CENTER SCHOOL – SEPTEMBER ‘83

The halls are dark and hollow now like tunnels leading to nowhere.  The sounds of laughter are but echoes in my mind.  The shuffle of boots and the whip-whip of corduroys are gone.

The speakers are silent.  No need to “excuse the interruption” today.  There is nothing but the unbroken stillness of empty desks piled high with chairs in the corner – waiting to be sold.

Blackboards are bare – no lessons today.  Chalk stubs lay dormant in the tray alongside broken erasermate ends and worn erasers.  One lone message scrawled across the blackness says it all: “Last day!  Goodbye Center School.”

They took the carpets.  The bookshelves are bare.  Only staple holes remain on the walls that once held the snowflakes and silhouettes, the stories and the sketches.

On the musty closet floor lay a red football jersey with the number 14 emblazoned across the chest, one yellow and black glove, and a bag of stale Doritos, their owners long past caring or missing them.

The stainless steel of the kitchen counters doesn’t shine today.  The dust lays thick on the metal and glass that once held the goo that passed for lunch.  Somehow the taco smell remains – maybe it will never leave.

The graffiti grins out at me from the bathroom wall.  The authors have gone on to greater challenges.  It’s amusing now – it wasn’t then.  Soon they will grow out of it.  One lonely paper towel wad clings to the ceiling – taunting the future.

They never did replace those curtains in the gym.  The once-unwanted streams of light now bounce off the empty floor and give this place its only life.

I’ll bet there’s a red Center ball still on the roof.  Munro booted one up there and there it should stay to remind them of what once was here.

The playground is flat, black and ugly.  The foul lines are gone and white lines like boxes cover it now.  I guess that means that Datsuns and Buicks will sit out there soon.  The new tenants won’t scream and run and wrestle each other to the ground. That ‘s over.  They took down the sign that says “No Parking on the Playground”.  Maybe they’ll put up one that says “No Kids Allowed to have Fun in the Parking Lot.”

The Art Room shelves are bare, but here and there, everywhere, the paint stains and gouges, spatters of clay and dried strips of glue speak of a thousand artists-to-be who shared their dreams with us here.

It’s September, but there are no new kids to show around, no new kids scared and missing their old school, no new kids to be friends with.  No old kids either.  They’re all new kids now, somewhere else.

Nowhere throughout these barren halls is there one scrap of paper, one forgotten poster, one left-behind anything that really tells what this place was all about. Where does it show now, how we felt about each other?

Some of what filled this place was packed and carried off in boxes.  Much of what filled this place sits in their desks in other places.  The best of what filled this place we each took with us in our hearts.

As I take one last look down the dusty corridor, I hear the speaker whisper, “All buses have now been called, ---- forever.”

-Gabriel Jeantheau