Personal Spotlights

Traffic Lights

by Steve Li

My mind races as I look down through a window
A window that does not open
My only view into the outside world
As I look below I see bright lights puncturing through the darkness
moving around like tiny ants traveling in a line
These lights remind me of the streets that I once used to walk on
The streets of downtown San Francisco
with the bright lights of storefronts and the electrifying air full of life and energy
But instead I'm deep inside. Here. 
Trapped between four walls
Covered with grey paint with scratches and pencil marks
That decorate the walls with bible verses of hope, faith and forgiveness

Books that I borrowed my local library are due next month
My biology midterm is in two weeks
My best friend birthday is in eight days
How long will I be here for?
I’m frozen, stuck in time
I no longer have a sense of time or space
Immobilized, paralyzed, forgotten
Like a childhood toy put away into the attic

Yesterday night
11pm I am sitting in the twenty four hour Starbucks
Flipping through pages and text of how DNA translates into RNA
Studying till my eyes can barely stay open
Doing what society has told me all along
to work hard and study hard
and you will be able to achieve your dreams
I am
Laying still in this cold hard bed
despised by society for trying to fit into the mold that they wanted me to be
trapped behind an impenetrable door
A door without a door knob
with dents and scratches of previous prisoners who tried to escape
A door that separates the desirables from the undesirables

My future no longer matters
I no longer know the realms between reality and imagination
I am tired and exhausted from the events of the last 48 hours that I can barely comprehend
I’m just hoping to wake up from this horrible nightmare
If I could only just
close my eyes
drift off to sleep
Hoping that when I wake up
I will be back in my room with small wooden desk, a laptop and a pile of homework from my 19 unit workload that I’m taking this semester
That I will wake up to the aroma that seeps into my nose every morning of the bold and familiar smell of coffee that my mother brews every morning
That I will wake up and hear the sounds of her heels taking careful but strong steps as she heads out to go to her twelve hour work shift

Yes, 20 seconds
That's how long it takes for the traffic light
to turn from green to red
20 seconds
That seem to last a lifetime stuck in this cell
20 seconds
The only thing that I hold onto to remind me of the life outside, 
While I am. Here.
Inside. Laying still.
Immobilized, paralyzed, forgotten
Never in my life have I felt so small, so weak, so helpless
what I once thought was bright and secure
is now dark and uncertain.