“Clarity by the Wind” by Francheska Cortes, Sacred Heart High School


This essay won third prize in the 2nd annual Yonkers Aqueduct essay competition


Lately, my mind has been drifting elsewhere. Like being stricken by a raging current, my body has beat against its waves and scraped against the rocky corals. It’s not a good feeling, not at all. My heart has not sat comfortably in my chest, and it has been a while since it bounced for anything. It sinks deeper and deeper each day, being dug into the ground, in order to be forgotten by those who do not want to deal with the burden. I don’t remember any other feeling besides numbness. I want to be angry. I feel like I could cry but I can’t. I feel so pained from my heart to my brain, begging to be released from this despair.

I feel so exhausted.

Why do I feel so horrible? Not even I can understand. The mourning dove sobs ring along with my melancholy. Time is moving without me, and the ones I love are moving forward without me. I am a nobody. No one special, no one particularly liked or loved. I can only watch the distance between my friends and I grow, as the steps between us grow longer, until soon they cannot be seen.

I stare off, dreaming of other things, thinking of an escape. But where can a mere high school girl run off to? Where can she escape to?

My world is already so small. Where does a world exist where the air is not this suffocating?

But the world is bigger, with even greater things I have yet to see.

A trip to an Aqueduct. I only wanted to escape class. That was my only motive, and still, I escaped something much bigger. Something that I didn’t realize was dragging me down, chaining the gates of my mind, and blocking my chances at escape.

Groggily, I trudged the trails. The day was cloudy and the path to the bridge was incredibly steep. I began to regret not exercising as much as I should have not even midway through the climb. It was cold, so cold. I was exhausted, my feet hurt, my legs hurt, and the frost stabbed at my cheeks and trickled down my nose as I kept sniffling.

And somehow, I was still laughing. So much that I could barely feel the cold anymore.

The girl in front of me stepped out of her shoes during the climb. I laughed so much. My classmates whined and whined and the more they whined, the more they stumbled and nearly tumbled down the hill.

I’m a very shy and nervous person, so I’m not very acquainted with any of my classmates. Even so, I felt as though I’ve known them for years through this amusing journey up to the bridge. The cold stung at my nose, cheeks, and hands, and I could still smile. Eventually my wide grin must have frozen onto my face. I waddled onto the bridge with a laugh amidst the chilling breeze and splashes of the mini falls.

The view from the top was just as impressive as the view from below, and my amazement blurred all else. What seemed to be a lake on one side was flowing down from a platform on the other.

Two hundred feet deep and who knows how wide, still somehow smaller than the aqueduct in the Catskills.

There were people who built this dam from the ground up. People who spent their lives dedicated to the creation of this dam, and spent years after expanding it. They dug into the solid rocks and ground in order to create a path for water to flow. Night and day, they must have worked tirelessly.

And they made history. These people accomplished something. The time they put into building this dam and the time they spent on this Earth was invaluable. They left their mark on this world, showing everyone that they were once there.

The air was so thin up here. I breathed in the freshly dewy air and sighed, with all tension within my body releasing with it. The weight from my shoulders dissipated, and the crispness in the air gave me a sense of relief, building a tunnel for a stream of realization to trickle through.

I’m here. The water pouring down from this platform is in the now, as such the ducks are floating along this stream in the now. Time is flowing, with me still present. There is no one to live up to besides myself. This world is infinite in its greatness, and at my own pace, I will be the one to realize how infinite I am. One day, in some way, I will leave my mark on this world.

I’ll march alongside the present, to where peace is found.