When You Were Fifteen: Selected Stories

Free By Jersey

Right now, at this very moment in time, I am sitting in my classroom, which happens to be located in Unit A of the Donald E. Long Home, meditating upon the fact that I am turning into a full-blown, 18-year-old adult today and I'm doing it in f***ing Juvie.

I want to be in Big Sur, camping in the redwoods, where the beauty of nature I so overwhelming that it's impossible to utter and word. Or maybe I want to be in L.A. or San Francisco, watching the mad people enjoy their madness and listening to them make too much sense for comfort. Maybe, though, I just want to be in Portland, because Portland is home, and every time I come home I fall in love with someone or something beautiful.

Adults in general could maybe open up their beady little eyes and realize that because I reject the norm, because the American Dream nauseates me, I am a societal lost cause, but I'm not hurting anyone. So let me go. Let me be.

Courage By Marnie Maurina

When I was 15, my regular life changed and took a turn for the worse; my mother was ill and had an operation for brain cancer. After the surgery, she was paralyzed on her entire right side. She had to learn to talk, walk and write all over again. It was very frustrating for her to try to talk because a completely odd word would come out. I remember how sorry I felt for her, and our whole family, as she slowly struggled to make letters with her left hand (because the right hand hung at her side). She was courageous in more ways than one.

One of my little sisters was about eight months old and once, my mother instinctively jumped up out of her chair to cuddle with her baby, but she tumbled right over and started to cry. Dad picked her up and said: "Oh, Vi, I'm sorry." That's when I knew the power of instinct and how powerful our brains are - for that instant, it allowed her body to move.

I had something for which I wanted to apologize. So, even though Mom was in a coma by then, I asked to be alone with her, told her I was sorry and SHE SQUEEZED MY HAND. That's when I knew that people in a coma can still hear. And I knew she loved me and forgave me for my teenage silliness.

When I was 15, I was madly in love with Bruce. He was tall, like my father, and nice-looking, a senior at my high school. I gave him qualities he did not possess, and embellished the ones he did have. I was totally codependent! Of course they didn't call it that then, they simply called it "boy-crazy." All these years later, it makes sense to say that I did obsess about him - to have a daydream, a fantasy - something to think about when my reality was really very difficult: cooking and cleaning and caring for my three young sisters.

Also, when I was 15, I drove my Dad's huge 1957 swept-wing Dodge, giving my cousin a ride home to Gresham without a driver's license. My cousin still teases me about all the curbs I ran over. I still wonder why my dad didn't get more angry with me than he did!

Two years later my life took another turn for the worse: my mother died. It was very sad and I am still missing her and realizing how much her long illness and death affected me.

My Momma By Teddy Hall

When I was 15, things were a lot better than they are now. I was in school and I was drug free. I'm drug free now, but when I was 15 I hadn't tried drugs or alcohol neither. My mom was a positive influence on me in many different ways. She worked, kept the house clean, and she kept food in the fridge and clothes on my back. She would make sure that my homework was finished before I left the house, watched TV or played any video games. She's also influenced me into getting a job and my first job was at the Oregon Zoo. She gave, taught and showed me good manners and respect and I thank her for that. My role model is my momma.

Life Will be Different After 15 By Mo

My life now is sober. I'm living at the Juvenile Detention Hall in a rehab program. I'm now putting my life back on track. While I'm in rehab, I'm getting my GED and experiencing life as a clean and sober person.

I want to graduate from college. I want to be married with kids living in my own house. I don't want drugs a part of my future.

I believe that only I can get me to where I want to be. I need to make a commitment to myself to stay away from drugs and follow the right track, set goals and accomplish them. Support helps, but it takes my willpower to do what's right.

Don't Lecture Me By Samantha Zimmer

Here's the most important thing I learned from Mr. Frietag, who was my friend Brock's dad, a wrestling coach at my high school, and my counselor. Mr. Frietag said don't judge people - don't decide they're bad just because they do bad things.

High school seemed full of bad things. I had a hard time dealing with a lot of the social stuff that went on there. People just weren't very nice. As a result, I ended up doing some things I shouldn't have, getting into trouble, stuff like that.

I think the main reason I listened to Mr. Frietag is because he never lectured. Instead he talked to me and shared his ideas. That's why he was such an important influence for me and why I'll never forget all that he taught me.

Fifteen By Brian Doyle

Aw, when I was fifteen, a thousand years ago, I was a complete utter bonehead mulehead doofus too shy to even look at a girl let alone speak to her like a Human Being, and too confused and self-absorbed to notice that my parents were doing the best they cold despite not having hardly ten cents between them, and too frightened of the poor and homeless and drunk and mad to ever do anything but scurry away like a skittery crab, and too annoyed with my brothers and sister to realize that brothers and sisters are a motley chaotic hilarious gift of incalculable proportions, and too agonizingly worried about Me Me Me and who I would be and what I would do and who would love me to ever actually pause from my epic self-absorption and Listen to other people and See them clear and Try to salve a little of their pain and confusion and Be all amazed and astounded by the incredible grace with which people carry their loads, and the thing is that all of us have loads, all of us have scarred hearts, and all of us are confus ed and muddling; so all these years alter, even though I am still pretty much a bonehead doofus most of the time, or at least this is what my children tell me, I now this: You have to drop your mask. You have to be not so cool. You have to reach for other people or you will live in the tight safe little horrid prison of yourself. You have to learn to shut your mouth and listen to the shivers and songs in other hearts before you ever begin to discover the incredible hymns in your own. You have to find what it is that only you can do and do it with all your might until your muscles ache and your eyes are falling out of your head and you are so tired you can't spit. The only way to find yourself is to stop looking at yourself. This took my thirty years to figure out and I stink at it but by lawd I try. Little tip: save yourself thirty years. Tell me how it goes. Send me a postcard. My quiet prayers on your voyage.