Allergy & Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics (AANMA)




First place:

The East Side Of Detroit

By Andrew Mikula

The first time I saw Laura Cranley, she was sitting on the rocks that were precariously balanced in the backyard of her South Carolina home, hungrily glancing out at the choppy waters. It was something about her eyes that made me think she loved danger – the two deep holes of blue, just waiting for the next boy to fall in. There was anxiety there, and restlessness. She was hiding something. I saw fear in her eyes when she looked out at the sea. It was a heartbreaking secret, something lamentable like the East Side of Detroit.

However, when I actually met Laura, I realized that she wasn’t anything like that at all. She was nice, charming, and funny, with a laugh that spread far and wide. Her voice was so soft and gentle I could sleep on it, and she loved kids more than anything. Her face was so fresh and innocent, and she always knew the right thing to say. The East Side of Detroit was far, far away.

My family lived on the west side, but something about the city seemed too angry for us sometimes, so every summer we went to South Carolina for four weeks. I was the oldest of seven of the most active kids in the country. Our weekends were nightmarish for my parents. Feeding us all when we came for dinner was just as wild. Dinner was often rushed, and we rarely all ate at the same time. There was always candy and junk food in the house. My little siblings sucked it in like a vacuum cleaner. We didn’t live in a very big house, so South Carolina was a deep breath for us every year.

Laura lived in the house adjacent to ours, and we were family friends with her and her parents for years. She was 19 and home from college for the summer on a particular summer night I remember.

The adults were talking, drinking wine, and cooking burgers while the kids played a game of soccer on the beach. Laura always could keep up with the kids, even if they were exploding balls of energy. I was watching the game from my porch, only slightly amused.

At one point, she told the kids that she wanted to see if she could help with our dinner. However, she went into her house, not my mother’s kitchen. I didn’t consider Laura Cranley capable of lying, especially to a child, so I decided to follow her.

When I found her, she was in her own room. I discerned that her face was red and she was breathing hard, unnaturally so. She held up an L-shaped object to her mouth, and then pushed down on the end. She still hadn’t figured out that I was there.

It was later that I realized that Laura Cranley, the single most confident person I knew, had asthma all her life and was too embarrassed to tell anyone.

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