One Door Down

April 13, 2018

Sometimes at night when the stars are out and everything is still, I forget that you're gone. Sometimes when it’s quiet and I’m alone, I pretend you’re still here. One door down. With the baseball sticker on your door.
The very smell of your room evokes your presence in this house. And yet, you’re nowhere to be found. Some days I’ll go into your room and look around at all of the trophies and pictures, cautious not to move anything out of its place. I’ll sit on your bed and let the smell of the sheets cross the threshold of my nose. And if I close my eyes and think really hard, I can almost see you.
Standing in the corner with your Derek Jeter baseball jersey and that old pair of sneakers that you loved until they could no longer be held together. Your hair still curls the way it used to and your eyes are still bright like an infinite abyss of curiosity. And you even have the same hands. The ones I held as we first taught you how to walk. The ones I embraced the day Mom and Dad brought you home from the hospital. The way they wrapped around mine as if they were crafted to fit with every crevice and crease. Everything, just as it was.
It was just like any other day when you left us. The sun was rising steadily amid the cool morning breeze. And the morning dew lay untouched on the earthy grass. 6:00am and you were already downstairs silently waiting for me to wake up so we could eat breakfast together. I’ve never been a morning person, and you knew it. But had I known that it would be our last meal together, I would have woken up at any time just to see you. I shuffled down the stairs at 6:45, still groggy from the weekend. I was starving, but a toaster eggo waffle would have to suffice. We didn’t talk much that morning. Instead we just sat in silence, fixated on the news which broadcasted yet another shooting somewhere in South Louisiana. Mom came downstairs to drive me to school and we exchanged a short goodbye. And that was it. I was off to school and you were off for good.
The call didn’t come until 6th period. I sat in the monotonous classroom, surrounded by the sound of keys rapidly dancing across laptops and the glare of the windows scattered across the white linoleum. The smell of old VHS tapes and untouched textbooks shed a seemingly vulgar odor. But somehow the basement-like aroma felt comforting to me. It was that sense of familiarity, comfort, safety that school always seemed to maintain… that’s when I found out.
The classroom phone rang four times before Ms. McMahon picked up. The students heads popped up curiously as we tried to decipher the message from her facial expressions. A sense of excitement spread across the classroom as we all patiently hoped the call was for us. But when she said my name and told me to report to the principal’s office, that anticipation was quickly replaced with a sense of fear. Had I done something wrong? Was I in trouble?
The principal’s office was a gloomy place, like an abandoned closet trying too hard to look welcoming. The walls were painted an off-white shade and the only furniture was a large wooden desk littered with papers and sticky notes accompanied by two firm blue chairs. There was a large window to the right of the desk with a view of the parking lot and the many big trees which flooded the grounds. I had been to the principal’s office only once before for a mere guidance meeting, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to hear.
“Are you sure?” I kept desperately asking. I began to hyperventilate and tremble in the stiff blue chair which I sat in. Mom and Dad were there at my side rubbing my hand and holding back their own tears as they tried to calm me down. They kept telling me we were going to be ok and other reassuring notions, but I couldn’t hear them. I was drowning in my own disbelief and all I could hear was the faint sound of their voices as if I was underwater. How could this have happened? Why you? Why us?
Just another school shooting, but this time it couldn’t be real. I knew you weren’t invincible, but how could I have known how vulnerable we really were when it had only ever been a distant misfortune. Seven children murdered. Seven lives lost. Seven futures terminated. Seven families permanently broken. And you were only seven years old.
You were gone and there was nothing I could do. Brutally killed in none other than a classroom. The same nurturing environment built with the very purpose of fostering development was the domain in which your life was taken. And now all that I have left is the mere memory of you. Forever in my heart. One door down. With the baseball sticker on your door.






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