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“So you mean to tell me that there’s no opening?” I start out simple to pace myself.
He pressed his face against the metal and put his feet on the bar that ran along the ground.
“Nope, not one,” he propped himself up as he clung to the wiring.
I carefully snapped my ballpoint pen into its place on my notebook, taking a second to soak in his enigmatic comment.
“Then how does anyone get in or out? I’ve never seen a helicopter come in and there’s no tram that runs this far into the city and-” I stopped myself. As a reporter, you can never get flustered, never get ahead of yourself, and never break your poker face when doing an interview.
The kid’s mop was painfully cut; the edges were sharp as if they were hacked away in a rush. Though the cut was unfortunate, he seemed to be well-kempt; neat and clean but not glamorous.
“Listen lady,” he took another drag of his cigarette. I wondered if he had come to the fence because whoever had kept him so neat and clean wouldn’t approve of such a foul stench; even I coughed violently as I continued to question him.
He continued cautiously, “I’ve never seen people leave. Maybe it’s just a hunch but… I don’t think we can.”
Blaring horns on the grey asphalt never stop for me when I try to hail a cab. It’s as if I don’t exist when I walk down this alleyway. It’s a different state, a separate country, a different place and time, and I just can’t grasp what surrounds me. A mere hour ago, I sat under strings of warm lights and drank fruit soda. The discarded french fry containers and little ketchup packs litter the base of the metal, waiting for the rain and the mud to break them down and wash them away. At the base of the fence stand three feet of compacted slush, slowly turning from a deep brown to a speckled gray from the muck that trails off of the tailpipes.
The fence runs for three blocks, tirelessly. It scowls at me with contempt at and is sturdy in its defense. Over the years the metal has worn down so that in parts its sharp bristles poke out from all of the fraying. I have to be careful not to get too close.
Among the city lights and the food cart smoke, no one seems to notice the gleaming black building. The inhabitants behind the fence change dramatically, and almost daily. Each day a new single file line of students in baggy pale blue uniforms circle around from the front of the dusty yard around. They walk around to the side of the building, and back around, where they disappear from view. Ever since the family quota was set, schooling systems broke down. They didn’t know how to handle the rejects. The simple wooden plank that swings from chains on the top of the fence is labeled P.S.0.
At first, none of them would talk to me. Why would a student want to talk to a lady trying to get an exposé feature out of an public school? I feel my chest flutter when they stop on their way out of the building to gaze in my direction for half a second before averting their gazes downward. They pause mid-bite on a French fry and look at me curiously as I approach the sealed off entrance. None of them have dared to come within ten yards of the fence. The blue figures circle around to the back of the yard and walk systematically behind the black panels of the building. They always disappear from view before I can snap a picture.
I knew immediately that Samson and I would be a good match; he stared at my Moleskin notebook for a good minute and a half while leaning his back against the chain links. He gave me a window into his world, and I wrote the exposé to save him.