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Don’t Play With Fire

By @conlin_r


I live a simple life. Simple. I don’t stress, I don’t relax. I just simply have a routine. Wake up, feed my sister’s cat, set a timer for six minutes, hop in the shower, dry off, get dressed, put on mascara and lipgloss, go downstairs, eat breakfast, walk my sister to the bustop, hug my mom, pick up my current book, and aboard the bus to school. Everyday. The same simple routine.

I enjoy a routine. Having a strict routine lets me know what’s going to come later in the near future. I don’t like worrying about the future and because of that, I now have an adapted routine. Ever since tenth grade. The same thing. Over and over.

Usually right after I eat breakfast, my mom emerges from her bedroom. She’s almost always putting in her left earring. This is a classic move my right-handed mother does. She starts with putting in her right earring, then places the left one in last. When, or if, I wear earrings, I put my left one in first because I am a proud lefty.

She always starts a pot of coffee while heating up a Jimmy Dean’s Breakfast Sandwich in the microwave. The coffee and muffin are always done at the same time.

She sits down at her spot at the small dining table. Her spot is to the right of the small vase holding artificial flowers. She quietly eats her breakfast muffin and sips her coffee diligently.

She doesn’t enjoy sugar or milk in her coffee. She likes it plain black. She says it tastes more real like that. I don’t know if that is a true fact or not. I have never tried coffee before. I’ve heard it stunts your growth and I enjoy being 5 foot 6.

After her breakfast is complete, she hand washes her plate and cup. She prefers to hand wash everything after the… incident. She sold our dishwasher to make more money. It was a smart investment, I guess.

I am usually about to stand up and head to the front door when she is barreling towards me with her briefcase in hand, stethoscope around neck.

Her famous quote: “If you start the day without a mother’s touch, you’re ending your day a step further away from her.”

My sister and I both know this is a load of phooey, but still, it’s very sweet to think that my mother still wants to hug her B-average, works at Food Lion, seventeen year old daughter. It means we still have a connection. I enjoy that.

By then, she comes up and wraps her arms around my poofy black hair and holds me tight for a good seven seconds. It’s always seven seconds.

She gives me a kiss on my forehead, tells me she loves me, and then we head out of the front door with each other. I always step out first since she has the only set of house keys we didn’t lose yet. She steps out next, turns around and locks the door. She almost always puts her arm around my light brown shoulders covered in a light cardigan. I always wear cardigans.

We head to the driveway and step around flowers. My family enjoys preserving flowers. My mom thinks it’ll be a good hobby for my sister, Jane, to take up when she’s older. Not preserving flowers. Gardening. I don’t think preserving flowers can be a hobby.

By this time, it’s always 7:53. She removes her arm from my shoulder and gives me another kiss on the forehead.

Mai hoʻokuʻu i kou lapalapa ahi,” she whispers in my ear. It’s Hawaiian for, “Don’t let your flame blow out.” My grandma used to tell that mantra to my mother when she was a child. Now my mother passes down the tradition to me.

Mai kinai i kāu,” I repeat back. This is the response to my mom’s. “Don’t extinguish your’s.” She gives me a shy smile. We blow each other a kiss.

She gets in her car and immediately puts on the heat. Here in Cherry Hill, it’s almost cold all year round. Especially in November. And it’s currently November. My mother hates the cold but loves New Jersey. It’s a sacrifice we’re all willing to make to leave Hawaii. It may seem like paradise but…

I’m standing by my mailbox as my mom pulls out. Her window is always down. She sticks her head out of the driver’s window. “Ku`u lei,” she calls out everyday. I blow her a kiss.

She calls me her beloved. I feel warmth when she says it.

Now I just wait.

My fun, makuahine-filled morning has now come to a stop. Like it was extinguished.

I will simply wait for the bus to pull up to my driveway. I will simply wait for the stop sign to come out. I will simply wait for the doors to open up, allowing me to board the saddening trip to a long day of repeated despair.

I sit in the same seat everyday, scoot all the way to the window, and listen to a new and upcoming boy band. My backpack perches beside me everyday. I’m not anti-social, but I prefer not to have anyone sit with me while I’m heading to school.

But now you know my life. My routine. The peacefulness that my loving morning brings everyday. I enjoy it all.

Everyday as I listen to the band “Why Don’t We”, I repeat the mantra in my head.

Mai hoʻokuʻu i kou lapalapa ahi.

Don’t let your flame blow out.

Never again. Not after the last time. My flame is forever ablaze.


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