It was the first day of summer vacation as I watched my friend Louisa tack 50 or so of these flyers up and down the neighborhood. She was wearing a pink t-shirt, cut off shorts and red flip flops. We were on our last five when she says,
“Do you think I should have offered a reward?”
I could see the moths and insects swarm around the street lamps on this clock. It had to be nine in the evening at this point, and even though we lived in a safe neighbor, I couldn’t help but feel the need to return home.
“Honestly, I think this entire thing is a waste of time,” Karen said rolling her eyes at Louisa.
“I think what Karen means to say is that Snuffs will probably be home soon. It’s only been 24 hours; don’t you think you’re over reacting just a little?”
“Guys honestly, is that all you can think about? My little Snuffle is out there in the cold.”
“It’s 88 right now, I don’t think anyone is cold” Karen said cutting in.
I shot a look back at her. Man she was being critical today. Her non-challant expression was unchanged by my gaze. But this is how Karen was, unmoved by the urgencies that life had thrown at her. Her arms crossed, folded flatly against her chest a habit she picked up in defense of men looking at her chest.
“Alright, I will skip the reward, but just a few more places and then we will go back, I promise”
Louisa picks up her phone and dials the police department. She gives the speech that both Karen and I have memorized.
“Hello my name is Louisa Van Burt and I would like to know if anyone has seen a brown and black cat in the past 24 hours”
She has been calling everyone hour on the hour ever since she woke up to a house with no cat. Apparently someone let the door open for a few minutes to many and the cat decided to venture out. Louisa was devastated. Louisa was devastated, for all of Snuff’s life; he has been the apple in Louisa’s eye. Louisa has had Snuff sleep with her ever since Snuff came home. The cat’s been coated with love, why would he leave?
“Okay, thank you very much, if you receive any additional information please contact me at…”
And there she goes again, hoping the answer is different. I am pretty sure that whoever is on duty knows her and her plight pretty well.
She drops her should a little more now and we walk forward, the two of us following her shadow.
A half hour later and we are done, its pitch black now and the street lights are our only beacon. After she puts up the last one and turns, her hands only hold tacks, tape and a stapler.
“Hey random question, Do you know where we are?”
“I though you knew where we we’re going, you’re the one leading us!” I begin to panic. I hate not knowing where I am going.
I look around and everything looks the same.
“I know, let’s just walk backwards” Louisa suggest, I’m too anxious and Karen’s too stone face to care. We do it. We go in reserve, feet backwards lined up in a row, looking back to not run into any trash cans, Karen, myself and Louisa. This works for about five minute before I realize we have to turn.
We’re really lost.
I face forward and look at my co-patriots. They look scared, I don’t blame them. Even Karen is begging to worry. I contemplate calling my parents and waking them up to find me. But what would I tell them? Help, I’m lost come find me?
Louisa picks up her phone, using her nimble fingers to punch a few buttons.
“Hello my name is Louisa Van Burt and my friends and I are lost,” Her voice ending in a true panic.
We stare at her as she looks around describing what she sees.
“Okay, Okay” she says.
I almost feel comforted, as if the words were directed at me.
I feel a soft gust hit us, and I want to go home. My eyes close a little as it hits my back.
“We are three girls, standing on the corner of…” I tune out everything that she is saying and focus on myself, how did we get here?
The last day of school is always bittersweet. Filled with exchanges, we give back our textbooks, companion in our struggle for the graded red-pen marked work we have slaved over. Then we have a party.
The passionate teachers invite us to a 50 minute potluck. I always choose to bring the utensils for these events. No one is allergic to utensils. Thus no one can complain.
My first class in Math and our teacher dares us to bring things in different shapes so we can calculate different areas and circumference. It’s a cute way to end it but I still bring the utensils. I have math with Louisa, she bring Blueberry Pie in tears.
It is not unusual for Louisa to get emotional about things, I remember during a snow pattered weekend, doing a romance movie marathon, while Karen and I though the movies to be cheesy and pathetic, Louisa was gripped with love and agony, swooning at the romance.
Her nape neck length brown hair was pinned back with clips and pins.
“What’s wrong” I said, noticing the dark circles under her eyes.
“Snuffles missing” the tears regenerating and pooling on her face, “He ran away, and we can’t find him anywhere.”
She grips the pie in her hands, eyes alternating between me and the pie.
“How long has he been missing for?”
Her body begins to shake, this is seriously.
“Hey let’s get that pie over to the table” I swiftly touch her shoulder and out feet move in unison.
The table is covered with desserts and treats, shaped into rectangle and circles. She places her dessert amongst them trying not to freak out. She spends the period not being able to do problem and not being able to eat baked goods.
“we have a problem” I say to Karen in English.
It’s Ms. Kitya’s, the emotional serpent. The last day is like any day in Ms. Kitya’s English class. She doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that it is the last day we will (hopefully) be forced to tolerate her. Kitya’s voice is a low grumble preaching to us about literature and how when we deny our fellow man and our true selves.
I have a hard time dealing with her push of analytical hoohaa, making nothing into something is not what I do well with.
Lucky for me, Karen and Kitya are on the same page,
“What’s the problem” Karen remarks.
“Snuffs is M.I.A”
Karen lifts her eyebrows.
“So Louisa’s a mess?”
“What do you want me to do?”
Karen’s not a freak out type of person, she more of a problem and solution sort of girl.
“Not sure, I guess we will be helping Louisa after school.”
“Okay” she says and turns back to Kitya and the blackboard.
I spend Spanish without any of them. I sit next to Wally always it’s a rather convenient habit. She has no friends in this class and neither do I. A mutually beneficial relationship if I ever heard of it.
The only problem is small talk. It seems we have nothing in common except for homework. Yes we are both in the same grade and are subjected to similar life experiences but I find myself scrabbling for small talk. Throughout the entire yeah we had one intense conversation about one problem and how it took us forever.
We sit in the far end of the class; it’s a small class so sitting in the back doesn’t impact your learning. Even though it’s small I feel that I only know those who are called upon by the glorious Senora who promenades though class harping about the merits of this language. I couldn’t careless; it’s the easiest language to learn so I take it.
The entire class is in Spanish. Even if we complain it has to be in Spanish. I dislike this dynamic but Senora enforces it.
It’s five minutes into class; Senora’s back is turned to us. Wally whispers to me.
“Hey weird how it’s the last day of school”
“Yeah really is”
Senora is always such a snazzy dresser even as her back is turned to us; I still can’t help but admire her fabulousity.
“Going away for the summer?” he continues to whisper in English.
“Nah, staying here, what about you?”
“Same, just staying around here.”
Senora’s hand writing is so pretty, the chalk moves with her. Fine cursive never looked so elegant.
“There’s this dumb movie coming out, I was wondering if you wanted to go and see it with me.”
His voice trails off a bit. I don’t know how to respond. No one trains you for these moments. These social interactions, sure I may know how to conjugate irregular verbs in Spanish, but when it comes to men I’m failing and I don’t have a legitimate study guide.
The world falls silent and not even the hand gestures of Senora can bring my attention away from the situation. I look at him to see if he is serious. His eyes meet mine, he is.
“Yes” I say, to break the silent.
“He stifles a smile, a movie never killed anyone.
It’s history, the last class of the last day of school. All of my friends share this class. Many friendships are formed from having the last class together. It is something about the end of the day that facilitated the process of friendship.
We are together at last, Karen, Louisa and I. In unison we take out textbooks, put it on the desk and allow ourselves to breathe again. It is the end and I allow myself to take solace in that fact, the end of the year. I take a moment to look around and see faces of my classmates and take stock of who they are now.
The sun brightly shines though the classroom. Our last teachers, Mr. Malchum is an old goat of a man who deems it a right call upon his students for answers at any moment. He’s tough, eye’s always looking pass the mid afternoon faces of an uninterested mass. But he has to be, the last period of the day is the one teacher’s dread. It is at the point that a minds of student drift from academic pursuits to after school activities.
Mr. Malchun keeps us alert, his sleeves rolled up, the man never believed in short sleeved professional attire.
“This is our last class of the year” Malchum starts of, “and I know that the majority of you want to run off to summer, but before you even go and think that, let me tell you that we will be staying here the entire time.
You could hear the low murmur chorus of people scowling at Mr. Malchum’s proclamation. I wouldn’t expect anything else from this man who I have come to view as the bulldog of the history department.
“Let me first hand back your exams and papers” he says grabbing the stack off his desk. He hands it out face up, grade on the top. The man’s not one for dignity or mercy. These luxuries leave you the moment you enter the classroom.
The first few of the stack smacks the student’s desks. I hear the cries of one girl, the echoing sobs. I turn around, sure enough it’s Daisy, the classic weak link in every class. She’s gotten poor grades in all things related to Malchum, while she shedding tears; I peak over at her grade, F-. That’s pretty harsh; Malchum doesn’t even acknowledge her emotions and keep on passing out papers.
I feel the paper stack smacks my desk. I turn around to see a red D=. I sound it out in my head, “deee plus.”
My life is over.
I turn to my right and see Louisa, she’s trying not to look shocked, I turn to my right to see Karen, she looks a little surprised.
This should not be happening. I should be a Malchum success story; I get B’s with Malchum, straight Bs. Nothing more, nothing less. I can feel the color leave my face. I don’t look at the comments; I stuff it in my bag. I wait as Louisa and Karen get theirs. Louisa B=, Karen B. I am astonished. They too put their papers away quickly in solidarity with my refusal to participate in this biast system.
I am hurt, betrayed event. This man who I have respected even looked up to as left me I academic despair. His words no longer mean anything, and I tune out. I am no longer an engage student, I am the delinquent. I take out paper and begin to doodle, using my highlighter as methods to color. Louisa is intrigued her eyes darting back to my yellow and pink lined paper. Karen looks at me periodically and I can tell she’s not confronting these actions of mine.
I don’t care, I am the victim.
The rustling of paper and zipping and unzipping of backpacks alert me that the period is over. I am done. School has ended; I pack my things and storm out, but even trying to look back as I leave.
We sprawl out, the girls and I, on the school lawn and wait for the rest of our peers to joins us. My backpack is light but my heart is heavy, thinking about the burning D+ that I carry in my bag. The grass is cooling, tickling my bare leg.
“I’m sorry you didn’t do so well…” Louisa ventures. She is the first one to break the silence. Her face eclipses the sun as I look at her, I can’t tell but she look concerned. Her entire body wrapped up together.
“It’s nothing” I lie, pushing back the urge to complain.
“Obviously is” Karen says. Legs and arms folded.
I don’t want to deal with her right now. I want to mourn in silence.
“You didn’t need to pull that stunt with him; you looked like an immature brat.”
Karen’s tone is abrupt, cold. She doesn’t care that I’m suffering here on the last day of school. I don’t answer her.
“You going to sulk all day,, or you going to actually be useful?’
“…yeah, let’s put some posters up” I answer not looking at her.
This is how I found myself in this situation. I mentally cursed myself at trying to finding this cat. If I had gone with my original plan, I would have been home right now, eating ice cream and sulking on the couch. No I had to be good and help out a friend.
We were lost.
“Who did you call?” I asked
“The police” she said, chipped smile appearing on her face.
“What do you mean you called the police?” I try and gag back a panicked scream but it’s not working.
“It’s actually quite logical to call the police” Karen states, “they are probably the only people who could track us down”
“Besides we haven’t done anything wrong. The police are our friends”
I try to fake a grin at Louisa ignorance. The police are our friends, she says. She doesn’t get it, neither does Karen.
“What’s wrong?” Karen sneers, “You wanted for something?”
“Yeah” Louisa joins in, “do something real bad?”
I don’t know what I have done to deserve this abuse. I am mortified at any interaction regarding laws enforcement, I just don’t do well. Whenever I see the police, I never make eye contact. They have handcuffs and guns and I can’t help but shiver.
The police will be here soon, and I can’t take it.
“You okay” Louisa says, “You don’t look so hot”
“You’re over-reacting” Karen says, putting a hand on my shoulder, “all we want is to go home, is that a crime?”
I look into her eyes and the need to feel calm constricts me and the panic evaporates.
I am grateful for Karen’s presence. There is nothing wrong with using the police as a taxi cab.
There is something about night time in the neighborhood. Something isolating, the complete silence is deafening. Your only light source is the street lights, and the lights that spill out of people’s homes.
The first thing I notice about the encroaching police cars is the lights. Their headlights are districting, bright so you know who you are dealing with. They soothingly cruise by, stopping in front of the sidewalk. The shotgun rolls down his window.
“You ladies lost?” he says with a smile.
“Yes that would be us” Louisa waddles in front of the car, her face beaming.
Karen and I hold back.
“Where you looking to go?”
“42 Lemont Road” Louisa says.
“73 Tallow Ave.” Karen says.
All eyes fall on me.
“12 Fairfield Street” I stutter out.
“Get in” he says with a smile.
I’m scared but we move in, Louisa first, Karen, then me.
I touch the door; hold my breath and entire the back of the cruiser. I immediately stare outside, fixing m gaze at the houses we pass.
Louisa chirps small talk with the officers, all I hear is a white wash of noise.
Karen’s face remains neutral, unaffected by the central situation. She stares forward arms crossed.
I thank the lord when my house comes up first, I leap out of my seat, say goodnight to my friends, profusely thank the officer and run.