“My Tunnels” – Submission to the Florida Weekly Writing Challenge

I just happened to come upon this one morning while reading the local newspaper while eating breakfast and was in search of something interesting to read and thought eh what the hell, I’ll see how this goes and what comes from it. I’m not at all expecting to be published, this was just something to do for fun. Take a read if you’d like. Thanks!


Florida Weekly Writing Challenge seeks your glorious works of fiction once again

08/20/2015

“Take away the art of writing from this world, and you will probably take away its glory.”

— Francois René de Chateaubriand

We tend to agree with Monsieur de Chateaubriand. And as is our custom this time of year, we aim to inspire some glorious writing with our annual Writing Challenge. Two winners will receive a ticket each to the Sanibel Island Writer’s Conference Nov. 5-8.

Using this photo as a starting point for your creative process, we’d like you to come up with a narrative work of fiction of 1,500 words or less. Florida Weekly will accept your original stories in Word format or pasted into the body of an email until midnight, Saturday, Aug. 29. There will be more photo prompts in the months to come. Email them to writing@floridaweekly. com and we will print the best submissions on these very pages. No “snail mail” copies will be accepted. Be sure to include your name, address and contact information with your submission. The earlier we receive your submission, the better your shot at being printed. For more information on the Sanibel Island Writers Conference, visit fgcu.edu/siwc.

Thanks for writing, and good luck.


Below is my submission:

It was one of the many railway tunnels that I’d slept in that summer in the countryside of France. The Red Train runs through it every few hours and so I had to keep moving or I would be hit. I’d found myself living on the streets once I’d lost my job and had traveled so far into France and decided not to go home and face the shame that I’d been feeling. I had told my family that I wanted to live abroad and that once I’d had my fill of the country, I would make my way home to them. That was about four months ago. Yes, it’s true that I was doing fairly well thus far with my little job at a local grocery mart as a courtesy clerk of sorts, but once they found out I was an illegal alien and did not have the proper paperwork to stay any longer in the country, my boss at the store had told me he wouldn’t turn me in, but that he couldn’t employ me for any longer. I moved out of the little house where I had been paying to rent a room from an elderly woman. She wasn’t the sweetest and when I’d told her I’d lost my crummy job at the store, she told me to get my things out by the next day at noon. Not that I’d brought much with me, but man was that a shock to my world. I never even dreamed that I would be living on the streets in France. This beautiful country had been so good to me, and yet I suppose it was mostly my fault that I hadn’t really planned this out all that well. I searched out shelter and knew of a local railway nearby. I went straight away since the summer heat was pounding down anywhere the sun cast it’s rays upon the pavement. I couldn’t find a better shelter than this currently. I was moving from tunnel to tunnel so that I wouldn’t be found. I’d spend my days working on coming up with some form of plan to get a job again. It’s true that the laws regarding immigrants were frightening and I just was not prepared to head back home with my “tail between my legs”. My parents had thought this whole trip was a bad idea from the beginning and I just felt I had to do this for myself. I saved up a couple hundred dollars and came out this way with next to nothing with me but my wallet and some clothes and my passport. I was initially only supposed to stay for the two weeks that were allotted tourists to stay in the country normally, but I called from my hostel I’d been staying at after just three days to my parent’s home to let them know that I had found a job and decided to stay a while longer for the summer. They really had no way to argue with me being so far away, but they warned me about holding on to my money and told me that this wasn’t too bright seeing as my passport was only good for the two weeks as a tourist. I wasn’t about to let them tell me what to do. My parents had been good to me yes, and put me through college, but they only paid for my schooling if I went and received the ridiculous nursing degree they wanted me to get. From the first day I was born, they pushed me and pushed me to attend medical school for they were both physicians and had a local medical practice that they ran together. They truly were quite a dynamic duo together and had some of the highest ratings in our area for their profession. I never wanted to be a doctor. They knew this. I never felt like someone who could spend my days treating the ill. Pushing me as they always did and being such wonderful role models as they were, I promised them that I would commit myself to at least going to nursing school if nothing more. This seemed to satisfy them somewhat and so I received my certifications and became a nurse. This naturally grew boring to me and I wanted to go on some form of adventure. This summer was going to be the one. Yet, here I was, sleeping most of my days away in this lonely, cool, dry tunnel out in the countryside of France. It was a wondrous place honestly. The placards on each tunnel fascinated me and I had learned much of the history of my current home. Moving from tunnel to tunnel and getting to know these tracks was so fulfilling compared to my life back home with my ridiculing medical whiz parents that I simply found this life so much more relaxing and just was not ready to find my way home. And so I roamed on across the countryside in search of more tunnels that lay undiscovered and not slept in by myself. What made inhabiting these tunnels so grand? Why did I find myself fancying being something of a hobo or vagabond or vagrant in this land so thrilling? Perhaps it was because I was an alien in this foreign land. Perhaps it was because I was so far from home and so far from my medical past and my judgmental parents. Or perhaps it was even simply being a migrant. Moving about like an animal in the wild with no rules and no laws to hold me back. This lifestyle that had come to me was just one of the many splendors in my life right now. These trains making their way across the countryside were just like me except for one major difference. The trains speeding through the tunnels were doing a job and their job was to transport the people of the countryside from one place to another. My job was simply to wander aimlessly or so it seemed. The thing was, I did not see it that way. I felt as though my purpose was to bring life to these tunnels. The bricks and cement that lined them felt my warmth and felt me living in them like blood runs through veins and arteries. Unlike the giant masses of painted red metal, metal that would screech on by at times carrying people straight through them, I was there to care for the tunnels and to be their friend. They had no one to show them love and in this I felt I had a purpose and a meaning to my life here. I was a friend to the tunnels. I had no idea whether I had been the first friend to these particular tunnels on this railway line, but once thing was for sure, they were deserted apart from myself and to me this meant something very important to me. The breeze blowing through the tunnel I was currently in helped me believe this even further to my core.

Was I ever going to go home? Of course. I simply wanted to enjoy my life as a free spirit. A spirit that could move about as it pleased like a ghost out of the past that would wander endlessly and be passionate about doing so. Did I miss home? Sure I did. I missed my parents as well. I’m sure I would return and end up working for them at their medical practice and help them with their dreams as well as come up with my very own as well and eventually figure out what it was that I really wanted to do with my life and what sort of schooling I could go into where I could be more enthralled with in life and find some sort of passion and fire for where I could be happy for the majority of my life. Like every responsible adult should. Right? I just wanted to keep going in these tunnels and letting the thoughts flow endlessly about being there for the tunnels and bring life to something that was once so very lifeless, cold and sooty. I felt for the tunnels and they felt for me too. Maybe in some ways we were alike in this way. Cold and empty and in need of someone to bring life to us. Was I to find something in life that would fill my soul up in this manner? To be sure, I would have to leave the tunnels and seek such a thing out. Not today, and not tomorrow, but definitely soon. Definitely soon I would leave my tunnels in the beautiful France countryside. But not now.

Battle Scars Across My Shoulders

As a teen, I had acne. NO SHIT. Almost all teens get acne.

Having said that, I will let you guys know immediately that I will NOT be posting any photos on this post of acne. Yay! You’re saved from that nasty hormonal grossness that most of us have been through! So anyways, I had acne. BAD. I had it all over my poor reddened, pimple covered face. Also, I had acne on my shoulders and back. I had zits here and there and everywhere as most teens do. What I also had though, was something that is called Keloid Scars. A keloids is a growth of extra scar tissue where the skin has healed after an injury. This problem is more common in people ages 10 to 20, and in African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. Keloids also often run in families. So basically on top of your scar, is another, puffy, welt looking scar, resembling a burn scar. Lucky me right? How did all this come about? Well it started with the acne naturally and then just turned ugly and permanently left me with little reminders all over my shoulders and back. Thankfully though, my face was left wonderfully clear! I have a story to tell, and it won’t be pretty, so here is my warning now, if you get squeamish like I do, leave now please to save your stomach the pain of having to endure this puberty-rich story, and I plan on using my most gruesome terms in my vocabulary of course.

So you know, around the age of 10 or 11 it started. The tell-tale little nasty pustules began appearing. I would scrub my face and put makeup over the things, but their was no stopping them. No matter what I tried to rid myself of them, nothing helped. And then…my mom caught me trying to hide something one day as I was walking wrapped in a towel from the bathroom to my bedroom.

“Sarah! What is that?” she said.

“Uh what?” said my stupid teen self back, acting as though I had no clue what the hell she was talking about.

She pulled my in by finally getting a good look at my face and shoulders and what I had been hiding was something that I never should have hidden in the first place from my own mother. I had acne not only on my face, but on my back and shoulders as well. It was bad to say the very least. My towel had splotches of blood on it from where I had the worst ones. I had to explain to her that they would bleed every time I would shower and wash myself because the skin was so very thin and would break open each time I’d wash. Each time I would dry my body off with my towel, I would rub them and irritate them further and the blood would get all over. Also, I ended up having to show her that my bras and t-shirts would get blood on them and would sometimes get stuck to my skin because during class at school, I’d be still for so long that the blood would dry and fuse the fabric to my skin. Each time this would happen I’d have to rip it apart from me. In high school it was a common thing to hug your friends, and yet for me this was not possible. I would always tell people to not touch me when they would lean in for a hug, or touch me in any way. Sometimes I became very angry because of this and would wear large baggy clothing to try and ease my pain and feel at least a little more comfortable with what was going on in my mind as well as with my body. I was in pain so often and told no one.

Upon my mom finding me out, she began by taking me straight to the doctor to see if their was something to be done about this bad acne that was causing so much harm, both physically and mentally. The doctor started trying different creams and ointments on me like “Retin-A Micro” and other antibiotic ointments. I felt like every doctor visit was something new to try out. Month after month, I went to my primary care doctor until I was finally referred to a dermatologist nearby. Same thing, I was to try out the external medicines and keep my skin clean with whatever was the latest cleanser for my face and back and yet nothing seemed to help. My mom was also trying her own little things on my skin like witch hazel and other natural remedies at home. Not a difference at all. This went on from maybe 7th grade into freshman year in high school.

When I reached about 15 years of age the dermatologist I was seeing decided to start me on an oral medication which was the strongest drug at the time in the world of medicine for acne and it was called AccutaneIsotretinoin (trade name: Accutane) is a powerful drug used in the treatment of acne. Four to five months of Accutane treatment usually leads to clearing of acne so they said, but in rare cases it could take up to a year and a half. The most damaging side effect of Accutane is serious birth defects if taken during pregnancy. It is critically important for women not to take Accutane while pregnant, and not to become pregnant while taking it. My dermatologist was to start my treatment as soon as I began taking birth control. AT THE AGE OF 15. I was then sent to a gynecologist for the first time in my life.

My Gynecologist was very nice and talked to me about sex a little and about the pill before she could allow me to begin taking it. I was also to undergo a Pap Smear for the first time and blood test beforehand to test my hormone levels and to make sure I was healthy and had no infections of any sort. Turns out my hormone levels were way off and this was cause for a majority of my acne problems aside from it running in my family of course. I was cleared about a week later and returned to my dermatologist with a clean bill of health along with my prescription for birth control, and each time I was to start a round of the drug Accutane, they would also have me take a pregnancy test to make sure that I wouldn’t be causing my child any defects should I get pregnant. I understood why everything was happening and I was ready to be free of all this pain and blood and ugly festering skin blemishes on my body.

All this and by my side was my mother, quiet and making sure I had all things taken care of and I made it to all my appointments and that I took all the right steps along the way. I began at last to take the drug called Accutane.

accutane-cure-rate-lrg

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On the website of the Food and Drug Administration is a PDF Medication Guide for Accutane which states that: Serious mental health problems may occur. Accutane may cause: depression, psychosis (seeing or hearing things that are not real), and suicide. Some patients taking Accutane have had thoughts about hurting themselves or putting an end to their own lives (suicidal thoughts). Some people tried to end their own lives. And some people have ended their own lives.

Little did I know that I would be one of the ones who would be so affected by these side effects. And I was. I became very depressed and had many thoughts about suicide. I did not ever once self harm or drive myself to actually consider ending my own life, however, the thoughts were always there. I was on Accutane for a year and a half. My acne cleared. Eventually my depression did as well as I was helped out by my friends with this and because my pain was finally gone. I was able to interact with my friends normally once again and could allow them to touch me and hug me should they wish to. Senior year I was left with practically no acne and a smile on my face. But at what cost? Was it worth all the jumping through hoops to get there? Could I have outgrown the severe acne by myself?

My dermatologist finally decided it was time to discuss the keloid scars that had developed on my skin. The only treatments that were available at that time were injecting of the scars with corticosteroid injections one at a time to try and treat them, or send me to an alternate specialist to see what they could do. I did not want to go through the injections because they’d be painful as well as expensive. My mom took me to the alternate physician and he informed me that he could do nothing for me as he gasped in shock when I showed him my shoulders covered in the scars. He told me that their was an experimental study running in Los Angeles to do laser treatments to remove scarring such as this.

I looked him square in the eye and asked him “Would the laser treatment be painful?”

He told me that indeed it would. I immediately said no, and my mom and I left that doctor and never returned. As we drove from the office my mother began to silently cry next to me in the car. She pulled over and began sobbing uncontrollably and screaming at me that she wished their was something she could do to take the scars away from me and that she hated that I had to go through all that I had to come out with these hideous marks on my body in the end.

I looked my mother in the eyes and told her that I loved my body and that I loved her for trying so very hard to do all she could for me, but that if I was going to go to college in less than a year, I did not was to be sitting in class or at home and trying to be comfortable and be going through even more pain. I was done trying to rid myself of something that happened naturally when my body healed. I accept my body for what it is and I love my scars. I wear them proudly and she knows this now. I wear tank tops like anyone else, or dresses, or anything in which my scars are exposed and I feel perfectly alright. Thought I can understand why she is so low about such things, I think she has come to accept my decision regardless because I am very happy now. I am so happy with them that whenever someone asks me about them, I have a story to tell about my tough ride with my acne and what I went through to get them. They are my battle scars and I would not be myself without them.

The Truth As I Now Know It

You ruined me. You ruined any piece of yourself that once had been in my heart. Any part that you had left the day before I was informed of the truth, any small dark corner that you had yourself hidden away inside myself that existed, is far extinguished. I lit a fire and burned away every last teeny tiny shred of you forever.
I am free. And what’s more? So are the others. The others you harmed! Just like myself. Harmed and wounded just like me. How could you do this to so many. People who let you into their hearts? People who thought they could trust you with their love and their everything? You had to go and take this part of them and ruin it forever. How dare you do this. To any of us. None of us deserved this.
You certainly did not deserve any of us.
For what you have done, let it be known that I wish for you to be honest. Not to me, not to those whom you have hurt so horribly and harmed, no.
I wish for you to be honest to those in your future. I wish for you to tell the story of what you had done to so many before. You left us heartbroken and empty. For what is left of us now? A shell. We must start all over once again from the very beginning. It’s true that I do feel like a small child. What I thought was the truth was a lie. I must learn once again to trust.
What do I wish for you? I wish for you to have the power of truth.
Be true to yourself. Be true to those you love.
You deserve this. Just as everyone else does.