I don’t want to be here, my eyelids getting heavy. My back starting to hurt. I don’t want to stay sitting, stuck at this desk in this classroom of this school that smells like old wood and grandma’s books.
Mr. Jalle up front talking about history and politics and why we are where we are. But he can’t explain why I am where I am. I think sometimes about climbing the trees outside, climbing to the very top, then jumping off with my arms outstretched because I think I can fly.
My eyes are open. I see something in front of me. Dark green, watery green, swamp. I’m underwater. My eyes are open. The water stings my eyes. I reach forward with my hand. There’s nothing. I’m choking on swamp water that tastes rusty like old nails and tonic.
“You’re blind,” the voice in my head tells me.
Mr. Jalle’s voice up front is like a hum, steady, like low-fi bass reverberating in my ears. I don’t hear anything he says. I’m listening. I don’t hear anything except for the sound in my head. Chatter, like radio static, noise. The bass low and steady in my ears. I’m blind, I think. I’m blind. I don’t need to learn any of this. What good will it do me if I understand the Emancipation Proclamation? I can’t run for president if I’m blind. There’s never been a blind president. How would I get to the podium to give the speeches like I see on TV? With someone helping me every step of the way? Holding my hand? How would I negotiate tough with terrorists if I can’t even see what they look like?
It’s summer outside the window. The room is warm and it’s making me sweat. Steph behind me kicks my chair. She’s beautiful. I can smell her perfume. I take my hands away from my eyes. There’s a smell like sulfur in the air, coming from outside. Someone’s lighting a fire but I can’t see where. Steph kicks my chair again. She’s beautiful and I think about her too. I’d bring her to the top of the tree with me and we’d fly together: We’d soar through the clouds and over the ocean and end up somewhere far away. Like Russia or much further. To Japan. Or fly beyond the infinite, keep going until we reach a black hole, hand in hand, and discover new worlds together. We’d be king and queen of a universe no scientist here has ever seen before. We’d shoot lights from our eyes and we’d never sweat again.
Steph behind me says, “Hey, do you want to come pick me up in the morning?”
“Why?” I ask her back.
“We can go and get coffee and then go to the pool.”
“Tomorrow is Saturday.”
“We were supposed to hang out together on Saturday.”
Me and her together. It’s something that makes too much sense. Like watching a car crash/auto accident and subsequent fistfight on an LA highway, or M&Ms after getting high at midnight.
She has long brown hair. She has big eyes like an anime character. Like a movie star because only a screen of that size would be big enough to hold her. She wears long shirts and short shorts. She is tan from the sun and from her dad, who is Haitian, or so she says. I’ve never met her dad and neither has she. Her mom sits at the kitchen table most of the day, with a cigarette between her fingers smoking all the way down to the filter while she watches TV and then she lights another one. The whole house smells like cigarettes. The whole house smells like this world which is why we need to find a new one.
Mr. Jalle looks at the clock. “Well, we’re almost out of time,” he says.
There’s a sigh in the room. Like everyone just woke up from a deep sleep. Like the whole class just let out a breath they’d been holding since we first sat down. Since we first got to school this morning, when the sun was just beginning to rise and it wasn’t yet this hot. The grass and leaves still wet from the night. Still a chance to run away forever before the school doors close for good behind us.
Mr. Jalle looks at his watch. “Only five minutes left.”
A bluebird perched on the windowsill is looking at the whiteboard and trying to read the dates. He shakes his head, spreads his wings, and flies off.
Mr. Jalle asks, “Any questions?”
And I watch the bluebird, and Steph watches him too, thinking, some day, little bird, we’ll be flying with you and what will you think of us then? No more significant dates of history to memorize. No more learning the names of men and women who’ve done greater things than we ever will. Nothing in the way. Only things to fly under or over or inside and outside…
The bell rings and everyone gets up from their seats. Everyone at once. The chairs scrape against the floor and Mr. Jalle is saying something about homework that no on hears. We’ll either turn it in or we won’t. We’ll either pass or we’ll fail. We’ll win or we’ll lose. Because even though there’s still a greenish tint around my eyes the world is still a black and white affair.
Steph takes my hand. We walk out of the classroom together and she smiles, her hair still hanging across her face. The freckle on her nose covered by a strand of long and dark hair that doesn’t stay behind her ear no matter how hard she tries to make it. She has to go to chemistry class next, where she’ll learn about mixing and matching all the things that make up our bodies and our universe, and maybe she’ll pay attention. Maybe she’ll fall asleep and dream of nicer things. I have geometry class, where shapes rule the day, everyday. But where we’re going together, in our private universe, we’re in charge of these things and always will be.