Ours was an old water tower in the forgotten hills behind our houses, but every town has one. A tree that stands a little taller than the others, a bridge with a rusted and worn structure, a bluff hidden far away from prying eyes, a parking lot overgrown with weeds and beer bottles, a place where the vandals and hooligans and dreamers congregate to feel less empty in a world that does not make sense to their young eyes.

It is in these over glorified hideaways where we learn how to grow up into the people our parents warned us not to become. We learn how to smoke a joint so that our throats do not burn. We learn how to hold the smoke from a cigarette so long that there is nothing left to give back to the night sky. We learn how to hide our drinks in tumblers and cheap gas station Styrofoam cups and how, after some time, all of the nights blur together into one long, Technicolor movie shot from on top of the world.

It seems unfair that only a few chosen people learned how to fly. That is what we called it – that is what it was, after all. Standing on top of the water tower, overlooking the town that we all wished and hoped we would one day escape but knew some of us never would, we felt like birds. We felt endless. We wanted the nights to go on forever. The water tower was our gateway to another realm where the lives we lived seemed so far away, nothing else mattered.

Just like every tree, thousand-year-old bridge nearing collapse, the water tower knew everything. It saw everything. It stood tall and proud in the hills and became our collective home. After prom, it saw a girl and a boy, giddy to be in each other’s arms and alone at last, make the climb and learn how to love one another in the very place where their story had begun.  Months later, after graduation – after the hats had been thrown and photos had been snapped and families hopped back intotheir luxury SUVs, content to know that their children had at least made itthis far – it saw dozens of us climbing the ladder to our own personal heavenand heard us screaming to the moon in a drunken haze because finally: we werefree.

But“Just one more night together” on top of the world turned into a summer of almosts and too muches and not nearly enoughs. The water tower became a beaconof desperation. No longer did the white surface reflect back smiling faces, hands outstretched to keep wobbling legs from dangling too far over the edge. Now it was drenched in the sadness and pain and tears that come with growing up– realizing that our lives would never be the same again. Somewhere in themidst of learning to fly, just like Icarus, we flew too close to the sun. And we knew we could never get back down.

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