Asphalt Gardens

A fourth grader caught me crying. Anxious and awkward, she quickly hurried out of the bathroom stall, her perfectly pleated khaki skirt caressing her spindly shins. Her frizzy, gnarled hair swept the air behind her as she pushed open the swinging door and scurried into the bustling hallway of girls clad in the traditional uniform of a pearl white shirt and khaki skirt. I could already hear the precocious hoarse whispers breathed into her cadre's ears, their ecstatic squeals shrilly bouncing around the asphalt garden outside their shockingly bright decorated classroom. I cupped my tiny hands under the waterfall emerging from the silver nozzle, splashing the icy droplets across my face. I looked up at the reflection in the mirror, blotchy face, runny mascara, hair pulled back into a messy bun, eyes watery and bloodshot. I wondered what to say to my friends as an excuse for this behavior. Upon further thinking, I realized that I wouldn’t have to explain to anyone. Wiping the black streaks off my ruddy cheeks with a dampened paper towel, I grabbed my black and pink polka dotted backpack off the speckled linoleum floor and shoved the door open, mentally preparing myself for another lonely trip back to my locker.

In this tiny, secluded school, people travel in tight little cadres, varying from three to ten people. They all walk through the courtyards and grass fields paired up together and giggle in time to each other. They are all different, but all the same in such a bizarre and unusual way. I stood at my locker, fishing my phone out of my backpack and smile at a fake message, typing gibberish to my home screen and shut it off in preparation for class. I glanced at the girls walking ahead of me, their feet touching the ground perfectly in time, their hair swishing back and forth. I tuck my blonde hair behind my ears and take my first steps onto the grass, feeling myself sink as each shoe skids across the dewy sprouts. A few girls smiled politely to me, lifting their hands up in polite greetings, I reflect their niceties and keep plowing forward. I eagerly watched my old best friends laugh insanely and hoped that they would wave me over and it would be like old times. They didn’t. I envied their flowery gardens built as high as the eye could see. They’re laughs repeating through the shrubbery, not echoed through the hallowed halls serving as some memory from the past. They were twirled around and around the dance floor by dapper boys, admiring the corsages that they were entrusted with earlier that evening. I padded down the carpeted staircase, and opened the heavy glass door. The room was full. Singsong chuckles greeted me as I plopped my backpack down on the desk. They all looked at me funnily. I took out my notebook and outlined my name on the cover one more time, like every class. I sat with my legs curled underneath me, anticipating.
And then she walked in and I rose. She was the only one. She beamed at me. I beamed back and gabbed on about how much I missed her. She takes me in her long arms and I laugh. And then I turned to lead her back to my desk, and they were looking at me, their eyes full of judgment and envy. The two pairs of eyes that I used to know so well, now seemed alien and unknown to me. I settled down in the plastic chair, giggling quietly. And so, here’s to you, my forlorned memories, because the ghosts of my previous laughs are now awakened, and bounce off my asphalt garden’s walls with eagerness. And here’s to you, the one that rebuilt my dilapidated walls and crumbling structure, the one who carefully mended me with your zany laugh and witty comments. And here’s to you, my fair weathered friends, because that flowery garden isn’t for me, just like my asphalt garden no longer sparked your amorphous interests.





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