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A Cave Experience

Our course readings are a significant element of the collective discourse through which students write and think about their lives and revise not only their writings but also their thinking.

Rodneka Shelbia, a Douglass student prior to Katrina who has worked on staff with Students at the Center and now attends college, wrote this essay in response to her reading of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.”

Plato’s Cave and My Freedom
Rodneka Shelbia


When I was 13 years old, I stumbled into a place with very little air and very little space. I was uncomfortable. I stumbled in this place not knowing what I was getting into, not knowing a way out. This place was a dark, confusing, messed up place. Being in this place was terrifying and painful, full of decisions. This place was a cave, a cave of many emotions.

This cave was a relationship between me, a boy named Tim, and a boy named Rodney. Tim was my boyfriend. Tim and I had a good relationship. We were known as the star couple. We had known each other for about three years, but we were together for about five months. Tim had what I look for in a boyfriend. He attracted me because he was himself. He did not try to be anyone else, and he accepted me for me. He was my 9-10, but we broke up. We broke up over a few words that were passed around and the pressure of Rodney.

Rodney was someone I would call a best friend. Tim, on the other hand, thought Rodney was not just a best friend. He saw Rodney as someone trying to get with someone else’s girlfriend. After Tim and I stopped talking, Rodney and I started talking. Rodney was the type of dude that would do anything to get what he wanted. He was good at his game, cause he got me. We were together for about two weeks, but after those two weeks he lost me. I had to leave him alone. I felt like I was cheating on him, cause I still had love for Tim, which meant Rodney wouldn’t get all I had to offer, maybe not even half.

Now I was hurting, stuck in the middle of a four-wall cave, just confused. On each of the walls there was an engraving that somewhat frightened me. The first wall was engraved, “Rodney,” next “love,” then “Tim,” and last “Decisions.” On the ceiling and base of the cave there were little riddles and clues telling me where the answer lay. There was one in bold print that stood out like none other. It stated, “The answer lies where you stand.” I sat thinking, “What does this mean?” What could I do to help myself, to strengthen myself, to free myself? I soon noticed two rocks next to me. Those rocks were nothing more than my feelings.

The first rock was soft and chalk-like. With this rock in my hands I looked around and repeated three of the clues to myself. 1) The answer lies where you stand. 2) Freedom is the key. 3) “X” out that that won’t help. 1) The answer lies where you stand. 2) Freedom is the key. 3) “X” out.

I thought, “Freedom, freedom is the key. It can open the cave. The rock lies where I stand. The rock can “x” out the words on the cave. I can write freedom on the cave. It just might open.” I was hoping and praying as I got up to try my plan. I got up to the wall, but the rock was so soft it crumbled up as I wrote. I found that the rock didn’t engrave nor write, because the rock was soft and contained no strength, no power, only mixed emotions. It didn’t help me at all.

I sat hopelessly thinking. “What am I going to do now?” I looked at the second rock and thought to myself, “Ain’t no way in hell I’mma get that rock.” So I just sat making excuses. “It’s too far; I can’t walk. It’s too heavy; I’m too weak. It’s in a pile of man-eating creatures; they’ll eat me alive. That junk is gonna hurt. It’ll probably make me look ugly.” Then I thought to myself, “It’s the only way out.” So I walked over there to get the rock, but in the process I suffered. I bled and lost a lot, but I got the rock.

This rock gave me confidence. Every step I took with this rock felt like the hardest step in the world. When I got to the wall, I started to write freedom on it. That was very hard, because my hands were bloody, and the rock was heavy. I had to push the stone in the wall to make the engravings, but the good part about it was that as I engraved I grew stronger. I became more powerful, and my emotions came in line.

When I finished, the cave vanished. I became free. Rodney was gone. Tim was gone. Love was gone. And I was free, oh so free.

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