My first destination when arriving at Franklin High School at 7: 23 a.m. is my locker. After trekking sleepily through masses of jabbering students, I stand in front of it and drop my twenty-pound backpack. Too tired to move, I stare at the uneven splotches of dull grey metal peeking through the peeling peach paint. The harsh fluorescent light glares from the front, exposing every fault. The lock is broken, and the once silver numbers are now so faded they are unreadable. Warped black plastic surrounds the protruding lock and the white number plate has been forcibly removed. The number - C-285 - the only sign that differentiates this locker from the rows of others, is scrawled in blue ballpoint pen.
I gather up enough energy to wrench the door open, using that tricky combination of thumbs handed down to arriving freshmen like a key to power. Miraculously, I catch my calculus book as it rushes toward my foot. It's a sign, I think. I never catch that book. Today will be a good day.
My locker is my personal space in that impersonal, crowded building. Its battered interior faithfully holds my schoolbooks, my rough drafts, finished copies, my running shoes, the paper and clutter that make up my school life. It is a small space, but it has the possibilities for holding the world. Whether cans of pineapple juice or smudged charcoal drawings, it accepts them all into its welcoming mouth.
I have decorated the narrow 10.3 inches inside the door with personal clippings. There is a postcard from the Mark Tansey art exhibit at the MFA, a picture of the band R.E.M., a hand-written copy of "Peter Quince at the Clavier" by Wallace Stevens and reminders of birthdays and essays. For four years, C-285 has been the only space at Franklin High that is completely mine.
When our class of seniors graduates, not only C-285 but a whole hallway of lockers will remain empty, gutted of their souls. Over the four years, these inanimate structures have gained the personalities of their growing inhabitants - some almost empty, others adorned with advertisements of stunningly handsome people, others with books and supplies stacked neatly.
The rational part of my mind says that C-285 is just an aging, poorly-made metal box. It says that I am transferring my feeling of doubt about leaving high school into absurd feelings of sentimentality toward a space with no feeling at all and no concept of anything, let alone my existence. Reason tells me that it is not the locker itself I will miss but a perception of myself, an investment I have made. Still, no matter how much the rational, scientific part of me realizes how I long to leave, another small part knows I will miss my locker. I will miss C-285. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.