An Unexpected Kindness /10
Local students show off their literary stuff in the 2018 McEntyre Writing Competition
Introduction by Wayne Larsen
Illustrated by Jennifer Cook
In what has become an annual tradition in Westmount schools, the McEntyre Writing Competition always attracts a wide variety of thoughtful and creative entries, and the 2018 edition was no exception.
Endowed by the late Peter McEntyre, mayor of Westmount from 1969 to 1971, the competition encourages young writers to express themselves on a designated topic, each designed to get the creative juices flowing. It is coordinated each year by the Westmount Public Library.
In 2018, “An Unexpected Kindness” was the topic assigned to students in grades 1 through 11.
Westmount Magazine presents the full texts of the first-place entries in each grade category, as supplied by the Westmount Public Library. As well, this year these will be accompanied by Westmounter Jennifer Cook’s charming illustrations.
Here we present Grade 11.
ELEVENTH GRADE | FIRST PRIZE | WESTMOUNT HIGH SCHOOL
An Unexpected Kindness
> Fog, sweat, unbearable heat and inescapable cold. Have you ever drawn breath into your lungs before plunging into the water, allowed yourself to sink down just to see how long you could stay under? Eventually, your ears pop, your head begins to buckle under the pressure, and you must launch yourself towards the surface so that you may once more breathe a sweet breath. But for seconds, mere moments, there is the feeling of absolute peace, of muffled song and flickering light. For days I float along in that measly minute, doing naught but drifting, dreaming, dancing, desiring. Then, I can’t breathe.
It is four AM, and I cannot sleep,
A week of waking witching hours,
And a page of promises I will not keep.
It was June, and I could not wake,
Far too many dreams,
And paths for me to take.
Do you know, a nurse my hand held,
In the emergency room,
While down my cheeks tears crawled.
Savez-vous que les gens vous aiment,
A sting of kindness,
A soft whisper as my sobs came.
>CHILDREN’S EMERGENCY RESPONSE. JUNE 13TH, 2017.22:25:13. PATIENT ADMITTED. FEMALE, 16 YEARS OF AGE, UNDERWEIGHT, SHOWS SIGNS OF HYSTERIA THOUGH FUNCTIONING AND HIGHLY AUTONOMOUS, ACCOMPANIED BY DR. J. SILVIA (THERAPIST).
She stayed with me for moments more,
Relinquished me to a wheelchair,
And bundled me out the door.
Montreal is beautiful, I know,
Warm and forgiving,
Colours and music and lights and snow.
But no warmth nor colour nor light,
Had prepared me for a stranger’s caring
A beacon in my longest night.
Nothing more than seven words,
Unsolicited and unexpected,
But most importantly, heard.
> June 15th, 2017. L. Moreno, social worker, daily observational report: the patient admitted two nights ago shows a great willingness to cooperate. She remains sociable and kind towards other patients and respects the rules of the ward. She has quickly gone from high to low risk.
She wheeled me through the halls,
Up the floors, under LED lights,
And into my own four walls.
From my room, I could see the city,
This nurturing, negligent metropolis,
She’s so shockingly pretty.
I don’t want to be this anymore,
Dangling on threads and tape,
Soft and fragile and broken and scored.
I make the decision to change in the dim solitude,
My saviour/nurse speaks in a hushed tone,
Telling my parents of the magnitude.
The following is a transcript between patient and psychiatrist. Patient displays signs of affection towards the city itself; accrediting it to her optimism towards recovery.
>> F. Grant, MD: You’ve said that Montreal has shown you a kindness. What do you mean by that?
>> Patient: She’s helped me.
> F. Grant, MD: You speak of the city as if it were a person, almost like an intimate friend. You do realize that the city is not… sentient?
>>Patient: Of course. You misunderstand me. It isn’t the city herself that’s been kind to me, but there are thousands of days and interactions which create something much more complex than just a maze of concrete and steel. It feels so much more… personal. Like the city itself wants me to heal. She’s not a place, but a kind lady with soft hands.
My nurse hugs me when I am discharged,
Tells me she’s proud of me,
Rappels-toi de moi, plus tard.
My road is long and winding,
Riddled with potholes and cracks,
Kilometres of lost-and-finding.
It is February, full of floundering faces,
It’s still hard for me to wake,
But now I can see happiness in most places.
It is five AM, and from my bed I rise,
Peer out the window,
And look out on the city that saved my life.
Jennifer Cook, with over 28 years in graphic design, brings her expertise to each creative solution she produces for businesses world-wide. Paired with her love of research, she learns the soul of each client’s story to build a successful visual portfolio, which can include a combination of strategic graphic design, brand development, illustration, and social media. For fun, she started a daily illustrated social media series What my Coffee says to me to inspire and promote good mental health. To find out more on how she can meet your visual marketing needs, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.