you, 14, clumsy-hearted, waiting to fall in love.
rooftops and fire escapes. you wrote stories to trick yourself into loving someone you barely knew.

sitting in the church pews, counting time with your fingers, forgetting to listen.
unaware. unprepared. not knowing, constantly asking.

friday nights. candles and warmth.
you skipped dances and football games to be here.
they told stories that never made sense in a language you understood with all your heart,

and you believed every word they said.

your journal, a light flickering in the darkness.
God’s whisper, everywhere you were, reminded you of the truth.

it was enough to keep you safe.


you, 15, searching, looking, looking for, for—don’t look. don’t you dare look.
unspoken words. the weight of the world on your shoulders.

thick storm. dark tunnel.
you could not see even with your eyes wide open.

candles without light. unfinished letters. forgetting to speak.
this is how you know someone has left and gone. when your heart, weakest of all, feels heavy even when it’s got nothing inside.

rosary wrapped around your fingers like an armor.
kneeling in front of the altar and meaning every word you say.

listen, don’t you hear it?
our voices, whispering familiar stories, reminding, reminding you of, of—

ambulances scream.
the entire world stops moving and looks—“in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

like it never happened.
like you, waking up, breathing, remembering.

what made you stay?


me, here now, loving better than i used to.
open heart, open mind. closed my eyes and believed.

and, then.

i carry my journal everywhere i go.

“why do you write?”
“to remember.”

and this is what i remember:
friday nights. stories i grew to understand with all my heart.

how light burns brightest in the darkness.
“i’m here. i’m ready to live.”

a light that will never go out.

and i climb down from the rooftop,

like an answered prayer.

—By Clara Marisol D., 16, California