Features

Illustration: Rame Abdulkader.

Between the trees, under the stars, I walk the winter’s road.
The night sky is bright and the snow seems to glow.
I’ve come this way once when I was younger, before it
snowed. Now I am older, I am bolder, and yet the night
grows ever colder.

I will not turn back this time around. I will push on to the very end,
past every turn and every bend. Footsteps silent over the snowy
ground. I will walk this hellish street until the pavement gives out
beneath my feet.

Asphalt turns to gravel turns to dust. Above it all, ice and snow, begging me to
slip, to trip, to fall. I won’t, I can’t, in myself, I must trust. There are other roads than
this one but they are longer and for people who are stronger.

Like a flower for the sun, I try to reach for the sky. I have a collection of bruises
instead of skin, my left side a list of scars of a war I didn’t win. For a reset, I’d do
anything, I would gladly die. Aching limbs, creaking bones, I am a girl made out of
sticks and stones.

I’m lost now, and I look back to see from where I came. Tiny white pills, never sitting
still, never eating my fill. I turn forwards again, head down, trying to hide my shame.
And though I know the way is tough, the less of me there is, the more I feel like I am
enough.

And through the woods, I see others lost like me, they’re children, they’re skeletons,
they’re ghosts. They are so far ahead, and I can see in every shade of red just how much
they have bled. I still do not know the thing that I need the most. My hands start to shake,
how long will this take, I need to reach the end before I break.

That I’ll never reach my goal is one of my frequent fears. The
wind is biting, the cold inviting, I wonder if I should stop fighting
I haven’t felt like a person in years.

The wind is freezing now, it chills me to my core. It steals my breath, it feels
almost like death. But it’s hard not to smile when I know it means I’ve almost found
what I’m looking for.

—Sofia Zhang, fourth-year biomedical science.