Lunchtime for a high school teacher is a daunting reminder that life is a perpetual state of adolescence. Slivers of light filter in through three slim windows as aging Algebra teachers pour weak cups of coffee from a thermos. Paper plates, sippy cups and sporks splay across tables arranged a la H-block.
Larry, the art teacher, sees me. He is one of the regulars and offers me a seat and a sandwich. I decline the seat but accept the sandwich. I calculate that I have no time to sit and if I did I wouldn’t want to sit here. A few familiar faces throw wayward waves my way. They never invite me to join them. Maybe they sense that I don’t want to be part of that gossip gang or maybe they just don’t like me. Larry yanks his black messenger bag off the table. His latest drawing peeks through the zipper. We chomp, dropping bits of egg salad on our way up the grubby staircase. In the distance, a trumpet is warbling Pomp and Circumstance. I pop my head into the band room to check in on Camila. She is almost always in there pecking away at the piano.
“Mia. How’s the monologue coming?” Immersed in a melody floating from her fingertips, she does not hear me. Clarinets squawk, drums bang, flutes wheeze. Kids lean against backpacks devouring pizza, globs of cheese filling holes in the beige carpet. Still starving I wander to the vending machine across from the defunct swimming pool. Decommissioned as part of a long-forgotten highly temporary short-term budget cut. Curious I clamber under a chain across the door to bear witness to crumbling Izmir tile, cracked Terrazzo marble, and decades of grit glommed onto the Victorian crystal chandeliers suspended above what used to be.
Larry strolls into the band room and leans on the piano. “Hey, Mia.” She snaps out of her trance.
“Hey, Mr. Kimmel. What do you think so far?” She plays a piece from her new composition. The notes sail across the hallway where I am transfixed behind shackles in the doorway beneath broken candelabras as the bell rings.