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Essay from Gina S. Falcone – ThePensters Writing Contest Medalist #2

Cassandra sighed as she pulled into her parking spot. An empty grocery cart once again blocking her way.

“Hi kitten!” She greeted her sister’s cat as she flicked on the light in their apartment. His high pitched meows meant he was hungry. She threw her obnoxiously big purse on the counter and sorted through the cabinet. One can of cat food left, damn. Cassandra opened the can and placed it on the floor for the cat. He ate it veraciously. She watched him for a minute, intrigued.

Her stomach then growled reminding her that she was hungry herself. She went to the fridge, hoping that food would suddenly be stocked inside. No luck. An overripe banana, old spaghetti, and a half drank bottle of Sunny D. Casandra slammed the fridge.

She loafed on the couch, wondering what they were going to do for dinner. She would probably have to make Mickey Mouse shaped waffles again. She knew her sister didn’t mind, but she was tired of it. She was tired of her living situation. Culinary school isn’t as glamourous when you’re 22 and in debt because of it.

But at age 17, the world was at Cassandra’s fingertips. She graduated early and decided that was her ticket out. Her mother pleaded for her to reconsider; guilting her about the price of college. Cassandra wasn’t going to be convinced though. She was going to go live in California with her secret girlfriend, and become a chef like her grandfather. He was so proud of her.

Where was she now though? Twenty-two years old and trying to figure out how to pay off her root canal procedure. What Cassandra thought was an escape from a life she grew tired of, became nothing but yet another depressing situation. Her girlfriend who also had a boyfriend, broke it off with her after their first rendezvous. The college itself was filled with pretentious rich kids who didn’t know the meaning of failure, humiliation, and desperation. They could only scoff at her past as they wielded their expensive knife sets. They didn’t even know how to use them right, idiots.

When life in California became too dreary, Cassandra opted to do her internship back home. But New Mexico isn’t California, and after throwing out spore covered tomatoes, she was fired. Cassandra was fine though. She was working at her dad’s business at the same time and knew this meant she could just do it full time now. Cooking shows were her only retreat into a future she once had locked down. Her grandfather showed his obvious disdain towards her choice.

What would seem like a total let down originally, became the only sure thing in her life. She was good at her job too. A call center for funeral homes, Cassandra knew everything there was to know about this kind of stuff. Of course the calls would become disheartening, but she was raised around death.

Cassandra smiled, almost certain that her own private office was in the near future. Her dad took her aside and said that he was proud of her. Working 80 hours a week chasing a car payment while paying off those crooked dentists. She persevered despite what could have been seen as an utter failure. Cassandra did go through a pity period though, crying, drinking, and finding love in the wrong people. But California was merely a memory at this point, and not a bad one at that.

She grinded her teeth out of habit and sat back up. If she was going to make waffles for the fifteenth millionth time, she was at least going to make them the best she ever could. However, she wanted a cigarette first and headed out to the porch.

She lit the cancer stick and stared out to the greying sky. As she ashed her cigarette, she watched the neighbor kids push around the broken grocery cart. Cassandra laughed to herself. Sometimes we don’t need to fix the things that are broken, as long as they can still run. Even though life could be disappointing, she was still going to be the best she ever could be. No matter what that entailed.

People like Cassandra, are few and far between. Her story doesn’t end with her achieving her wildest dreams, but with an appreciation of the many struggles she has and will face. Life wasn’t laden with let downs, but challenges. With full determination, Cassandra knew she would always overcome these periods in her life.

Those kids who had the nicest of knives, would never know the joys of pushing a broken grocery cart. Life wasn’t over, and neither was the fight. But with nicotine on her breath, she scoffed.

“Bring it on.”

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