Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rock, Paper, Scissors

While I have changed my friend's name to protect her anonymity, the story below depicts an actual event that occurred when I was in 2nd grade. The fragmented thought, lingering questions, and feelings of doubt therefore reflect my state of mind at that point as well as how I remember it when I look back on the memory over three decades later.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

By Amber Counts


I can’t believe I lost rock-paper-scissors. It’s not really fair anyway because I don’t know how to play. Jenny learned from her older brother. She must know some secret I don’t. The game can’t be as simple as that, can it? It’s so hot outside. Cooling off in the creek seemed like a good idea, but walking home to get us some water – the result of losing the bet – my jeans are plastered to my legs in an uncomfortable way, chafing as I walk uphill towards my apartment. Sloshing waist-deep in water all day looking for crawfish and pretty rocks, but not being able to drink the water, is really inconvenient. Though we usually only think to go back home when the apartment lights come on, our thirst cannot wait on this muggy August evening.

                Opening the door to my squalid apartment, the air-conditioning hits me full-force. My stiff jeans become icy cocoons, and my bare arms erupt in goosebumps. A short time ago, I was miserably hot, but now I am uncomfortably cold. I open the kitchen cabinet, looking for the plastic cups to safely carry tepid yet refreshing tap water to Jenny, but there are none. Sighing, I begin to wash the dirty cups left on the counter from the previous night’s dinner.

                “It figures,” I think. Not only did I have to trek all the way back to the apartment to get water while Jenny gets to wade through the creek, but I also have to clean the cups first. I really need to learn how to win rock-paper-scissors, I think. With the cups clean and full of tap water, I begin the walk back to the creek.

                The hot air hits me immediately as I leave my apartment. I hear my grandma’s voice in my head, telling me that these abrupt changes in temperature cannot be good for me. My jeans stay cold almost all the way to the creek, though I feel the dampness beginning to evaporate as my jeans are already lighter than when I left the creek earlier.

                Immediately, I know something is wrong, though I am not sure what. Jenny is scrambling up the bank of the creek holding onto her clothes and wearing only panties, mud smears all over her shoulders, legs, and face. On the other side of the creek, I see a man running the opposite way.

                “What’s wrong, Jenny?”

                She doesn’t answer.

                “What happened?”


                “Are you hurt?”

                She still doesn’t respond, and my panic increases.

                “Did that man do something?”

Jenny is silent. She half-runs, half-staggers toward her apartment, and I follow. Jenny stops outside her door, shaking. I’m not sure if she’s cold or scared, and I don’t know what to say to make her feel better. The silence between us is palpable as I still cling feebly to the cups of water. After what seems like an eternity, I’m knocking on the door. Jenny’s mom opens the door and immediately pulls her daughter in, screaming words I can’t quite make sense of.

I make my way home and place the water next to the sink. I do not yet have a name for what has happened to my friend, but I instinctively know that it is terrible.

If only I had won rock-paper-scissors, she would be okay.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this story in the read around. As a person who has survived some pretty challenging trials in this life, I appreciate that sometimes we can feel just as emotional about being the lucky one. I hope writing about this is helping you work through any lingering emotions this incident still holds within you. Some of the things I write about I hope to someday share with my children just so they know about some of the things that have shaped me as a person. Thanks.