I walk past the hallway of the high school cafeteria; past the counter with granite tiles that used to hold our lunch food, even recess, and dismissal snacks. I walk past long aisle of wooden tables with wooden chair. The hallway seems endless but I reach the corner just in time. I turn to my right. A familiar brown gate greets me. Behind it are the Chem and Bio laboratories, dimmed. No lights are turned on.
I turn to my left and walk past these two rooms.
I almost reach the end when a cat walked by, purring and making cat sounds.
"Meow," it said.
It was the only sound that could be heard except for my muffled footsteps and the pitter-patter of water overflowing 3 floors above. (Did someone leave the tap open and forgot to close it? It's so ironic to see water being wasted within the premises of my old school.)
My old school.
I feel a pang of wistfulness rise within me like a bubble about to burst but, I repress it.
I give the room to my right a quick glance.
Both the room's doors are closed.
One always used to be open during the school year.
But the school year has ended.
I see the back of a teacher sitting inside. And an electric fan.
I don't know what made me do it but, I shy away. Fearing to be seen inside the school that used to be mine.
I turn to my left and climb the stairs.
I reach the top of the first flight.
OHMYGOSH. It's my classroom. It's their classroom.
It's our lockerS!
I briskly walk towards the one labeled 26.
That pink rectangular door. How I seldom opened it.
It never even got to relish the taste of a rusty padlock.
I open it impulsively.
Ohmygosh. They took away all my things!
My leftovers, they're all gone!
(But what was I expecting?)
But they were trash. I made them clean up after the mess I left.
But the last time I checked, it wasn't empty. It had a carton box which once contained scraps of paper that held bundles of our legacy tickets together, some pairs of scissors, and a few colored paper clips.
I think I even left a couple of handouts for an absent classmate.
Now, the four walls of my locker is a spotless white, glaring at me; forcing its emptiness onto my face.
I shut the little pink door.
I look to my left.
Our class adviser's room.
It's door is shut. It's clean. It's empty.
No stack of paper on top of the cabinets to the right; no calendar pages on top of the desk...
Across me is our classroom.
I sneak a peek but the temptation is too hard to resist.
I had to go in.
So I did.
I feel claustrophobic.
It's so clean.
It's TOO clean.
Choke. Choke. Choke.
Where's the stash of clothing piling up to the left side of our now wiped clean blackboard?
Where are the smudged chalk writings on the blackboard which were traces of what were once written there and seemed impossible to erase?
Where's the chalk dust threatening to fill up the brown ledge drawers?!
Where's the countless Body Shop paper bags underneath the chalk ledge?
Where's the mess of the brown envelope crowded with missed LPs, activity sheets, quiz papers, and written reports (that I failed to distribute) on top of the teacher's table?
And, where's the brown cardboard box which no one ever admitted was hers but was filled with unclaimed PE shirts, "Iduyan Mo" costumes, and sheets and sheets of paper? Perhaps even books?
What's happened to our classroom?
I try to look around for whatever signs that we've once lived inside, within those 4 walls "with windows inside".
The cork board near the entrance and exit door is stipped naked.
How about the one near the blackboard?
I breathe out.
There are still bits and pieces there and I WANTED TO TAKE THEM OUT AND KEEP THEM WITH ME but, they looked too precious for that.
They're part of the classroom, I know that. I felt that.
I resist the urge to take down the strips of paper; those pieces of art created by no other than our class's Creative Committee.
The rules to be followed which never completely were is stapled there.
The "Class Schedule" with the casette tape drawing is there too while the real class schedule never really found its way to that board.
-Even during the school year.
I check the cabinets behind the blackboard.
Both are empty, except for the left one near the corkboard which is keeping a big bottle of Jergens lotion in tact.
(I wonder who owns that?)
I turn around.
The room is clean! Have I said that?
It wasn't a dream.
It wasn't a hallucination.
It wasn't my eyes playing tricks on me.
The armchairs are aligned properly; the floor are swept; the cabinets, the tables, the ledge, they're all empty.
Our room is clean!
I look up to the improvised "altar" on top of the blackbaord. Mama Mary's still there; praying over the next users of the room, I bet. Hopefully, even the previous ones.
Next to her statue is...our class candle!
OHMYGOSH. Can I at least take that home please? (The thought ran through my head quicker than a blink of an eye and it was screaming at me.)
It belongs to IsaOne truly.
It was handed over to me by Fr. Edwin himself, no Ms. Raquitico pala (my memory is failing me), during our retreat!
Can I at least keep that??
We'll light it up during our future class reunions and...
that candles is ours!
I wanted to take it.
I had a very strong urge to take it.
But the "small" inside me squirmed, "Wouldn't that be stealing?"
But it's our class candle.
The "big" inside me said, "Well, let's ask authority."
The image of our class adviser fly to my mind.
I go out of the room and walk up to hallway's end. Eager to find our motherly class adviser to ask permission.
I walk the complete length of the hallway but just had to stop by the announcement board across the room where we used to have our daily morning prayers.
It still has the "Congratulations" greeting of the sisters for our successful legacy.
It still has the list of the girls who signed up for their godparents-to-be for our Commissioning.
It still has these news/magazine articles that I never really read nor glanced at until now.
I rush down the flight of stairs, full of emotion, eager to write it all down.
So here it is, IsaOne.
I miss you all.
And our school too.
P.S. That class canlde I was talking about? I asked permission from Ms. Marah and took it home with me. It was too precious to leave behind because I know it is rightfully ours. And ours alone.
So, next time we meet again, just tell me ok?
I could bring the candle along and we could light it up together, yeah?
I love you IsaOne.
Your dear classmate and friend,