Peer Review by David Levitsky (United States)

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Bright Things

By: Niamh Writes

    It was a black and white photo, the sort that you’d get from one of those old fashioned, hipster photo booths. Our eyes, bright with the boundless energy of youth, seemed to convey a thousand thoughts, each as carefree and naïve as the next. Your lips were parted in the most innocent of smiles, not yet tainted by the abrupt cruelty of life. It was the sort of smile that showed your teeth, recently freed from their wire confinement. Do you remember how much you hated that retainer? And how I would always make you wear it anyway? What bright things we were.

     An air of hopefulness, ambition and freedom seemed to surround us within the photo’s frame, pressing against the glass. I will it to reach us again. We were held by no restraints then, except perhaps the curfew set by our parents. We had this mutual contentedness, of who we were, and who we were going to be. Ah, the people we were going to be: doctors, scientists, actresses. Look at us now.

     Words, I feel, are a poor summary for human thought, but I want you to know that I couldn’t have reached this point without you. Your friendship has provided me with constant joy.  I sometimes think back to all the firsts we had together. And the inside jokes. And the spontaneous daytrips. And the unconditional, unjustified support for things I couldn’t even explain.  Somehow, you managed to make sense of my pitiful ramblings when I didn’t know what I was trying to say myself! You went above and beyond what was required of you and for that I shall remain eternally grateful. You were a bright, young thing.

    So what happened? Now we have little other than these memories, along with an ever diminishing future, the end of which looms ever closer. I am tormented by black and white polaroids from the happiest years of my life along with  the haunting dreams that were left unfulfilled. If only we had the time to do all we said we would. How I long for us to be bright things once more, believing the world was waiting for us to go and conquer it.

    It fills me with immense sadness that what we had is irretrievable. We’ve become tarnished, the brightness in our eyes dulled by over exposure to reality. Our ambition has been supressed. But I know we are more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. Together we can make it. Just like we’ve always done. Any scars we’ve accumulated over the years, be them literal or metaphorical, will heal and will serve as reminders of the times when we were strong and capable enough to get through the hard days, or even thrive on them.

Oh, I remember the bright things we used to be. Let’s be bright things again.


Peer Review

The nostalgia. The memories of "bright things" evoke strong, relatable emotions.

The "tension" of the narrative is one of "then" and "now", what was and what is, the memories of the past and the reality of the present, and how the two differ. You took a self-reflective approach to this narrative, so the conflict present was internal, as you reminisced about the days gone by and compared them against the present in a conversation with yourself.

You purposefully do not give names to the friends who are the subjects of the narrative. Nor do you give insight into how the bright things have faded beyond just the exposure to the cruel nature of life and reality, but I think that this is fine. Part of what makes stories so interesting is that they do not spell every little detail out, spoon feeding the reading a constructed message. I have a sense that little everyday things, like sharing jokes and experiences, along with the ability to listen, is what makes the friendship tick. So no, I don't think you need to develop your characters more.

Keep up the reflective, thoughtful writing! Continue to think of little things that make friendships so lasting. You already have great examples in the narrative, and you could even think of more. Find a tiny detail, like the way a friend laughs, and put it under a microscope, giving a seemingly minor thing much more importance. Also, continue to think about the idea of language not adequately summarizing human thought. It's an interesting topic that you could definitely write other pieces on.

Reviewer Comments

Your reflective and compelling narrative packed an emotional punch that had me wishing that "I could turn back time to the good old days" to quote 21 Pilots. Great work!