First Sanctum

By Alexander DeLancey

In this small river town, where the county borders are thick walls of dense forest, my childhood home rests itself on the top of a hill. This little house was covered on three sides by the woods, the dull gray paint of the front could be seen by the street. These surrounding woods have been the scene of many of my epic adventures in my youth, starting my exploration as early as ten years old.

When I was rounding about fourteen, my best friend and I delved deeper into the thick than we were used to, both too determined to be brave one to point out that we should turn back. After what felt like a lifetime of hiking and existential conversation about fourteen year old life, we came out onto a gorgeous, unrealistic scene. Brushed out before us was a calm, little inlet, where the river quietly creeps up and down a miniature beach. To top off the perfection of this hidden paradise, an ancient oak tree chose his final resting place right at the start of the embankment. From this point on, it was known to us as sacred ground, only to be referred to as “the cove.”

This holy locale served as our sanctuary for the years to come. It served as the perfect place for our group to hang out, allowing me to play host and pretend like we threw extravagant parties. This gorgeous haven was home to many firsts in my life. It played as backdrop to my first dance with a girl, swaying to some bad, romantic eighties music. Probably Billy Joel.

My first kiss was awkwardly attempted here. I remember it in full detail, because after I kissed her, I apologized. We laughed about it for years, even after we broke up. It would be wrong to leave out that it was probably the worst kiss anyone could have received, I can recall having no idea what I was doing. I was so tense.

The first time I tried to run away from home, I packed up all of the “essential” things that a sixteen-year-old would deem essential. I hid the bag in my closet until the moon got big in the sky, then collected it and my sleeping bag and ran off to the Cove. All I can recall is that I cursed about my frustrations the whole way down. I know that I was terrified of the sounds that I assumed were all scary animals waiting to attack me in my sleep. So I did as any kid would, and hiked my defeated spirit back to my room and passed out in my bed. My parents still don’t know.

Any time I venture back home to visit my parents, I stroll right down to the Cove, sit on the oak, and just soak in the nostalgia. I trace my fingers across all of the lover’s carvings, the many initials of couples that have long since dissolved. I think of all the promises made on this tree, and how many of them were broken.

UntitledAlexander is a college student currently pursuing a MFA. He works, studies, and writes near Pittsburgh, PA.

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