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Arts and Culture

The Telling Room: 'In A Tiny Place'

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On this last Friday of August we conclude our summer series highlighting the work of young writers in partnership with the Telling Room in Portland. This essay, by Annick Umutoniwase of Casco Bay High School in Portland, was inspired by a memory she had as a small child in Rwanda.

Without the sound of the water, it was a beautiful, quiet place surrounded by yellow flowers. I had a perfect view of it from inside the window. It was long, a little bit higher, and tiny, but just right for me. It was my favorite place to go, because it was the one place where I could convince myself that I could swim. My parents and other elders in my house were always worried that my sisters and I would catch some dangerous bacteria in that place. All the water that came around the edges of the house and down from the roof was dirty.

I never cared much about anything I did back then. I told myself that a ten-year-old was still too young to care about her actions and the consequences that came with them. I was just a little girl without responsibilities. I remember one time when the sky changed from sunny to gray. There was lightning and the thunder was booming. The power of the raindrops made big holes in the sandy ground. But I knew that as long as it was raining I didn't care about how bad the storm was, because there would be a lot of fresh water in my place. During the middle of a rainstorm was the perfect time to be there.

My nanny told my sisters and me not to go outside because it was dangerous, but I always thought she didn't want me to go because the water was dirty. She was being protective because she loved us so much. She was a kind and generous woman who treated us like we were her own daughters. She liked to tell us stories whenever we came home from school. Funny ones, sad ones, and sometimes stories about what it was like when she was our age. I would listen to her stories, but I couldn't keep my mind there. Standing in the living room, looking through the window, watching a lot of water running down in my favorite place, I snuck out from the back door and went there because I couldn't be patient and stay in the house during that good soaking rain.

All I ever did in my tiny place was go into it with my back facing the ground, and my face toward the sky. But this time, I pretended like it was a pool, and I tried to dive deep. I wasn't looking where I was going, and the power of the current pushed me as I surfaced from my dive. I hit my head at the end of the ditch. I lost my energy. My senses started to dull. The only thing that I could feel was the cold of the water and the force of the current that kept me pinned alongside the ditch. I couldn't move or talk. I was scared. How did it all happen so quickly? I prayed to see someone coming outside to save me. I thought I was going to die.

I thought no one would come outside while it was raining, unless of course it was an emergency. Then, as if my prayers were answered, my nanny came outside to find her sweater, and she saw me lying there. She lifted me up immediately, and I felt relieved to be saved from the force of the current and the cold of the water that I thought was going to kill me. The doctor said that I hit my head so badly that I had to stay in the hospital for at least one week.

There is a big difference between how I am now and how I was then. The little girl that was inside me making me act selfishly and uncaring became a big girl with a lot of responsibility, someone who is caring and open minded. Since that time, I never go outside when it's raining. I even gave up my favorite place because of what happened to me there. Sometimes when I comb my hair where I hit my head, it still hurts. It's funny to think back on what happened in that place. Now, whenever it's raining, I think of that tiny place.

Annick Umutoniwase is a junior at Casco Bay High School. She was a member of The Telling Room's Young Writers & Leaders program for international high school students. The Telling Room is a nonprofit writing center dedicated to the idea that children and young adults are natural storytellers.