• Reading Level 5

Age 17 – 18: winner

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Ilona, Abbey College

Winner of the 17 – 18 age category, Celebration Day writing competition 2023

When Dad was fifteen, he got a huge gash on his elbow while he was riding a bike. He’s
thirty two now, but it still bleeds. Mom yells at him for scratching it all the time, his carefully
dressed-bandage soaked in red every time he itches it. Dad shrugs everytime in response.
When he was only still a child, he gave his bike to his best friend, who did not enjoy the gift
for even a day before he was brutally attacked for it, leaving him in a coma.
“He can hear us, right?”

The nurse nodded, opening the door to let Dad in. Somehow, Dad’s heart was racing,
pounding so loudly on his ears that it was hammering, making his entire body shake and
shudder. When Dad was fifteen, he visited the hospital everyday to see his best friend, on
his bike that he saved two years worth of lunch money for.

It didn’t matter how many times he visited, once the door opened, the first thing Dad did was
flinch. Room 201 was too plain, too white, too simple for Dad’s best friend – Ishikawa – to
even contain the boy that was the epitome of color. Yet, that was what Dad saw every 4 pm
after school. His best friend, wrapped in a bed twice too large for him, the stark white of the
scrubs, the sheet, the tangled IV drips swallowing up his little outlined. Sanitized. He’s visited
him forty five times, but seeing him like that permanently breaks something inside Dad, each
time even if he couldn’t place what it was.

Dad always waits for the nurse to close the door before making it to Ishikawa’s bedside. “Hi
Ishi.. It’s big bro..” he says aloud, the silence he hears absorbing the words like blood
soaking into gauze.

Dad’s messy nails attempt to tear the plastic wrap on Ishi’s takeout fried rice as the folded
built-in food tray of the hospital bed wobbles. “Sorry I was late today, almost missed our
streak.” he forced out a giggle.” As he talked, he tried his hardest to ignore the fact that
every single sentence was followed by empty silence. That the small boy, wrapped up in
sanitized sheets, could only hear and not respond. Yet, if he focused more on the former,
that he could listen, rather than the latter – it was enough for Dad. It should be enough. Dad
scratches his elbow.

Dad doesn’t tell me about the boy, the bike, the hospital, But I know. I know about the life
support machine being turned off and the bravery of bearing guilt, despite not being to
blame. He tells himself that as long as there was blood, he would still hear his voice, and he
would be less sad. I don’t know what else to do other than give him more cotton.. Be brave
Dad, I say, as I see him riding his bike. It’s not bleeding anymore.

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