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My Last Moments
As I gazed through my thick jet black frames, I wondered, "Why am I still here?" I looked to the person to the left of my seat, it was Patrick. That's nothing out of the ordinary, he's always nearby. As he was thoroughly engaged in a conversation with another classmate, I silently typed away. What difference would there be, gone or not? Recently, I had already been distancing myself, I had stopped coming to first two periods of class and instead going to the math room at the end of the halls and testing. There was no difference.
It's been three and a half years, and I'm still not prepared to leave. Physically, I could go to Antarctica and live there for weeks, desolate. But moving a little ways across a country is more difficult than anyone else could imagine for me. The introvert in me cries out everyday in desperate and empty hope, "Stay for another half year! Finish the academic year. Stay with the people you know." For years, I didn't even realise how socially awkward I was. But as I sat in class, I didn't fully understand my anxiety. I should have been happy, right? I should have been "happy" to move to another great, big city. That's just part of my problem. I absolutely loathe hoards of people… and reality. I do like meeting people on occasion, but I fear saying goodbye. On the other hand, my alternate worlds of gaming and Japanese anime and manga is the single factor that is universally similar.
My fingers drummed the tables the more I contemplated my mixed emotions. Am I more afraid of staying or leaving? Every person that had noticed, or cared about, the tears that slid desperately down my face, I had told them I was more afraid of leaving. I felt like howling out in utter confusion, yet that would stand out too much. I was afraid of being too different.
"Grace, come on, let me read your story!"
"Gray, let's see what you're writing."
Grace. Grace F. Gray. Why do I respond to all these names? And what will they call me in Nanjing?
As the days droll on, as each second ticked by, I had become surprisingly calm. I no longer cried myself to sleep, but classmates and friends have accused me of overworking; "Like an Asian." The sporadic headaches don't help support my point of how I'm completely fine, nor does my paling complexion.
"How was your weekend?" Our math teacher asks the class.
Shout outs of "Good!" and "Horrible!" resonated throughout the room. I held my tongue, not quite wanting to share that I had spent the past three nights and mornings exhausting myself by learning how to simplify, divide, and function polynomials. It sounded too similarly to whining.
At lunch, I was always surrounded by friends. They laughed and joked about kidnapping me. They conspired over blowing Nanjing up. And the more they talked about it, the more I wanted to see their plans in action.
"We'll kidnap her, she'll live in the Art room, and then, we'll blow up the airport, just to make sure!" Alex said.
I could only smile, half-heartedly. I'm leaving, there's nothing you can do about it. I poked at my French fries, and I looked at everyone; I left the table soon after.
The next Saturday was my "goodbye party". We traveled by Metro to an infamous shopping district and we were all dressed in the most vibrant Christmas colours. For a couple hours we belted out our favourite Christmas carols and songs until our throats hurt. Haagan Daz seemed heavenly and that's exactly where we went afterwards. The brilliant mahogany walls of the ice cream shop calmed any nerves I had. The clear windows allowed me to wander into one of my alternate worlds as the rest of my friends stuffed themselves with the best ice cream that was available in the hazy city of Chengdu. Plates and utensils glistened in the cloud light and the soft velvet chairs were matched perfectly in colour with the rest of the layout. Wanting to minor in interior design, I had to at least notice a bit of these things. As someone pushed a plate of mint chocolate ice cream towards me, I immediately grabbed a spoon and dug in. Who was I to refuse my favourite flavour of ice cream? We joked and laughed, and cried till our hearts content that day. After Haagan Daz we went back to my home. My home, which was not legitimately my home, was still filled with my family's personal possessions and furniture. The exact place where I have called my home for over three years was not the place I wanted to part with yet. We weren't planning on packing until after the holidays. Throwing my bag into the crack between the couch and the side table, I announced that it was time for a movie. A tragic movie, so you won't know the real reason I'm crying.
That was supposedly my last outing with all my friends. It's also the last week of school now. The days are flashing by, and I try to smile for each of them, but I know as the last day approaches, I won't be able to. These last days are mostly uneventful, a project due here, a field trip to a museum there, and I spend as much time with people I know I'll truly miss as I can. But as the cold wind bites my face, I sigh as I walk into the school… It's my last day of school.
I observe things more than usual today. The elevator still looks as old and worn as my math book, but the railings lining the staircase shine more than usual; and for once, the stairs look inviting. The guards at the front desk were watching everyone, which wasn't out of the normal. Students all seemed ecstatic, which didn't quite bother me either since it was natural to be excited for the well-deserved holidays. But what did affect me was this: written messily upon the whiteboard that is neatly perched by the doorstep every morning was a couple of phrases that made the hot tears stream down my face again. "Last day of school!!", "Half day today!", and "Holidays from Dec. 17th - Jan. 9th."; these phrases were all over-punctuated, but that wasn't what hurt me the most. My last day was here, and I had nowhere left to hide and I couldn't run anymore.
I was frozen stiff at the base of the whiteboard, head down, and tears fell violently. Someone embraced me from behind, but I continued to sob. I choked on my tears, but I feel something wet on my shoulders, too, which sent me into even more convulsive sobbing. My shoulders started to shake furiously and I felt another pair of arms around me. I bet we attracted many stares, but I couldn't care this time. I was distressed that it was my last day, yet I was filled with happiness because there were still people who cared. I looked through my teary eyes, my glasses then clutched in my hands, and I saw the blurry figures of Emy and Ashley.
Ashley had whispered with utmost care, "It's going to be alright. You have to enjoy your last day; smile!"
Emy nodded in agreement and I looked up to them again. I trudged up five flights of stairs with both their arms slung around my shoulders and I parted with them when I reached my homeroom class. Patrick was there now and he looked a bit grim, too. I can hardly take a couple steps until he pulls me into a tight embrace.
"Grace, why you got to go?"
I wept again, this time Patrick held me up. The rest of the class was quite silent, which was unusual for the most raucous bunch of people. There weren't any giggles, everyone was just sitting quietly. And it bothered me. After another minute, I finally had my breathing under control; I finally was able to look at everyone. As I stood at the front of the class, I wondered whether I should ramble into a long speech, giving my thanks, or just sit down as if nothing happened. I blinked back any other tears that threatened to spill and stared everyone down, one by one.
"Let's win the battle of the homerooms!" I said with slight confidence, but my voice failed me. Why else would they have chosen me for class representative?
That brought in a couple smiles, several cheeky grins, though. I tried to grin back, but it was still too heart wrenching.
That's also when Patrick leaned in and murmured quietly, "Don't push yourself too much."
I hesitated, but nodded nonetheless. Relays, pies, and many games later that morning, I ended up running away from the festivities halfway. I didn't think anyone would notice, but boy, was I ever wrong.
"You never listen to me, do you, Gray?"
My head was lodged between my legs, but I could feel the warmth from his arms and his voice was one that I heard everyday, whether I wanted to or not. I tried responding, but it turned into useless and incoherent mumbling. He sighed. He claimed he was never good with consoling people. In many ways, that was accurate, seeing how he was such an insensitive guy, but he might have soon learned that the comfort of content silence could be all that I ask for.
"Shouldn't you be out there, having fun with the rest of them?" I managed to spit bitterly.
"I made a promise. And a lot of people are looking for you, too." This was where I could easily imagine his impertinent grin. "They just don't know you as well as I do."
"And here you found me, in the art room, I wonder…"
"You really should give me more credit."
I rolled my eyes… mentally of course. My eyes were burning and probably red and swollen; it would have been too difficult to move them. We talked for an estimated time of an hour. We just talked about everything; random things that occurred, random quotes that we loved, school, people. But one thing we avoided was the "forbidden topic"; my leaving. When I decided that I was well enough to face everyone again, we walked back silently and contentedly. Upon reentering the auditorium, a group of people immediately engulfed me within hugs. I returned them all orderly and I fought a long battle with the tears in my eyes. Eventually the tears won again, and a fresh stream of tears flew down my face.
And before I knew it, it was the last minute of school. Everyone else was already loading the buses, except for the select few that clung to me. Most of them had moist eyes, but I was the one who had tears falling uncontrollably.
"Get on your buses!!" Mr. Durham called to everyone. He was excited to leave, it seemed.
Regrettable and reluctantly everyone moved away, with one last hug and a several words of encouragement.
Ashley embraced me and insistingly said, "Grace, we're meeting up over the break! And after the holidays, you're coming back!" And she left for the bus.
The group slowly drifted away, into a confined and crowded yellow school bus, and I took my last glance at QSI. I took my last long look at everyone who waved towards me from their bus, before I ascended my respective ride as well.
Then came the holidays, and I wasn't able to meet up with anyone, not Ashley, not Emy, not Tyler, not Patrick. My mother, my sister, and I went to Singapore and Bali, and came back to empty my-- the landlord's house. It was New Years and my family got drunk, but I stayed in our luxurious hotel room. The next day, we were on that shiny airplane again, on the way to Nanjing. On the way to my new life.
My school in Nanjing is huge, over a six hundred people. I carry my MacBook Pro around everywhere and I continue to accomplish my tasks to my best effort. But my biggest problem remains with finding my new classes. I've gone to classes for two months, yet being directionally challenged continues to disagree with finding my classrooms. A couple friends here and there, and several acquaintances too, but it's not the same. Jamie has become my closest friend. He's in nearly all my classes and lives right next door. And although I find myself enjoying the time I spend with him, and truly being myself, I miss Ashely, I miss Emy, I miss Patrick, I miss everyone. I tell Jamie everything and he always tries to console me. I guess finding true friends occurs everywhere, but I'll never forget QSI.
"Grace! Come downstairs, Jamie's here and you'll be late for school!" My mother shouts to me.
I grunt in response, snatch a slice of bread, and sling my backpack over my shoulder. "Bye, Mami."
"Oh, Grace, for Spring break, guess where we're going to." My mom calls out right before I leave. "We're going back to Neijiang and Nanchong, so we can visit Chengdu, too!"
I barely hear her when I walk out the house.
"Thanks for breakfast!" Jamie calls out. "G'morning, Rae. How's it going?"
My thoughts were jumbled up and I just grunt. For the entire day, Jamie seems concerned, but my mind was floating away. During Math, I felt something roll down my face, another tear. I'm coming back, you guys, just wait a little longer for me!