The Gift of Five Minutes: Rising from the ashes to be a better person.

I waited in the harsh glare of the overhead fluorescent lights for them. The scent of Lysol intertwined with the fragrance of flowery hand soap, creating a nauseating perfume.

Or was it just the anxiety flooding through me, causing my stomach to perform dangerous acrobatics?

The mirror reflected my pale and waxy skin in the unforgiving lights. My sky blue eyes hid behind the plastic frames and finger printed lenses of the glasses I despised.

Whoosh. Toilets flushed, drowning out the annoying buzz of the lights, as one by one, they exited the stalls behind me.

The first girl was pretty, still trapped in her awkward 12 year old body. Her skinny legs were too tall for her torso while her round face still transitioned between childhood and adulthood. Her chestnut brown hair was thin and straight, stopping just below her shoulders. The too short bangs were brushed crooked across her forehead.

The stomach somersaults picked up speed as she accidentally met my glance in the mirror.

Damn,” her eyes said. “You’re still here.

My trepidation skyrocketed while a part of me wanted to laugh. Did she really think I was dumb enough to fall for the same trick twice? Had she learned nothing from three years of friendship.

She paused, The Leader, as another girl appeared from different stall.

She was a few inches shorter than the Leader, but tall enough to look down at me. Her arms and legs were twigs, giving her a dainty, fragile appearance. Her skin was ghostlike, completely white except for the outbreak of freckles everywhere – the perfect match for her short red hair.

They exchanged a knowing look as they moved to the automatic faucets in unison.

A third stall sprung open as the last of “our group” was revealed. She studiously avoided my eyes in the mirror, hers covered with round coke bottle glasses that rivaled mine. Her hair was trapped between blond and brown, giving it a sandy color, as the permed curls dipped just past her shoulders.

Look at me,” I pleaded silently. Of the three, she was the only one who still dared speak to me – as long as the other two weren’t around.

She sailed past me and merged into Them.

I readjusted my overstuffed backpack as the trio moved as one, crumpling their paper towels.

Hope tried to surge through the layers of trepidation that filled me. Maybe they would give up for today. Maybe they’ll forget.

The Leader took point, heading toward the school doors, sandwiched on each side by the other two.

I followed, my feet heavy. Silent. Head hung as I focused on their shoes in front of me.

They burst out into the unseasonably warm spring day. The blaring sun smacked into me, forcing me to block it with my hand until my eyes adjusted. It heated my skin as the echo of bus doors opening and closing enveloped us, the air scented with diesel. The still dormant brown grass crunched as we took our short cut across the school grounds.

The trio continued on, never peering back at me to see if I remained. They laughed and talked louder than normal, ensuring that I heard every word.

The small bud of hope withered again – as it had every day for the last week. Confusion and despair overwhelmed me.

I didn’t exist. Not anymore. Not in class. Not at our lunch table. Not anywhere.

Still, I persisted. This was my way home too. I had every right to walk this way.

They couldn’t stop me.

We left school grounds, the only sound our feet slapping the pavement and their high pitched chatter.

Until they paused. And huddled – a circle of secrecy as they whispered in inaudible tones as I halted a few paces away, still pretending I belonged.

Suddenly, they broke apart and sprinted away as one, peals of their laughter cutting through my heart like a dagger.

My eyes blurred as tears drowned out my vision. I collapsed, struck down by their cruelty.

A part inside of me died as a phoenix sprung forth from the ashes. A vow.

I will never do this to anyone. Ever.

I’m better than that.

This week, we want you to imagine that after you have died and your daughter/son will be given the gift of seeing a single five-minute period of your life through your eyes, feeling and experiencing those moments as you did when they occurred. What five minutes would you have him/her see? Tell us about them in the finest detail.

Author’s Note: I changed my mind many times about the five minutes of my life I could share – most of them moments of overwhelming joy. Yet this one kept coming back to haunt me -a moment filled with all of the negative emotions I want to protect my children from.

My biggest fear when I found out I was pregnant with my baby girl was, “Oh god, what if she experiences what I did in her tween years? What if she isn’t as strong as I was, living in a era of social media where there is no escaping from your peers?” I chose this to share, to show her that even when it feels like your world is ending – especially when you think it is – that is the time to find strength within yourself. Use it to grow. To not just survive, but thrive. On the flip-side, to make her conscious of how she treats others, and the lasting affect it can have on them.

This moment and the weeks and months surrounding it defined who I am now. It taught me the meaning of true friendship.

That nothing is black and white.

Epilogue: The first two girls I hardly spoke to again – even though we’d have overlapping classes until we graduated from high school.

The third girl was my maid of honor.

Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed.


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
This entry was posted in Nonfiction, Writing Prompt and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to The Gift of Five Minutes: Rising from the ashes to be a better person.

  1. Yuliya says:

    You’re right I didn’t expect to see this kind of memory chosen for your five minutes. But what an important lesson for your children.
    My favorite line was this “She sailed past me and merged into Them” I could see it happening right in front of me.

  2. Erin says:

    I had such similar things happen to me in middle school, and I swore I’d never do that to anyone….so far so good!
    I think your daughter would find strength and kindness in your words!
    Beautifully written!

  3. Nancy C says:

    This was raw and powerful. It made me feel uncomfortable, in a good way, because it reminded me to be mindful with my own children. And it brought back seventh grade for me.

    Because those tweens and teens? Vicious.

    Beautiful job.

  4. I’m the same the line”She sailed past me and merged into Them” made me shudder. We’ve all been there and none of us want this for our daughter.

    You captured the emotion perfectly.

  5. Jessica says:

    You captured every moment of this perfectly. I was there and you took me back to this time in my life too, the time I fear will ever happen to my girls. I love that you shared your reasoning and the epilogue. THIS is amazing writing.

  6. varunner says:

    I love this. And of course hate it. Because I know the power that mean girls can hold over one another. I’ve lived it too. Wonderful capture.

  7. Tiffany says:

    It’s a different moment than most would think of when telling about their life to their children, but it was perfect. We know ourselves that when we lived through those awkward tween/teen years that we would have never listened to our parents advice. But the perspective you conveyed is worth a thousand words. We have ALL been that girl. Great post.
    BTW- new reader, found you through the red dress club.

  8. Elaine says:

    I felt those old feelings come back as I was reading this. I personally despised that age in my life and I have also said I would raise my daughter not to treat people that way. Nice writing.

  9. CDG says:

    God, girls can be so cruel.

    I mean, not just girls, but the particular forms of psychological bullying employed by tween/teen girls can be so horrible.

    I remember, too. I transferred to a new high school, and sort of reinvented myself, or maybe just was myself there, and that’s exactly the feelings you describe in your piece that I felt so freed from in my piece.

    I think it’s an inspired choice for this prompt. Inspired.

  10. Kris says:

    I loved this. I was always the shy, new girl and was completely intimidated by the mean girls. And they knew it.

    My daughter was born with confidence I never had. I’m so grateful for that.

  11. MamaRobinJ says:

    What an excellent 5 minutes to choose! This is a powerful lesson for everyone to learn and a powerful one to share. I love how you captured it. Perfect.

  12. Lovely and timely and important. Thank you for sharing.

  13. mommylebron says:

    This was beautiful and painful. You did such a great job of capturing both the external environment and your inner turmoil. I’m curious as to what led up to this climax, as I had experience a similar situation in middle school.

  14. I think that life is in the details and you did such a great job of capturing that bathroom, the fingerprint smudged glasses, the too short bangs, the crunching dormant brown grass that I could smell everything. I love that you chose this moment because it isn’t always the grandest ones that define who we are.

  15. Courtney says:

    This is a GREAT post. I can remember feeling exactly how you described on more than one occasion. Thanks for sharing this.

  16. tulpen says:

    Does every girl go through this? I know I did.

    I think I forgot how bad it SUCKED until I read this. And you described it perfectly.

  17. Katie says:

    Still, I persisted. This was my way home too. I had every right to walk this way.

    This is what stood out at me as the message your children would take from this. Yes you went through hell…and that will resonate too. But you stuck to yourself. You didn’t pander to them.

    This is lovely.

  18. Wow. Totally unexpected, but completely understandable, why you would share such a memory. A powerful lesson – I learned it too. I was completely drawn in by your story telling!

  19. Leah says:

    Loved your story. It is so important for our daughters to know that they can be stronger, and that those girls’ opinions are really irrelevant. Even if it doesn’t always feel that way.

  20. Brooke says:

    I often wonder what the stories are that girls like that have from those oh-so-painful years. Did they hate them as much as we did? Do they have memories of being tormented and rejected as well?

  21. Sarafree says:

    Heartbreaking, yet triumphant, and I have similar experiences from my childhood. One moment where I tripped up was in the paragraph “They burst out into the unseasonably warm spring…” Maybe the sentences could be cleaned up some. I’m not a comma expert by any means, but maybe that was the missing link. Other than that, I thought your piece flowed really well, and I felt like I was walking with you on that painful afternoon. Great job!

  22. Your vivid pictures took me right back to middle school. I love your vow, and I especially love your epilogue!

  23. Trish Loye Elliott says:

    Loved this moment, Kelly. It brought tears to my eyes. I think it’s a brilliant moment to share with your kids. It totally shows an amazing aspect of your character. Nicely written. I agree with the others… ‘…sailed past me and merged into Them.’ Perfection.
    To end with the vow. Again… wow.

  24. What a brave choice! That IS an important five minutes to share with your kids. The imagery was beautiful. I could smell the school, and feel the ground beneath my feet. And the ache inside.

  25. JP says:

    Teens…they can be so cruel, so mean & vindictive. You nailed reality, my dear!

  26. Leighann says:

    How well I know this feeling. Being ignored by my group of friends and not knowing why. Being too young to have a strong sense of self and the courage to stand up to them. Being ganged up on and laughed at as I walked alone. Your story hit me hard. I’m so glad you shared it, and that you wrote it so well.
    Very well done.

  27. “She sailed right past me into Them.”

    So very powerful.

    I have been there too. 🙂

  28. Ashley says:

    Great story. This is probably one of my worst fears for my girls. Kids can be so cruel. What a great lesson.

  29. Mandyland says:

    I sat here and cringed while reading this. I was standing next to a little girl who just wanted to belong. I wanted to reach out to her and befriend her.

    While it’s not what I would have expected in a five minute piece, I think it’s a gift to your daughter, an acknowledgement that you understand how scary and lonely and alienating this world can be.

    What a beautiful, beautiful piece.

  30. Ironic Mom says:

    Wow. A great piece. Cruelty in adolescence is one of the reasons I teach Grade 8 and 9.

  31. I too had the same fears flash before me when I saw on the ultrasound that I was having a daughter.
    I too remember this same moment from my tween years and the accompanying pain. You captured these 5 minutes with every rich, disturbing detail. But what a beautiful lesson to share with your daughter. Well done!

  32. Leigh Ann says:

    This is so very powerful, heartbreaking, and beautifully written. My heart aches thinking back on some of the fickleness of girls and that my girls may some day be in that position — made fun of by their friends, called fat, ignored. I’m sure it’s unavoidable, but I want to tell them “This is not forever! This is only a small ripple in the huge ocean that is your life!” Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you came out of your experience a better person.

  33. amber says:

    That’s a powerful lesson for your daughter. I can relate, my teen years were much the same way, and I remember feeling that pain. People can be cruel, but you don’t have to be.

  34. Veronica says:

    Girls are so very cruel, it’s almost a rite of passage, one that I hope my girls never, ever have to go through. It’s horrible and the affects are lasting. Your writing was strong and beautiful in both depth and honesty. Thank you for sharing this.

  35. Pingback: The Road and the Green Glow | Writing with Chaos

Comments are closed.