He’s going to hit you. I know you think he’s going to move, but he won’t. You won’t either. I’m not going to lie—it’s going to hurt. But I want you to let it happen.
Why would I want you to get hurt? I’m not going to tell you yet.
First, take a look around. You know this neighborhood. This is your little slice of adolescent heaven. I know you don’t think so right now. All you’re thinking about is getting the hell out of here. You’re thinking about auditions and songs and the next musical to debut on Broadway where you can be the star. Stop worrying about that. It happens. Well, some of it. You move to New York City like you’ve always wanted. You live in a small dumpy apartment on the Upper East Side and take the subway to work and you even sing there. It’s just in late night bars, not Broadway.
But right now you’re here. In Cleveland, Ohio. In the neighborhood you’ve lived in for 10 years. With the same friends. Well, almost the same friends. I know some have dropped away. That’s okay. Just wait. This thing called Facebook happens and they all come back around. And I know you’re worried about what’s going to happen when everyone goes to college. You should be worried. It’s not all pretty. But you’ll find your friends.
But right now, you’re staring at a boy. He’s walked you home. He’s serenaded you from your front lawn. He’s lived one fence away from you for most of your life. Damn, this sounds like a Dawson’s Creek episode.
What’s about to happen to you will be talked about for years to come. This boy will be around for years to come, too. You’ll take a trip to New York City together and get a flat tire in New Jersey. He’ll come to Ohio University to celebrate your 21st birthday, which will go down in history as the best day of your life. But this isn’t about that day. It’s about this moment.
And he’s going to hit you. You can’t blame him. This is about survival.
There are no boundaries in this game. Every house is a casualty. No lawn is off limits. Your team needs you.
And you need your team.
You need them, Bekah. You need this. Your neighborhood. Your friends. You might be running fast right now, but slow down. Smell the summer burning on your skin. Look at the smiles on everyone’s face.
It might be a game right now, but this is life. And people will crash into you.
So go for it. And let it hurt.
This is your life. This neighborhood. These friends. In two years, your parents will move away and you won’t live a fence away from this boy. He won’t serenade you and walk you home (he will put fifty “for sale” signs in your front yard to protest your family leaving the neighborhood). This time will be over. So let him hit you.
The grass pulls underneath your feet as you charge toward Chad who’s in jail on the Harris’ front lawn. It’s your job to save Chad. This is Man Hunt after all. And your team needs you. Who cares if this is a game we’ve played since we were seven and now we’re sixteen. Who cares about that right now. Chad needs you. Your team needs you.
But Brendan…he’s fast and tall and on the other team. He wants to keep Chad in jail just as badly as you want to free him. But he’ll move. He wouldn’t run smack dab into a girl.
Or maybe he would. You’re not really a “girl” to him. You’re his friend.
But Chad is so close you can taste his freedom.
Three more steps. Brendan will move. Two steps. He’ll move. One step. Maybe….
Remember this moment. This is life. You may have seriously hurt your leg. You might have a concussion from your head smacking on the lawn. But you will wake up laughing on the ground at your best friend’s house surrounded by people who love you. They’ll get you ice while they reenact the collision over and over again. And when it gets late and the bugs overtake the humid Cleveland night, Brendan and Paul will carry you home. They’ll laugh as they tell the story to your parents. They’ll say “see you tomorrow.” And Brendan will hop the fence back to his house.
Don’t worry about breaking down your fences, teen Bekah. When you’re older, you’ll wish you could put at least one of them back up.
Rebekah Crane fell in love with YA literature while studying Secondary English Education at Ohio University. After having two kids, living in six different cities, and finally settling down in the foothills of her beloved Rocky Mountains, her first novel, PLAYING NICE, was published. ASPEN is her second YA novel. She now spends her day carpooling kids or tucked behind a laptop at 7,500 ft high in the Rockies, where the altitude only enhances the experience.