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Dublin Literary Awards: The Fool by Linda Michel

Citylife has been hosting the northern chapter of the Junior Dublin Literary Awards for Thailand for 10 years. Each year we send letters out to as many schools as we can in the north asking Thai nationality students between the ages of 14-18 to send us an 800 word essay on a theme, which changes annually. This year’s theme was ‘A World with No Boundaries’ and the winning essay was written by Linda Michel, 17, of Nakorn Payap International School. Her essay was titled The Fool. Over the next two months we will feature the other runners up. Linda won a 10,000 baht cash prize as well as three return plane tickets to Bangkok to attend the national awards ceremony where she competed against winners from the central and southern regions. The national winner, from central Thailand, received two return plane tickets to attend the Senior Dublin Literary Awards Ceremony.

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The Fool by Linda Michel
I started running. It was a beautiful feeling. The ground blurred beneath my feet as I pushed off, the muscles in my legs bunching and forcing against the strain. The long grass whipped against my bare legs, itching them, burning them, but I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop because I wanted to believe that I could run on forever. I wanted myself to believe that we were a boundless existence, able to roam as breaths of wind caressing the skin of the earth and as forces of water beating down upon jagged rocks. My breathing became labored and I could feel the fire in my throat wanting to be let out, and so I screamed. The sound echoed against my surroundings, proving that it could travel to places I could not. The wave of fatigue brought me to a halt and I felt just how desperate I really was. I had reached the same spot I had for the past years. The patch of grass that was all too familiar and that same feeling I got when I realized I could go no further.

There were no fences, no walls, no signs of partition. Where my side ended and the other side began was indistinguishable, the blades of grass bending in the breeze just the same. Then why had I stopped? You may wonder. Where was this line that I dare not pass? I watched the striate sky on the other side of my invisible wall.

How amusing it must have seemed to an onlooker, as I struggled with my inner battle, unwilling to let myself pass because of my fear of the unknown. I remembered a time when I had run far, far away and then suddenly, one day, stopping. The feeling of infinity was something all too distant, yet the taste for freedom had never really left me.

In my mind, it had started to snow. Soft white petals floating about a still cool landscape contrasted with the orange glowing background. Streaking reds and yellows collided as the sun dipped into the snowy foothills of my imagination. I didn’t understand it. The simplicity of convergence was something deemed difficult, yet in my mind they would seamlessly perfect one another other.

I lifted my hand to feel the sliver of grass that was touching my shoe and wondered if the grass felt the same in the place I could not reach. I could taste the freshness of the wind that was stirring the green turf and envied how it could move around with no thoughts and no fears. I lay down on the soft ground feeling tired from running and closed my eyes. What a wondrous thing it must be to be able to run beyond the divide.

Dreams had begun to fill my thoughts, of places beyond the realm of my imagination. I saw birds flying overhead and I realized that I was once again running, but this time I was running in the unknown lands beyond the perch of my sanctuary. Trees began to fly by and the grass grew greener in this new land. New shapes and sounds filled my senses, and the colors confused me. Was this what I was so afraid of finding? It was even better than I had ever imagined the unknown to be. Canopies hung overhead, and the moist air was comforting in a strange sort of way. “I have been blind all my life”, I thought to myself. If I hadn’t stopped at that border and allowed myself to reach out, I would have lived not knowing of all the wonders of the world. I was a prisoner of my own thoughts.

I knew I had to go back, to tell my family, to bring them here to witness such a spectacle. A sudden wave of sadness overwhelmed me as I thought about the pitiful lives the villagers at home were leading. Have they not thought about traveling? Have they not pondered upon the land beyond their horizons?

I sat down in the lustrous grass shaded by the big trees. Butterflies fluttered above me, unaware of my inner turmoil. A flower nearby bloomed, soft and yellow, like the sunlight filtering through the trees. My reflections of this perfect land suddenly gave start to an alarming realization. A bitter laugh found its way past my lips. It was not the villagers that I should be pitying, but instead, myself. I was now the prisoner of a perfect reality, because once I went back home, nothing would ever be the same again. I would forever be stuck wishing to return to these lands where the birds sang clearer and the skies were bluer. Maybe the villagers were right to never leave- maybe they knew of the evil that fostered from our own desires. Perhaps the boundary was keeping us safe from the notion that we have lost something we did not have in the first place.

Once I have tasted the fruits of possibilities, I would now be cursed with the need to always be on the move. I could never have a content life with my family in the village, because the world beyond was calling for me. I could go back, but I knew that I had lost that part of me that knew of nothing and wanted less.

I opened my eyes from where I was laying down on the grass. I was back in the hills where I had stopped to rest, right at the border that I never crossed. My eyes searched the dark shapes of trees in the distance and I stood up. I had been dreaming again, but this time I had been able to recall what I had seen. I shuddered at the thought of life beyond my place. Was I brave enough to place my foot over the line and go against the cautionary thoughts that had recently plagued my head? It was not too late to turn around and leave that terrifying nightmare that had pounced upon my unconsciousness.
Was it right to desire? Once I cross the threshold, I could be disappointed. Was it better to live a dream than actually pursuing it? I held my breath and willed with all my strength to place my foot on the other side.

Let me ask you. Am I a fool?

I smiled then. I was the happiest fool I could ever be.