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Not Like the Movies
The concept of high school beginning today just had not processed in my mind yet. My heart was still with the pleasures of summer: sleeping in until 10:00 in the morning, watching fireflies in the night air burn like embers and fly, dipping my toes in the warm sand as the sea sparkled and ebbed in a bath of ghostly glow that was the moon. I could still feel the touch of summer on my fingertips, refreshing and tingly.
I wasn’t there though. I wasn’t resting under ribbons of sunlight that leaked through the moist trees of my grandparent’s backyard. I wasn’t strolling across the park with my friends in the sizzling heat. I was waiting for a gross bee yellow bus to barrel down the road and drag me and about thirty other kids to Robbinsville High School, where I would get lost in the halls while heading off to French or unintentionally break a rule that had not been enforced in middle school. Personally, that sounded very unappealing. I had still been sporting my summer skin, and it felt tight as I waited endlessly.
“This is taking forever,” I groaned quietly and impatiently to myself as my tapping feet hummed to the snapping tune of crackling dead brittle leaves that played rhythmically in my ears like a seasonal melody, an alert that autumn was near. I intently watched a sticky, deserted gum wrapper, Sweet Berry Stride more specifically, twitch erratically on the tips of the grass in the fresh carry of the wind.
If I had a video camera, I could be the weird kid with the wind and the plastic bag in American Beauty I thought jokingly as I watched the crisp breeze of September dance with the elements of earth. I found it strangely captivating to gaze at wind playing with the fallen leaves that skittered across the ground, whirling around the abandoned trash bags and pizza box tops that littered the streets, flitting across the dew-soaked grass blades that swayed languidly aside the cracked sidewalks of suburbia.
Either that, or I was just so outlandishly bored to the point where I am congregating bits of poetic words and verses in my mind about the nondescript things that everyone sees every day.
“Oh my god!” An obnoxious female voice penetrated my distracted bubble. “We’ve been waiting here forever. I just want the bus to come and make us freshmen already!”
“I know,” I responded in a mutually irked tone to Cara, one of the many girls my age that lived in the same neighborhood as me, despite the fact that she wasn’t specifically talking to me. Talking simply passed the time.
Cara forced a smile on her face. I could tell she was as bored and uncomfortable as me. “So… I can’t believe we’re going to high school today. I mean, after we’ve been in middle for like a zillion years.”
“I think it’s been uh… I don’t know. Maybe five years. It’s not normal for people to say they’ve been going to middle school for five years,” I yawned.
“At least we’re not going back there. And who knows. Maybe there will be a hot new kid or a hot single upperclassman this year in one of our classes,” Cara said enthusiastically.
“Depends. If you’re grading on the curve, maybe. If you mean hot-guy-in-teen-movie-hot, I predict not,” I quipped with barely a snicker in my voice. My exhaustion had drained the laughter from me.
“One can dream, Dana,” Cara giggled in response to my joke. “No need to be pessimistic,” She teased.
“Yeah…” I mumbled tiredly, just completely over the topic.
I gazed around at my surroundings with a pondering expression, to obtain the façade of “busy doing something important. ” But there was nothing to do.
At the moment, all I was doing was sitting on one of the neighborhood curbs under the amber cast of golden hour that slathered the sky as the morning sun surfaced from the paved horizon. Hues of pink lemonade and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter melted into the waking blue that was earth’s canvas as the course of daybreak deepened, creating a comforting glow on this discomforting day.
“Look! The bus!”
I turned my head.
The revving of the loud and boisterous bus engine throbbed in my eardrum like an echo. I could feel the jerk of the wheels already as the engine’s roars thudded down the road.
“Finally!” Cara yelled playfully in the air with her arms raised.
All trudged onto the rigid, metal steps of the bus. I followed.
I automatically kept walking down the bus aisle as I drowsily fantasized about being wrapped in the heat of my bed as hot sunbeams poured in through my bedroom window.
“Dana,” I heard someone giggle, but I didn’t process it. “Dana!”
I stopped, already halfway down the aisle. “What?” I spun around and discovered it was Cara. She was wearing a mocking gaze.
“Where are you going?” She asked in a high voice.
“To the---“ I realized my mistake. “Oh,” I chuckled with embarrassment.” I returned to the front of the bus and quickly sat in the first two-seater to avoid any others noticing my error. The sticky, faux-leather upholstery of holes and tears glued onto my flesh. I shifted uncomfortably.
The bus driver closed the door and before I even knew it, we were peeling down the street to the next stop. The fact that I was sitting alone simply added to my annoyance and apprehension of the day.
“The one freakin’ day I didn’t bring my Ipod…”
Minutes slipped away and we escaped the neighborhood, bus full of obnoxious students and tired bodies whose varying tones and voices all intermingled into one loquacious crescendo that drowned out with the revving of the vehicle.
Time felt like it was going by so quickly as we passed a handful of small, forgotten stores and overgrown grass fields, I suddenly noticed that we’d be arriving at high school in a matter of minutes.
High school I wondered. What did that mean exactly? What was high school?
I never really realized that the bus was, in fact, heading towards Robbinsville High School, and it was not just a joke in my mind. That high school was now.
But what was it?
In all portrayals of it, it just seemed like a histrionic social event for the seriously troubled, the seriously privileged, and the seriously ignored.
But high school, I already had known, in raw and simple reality wasn’t like the high school depicted in movies and television of the perky Ringwald oeuvre.
There wasn’t going to be a perpetual fiery, baking sun hovering against a cloudless, azure expanse. There wasn’t going to be a great green and verdant lawn, piled high with students of all types--- freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, monogrammed jocks, salon hair trios, pocket protector nerds--- all different grades, all different labels.
High school wasn’t a cheesy teen movie directed by John Hughes with segueing bubble gum pop ballads or varsity letter jackets or fluorescent plastic Frisbees or an audience laughing and crying and screaming “OH NO!” at the melodramatic, Beverly Hills, 90210-esque scenes. High school was middle school, but more mature, more complicated, and worst, more awkward.
Evidently, I knew what high school wasn’t, but movies and television still didn’t teach what high school was in actuality.
What was high school?
There were so many things I hadn’t known, so many things I hadn’t understood.
Was it true that freshman were told to find their classrooms on the fourth floor of a school with only three floors when they asked upperclassmen for directions?
I had absolutely no idea.
Was it true that high school would be the caliber of my educational life?
I had absolutely no idea.
Was it true that I would be surviving it under the mantra “high school sucks” because that cute boy in my third period block never falls in clichéd, cream cheese filling love with me or one of my teachers will look down on me like the breathing, moving, feeling plague of the country’s future?
I had absolutely no idea.
We were being thrown into a world where we, or I at least, had not yet learned to dwell, and I didn’t know how I was supposed to learn or if I was ever going to learn.
How am I going to get through th---
“Ah!” I shrieked out of the blue, feeling my heart leap out of my rib cage. The bus jerked up a little bit, enough to toss me a few inches out of my seat, as we turned down a wide road that led to the front of the high school.
I looked out the window that was filmed over with fingerprints and dead flies, and my predictions were correct: no lawn, no neon Frisbees, no bouncy incidental soundtrack, and faces with expressions of “summer hangover” painted on.
“Oh great, we’re here,” I heard some boy behind me sarcastically grumbled.
My throat suddenly felt dry. I gulped inaudibly.
The bus slowed down as it turned to a diagonal rectangular parking spot drawn on specifically for school buses.
Students spilled out of the bus before I even slung my bag over my shoulder. I trotted into the disorienting crowd of students, swarmed by endless commotion and impenetrable exhausted bubbles. I elbowed my away across the front of the school, jabbing people at their bones and fat and backpacks, some bothering to turn around to give me the stink-eye. Sweat rolled down my skin as I wiggled through the horde, the colossal amount of body heat in the single area consuming me. It gave the sensation as if I were trapped, trying to claw my way out of a flaming pit in Hell.
Finally, I broke free of the high school student swarm and to the glass front doors to enter. I reached for the handle, but stopped dead in the air.
My hand levitated in front of the door, no movement whatsoever, as if time had froze. The second I touched the door, the second I stepped onto the tile inside would be the second I would change. It was the second that I would no longer be a middle school student, the second I would be a high school girl for the next four years of my life. Do I realize what I am about to do?
I felt the gentle breeze sift through my long fingers toward the door. My hand unconsciously edged closer to the handle, as if it was being carried by the blowing wind, as I prepared for my new life in my new world of High School.
Good Luck I thought to myself. Good Luck.