If I'm swelling with mosquito bites and red ant stings, it's okay. I'll take raw patches of sunburnt skin - that's fine. I don't mind black under-eye bags hinting at sleepless nights, or puffy rims from tears that leak.
Those itchy bumps on my arms, legs, and neck? They are proof of my living. The salt water trickling down my cheeks, off my nose? They show that I am feeling. You may be safe, content, clean, and free of pain, but I want to be loving, hurting, breathing, sobbing, laughing, roaming, connecting, and learning. It is better to know emotion than to be without it.
I know how to exist. Existing is bedroom confinement; a phone with no callers; unblemished pale skin; an empty stomach; nothing to say or express. I have merely existed for too long. Living is being mad, sad, happy, and confused; being with friends, upset with friends, and in love with friends; hugging, touching, and even hitting.
Bug bites, scratches, a broken heart, confused thoughts - I'm not complaining. I want to come out of my comfort zone.
There will be no record of the darkness beneath the light of summer. Not one photograph or video will be left behind to speak of how I truly spent this season. For all but me, the memories will grow hazy: the coloured tile floors; the nurses' voices and squeaking sneakers; the scents of soap, medicine, and identical dinners reheating in the 4th-story kitchen.
I can't pretend I planned my vacation tis way. Someday, there won't exist a single picture, nor a phone number, to prove where I am right now. But there are still missing patches in the garden where flowers that once smiled were snipped to decorate my hospital room; layers of dust and misuse over my bedroom I should be sleeping in; and a disturbingly pristine bucket list, lacking scribbles, checkmarks or wrinkles.
I'll never bury who I was, where I lived or the memories I made this summer. Unusual as they are, I wouldn't give my experiences for the world. I'm not going to hide parts of my story, like the day we blew bubbles in the garden, waving our wands to release our worries - it was spheres of soap flying through the air to create a whimsical heaven. Or the countless games of Scattegories we played around the hard wooden table, and the shy way she smiled when she won.
I'll move on from this place. There will be summertime leftover to bask in, and years of summers to come. Cameras and conversations won't bring back the secrets of this season, but I will not forget. I see a long journey ahead, and I need every piece of my own history to begin.
But I've always got to hunt for the good amongst the bad. When the walls are closing in and breathing comes difficult, I must fumble for the strings to pull a smile on my face. If I ever were to give up the search, I'd be finished. The hunt shall go on.
The next time I'm almost broken, heaving by the light of the window, I'll hunt for hope. When I'm lying flat beneath the hospital's dotted ceiling tiles (sixty-six holes per square) and fluorescent lights, I'll hunt for my dreams, plans, and goals. Just like looking for berries in our backyard jungle. Simple as that.