Yesterday I found myself in Hillsdale about the time school lets out for the day. Without conscious decision, I found myself turning right at the last minute into the parking lot of Wilson High School, from which I graduated ten years ago almost to the day. When I realized what time it was, I knew what I had to do.
I parked in the back lot where student parking is and walked slowly up the hill to the rear entrance of the school. I had forgotten about the smell of cut grass during that walk. I ran my hands along the railing. Looked to my right across the walkway and noticed that the track had been redone, now a bright brick red instead of the dismal black I’d been used to.
Inside, I was overcome first and foremost by the smell of the school. I had forgotten that Wilson even had a smell but there it was, infiltrating my nostrils with forceful nostalgia. I looked up, almost as if to catch my breath, and saw pencils stabbed into the ceiling high above, and some panels were missing completely. The tiles were the same, the doors and heavy metals handles the same, and yes, the counseling office was still in the same place – near the back of the school. A security guard approached and asked what I was doing.
We never had security guards when I went to this school, but alas, times have changed, haven’t they?
I explained, stuttering, and he told me to go to the main office for a visitor’s pass. Intead, I slipped out a side door and waiting on the lawn until a minute before the final bell rang. I suppose some part of me still wants to disobey.
When the bell rang it wasn’t as piercing as I remembered it sounding. But the sights, the sudden rush of feet and bags and hallway chatter, was totally on point. I walked the halls, being shoved here and there. Even though I don’t stand necessarily taller than a majority of the students, I somehow felt giant and as if I had an aerial view over the top of all of them. I walked slowly, taking in the sights and sounds and smells. The cliques there the same. It was the same kids, the same sadness and hyperactivity and everything in between. Just ten years later. Oh, and add cell phones and iPods and the fact that 80% of the kids were plugged into one or the other, if not both.
So much has happened the last two days. Mixed with the sadness of my own emotional stresses, it’s difficult to recount it “creatively,” per se. But I must be kind to myself. We’re on our short break between semesters and still I am revising and reading and blogging and studying essays. I’ve got to pace myself.
I am not a sad person. I am joyful and fulfilled and I feel routinely blessed in this world. But even this city that I love almost bears down too much on me. The fierceness of city lights at night. The car horns. The constant cell phone chatter. The consumerism – my god – the number of people that apparently need to buy something at any given moment. It’s taking a toll on my fragile self right now and I’ve got to be careful. A long walk must be in order for tomorrow.
Better yet, maybe the mountains will come back to me in sleep. Their smoothness like geologic wrinkles across the face of the earth. Likewise, their roughness like the unforgiving elements of nature itself. And oh stars, I’ve missed. I cannot see the moon and only the Big Dipper, really, stands out to me in promise from the backyard in suburbia where I am staying. Already my eyes are closing, the soft kissing sounds of cicada in my ear, fireflies flickering like foreplay in the back of the mind’s eye, the ease of a mountain’s silence like that last, exhaled breath before sleep settles. Let me fall into it.