A Barn, a Gym, a Home This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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The day the team left, the gym aged a million years. Or perhaps it simply returned to the bare, cold barn it had always been. Hidden at the back of a secluded property, it gives off an air of insignificance. The grass and evergreens that surround it don't give the least hint of its importance. Time and weather will slowly wear at it, and even though it has been left in quiet, this barn, my gym, will forever be a deserted beehive, still buzzing with its old song.

When I last entered the building, it was simply a rough structure covering a cold, concrete base. The ceilings were strung with cobwebs, and the floor was dusted with dirt. The space had been stripped of the equipment that once filled it. Entering, I was flooded with memories. I heard high-pitched babbling flowing from the bathroom. I recognized the voices of the young girls, who could not part with the bathroom mirror or put on enough lotion.

The small window on my right sang with the morning light, and I remembered how it had once glowed with brilliant snow many winters ago. Shoes, backpacks, and coats littered the shelves and floor, falling over each other like playful puppies. The stale air replayed the energy it had held. A rumble rippled through the floor, and I heard the pounding of hands and feet completing a tumbling pass.

I trailed my hand along the white walls, visualizing the gymnasts who had lined up there, struggling to hold a handstand for a full minute. Slim fluorescent lights, attached to the ceiling in parallel lines, shone weakly, probably as a result of the many times we accidentally hit them with exercise balls. The pale ceiling slanted away from me toward the far-off wall. It was decorated with crumbling holes and cracks, reminding me of the stories of their creation. I was filled with warmth by the memory of my friend Riz playfully kicking the wall, accidentally delivering a damaging blow. And how my sister, Bri, had tumbled right into it, planting her feet forcefully through it. Laughing, I turned away and carefully proceeded through the opening to the second, larger room. The darkness was soaked with moist air.

Feeling along the rough walls – a collage of metal, wood, and insulation – I found the switch. Dim light cast itself upon the room. Dust floated through the stirred air. The familiar smell of chalk and sweat was a comfort in the changed space. The room was blank, different, and harsh. Disappointed, I pulled myself away from what it had become. Closing my eyes, I mentally filled in the gaps.

Instantaneously, the barn became home again. Quickening steps filled the room, followed by a loud bang as gymnasts' feet hit the springboard. My eyelids flew open and glanced toward the corner where the vault had stood. The area was empty except for a pile of wood, but I did not see emptiness. I saw my friend Cecily crawling off of a tipping mat stack, cringing at her performance. Mats and equipment filled the gym, packed tightly like children in a small bed. The bars were nudged between the wall and a long Tumble Trak, which paralleled the runway and beams. Activity swept over the gym, and I could feel the rush and excitement that the gym had once burst with. Cholla was tumbling across the Tumble Trak, bending the black material slightly to receive its energetic bounce. The beams were soft with moisture yet stood strong and elegant under our weight. Giggles floated from the place where the chalk box had been, where jokes, stories, and secrets were shared. I heard the squeak of the bars on which I first learned to flip and had nearly broken my ankle.

Suddenly, the gym was filled with the pitter-patter of rain on its tin roof, drowning out conversation. I felt the thrill we experienced together during these rare storms, the intensity ringing in my ears. Plastic buckets were set out in a rush to protect the mats from the numerous leaks that dotted the roof. The room was alive and full. Laughing, footsteps, the rain coming down. Chalk in the air, squeaking, the moisture that soaks into the beam. Rain, footsteps, chattering … silence.

The barn looked aged and lonely. My memories echoed through the stale air and bounced off everything. I turned out the lights and carefully felt my way back. It doesn't matter what the owners decide to use the barn for. Things that have been almost forgotten will always remain there. As I closed the door, the cobwebs fluttered once more, then fell silently back into place.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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lrowan said...
Mar. 9, 2012 at 1:11 am
The description is so vivid, I can almost see & smell the gym and hear the happy sounds as I read this. 
 
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