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I stared at my essay paper, my mind racing. My palms were sweating, and I tried to wipe them on the side of my jeans. The question at the top of the page stared back at me, still there. I clicked my pen nervously, my eyes following the clock's hands.


Tick, tick, tick. 


Time wasn't going fast enough, but I also wanted it to stop so I could figure out how to approach the question. 


It wasn't hard, exactly, but I just didn't have an answer. Like asking a blind woman what the color of the sky was. How would she know? 


Mrs. Brown caught my eye and raised her white eyebrows at me. I smiled weakly and pointed at the blank paper, shrugging as if to say that "I'm working on it". She got up, and her glasses caught the sunlight as she neared the window. 


"Listen,  this is not a college essay. It's just a prompt to get you to think. Come on – how do you define home?" 


I raised an eyebrow at her. 


“A house.”


She rolled her eyes and motioned to write, then turned away to shuffle down the aisle. 


I sighed, drawing a sketch of a house. 


As I began to shade the side of the house, I realized I wasn't drawing my house. Well, not my house anymore. 


I was looking at my old house, with the old apple tree in the front yard. I don't think I'll ever forgive it for giving me the scar on my back from when I fell off one of its branches. Walking past it, I imagined walking around to the back of the house, our old fireplace blazing with a fire. 


The scene melted away, and it was late at night. It was in the middle of a pandemic, but my mother had chocolate, graham crackers, and marshmallows, so as far as I knew, all was right with the world. My father watched as I tried my best to get the marshmallow toasted without burning it, and he calmed me down when it inevitably did catch fire. My brother, on the other hand, liked his marshmallow burnt to a point where even lava monsters would grimace. How we were related, I never understood. 


"Papa, Papa, PAPA!" I  shrieked, my marshmallow melting off the prongs. My father grabbed the chocolate and the graham crackers, sandwiching the marshmallow before it fell to its doom. I breathed a sigh of relief, and he smiled at me, the orange glow dancing on his face. I grinned before taking a bite of the sandwich, my nose sticky and my fingers covered with chocolate. 


"Hey, is that a shooting star?" asked my mother, pointing up at the twinkling sky above. 


I could hardly believe it – my first shooting star! I watched it fly across the heavens and made a silent wish in my heart. 


The school bell shook me out of my trance, and I was surprised to find that I'd written several pages of my essay. 


I handed my papers to Mrs. Brown, who smiled as I left the class. 


The next day, Mrs. Brown asked me to wait before lunch. 


"This was really well written, but you didn't answer the question. Where is home?"


I smiled before responding. 


"Wherever my family is. They can make any situation, any place, any hotel, feel like home with a smile and a hug. They are my home."

I Stared at my essay...

BY Leena Wahaj


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