10

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Summary

An epistolary novel about two girls who, in unique and surprising ways, come to terms with the significance and challenges of living a fulfilling life 10 unfolds the story of the troubled and impulsive Simone struggling to navigate through the tumultuous years of adolescence. She finds support and guidance through an exchange of letters with the enigmatic Joy, a beautiful and affluent globe-trotter, helpful and wise far beyond her teenage years. As Simone’s life gradually descends into chaos, Joy strives to rescue her, drawing from her life experiences. 10 is a coming-of-age story about friendship, love, depression, and the virtues of life. Simone and Joy build a strong bond through letters as they both, in their own unique and surprising ways, grapple to come to terms with the significance and challenges of living a fulfilling life.

Genre:
Other / Action
Author:
nagopal
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
10
Rating:
5.0 1 review
Age Rating:
16+

1. TREE OF LIFE

1. TREE OF LIFE

Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.

Warren Buffett


Dear Simone,

You are probably surprised that I am writing you a letter. It would have been much easier to Snapchat, text, or use good ol’ email. My mother often laments the lost art of letter-writing; she is the typical Luddite who seems to hold a deep-rooted grudge against my beloved iPhone. I reluctantly caved in and traded iMessage for real writing pads. I almost felt like a Flintstone, but with time it dawned on me how impersonal smartphones can be, with trite emojis and laughable LOLs (please refrain from rolling your eyes).

After our serendipitous meeting at the Children’s Hospital

in Dallas, I feel you deserve more than a rushed and hollow text. Anyway, you wanted to tell me your story, but our nosy parents seemed to be everywhere. I would like to hear more if you are still willing to share. Remember how you laughed when I said you needed more “boinginess” in your walk to match the bounciness of your natural hair? But I think there was much more than your walk and your hair that you wished to talk about. You were clearly in a dark place. I hope things have gotten better since.

In spite of the impersonal and cold hospital environment, I feel we connected well. Not yet BFFs, I imagine, but it was just a matter of time. I never thought I would make a friend at the hospital, but I am glad I did. Unfortunately, just as you began to open up, you were discharged to return home. I regularly replay putative scenarios in my mind, as a movie tape stuck in an endless loop, of what I could have said to better comfort you.

Now I think (and hope) I have the right words. Sorry if I am taking up your time with this cringe worthy letter. I hope all is well, and please do not hesitate to let me know if you ever feel like talking to somebody.

Joy


Dear Joy,

What a pleasant surprise to hear from the fabulous and gorgeous incarnation of Edna Mode who smacked me with a rolled newspaper and yelled: “Pull yourself together!” I’ve never written a letter before! Christmas cards don’t count, do they? Wow, this is weird. But I am taking this letter-writing thingy in stride. I don’t know how long the pen will be able to fight the keypad though.

So, basically, my life sucks right now. How else would I describe my dumb existence, when I never seem to do what I should do, when my love life is in the dumps, when I am never good enough for anybody, and when I feel disconnected from the world and its stupid people? I am sick and tired of my family, my school, my teachers, my life. “Dark place” is an understatement, Joy. Every morning, it is so hard to detach from my beloved Benji, my plush raccoon. I cannot stop planning, in the gray shades of reality in between snooze buttons, on how to depart this earth with as much damage as possible.

So yeah, everything sucks right now. Any advice from Miss Congeniality? You seem to have your act together, and everything is going just right for you. I was actually so jealous of you—your radiant, silky hair, perfectly carved face, and those delicate eyelashes. And your parents must be wealthy! I remember you mentioning some incredible plans to travel the globe. As if your talent and passion for writing was not enough, it had to be embellished by those annoying French words and quotes. Who complains about getting an occasional B and a GPA falling below 4.0, especially with the luxury of being homeschooled? Who does dental surgery for “Hollywood teeth” with an already gorgeous smile? I wonder why you are wasting your time writing to a loser like me.

Sorry if I seem like a basket case, but I do look forward to your note of enlightenment. I am in no mood right now, but yes, I would like to tell you about my miserable existence someday. In the meantime, should I expect a carrier pigeon with your next message?

Simone


Dear Simone,

Trust me, behind the “perfect” façade, there are struggles in my life too. I will tell you more someday. I hope you do not mind my corny words of wisdom, but I believe everyone has a hidden warrior inside. Even when adversity’s suffocating storm is too hard to run from, warriors stare it right in its eyes. You are a fighter, Simone. I knew it from the first moment we met. With your fierce eyes and fearless demeanor, there is a certain je ne sais quoi about you.

You and your family must have faced a great deal of distress after your concussion. I Googled it and stumbled on a documentary on the lasting effects of repeated concussions on football players and how the NFL tried to undermine an African doctor’s research on it. In your case, it is not as bad, and I am sure you would recover quickly. I know it is easier said than done, but I do think we sometimes have to endure hard times to learn and grow stronger. Pardon my French yet again, but reculer pour mieux sauter is a saying that means “draw back to make a better jump.”

I think a healthy and balanced person is like a tree. Trees are grounded, have a strong foundation, and are deeply connected to their roots. These living beings are willing to adapt to climate changes. They might bend but refuse to break. When more generous climates arrive, trees relish these ephemeral blessings, standing tall and proud to enjoy the view. I know I may have developed poetic puffery for trees, but the analogy serves as a powerful pointer to help me navigate through my own life’s labyrinths.

I guess I am ranting deliriously about trees because I recently planted one! It is a redwood, the state tree of California, that I baptized Spiny Norman. I chose this Sequoia because I find it amazing how it can stand tall against all the odds and blitzes of humans and nature for over 3,000 years. This is my teeny bit to support the vital efforts to save the earth. In a world where we only take but hesitate to give back, it is easy to forget the responsibility we owe to our planet. I once read ancient Native Americans worshipped mother earth and respected her offerings, taking care of her for the sake of future generations. Although those times are lost in the back of history books, I decided to take heed of these ancient practices and cultivate a young sapling.

I apologize for my pedantic lecture on trees and tree huggers. Nonetheless, I hope my blabbering helps you believe that your spirit too can grow from the tiniest seed to the grandest of trees. I also hope this transient inclement weather doesn’t cloud your conviction in turning over yet another new leaf. I wish you the best of luck and hope you feel better.

Joy


Dear Joy,

I appreciate your advice, Master Yoda, but let me keep it real. I don’t care about nature and its trees. I know I should be more responsible and stuff, but I got other things on my mind. I am not really into fretting about owl posts and bark these days.

Right now, my family situation is a bust. I got grounded (for the umpteenth time) because of “bad attitude.” Even if I happen to breathe heavily, they are on my case about my “tone.” They think I’m nomophobic, but my alleged phone addiction is not the real culprit. I don’t get along with anybody because I am a train wreck that lashes out, screams, and cries awful things. My parents are like amateur puppeteers who try to control every one of my movements by pulling on tangled strings. Even though I don’t consider myself particularly emotional, my family has turned me into the Bellagio dancing fountains in Vegas, with its water spouting, misting, and cannoning all at once. As the crying spell they continually cast takes over my soul, I become a prisoner, and the tears refuse to be held in anymore.

I have a big family. We all live in our own narrow, little worlds. My father and I are complete opposites: he’s very much the left, suit-and-tie side of the brain and I, the touchy-feely right. He never seems to dig my thinking; thus I feel worthless in his company. He’s a control freak that fulminates at my every fumble and even at my every noble effort. Now, my mother and I, we’re too much alike. She’s insane, and I’m insane. Despite not being overly melodramatic, we always end up scarring each other with words we know hurt the most. At our worst, we’re like hostile beasts slashing for the sole purpose of seeing the most bloodshed. Even when the attacks subside, I can sometimes feel the hurtful words she hurled pierce my whole body, through my toes, up my spine, and finally in my head, where they eternally nest.

Everything was perfect for a while right after I was discharged from the hospital. But just as I began to think we could be a good family, we all slowly, but surely, decayed into the broken machines we’re all meant to be. The house’s walls reverberate with the sounds of bickering and slamming of doors.

It’s pointless for you to preach about growth when everyone is holding me down. What difference can I make when the filthy rich of the planet, who, despite their billions of dollars, are still addicted and greedy for more wealth and power, relentlessly kill animals and burn forests with disregard. I am scared of myself, but I keep deriving perverse pleasure and escape with thoughts of destroying, killing. You and your world of Spiny Norman, seem light-years away from my own.

Simone


Dear Simone,

When I think of a tree, I think of rebirth as its ashy, decaying stump is not the end of its story, but the beginning of a new chapter in its life cycle. Planting the tree is symbolic of starting over and the revisions I must make to the previous section of my life.

Your family situation will get better. I remember how perfect everything was during a particularly difficult time because my entire family tiptoed around touchy subjects. Their words seemed soft and understanding like silk seamlessly gliding past one another. However, as the silks became increasingly frayed, their words started to become more snappy and sharp. We began to fight as if we had forgotten about the paradise that we built with care. Soon we began muttering sibylline predictions of weal and woe to each other. It took me awhile to realize these fights are entirely normal. It is inevitable for family members to clash with each other. Words are going to hurt, but you have to stay strong and believe everything will be all right, for it will be.

I would urge you to trust your family. It is your roots. I know it is hard to realize that now. Still, these are the people that build you up, are always there, and will never move no matter what happens. Other people, friends, and boyfriends are like your leaves. Sure, they give you joy for a brief stint, but they change and disappear with the passing of seasons. Family is forever.

It is time you take back your life and make a new start with it. You are a tree that has just begun to sprout back to life again, a person that is reborn into somebody better than the last. Take in every day like it is a palmy one, even if it does not seem like it. By the way, your mother must be amazing if she is so similar to you.

Simone, if you don’t mind, I would really like to know more about you, your story, and why exactly your life is falling apart. Pretend this is about a project I am working on. Even if I cannot help, at least I would like to understand.

Joy

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