"The reserve. This forest. The humid weather. The sound of the rain through the trees onto the leaves. The moss. I can't recall the many times I have fallen to that moist, soft ground. Many, probably. The smell of evaporating water. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was home for me—all of this. I figured out who I was here. Who I wanted to be. I remember coming here in the morning when I could not get to school as I used to say to my mum, because of the damages. All the rain. The water on the roads. 

    She didn't know. She came to realize it eventually. I did not want to go to school. I just was laughed at all the time. Because of the way I was. I did not speak much. I did not have many friends. None, actually. I used to come here to be alone. I just wanted to feel exhausted. To push my body to the limit by coming up this steep hill. I wanted not to hear myself even breathing. To let my body feel the extreme. Like a headache. Like a drug. This forest. It made me feel alive. It made me think she cared about how I felt. I hated the people. Selfish. I spent my childhood rather alone. I used to spend a lot of time with my mum. We would get rice at the local store together. She wanted to help me. She pushed me to get out. She tried her best. There was a time I would not leave the house for days. I used to tell her I was sick. And she always believed me. I was a good kid. Good in school. Had good grades. I hated people, as I said, but I always kept myself open to hearing their problems. To help them. 

    I had a hard childhood. When my mum died, I felt the world falling. I thought I did not belong here anymore. It was time for me to leave. I knew I did not fit. Today, I see this place more as the reason I survived the hardest times. It helped me. It prevented me from dying inside. To feel so lonely, again and again. Many times, I just came here to see the sunset at 6. To forget about the day that has just passed. I still can see the red sky. Set on fire. I see the strength of my mum through this red sky. Through the clouds. She still talks to me. She says that life is beautiful. That there is hope. That, after all, I still have an opportunity—the one of looking up and being grateful."

    We Still

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