-Author's note: chapter 2 is unfinished, and this is a rough chapter 3. It's written from Leigh's perspective, and she's a little more random and jumbled than Eli, though you can tell (hopefully) that she sort of idolizes his style of writing and tries to write like him. She's not quite as good at it.-

Chapter 3


The speed's the key. Don't move too fast. Just wait and it will come. But I've been waiting so long maybe I've missed it. Have I waited too long, or are they right and I'm just too young? But they don't remember what it was like to be 14. It's been too long. How do I know when to stop waiting and begin living?

I'm in the bleachers watching everyone else living. We all take a turn here in the stands, but some of us never leave. Some of us never play the game. But then I wonder—who is it who sits here in the bleachers but doesn't watch the people on the field down below? Does someone watch the watchers?

And at the root of every bold move we make is someone screaming "I want to feel alive." We didn't hide in the clothes racks at Nordstrom's and jump out at ladies pushing drooling toddlers in shopping carts because we wanted to be arrested. We didn't do it so that the security guards would call our parents. We didn't do it because we wanted to be banned from the mall for six months. We didn't do it because we wanted to cry that day. We didn't do it because we're bad kids.

This is how we leave the bleachers behind without entering the game everyone else out on the field plays. We're finding somewhere else to be where no-one watches us. We're starting our own game.

One hand is labeled "good choice." The other is not labeled "bad choice." It's not labeled at all. It holds all the possibilities of life. But it also holds consequences.

We're sleepwalkers, all of us. We can choose the right path: to be good, to be silent. But then we never wake up. We drift through life on slippered feet, asleep. Mindlessly performing the same routine time after time. But when we choose the other path, when we wake up and stretch away from the monotony and we scream, they seize us and scold us and subdue us and shut us in our bedrooms. They reward us with nothing but disappointed stares. Stay sleeping, children. You're easier to control that way. We can hold your minds in our fists and tell you what to believe, and we'll pat you on the head and say, "you're a good kid, you're a good kid."

But all I want is to know that I am alive, that I can make my choices. We can choose the unlabeled hand. When we were small we didn't know that we had a choice. When we are older we'll be held to our actions, so we can't choose the unlabeled hand. Right now we're in high school, and we can make mistakes and get away with it. These are the best years of our lives. Live them, don't sleep the day away. There's got to be more to life than trying to survive.

We're told to be bold, to color outside the lines. The catch is what they don't tell you—that you can color outside the lines all you like, but only if you use the colors they hand you.

Play the game, but only our game.

Wait, watch. It's not your turn yet.

There's got to be some sort of balance between playing and watching, living and surviving, acting and waiting, and that's why we've got to keep stepping over the threshold. We've got to keep crossing the line, skipping from one side to the other, until we learn where the line falls. Only then can we walk it, living on both sides at the same time.

Then we'll be coloring inside the lines, but we'll be using our colors, not theirs.

I guess it just takes time. That's what it means to be 14. You've got to find the line yourself, and they're too old to remember how that feels.