Prose/third place

A symbol of art


 I never knew it could be so hard to distinguish tears of joy from tears of sorrow. When faced with this discerning challenge, I wanted so badly to turn to someone, anyone, for an answer.

But I couldn’t because I was alone in an uncomfortable, unprecedented silence, staring directly at the Michigan State Capitol through welling eyes.

The city of Lansing was abandoned due to the COVID-19 lockdown of 2020. There wasn’t even one other car on the road as I made my way to 100 N Capitol Ave. on a cool, cloudy spring day. The outdoor conditions were non-threatening. My internal weather, however, was a severe emotional thunderstorm.

A couple days prior, I learned that one of my best friends since second grade, Arthur McLeod, had suddenly and shockingly, passed away.

When Art and I were fourth graders, we became the only two students in our entire school district to get perfect scores on the MEAP (Michigan Education Assessment Program) test. It was such a remarkable achievement that we were invited to the Capitol to be congratulated by the governor! Art and I were so excited to share this moment together; unfortunately, I caught the flu and had to stay home.

My mother made the trip on my behalf. When she returned home, she handed me a certificate of merit and a picture she’d taken. Weak but happy, I stared at the black and white still of the governor, a couple of representatives, our school principal, my mother, and Art.

That colorless Kodak moment flashed before my eyes like lightning as I stood alone in front of the abandoned Capitol. My pupils were on fire and the flood inside them wasn’t helping.

As the storm subsided and the flood calmed, I was able to take in the beauty of this magnificent building. Without visual obstruction or bustling public distraction, I marveled at the monumental structure built by Elijah E. Myers. As I wiped my eyes and smiled, I never knew it could be so hard to distinguish tears of joy from tears of sorrow. Yet, it was clear the Michigan State Capitol was a symbol of Art.


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