We brought up high school, my sister and I, and I relived it for the first time in five years.
How am I twenty two years old?
How am I not sixteen, sitting at a desk with my friends?
Each classroom was a different world. Each teacher constructed a different time zone, energy, colour, of excitement, anxiety, a space in time, an easy, exhale slip into the silent hallway where footsteps echoed, the bathroom where I used my first tampon, the mirror and the tiled floor, the silence, the thoughtlessness.
What was I thinking about in those moments?
Was I thinking about the winter air outside my home, where the trees waited for me after the bell rang? Was I thinking about my mum? Was I angry at her? Was she angry at me?
Was I thinking about my crush?
It was so easy to manifest things in such a small place. All of our attention was on eachother, it enhanced our character, made us, the guy with the glasses and the plaid who likes records and is in a band, only hangs out with two very close friends, and, the girl with blonde hair and blue eyes and big boobs and a loud voice who always has a problem she wants to talk about, never wants it fixed, just talked about. I wonder what she’s doing now, I wonder what her voice sounds like when she wakes up beside the man or woman she loves, I wonder what she sounds like when she whispers.
I used to hate it when the teachers called this “the real world”, I wanted to tell them “I’m already living it, I’m here, don’t discount me.” And I was, but I think I understand what they meant now.
It’s so big out here in the real world.
I’m living by myself for the first time in my whole life, today.
I didn’t grow up with all these people in the small ski town, I don’t know where they came from.
I could show up to school and know you and not have to touch you, but know you were just down the hall, feel your energy buzzing through the closed classroom doors, dream about conversations that hadn’t happened and have them happen the very next hour, it was so easy to manifest things in such a small space.
I have to read the prologues of people out here, I have to read the back of the book, and start from chapter one, out here.
Everyone’s faces look the same out here, we all blend together, we don’t talk, we wear the same clothes, there is no boy in plaid, there is no loud, blonde girl, there is just me serving drinks to people who don’t stop their conversation to say thank you, there is me staring at a lovely face on a bus and letting the fantasy fall from my fingers before it even blooms, it’s so big out here, so empty and full and busy and bland and the magic is dying and
I imagine Mrs. Deeney clocking out for the day and going home and telling stories to her kids. I remember one class she started to cry, had to go home for a funeral, and she opened up to us, all of us sitting at our desks, she trusted us, saw us everyday, taught us, told us about history and why people did those things in the real world, when they did them, what happened after they did them. She taught us how to be brave in front of people, talk about things we’d only ever heard of, as if we lived through them, as if we knew what we were talking about.
I walked past Mrs. Shalker’s class after school was over once, she was crying, wretched heaving sobs, sitting on one of the plastic chairs, talking to someone, I couldn’t see who.
I wonder if they ever think of me, wonder what I’m doing out here. I wonder if they know I’m sorry and that I understand that they were guiding us because they wanted to, and they had to be stern so we could believe in ourselves.
I want to tell them all that I talked about each one of them today, my teachers. Said their names out loud, talked about their character, what they wore, how funny each of them were in their own way.
I remember Mr. Ambrosio told me to stay after class once, after everyone left. I thought I was in trouble. He sat down in front of me and said, “Jamie, are you okay?”
And my eyes were hot with tears and my throat was all swallows and I said, “yes, I’m fine.”
And he said, “I care about you, and I’m here if you’re ever not fine.”
And I might have thanked him politely, but I didn’t have to say anything else because the space there was so small, I knew he could feel the overwhelming, blossoming red of relief and sadness and gratitude. It was all there in that room.
I wonder what will happen this year.
I wonder what I will cry for, I wonder what I will laugh for, I wonder, in which ways, I will find that magic again.