Counting Rings

Mia Timlin
Notre Dame Regional High School
Grade 12

Sometimes I ache for the person I will be five, 10, 15 years from now — a stranger. 

And when I am her, what will become of the girl I am now? 

The one cleaning her bedroom at two in the morning, cramming folded T-shirts into stuffed drawers knowing they’ll come out again wrinkled, 

and whose left-hand fingers are coated in melted chocolate, recording each little thought in a notebook before it can melt away — panicking at the thought of others reading it. 

This girl I know so well, getting out of bed in the dark to put on a dress because reading “Pride and Prejudice” in pajamas just doesn’t feel right. 

Will she slip below the surface like the others? 

I can count them inside me like the rings of a tree stump. 

The 3-year-old running around in crooked green fairy wings, collecting a bouquet of dandelions for her mother, 

the 5-year-old cutting off her braid because it got in the way of the yellow construction paper she was turning into a countdown chain, 

the 7-year-old twirling to a Nora Jones song with a long purple scarf, tumbling when her foot got caught in the sheer fabric. 

They are just as much strangers as that girl I have yet to become — 

a photograph I saw in an album years ago, or a dream I forgot I had. 

Or what about the ones who feel more like friends I haven’t talked to in too long? 

The 12-year-old who looped thousands of hopscotch boxes around the entire block during the summertime, 

the 13-year-old who wrote bad poetry and embarrassing time capsule letters to her future self, 

the 15-year-old whose chest crushed with real panic for the first time, waiting to make a left turn across busy traffic. 

I can’t remember all these girls well, 

sometimes I loathe them — mostly I miss them. 

The reminders of what I once was, and what I am now, that I can never be again. 

But I know they are there, 

the voices feeding me songs to sing, 

melodies to dance to, 

stories to tell.