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The Angel of Hampton High MAG
In the front window of the main office at Hampton High School there is a sign: “This is a school.” It's not a joke. In fact it's an enlightening experience for anyone who walks past. I was enlightened. I became aware that the place I had been going for two years was, in fact, a school. But I digress – the sign. It's important for one reason and one reason only; it was while I was staring at this exhibit that I first spoke to him – the Angel of Hampton High. His name was Anthony. I named him Angel.
Picture this: a cerulean blue sky. A yellow sun peeks out from behind clouds, their long white arms stretching to grab hold of each other. An eagle masters the skies, holding a black snake in its talons. Below is a school – a squat building composed of columns and blocks all hastily glued together. It is surrounded by an iron gate, an intimidating presence to anyone who dares trespass. A painted hornet sleeps on the stone wall, and there are signs like “Buckle up,” “Smoking kills,” “Excel,” and of course, our favorite, “This is a school.”
My school to be precise, Hampton High – home of the hornets, built in 1960. The joke is that when it opened it was segregated, not very funny to an outsider, but very funny to the students. After all, the students are the ones who get to witness the discomfort of the teachers. It's the response whenever anyone mentions the 50th anniversary celebrations.
“I heard this school was segregated when it opened.”
The teachers always shut up quickly – especially the ones who went to Hampton in 1960.
Now I'm not one to judge – I pride myself on that – and I'm very humble about my own successes and attributes (Google humility and my name will appear), but I'll tell you this: there was nothing even particularly fascinating about this boy.
There I was, shaking my head disdainfully at the sign as he walked past.
Yes, I did a double take.
Hello, a greeting distinctive to English-speaking countries. Hello, a taboo word (see politeness) in the world of high school students.
He was gone by the time I remembered how to respond. This was before I named him Angel and before I knew his real name. He was just a tall, stocky boy with dark skin, brown eyes, short hair, and a Nike shirt. Approximately one second later, the warning bell rang, 20 minutes later he was all but forgotten. His voice was just a twinkle in my head I could not place. “Hello,” it said.
The cafeteria, a place where animals gorge themselves. These animals have a name: freshmen. The significance of this place would not only be pointless to explain, but also a lie. There is no significance, unless you call a water-exploding incident significant.
In the middle of lunch an animal decided to slam a closed water bottle. It exploded. The entire table was splattered in water and the bottle went flying. I, not being among the animals, did not get wet. I, being stupid enough to be near them, was hit in the head by the bottle.
Picture this: a girl with an ice pack clamped against her temple as she stumbles from the nurse's office back to class.
“Are you okay?”
Hold on. I am getting ahead of myself. The exploding water bottle incident meant a two-man escort (or teen girls, really) to the nurse's office. The diagnosis? “You got hit in the head.” Another example of the sheer brilliance of Hampton High. The treatment was a pack of ice and an order not to sleep for six hours. The response from me was a request for a pass, and a solo journey from said nurse's office.
Now you may enter, Angel, and be quick about it.
“Are you okay?”
An American flag rests against a metal pole. A row of bricks lead away from it. They say things like “The Anderson Family, 1983” and “With love, Ms. Jennings' first period, 1972.” Two people stand in front of it (did I mention the school's hallways are outside?). The first one has just said an odd phrase, and the other responds accordingly, mouth gaping, eyes bulging, freakish silence.
Fast forward and … play.
The angel walked away.
Wait! Rewind! Rewind! Play.
“I'm-fine,” I stuttered. The angel nodded and walked away.
Now, fast forward.
Some sensory information to absorb: the scent of stale urine, if you close your eyes you may notice the relation to buttered popcorn. I always do. The musical swish of flushing toilets and the pitter-patter of water. The taste of something sickly sweet in the air, it has a name; a name that will get the creator of this sensation arrested. Water puddled around the sink, and the sight. Well, there's no point explaining the sight. I'm sure you know our location.
Welcome to the bathrooms at Hampton High.
All right, back to the story.
Now, you may be thinking, What relevance does a bathroom have? I assure you, it is of the utmost relevance. It was outside this very bathroom that I saw Angel for the third time that day, and it was then that he received his name – the Angel of Hampton High.
An angel is something sent from heaven. You know: white robes, glittering wings, and a golden halo. Maybe Anthony wasn't an angel. Maybe he just did weird things like greet strangers in the hallway and inquire as to their well-being. But when I walked out of the bathroom, he became an angel.
Some facts to consider:
Freshmen are clumsy.
People are rude.
Boys like money more than helping freshmen girls.
I walked out of the bathroom, drying my hands on a sandpapery paper towel. It was really for show, to prove to people that I had, in fact, washed my hands.
What I saw next was horrifying and spectacular all at once.
I'm not squeamish. I do not have a bad case of the nerves. But, yes, I almost screamed.
As I emerged, I saw a freshman girl picking up her books, and beside her, Anthony was reaching down and helping her.
Crazy, you must be thinking. I mean, he helped her. Who does that? Nuns and Gandhi, that's who. This kid, as you're now realizing, is a freak, a weirdo, a …
“I'm Anthony.” He shook her hand and stood up. She smiled and they parted ways. And so, that's how I found out his name, Anthony.
I followed him – from a distance, of course. Even after we got to the other side of the school and I knew I'd never get back in time, I continued to follow him. And, yes, I expected him to sprout wings.
He didn't. He did turn around.
My reaction? Stunned. Speechless. Shocked.
He smiled. “How are you feeling?”
I did not gape; I was used to this by now – from him. My eyes did, however, widen a little bit.
“Better,” I croaked.
“That's great.” And once again he smiled, as though he was actually pleased to hear it. Pleased to hear that someone he hardly knew who had stalked him halfway across school was feeling better.
And that was all. He smiled and walked down the hall and through the doors as the late bell rang. I continued to stand there, staring after him.
“Thanks, Angel.” The words fell from my lips as did a name that was not his. The words were quiet, almost a whisper, and so I know he did not hear them.
I'd like to tell you I saw him again, that I finally thanked him, maybe even shook the hand of the Angel of Hampton High, but I did not. It's my duty to document, not to spin tales of fiction. And so, I give you this story in its simplest form, and I give you my solemn word of its validity.
The dutiful recorder of the true stories of Hampton High School.