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Late Bloomers: By Saili Lohokare

She always looked at the floor when she walked, hunched up as if she carried the burdens of the world.

Her gait carried a slight hesitation, as if she was unsure about where her feet were taking her. I would wave at her in the hallways, and she would meet my eyes only for a brief moment, with grey, melancholy eyes and look away, as if she was almost afraid of where talking to me might take her.

She would spend hours looking at her reflection in the mirror, wondering who the person staring back at her really was. She felt trapped in her body, in her life, and wanted to fly away and dance around the clouds with the angels. I understood this about her. I understood that I needed to shatter the ice around her heart and revive it with sunshine so she could finally bloom. So I did.

We were analyzing Lord of The Flies in English that day. As our teacher told us to pair up, I walked towards her purposefully, and cheerfully told her that she was my partner. I opened the book, carefully set it down and said, “Tell me about yourself.”

She began to reply, but the lie caught in her throat.  To this day, she does not know what stopped her. She claims that it was something in my gaze – that my eyes bore into her soul, past the facade she had created for herself.

“I live with my mom and her sister’s family. When I was born, my father took my brother for a walk, and they never came back. Since then, I have always held myself back from trusting people … I don’t think I can handle the pain of betrayal again. Sometimes, I look at myself and wonder if anyone would care if I just lay down and died.”

Her eyes widened with the sudden epiphany that she had broken her own rule. Her sudden frustration with herself was evident through the pained expression in her eyes as she struggled to speak. She began to explain herself but I cut her off.

“Let me tell you a story. There was once a butterfly that was struggling to break out of its cocoon. A little boy saw it and gently helped remove it from the cocoon. And you know what happened? The poor butterfly never flew. Our struggles define us and help us discover ourselves in the process of becoming better people. We all have bad experiences but the important thing is to accept them and let them guide us instead of living in perpetual regret. So don’t ever give up on life. Without the horrible memories, we would never appreciate the value of the good ones. Everything that happens in life has a reason and every individual has a purpose. Never forget that.”

She smiled at me shyly, but it was a real smile that reached her eyes and across her face. The next day, I saw her and she smiled at me. She still walked with her eyes on the floor but it was a step forward. The late bloomer was finally beginning to blossom into a beautiful rose.

Saili Lohokare is a senior at American High School in Fremont, Calif.


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