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Looking Back This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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It was one of those days when summer had clearly ended but school had not officially begun, and I wasn't quite sure where I belonged.

The smooth, square tiles of the high school were a shade darker than milk chocolate, and my feet slid over them easily as I made my way around. I knew this place well – well enough for me to ignore the freshman orientation, anyway. An idea sparked inside my brain:

You won't have a chance to go back once school starts.

And with that thought settling into my mind, I turned away from the groups of incoming ninth-graders and headed for the hallway that used to be my passage into Narnia. Except this time I was not going to a magic land; I was simply returning home.

My pace quickened as I walked, alone, to the hallway connecting the high school and the middle school. Something felt odd, though, and I realized everything was reversed – like middle school was now the faraway place, the place I wasn't supposed to be. It felt weird. It felt different.

It felt sad.

I slowly crossed the line where the high school tiles abruptly stopped and were replaced by the fat, white middle school ones. I stared at the too-empty too-shiny floor, bent down to touch it, and discovered that it was newly waxed. As if they were trying to get rid of the slightly clouded look – clouded from the rush of students late to class, clouded from kids shuffling after failing tests, clouded from cross-country practice the day the weather was awful and we ran up and down the hallways instead.

I liked that clouded look.

Thinking back, I tried to remember my own ­footprints leaving their dusty mark on the tiles. I thought back to all those glorious days of middle school, all those days of being rebellious and sneaking over to the high school.

I tried sneaking, too – I tried sneaking to the hallway where James and I squabbled over locker combinations, the hallway where the two of us ducked to avoid security cameras every time we stopped to talk and were late for lunch. I tried sneaking there the way James and I used to.

I snuck around to avoid the janitors – I hid behind doors and pressed myself against the wall. I used all those tricks we used to use, and I wasn't caught, but it wasn't the same. It didn't have the same feeling, the same thrill of excitement and adventure, even when I narrowly missed being seen by one janitor who kept turning his head. A couple months ago, James and I would have exchanged mischievous glances and silently laughed as we continued on our way. Now it just felt wrong. Empty.

After successfully passing that last janitor, I made it to our hallway, our hallway, the one where James and I used to have consecutive lockers. I turned the corner with rising anticipation, but it was blocked by trash cans and a sign bearing harsh words: “STOP! SUMMER CLEANING!”

I wanted to reach out to the spot where we used to be, where we used to stand, but I couldn't. Our lockers weren't there anymore. They no longer belonged to us. Gone. Gone. Gone. I don't know this empty building. I don't know this place anymore. I don't have a home here anymore.


Still, I kept going. I turned around and walked my old route, the way James and I used to go each day. I passed the history room, the English room. Science. Latin. It all felt wrong, stripped of its memories, of its essence, of its soul. Gone.

At that moment, everything hit me again, and I had to bite back tears of frustration mixed with despair. I just stood there, blinking back the bitter sorrow that threatened to spill from my eyes.

And then there was nothing else to do, nothing else to see, nothing else to remember. I numbly turned away from what used to be, and, in a trance, I went back the way I had come. I went all the way back to the hallway leading to the high school, and just before I crossed the line I stopped and looked back.

I swallowed my emotions and stood there, staring at the blank tiles and the eerily silent air. I searched my mind for memories, and I remembered one last time. I remembered the way the space used to be filled with chaos and shouts and wild war cries, and I remembered weaving in and out of the crowd, trying to run against wave after wave of students crashing toward me. I remembered my own adventures, the way James and I always ignored the rules and loitered after school, the way we would crouch behind trash cans when teachers came by and always escaped punishment. I remembered, and I pictured the fun we used to have, the way things used to be.

Except things aren't the way they used to be. Because the middle school is no longer our home, and we no longer have any reason to sneak into the high school, because we'll already be there, and James is now six inches taller than me and every time I look at him I find myself staring at a stranger.

I stood there, remembering, remembering everything that is now gone. And when I finished, I crossed the line with a heavy heart and an empty soul, and I wasn't sure where the passage led to anymore, because I wasn't quite sure where I belonged.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Thatdaydreamer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm
this is quite sad, but in a lovely way. Thanks for writing:)
selenaatthedisco said...
Sept. 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm
Wow. That's all I can think of to say. This is really good :)
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