Graduation Resolution This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 17, 2010
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He’d known that he was going to find her at the field, and out of all the things that had crossed Schrader’s mind since graduation, this struck him as one of the strangest. She was sitting on the front row of the bleachers with her legs crossed, her cigarette lighter offering sparks of light in the night.

He walked toward her with his head bowed down toward the grass. The field felt like an open prairie and the two goal posts cast shadows as he walked, reaching out like high guillotines. He reached her and sat down; she didn’t even glance up.

“Hey,” Andrea said. She didn’t seem at all surprised to see him. The lighter lit up her face for a moment and he saw her flash in front of him like an old ghost -- the image of a heavy blonde girl with a cynical smile and tired eyes.

“Hello,” Schrader replied after a moment. He did his best to make it sound casual.

The two of them sat there for a while and didn’t talk. After a moment, a couple of late nightwalkers wandered onto the track surrounding the field, the woman nudging against the man’s shoulder. Schrader watched them and began to feel old and resentful. He glanced back at Andrea and saw the smoke drifting out of her lips, only visible because of the halogen lights that lit up the field at night.

“I liked your speech,” she said finally. “You used a lot of big words.”

“Thanks,” Schrader said. He shuffled uncomfortably in his seat. The night was cold and he suddenly wished that he’d brought a jacket. “Getting up in front of people and having to smile is hard. It might look easy, but it’s not.”

“I’m sure it’s not,” Andrea replied. She paused a moment and a strange and sad smile appeared on her face. “Billy Schrader, class valedictorian on his way to law school.”

“Andrea Salvino,” Schrader replied with a smirk. “Class druggie and sitting on the bleachers at half past midnight.”

“You got me there,” Andrea said with a wry laugh. She paused for a moment and dabbed out her cigarette. “So how’d you know I’d be here?”

“I remember what you said awhile ago. I mean, back when we still used to hang around when we were kids. You mentioned that you liked to come out here at night when you needed to think. You used to say you liked how quiet it is.”

“I still like how quiet it is,” Andrea said. “It’s just that I don’t think that much anymore. It makes me feel grown up.”

“We’re really moving on then?” Schrader said. “We’re really getting out of this town?”

“Sure,” Andrea said. “I mean, you are. I’ll probably sit around here for a month or two and see if anything interesting happens.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Schrader asked.

“Nothing really,” Andrea said briskly. She discarded her cigarette underneath the bleachers. “I guess I’ll just walk to the beat of my own drum. Sort of just see what happens, you know?”

“I guess,” Schrader said. He was utterly unsure of what to say. It was a rare occasion considering words usually came easy for him. “Oh man Andrea, you really have no idea how sorry I am about everything. I didn’t want it to end up like this. Things just changed. I started hanging out with people and they started saying things. I can’t take that. I really can-

“I understand,” Andrea said blankly. “It makes perfect sense. You grew up. Just don’t grow up anymore.”

“Want to make that a resolution?”

“Sure,” Andrea said. “I’ll make it my graduation resolution. I’m never going to grow up Schrader. I’m never going to grow up, because if there’s one thing that I learned, it’s that your heart dies when you grow up.”

And so the two of them sat there for what must have been hours, making small talk that was becoming easier and easier every second. It wasn’t long before the sun started to rise over the football field; the guillotines stood out like dark tongs placed up against the sky. It seemed surreal that a day had now passed since they graduated. There could have been something interesting that happened -- some kind of landmark to show that they were done with everything -- but instead, they just sat there and remembered everything.

The clamor of chairs on linoleum floors.

Glass vaults with multicolored trinkets inside in the cafeteria.

The echo of hallways and lockers like empty space, subterranean and hollow.

Dull mumurs of high school gossip and laughter.

Seas of chairs and tables fading off into a collage of names and faces.

The glow of a soda machine’s blue aura in the school lobby.

The banner adorned across the same aforementioned lobby – the one that offered congratulations to their class, “the Class of 1982,” with the school’s colors of blue and white hanging across the room.

And then-

“Ready to go?”

And that was when William Schrader, aged forty-six and sitting alone at the bleachers of Glenborough High School, turned around to face his wife by the railing. She was a statuesque brunette, and at the time of his visit to the field, she was six months pregnant. She was eyeing him narrowly with a face that was just starting to show its age. Her eyes were cautious and mindful, almost concerned. Schrader was starting to think that he was seeing things.

“Give me a minute,” he said.

“This is where you met her then?” she asked. “You both went to school here?”

“It was awhile ago,” Schrader replied. He wanted to tell her more but he couldn’t. “It’s just that I can’t remember much anymore.”

“That’s a pretty name she had,” his wife said wistfully. “Andrea. Did you keep in touch with her after school?”

“I moved around too much,” Schrader said. He knew there was more to it but he couldn’t put it into words. “After awhile she just stopped writing. I invited her to one of those reunions they have at the hotel downtown a few years ago, but you know, she’s Andrea. If you knew her the way I knew, it would have been first nature that she wouldn’t have wanted to go. She would have been happier just sitting out here.”

“I’ll be in the car,” his wife said briskly. She walked away with the hood of her windbreaker flapping obscenely behind her.

He sat there for a few more minutes, staring out at the field and trying not to glance at Glenborough High School behind it, sitting there and gathering old age like a mausoleum. The lobby’s walkway had been redone and a new library wing had been built by the old cafeteria, the glass walls shimmering in the bright sunlight. He glanced to his side for a final moment and, just for a second, almost hoped that somebody would be there – nobody was. The bleachers were vacant and stretched out like a desert of metal rows.

Sucking in a much needed breathe, Schrader carefully reached into his pocket and removed the newspaper clipping he’d torn out only the morning before. He stared at it for a long time, and even when his wife returned to tell him to hurry up, he hadn’t moved at all.

“Miss Andrea Salvino, 45, of 125 Corvaline Drive died Friday, August 12th, at Glenborough Regional Trauma Center of a case of lung cancer that was believed to have gone into remission.”

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anneliese S. said...
Oct. 23, 2010 at 5:23 am
Oh my gosh, this is amazing! Wonderful characters and dialogue. Great job!!
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