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Strangers

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The dimly lit hall is still. Muffled sounds come from inside the walls. Each closed door harbors a narrow rectangular window, offering covert peeks into the worlds inside. For a split second, it’s like the world has stopped. Almost as though some almighty God pushed the pause button in the middle of his movie. Another split second – a bell rings, the movie restarts. The screech of chairs echoes, doors open and close.
Down the hall a girl emerges. A sullen boy follows closely behind, head down. Their silence resonates with unspoken words. She hopes for a better tomorrow, perhaps he will nudge her and they will share a laugh or two. He walks away and wishes he could’ve drawn from the deepest recesses the courage to speak up, instead of burning gazes into the back of her head.

Across the hall, a swarm spills out. Their loud whoops pierce the air, the harsh sounds crawling up the walls and tiles. In the middle of the mob is a boy, who sticks out for all the right reasons. He has an impressive hair style – every strand slicked into place – and an attitude to match. His pants hang just off his butt cheeks, revealing green and red checkered boxers. The crowd hangs on his every word, but his head is still at home, stuck at 7:30 AM when his father stormed out the door, leaving his mother a disheveled mess crumpled on the floor. He wonders if he will still have a father when he returns home.

A few paces away two girls walk towards the long line of metal lockers. One is talking animatedly, her hands fluttering like delicate butterflies. Her companion holds her binders close to her chest and nods her head emphatically, seemingly engrossed in the conversation. But upon a closer study, the faraway look in her eyes betrays her act, opening the door to her soul and racing thoughts. This morning is just another that she regrets waking to. Every day she paints on a perfect face, a pretty picture to hide the gaping hole in the wall. Every night she crawls under the covers and lets tears wash away her flawless mask.

To the left is a girl with her hood flipped up and hands shoved into deep pockets, as though every part of her is too shy to be seen. She is but a wisp of a girl, invisible to the world. She prefers her solitude; she has learned it is the easiest way. On dark nights, she stands silent in doorways watching her parents reach out to her little brothers with gentle hands and warmth. She sees them turn to her with stone faces, eyes full of expectations, and no soft words. Her headphones are her only escape, to numb the burning desire within her to be loved. Day after day she builds iron walls, to guard the raw vulnerability that lives in her heart.

A boy slips out of his classroom, 3 minutes after the bell. No one notices, but he walks stiffly with downcast eyes, an unfortunate paper twisted in his clenched hand. He blinks back angry tears and tries to evade the familiar, bitter taste of never being good enough. The feeling haunts him, along with the morbid disappointment that reflects in his mother’s eyes every single time.

The masses thin out as conversations end and bodies rush to slip through the right doors. The last few stragglers lose interest in lagging and finally find their way to their destinations. A bell rings – the movie stops. The hall is still.



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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

AbstractAbsences said...
Jan. 8, 2013 at 8:53 pm:
This is just so realistic. It's like what I've been thinking but unable to say. Great job.
 
Holocene This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jan. 9, 2013 at 5:01 pm :
thank you! :) 
 
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