This wasn’t the three-story building I had known. The outdoor hallways were gone, the dusty science classrooms and the feeling of decay from the 40’s and 50’s were washed away by a torrential downpour and high winds, damaged in the hurricane. This building here wasn’t my school–but then, it had never been my school. I never belonged there, at least not within the boundaries they defined.
It was my school when I walked barefoot to the bus stop, my feet concealed by the absurd length of my skater jeans. It was my school when I felt the tile on my toes and when I hopped into Amy’s Beast, a quad-cab pick-up, and we cut out for lunch or maybe to Sarasota or sometimes just to the rest stop on the highway south of there. But that tile is gone, and so are the moments when that place was mine.
I remember the terra cotta color, sealed smooth, and the works of high school art hung on the walls, and the old auditorium, unairconditioned, and peeping open. I remember barefoot in the library, sneaking glimpses at Le Guin when I should have been in working equations. I remember Taoist feminist anarchist ideas dripping through the denseness of dull days made bright from my shoelessness.
I had walked the open air campus from portable classroom to great green space where the cafeteria once stood, grass crushing between my toes. I remember the well-walked dirt patches where the grass would never grow again, and the color of my soles at the end of the day. I remember shrub gardens made for class-skipping, now bulldozed and built-over. And honestly, honestly, when all’s wrapped and packaged for the end of the day, I don’t miss it. Because those moments are still mine: the feeling of bus aisles under naked toes, the roughness of the street back from the bus stop on black leathery calluses, the transition of in through the front door onto long slats edge to edge of hardwood floors. In those unhappy days, the soles of my feet got to see all the best parts.