a dream that I’d held for many years. “I want to be a teacher. I want to teach kids here in our home area.” I then asked her what her dream was. Her expression took on a fleeting vacancy and, with eyes brimming with tears, wrote with great apparent effort, the following: “I want to run!” Staring at those words stating the most mundane of dreams, I was incapacitated by a wave of tearful emotion. For a normal, healthy person, this is something taken for granted, unworthy of a wish. But for her, it was something that lay tormenting beyond her reach.

She told me she wanted to run. She wanted to participate in intermural sport meets and win honor for her school. She wanted to run and hear the comforting whistle of the wind in her ears. On that day, she shed her insecurity and shyness and animatedly declared her dream. While her words had left me dumbfounded and at a loss for the right words, I knew at that point that I would replace that lonely sapling in the field. She was willing to talk to me.

Time passed quickly. Almost before we knew it, our two years as tablemates were coming to an end.

Graduation was rapidly approaching and our upcoming exams would set everyone’s “star” on a new and unique course. Under the last roseate embers of daylight, I supported Yuji as we walked together to a spot beneath her tree. We spoke our farewells under that willow. We held hands and gazed sorrowfully into each other’s tear-stained eyes. In that moment with so much to say, we both were at a loss for words. The air that June was saturated with thoughts of separation. We exchanged graduation messages. I wrote: “Run. You’ve never given up!” She wrote: “Separation opens the way to new and better encounters! Seize the opportunity!”

Now, as a high school student, I remember those years in junior high with nostalgic fondness, aware that what has passed is gone forever. Yes … I have taken the initiative and seized the opportunity! As dawn breaks, I should count myself fortunate … fortunate that I have two eyes to see; when the melody starts, I should count myself fortunate … fortunate that I have the ability to listen; and when danger looms, I should count myself fortunate … fortunate that I can flee to safety on two legs.

One brief sentence; one treasured memory; one snippet of youth. During that pleasant summer past, she wrote her dream and voiced her heart’s deepest desire. Her tears melded with her indefatigable hope and that yellowed piece of paper bearing the words “I want to run”.

Time and youth slip by imperceptibly. The torrent of youth carries time away, but leaves memories and their indelible emotions. Listen! A voice in the distance is calling: “Fear not the sky’s height; stand on tiptoe and move closer to the sun!”

Comments of Reviewer 1

The author’s verbiage reflects academic accomplishment, while her use of words is solid and sincere. The subject of this essay is interesting and creative, and expresses the author’s fond memories of her friend.

Comments of Reviewer 2

This essay, which narrates the author’s experiences with her congenitally disabled classmate, uses elegant but unpretentious words to articulate the deep emotions that underpin this friendship.