In My Pocket This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 18, 2009
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I was on the third floor of my high school when I saw it. Lying there on the floor, practically begging me to pick it up, begging me to use it. And how tempted I was! I was in dire need of it, too. I forgot my own that day, and when I saw that enticing piece of parchment laying on the hard, white tiled floor of the stairwell, I gave in completely. I picked it up, checked to make sure no one was watching, and pocketed the piece of paper. I think I even grinned.

I had never felt so heavy walking up a flight of stairs. I was nearly panting when I reached the top floor. Now, I'm by no means fit-- but I'm not so out of shape, either. Who would have thought that the item lying in my pocket was a single note and not a one-hundred pound brick? I was frowning by the time I reached the cafeteria doors. Surely walking two flights of stairs couldn’t cause my heart to pound so hard, or my breathing to come in such erratic gasps?

I disregarded my friends, who’d been seated at the other side of the room, and sat at the nearest table. I sat with my back hunched, and my head bowed, and tears of sweat forming on my forehead, raining down my brows. I wondered if the lunch room had always been so humid, or if the students had always been so loud. Dreadfully-- because at the time I felt so positively dreadful-- I lifted my head and looked around, and suddenly all these eyes were on me. Every face was turned in my direction, every person was leaning over to get a closer look. The whispers, the laughs, the conversations; I was the center of their attention, like a doe in a swarm of jaguars, or dung in an enclosure of flies.

They knew what I did: they’d seen me, picking up what I had from the third floor stair case and coveting it in my pocket, and were now mocking me for it. They lifted their condescending brows, sent smirks full of crooked and yellowed teeth my way, and laughed.

I ducked my head and stared at the white face of the table, mottled with bits of food and broken napkins. They’d seen me, my persistent thoughts continued to sing, over and over like a broken record, rumbling fog-like around my brain. When the pounding in my chest overwhelmed the taunting and chanting, and the seat began to sink from all the weight upon it, I stood up, grabbed my purse, and rushed towards the nearest teacher.

“Where can I return something lost!” I’d demanded, palms sweaty and fingers fidgeting. The teacher, a man who I had only seen a few times before in passing, directed me to the office on the first floor, and I ran for it. Upon arriving I fished my hand in my pocket, tore out the item, gave it to the woman at the desk with a mere blurt of an explanation, and ran back out.

The air, when I left, smelled so much cleaner. I leaned back into the wall, just outside the room, and gave a sigh of relief. Finally, I no longer felt like a whale on the shore. I could once again breath, could once again hear myself think. My heart was no longer pounding, my blood was no longer rushing, and I no longer feared falling through the floor from the weight of my guilt; I felt clean, I felt fresh, I felt good.

When I got home later that day, I immediately ran to my mother's room and told her all about what had happened.

"But it was only ten dollars!" My mother frowned, looking positively incredulous.

“I know,” I told her, then retreated to my room. But it was enough.





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