March 8, 2015

CNF/ESSAY BY JULIA OLLER "CRUSHED"

Julia Oller is a sophomore journalism student at Taylor University in Upland, where she is the News Co-editor for her school paper. Her favorite part of the job is sharing the incredible stories of ordinary students and employees.




Crushed

She stood in the barn kitchen, straining to lift the round metal drum full of frothing milk high enough to pour into the quart-sized Mason jars lined up in front of her. Straining, too, to hear the sound of a car engine signifying the end of his stay. 

Feverishly, like a Kentucky Derby contender in the starting gate, she slapped lids on jars, swatting at the flies flocking to the spilled drops of milk on the countertop.
Her heart pounded as she raced to the yard, terrified to say goodbye but praying for a swift resolution. He turned to her, arms stretching around her shoulders. Over in an instant. Hoisting his suitcase into the trunk, he started the ignition and beeped his way down the driveway. She forced her face into a passing smile while her stomach crumpled like a cardboard box in the rain.
After five weeks of stuffing emotions deep inside herself, when the source of her feelings dried up she felt a hole tear open in her heart.
For the first week that they worked together as interns at Woodcrest Farm she barely noticed his presence—he might as well have been one of the Jersey cows grazing in the back pasture. And then one sticky Sunday afternoon, her grandfather suggested a trip to the swimming hole, and she and the boy ended up being the only two willing to venture off. Zipping through the North Carolina pines, music turned up and car windows rolled down, she glanced in his direction and felt a twinge in her gut.
While getting lost on the way to the swimming hole, she lost herself in their conversation. An hour of treading water seemed to end in five minutes. When he suggested visiting a local coffee shop, she hesitated, wondering what her grandfather would think. The hormonal attraction won, and she climbed back into his white Cavalier and headed toward who cares? He ordered his tea hot; she took hers iced. They talked theology, deep stuff, and that’s when it hit. The sudden weight crushed her insides.
She had a crush. With an unfamiliar force, her emotions pulled her like a leaf caught in a swollen stream. These feelings terrified her because she couldn’t tame them.
Her thoughts roiled, but they remained an invisible beast. No one guessed her hidden secret.
One quiet afternoon she sat at the piano, playing in solitude, the shadows guarding her from intruders. He came from nowhere, clutching his guitar, asking if he could join. Her heart fluttered; he stood so close. Their voices intertwined for a few harmonious minutes until she abruptly excused herself, mumbling something about making lunch. The intimacy of song was too much to handle.
Some evenings he went on long runs, sporting a bandanna and an old basketball jersey. Her separation anxiety surprised her, confused her. A piece of her heart traveled the four miles down Orange Grove, while the rest of her hoped hard for his swift return. When he ran back up the driveway, sweaty and red-faced, she wanted to hug him hard, but hardly dared to hold his hand during the dinner prayer.
Nights spent together in the kitchen were a gift. Dancing to jazz, they made ice cream and Indian stew. Feeding off of her emotions, however, her appetite nearly disappeared. Afterward, he sat on the front porch and played indie folk songs on the guitar, his voice carrying into the living room where she sat reading. Straining to catch the lyrics, she loathed herself for falling prey to such a common disease. Lovesickness didn’t strike independent college girls. Her mind worked like a washing machine, constantly cycling through thoughts of him. Her heart was the dryer: tumbling at the slightest smile flashed in her direction.
Tantalizingly out of reach, yet so close, he was like the morning fog that enthralled her as a child. Ever-present but impossible to grasp. She jolted awake at ungodly hours, her feelings dominating her thoughts, unable to let go. Instead of sleeping she went on long walks, collecting wildflowers at 6:00 a.m. in an unsuccessful attempt to distract herself.
Too soon, he left for home. But he never knew what he left behind for her: a deep well of memories that never dried up. As the sun clears away the clouds, her heart cleared as she slowly accepted the wildness, the wonder, the gut-twisting enigma of the human heart untamed.
~Julia Oller
       

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