Updated: May 31, 2019
The birds speed across the sky, riding the wind, on their way to find somewhere to spend the night, I guess, to continue their journey down south. Birds fascinate me. They seem so free, flying wherever their wings take them.
I realize I’ve been standing at the same crosswalk for a while now, the walking man flickering into a red hand again. It’s okay; I can wait. I can’t say I’m exactly looking forward to Meg Ingleson making me her personal roundhouse kick tester. I’ve been going to karate for years, and I’ve never been as humiliated, even when I was a beginner, as this year when Meg Ingleson joined us at the dojo. I’ve never done a thing to her; I’ve never even said a word to her, but she decided that she enjoys making me an example of how amazing she is at karate. It’s not that I’m bad. I’m pretty good. She’s just a lot bigger than me and has more experience.
The light changes again, and as I get going, I see him walking toward me. Drew. He isn’t the normal guy every girl goes for, but he has his own nerdy charm. I’ve had a crush on him since I first saw him a year ago when I started 9th grade. Unfortunately, he doesn’t even know who I am. He’s with that girl he’s always with. I don’t think they’re dating, but I’m 99% sure he has a thing for her.
The two of them walk past me, in what sounds like an argument. They don’t even glance over. It’s okay; I wasn’t looking at them either. That would be awkward.
“How was karate?” Mom asks me, distracted by her laptop, when I walk into the house. If she looked up, she’d see the new bruise forming on my bicep and my thin hair straggling around my face, sticking from sweat.
“Your Aunt Stacy is here.”
I glance toward the living room, just now hearing the voices that belong to Dad and Aunt Stacy. I drop my backpack and head into the room. Aunt Stacy looks up, and her face breaks into a toothy grin when she sees me. Dad is the optimist of our family, but Aunt Stacy makes him look like a grouch. She’s constantly happy and energetic, like she can’t wait to meet every person she sees on the street and become their best friend. She has a hard time with being punctual, because she always gets distracted by talking to other people on the way. I, on the other hand, inherited Mom’s focus and introvertedness. It’s hard to believe we’re related sometimes.
“Hey, girl!” she trills, grabbing me in a hug.
“I’m a little sweaty,” I mumble into her shoulder. But I can’t help my smile.
“Karate?” she says, pulling back and giving me a look over.
I nod, and she turns back to Dad, who’s on the phone. “You still doing the half marathon with me next month?” she asks me.
“Umm…” I try to think of good reasons not to. I’m not good with on-the-spot stuff. “I don’t think I’ll be ready by then. I haven’t had a lot of time to train.”
“Come on,” Aunt Stacy looks at Dad again. “Tell Katie she has to run with me.”
He smiles at her, still on the phone, distracted.
“I don’t know,” I say, looking at my feet. “I just don’t want to suck.”
Aunt Stacy puts a hand to my chin and moves it up until I’m looking at her. “You won’t. You’re a great runner. You need to give yourself some credit.”
I shrug. “Maybe. I guess I have a little more time to decide.”
“Time’s running out,” she says, and I turn to go up to shower.
My hair’s still wet, and I’m only now pulling out my homework when someone knocks on my door. Aunt Stacy steps in with a conspiratorial smile.
“I want to give you something,” she says, holding her hands behind her back. Aunt Stacy isn’t old, she’s like around 30 or something, but she still acts really young for her age, and it feels like she’s more like an older sister than my dad’s sister.
“What is it?”
I know what it is the moment she stretches out her hands; it’s a case for glasses, maybe sunglasses, but I don’t know why she’s giving it to me. The case is worn, and when I open it, the glasses look old too. Like so old that they’re back in style.
“I don’t wear glasses,” I tell Aunt Stacy.
“They aren’t just any kind of glasses,” she says, sitting beside me on my bed. “They’re what made me the way I am.”
I look at her, knowing she’s not crazy but not sure why I’m so certain.
“These,” she says, pulling the glasses out of the case and putting them on. “changed my life.”
“Wait, didn’t you used to wear those?” Suddenly I remembered Aunt Stacy wearing them a few years ago. I always assumed she’d gotten contacts.
“These are what I call my rose-colored glasses. You know, when people are really optimistic about everything? Well, these are the real deal. You put them on, and everything seems easy. Or at least doable.”
Aunt Stacy still wasn’t making any sense, but when she leaned over to put them on my face, I didn’t object.
“Okay. What’s something that seems hard? Discouraging?”
“Umm,” I glance around, and my algebra homework catches my eye. “This.” I pull out the paper. Normally just the look of it makes me sick.
“Okay. Now just look at it. How do you feel?”
Aunt Stacy sits back, as content as if she’d just solved all my homework. I stare at the paper, and instead of feeling dread, something strange happens. It doesn’t look that bad. If I just spent a few minutes doing the first few questions, I could take a break and come back to it, refreshed. It would only take a few breaks before I finished.
“Doable?” Aunt Stacy asks.
“I think so,” I say, surprised by my answer. “It’s not that bad.”
“I told you. If you wear these every day,” she leans in, almost whispering, her face reflecting her excitement, “nothing will seem too hard. Of course, you can’t jump off a cliff, but anything you really want to do, you’ll get the confidence you need.”
I look from her to my algebra homework. “Really?” This still sounds crazy.
“I promise,” she says. “I wasn’t always this happy. Those glasses made me that way. And now I want you to have them.”
“Are you sure?”
Aunt Stacy nods. “Just give them a chance. You’ll see how much everything will change.”
So I decide to give them a chance. Just for a day. And then we’ll see what happens.