The dirt coated my toes and my tears turned the scoop of my blue shirt to navy. My knees felt heavy, but the girls around me wore me like a blanket that kept me lifted. With every breath, I felt no different. The tears continued to fall and the words continued to run out of my mouth like speaking them to those 42 girls was the easiest thing I’d ever do.
“Whenever you’re ready, just throw your rock into the river.”
The Tippecanoe River seemed anything but rough that night; the dirt, anything but consuming. We rested among nature as the tragedy of each of our lives spilled out into the open space between us. Slowly, our 42 dwindled down to a few girls, me among them. We held hands, and the stiff and strained grip of the girl to my left seemed just as burdening as the tinder grasp of the one to my right. Our spilled words were equal.
I could feel her broken heart in my chest as her pain soaked the shoulder of my shirt and the side of her sobbing cheek touched mine. It was just the two of us now.
I held on to her dearly, one hand softly caressing the back of her head and neck until her trembling shoulders came to a rest, and she backed away. With her hands making a fist that just brushed against her mouth, she opened them to reveal a small rock, and with a deep breath–I breathed with her–she tossed it with heavy force into the river.
It was just me and you, then. My overwhelming sadness left salt dried to my cheeks, and I sat for a minute there looking at that little rock in the palms of both my hands. It was dented and discolored, and chipped. Letting go would mean letting go of an element of control that felt permanent in this life.
The breeze seemed to shut my eyes for me and you gently took that rock from me, and with it, all my brokenness.
Inspired by “Guiding Light” by Foy Vance & Ed Sheeran.
When I need to get home, you’re my guiding light; You’re my guiding light.