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The Sojourn


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I stare at a pile of heavy books, and they stare back uninvitingly. I fidget once again as the muscle knots in my neck, shoulders, and back press deeper into my skin. Outside a western sun sets and thin branches sway mindlessly in the fall breeze. Through a birds song I hear the familiar tune of the ice-cream truck ring louder as it heads in my direction.

I stare out the window, but I find myself sitting on a stone ledge.
I have not seen these walls or climbed these stairs for years. The idea does not coagulate fully, so I saunter past the hall, a hall that I have walked for five years of my life. To the left is lonely auditorium entrance; the doors stand open and welcome me for a sojourn away from reality. I enter.

The room that has once seemed huge now caves in on my memories. There stands that grand piano, the same one I feared to touch. And there is the stage, with her familiar red curtains. I hear the ringing of young and innocent laughter and feel the soft hammers pat the piano’s strings. Old faces file into the miniature seats.

Memory.

I walk on. After ascending several stone steps, I stare at a white list with student names and classroom numbers: first graders in room 14. Was I really on this paper once?
I walk on. The eating area shrank since the last time I visited, and I would have to crouch down to reach the water fountain. Passing the cafeteria, I can smell cinnamon animal crackers, almost--crackers crisp, and sweet like those mornings. The smell pulls me back into the almost-forgotten, back to the part of me that has since been wilting away. Was I really once carefree?
I cannot remember, so I walk on.
Brushing my finger against a small window sill, I pass a second hall plastered with student work that leads to the library. The setting sun illuminates the summer dust as it rises. I watch the particles settle down before I head into the library. The children’s books at the topmost shelf glare at me as if they were trying to say, “Can you reach us now?” The little old librarian greets me and leads me into an office where I once have been scolded for picking a fight with a boy. A few heads turn in my direction for a moment. When did the woman that had taught me grow gray hair? What are those lines on her face? I tilt my head in reminiscence, but I don’t remember. So, I walk on.
The ice-cream truck’s staccato melody fades away in the distance. I break away from the long gaze outside my window and once again begin to stream my thoughts into a pile of endless work.



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