Writing Catalog

Faith Teutschbein

Grade: 11

Bay Village High School

Instructor: Erin Beirne


Personal Essay & Memoir


The reflection of the sun on the water is as bright as a lamp with no shade, the brilliant bulb blinding. Waves cause gentle ripples along the surface, and water laps upon our feet, standing on the steps into the water. She looks back at me, smiles, and leaps in. I stand still, shivering from the icy water up to my knees. Her fingers toss handfuls at my sun-warmed face, and I shriek, kicking some back at her as I slip fully under.

We are twelve, and our bodies and souls are unburdened with thought, all hardship rinsed by the gentle waves. We are each other's life boats, and we all too gladly cling to each other for comfort. Long school years stretch behind and before us, but here, in this summer breeze, we are held as flies in resin, stuck in this moment forever.

When her dad moved here, I waited impatiently for the steps down to his dock to be completed: rusted, creaking metal replaced by equally unsteady steps, shaking even from a small wind. Despite the sway of the platform below us, we fly down, our feet faster than our bodies, eager. A large concrete slab, with posts for a netted hammock that will inflict too many rope burns along our exposed backs, flushed from sunburns, meets the muddy water. There is no room for sadness or strife down here, only paddle boards and kayaks.

Pebbles tumble down a steep cliff that leads upwards to her back yard, intercepted by a balcony extending past the dock and over the water. A bright red adirondack beach chair sits lonely atop the cliff, a memorial for a girl whose life was too short, but who shone brighter in her sixteen years than most of us will in a lifetime. She will forever sit looking out upon this deep abyss of water. But even the evocation of loss does not slow us, only reminds us that we are not alone. Obligation lies at the top of those stairs, away from the water. We do not let it heavy us, instead floating along on this modicum of weightlessness and freedom.

A large bluetooth speaker sits on the concrete dock, and she turns up the playlist we have chosen for this whimsical afternoon. The jet ski is on the water, and once we are acclimated to the numbing lake, which she insists is warm, she swings herself atop it. I yank myself up and curl my arms tightly around her as she inserts the key and slams her foot on the gas. A shout bursts from my lips, the same lips that carve themselves into a freakish smile, the whipping wind pulling the corners unnaturally far. I am thrown outwards on a rough turn, but my snug life jacket cradles me as I swim back towards the rumbling engine. When the gas runs low, her gentle hand twists the key once again, and we find ourselves on paddleboards, her dad drifting out to join us.

We swim around, playing games, doing flips, and talking about everything from what we ate for breakfast to our dreams for the future, our dreams always including each other. Laughter coats the roofs of our mouths, hers a deep warm rasp, mine a mallet meeting a chime. They embrace in the wind to create a symphony of exhilaration. The burning sun lowers farther into the sky, and we roll ourselves out of the waves, draping towels over our shivering bodies.

Our bare, pruned feet hesitantly meet the steep steps back up to civilization, her dad's message that dinner is ready pulling us out of the water like fish on lines. The meal is the same as it always is, grilled turkey burgers with ketchup and fruit. The food settles, and we head inside, down to her basement to curl up on her worn, brown couch to watch a movie, our joy fading as time drifts us farther and farther from the afternoon, but warm contentment nestles its way in instead.

For years, we had a similar routine, finding ourselves falling in the water, shrieking and laughing. We had our whole futures unwritten, the only assumed definite being that we would be together in them, our necks stained green from cheap friendship necklaces. We imagined our hands would always find a home in each other's. Our pasts had grown out from seeds planted too close to each other, and our roots were tangled, but we did not mind. If only we'd realized how trees grew separately once they broke ground.

We haven't ventured down those steps hand in hand all summer, and I feel the cord of hope and love that binds us is fraying. The years have weakened our connection, but these warm memories will always melt our souls together like two chocolate bars left too long in the sun. When I look into her deep blue eyes, the lake expands before me. Our pasts are currents swirling among each other, and even though our relationship has waxed and waned like tides, all I can hope is that we become pebbles thrown into these waters, too near each other, our ripples extending outward together towards the horizon as the familiar sun rages above.