An Open Letter To My Boarding School

Bev Goodwin
Bev Goodwin

The night before graduation, I had a strange dream. And you were there. But you were no longer a campus or an institution or any collection of textbooks. You were one person. And you stood outside my dorm in the June dampness and you had no face but I recognized you instantly.

You were the type of boy to say: I thought about getting you flowers, but then I didn’t. You, with your blue bikes and blue bucks and blue keys. Your throngs of blue people using blue sweatshirts to hide from rain. I nearly drowned.

You said dance with me. I said here? I immediately thought of our long nights together— empty bottles of Diet Pepsi and my glowing computer screen. I thought about the steady click-clack of my keyboard; click-clack like an alphabet rainstick, little pools of Times New Roman filling the wrinkles of my bed. Again: dance with me. There was no tone of regret, no apology in your voice, simply an outstretched arm. You almost looked innocent.

And then we were dancing. We swayed and I thought about only the good things. Your scent crashed over me like a wave of familiarity, like coming home. I wanted to inhale you: your peanut-butter-toast, shrimp stir-fry, coffee with a trace of dish soap. Your late-night popcorn, butter that lingered in the air for hours. And then I thought about the bad things, because good and bad always seem to come together. Suddenly, I felt disgusted by the subtle weight of your hands on my hips. Because I wanted to hate you. I had so many reasons to hate you.

I hated you for your empty playgrounds. I hated you for your scheduling disasters and course conflicts and your general sense of apathy. I hated your library hours. I hated your cold showers and your cinderblock walls and your endless mass of cloud. Mostly, I hated you for giving me beautiful people and then taking them away. I hated you for your history; for the way your desks pulsated with one thousand fingerprints. As if every wall had been leaned upon before, every doorknob clutched. It was like being your 234th wife. Some silly agreement I didn’t even remember consenting to.

We swayed and I had forgotten how much I loved your silhouette. How the streets passed through you like veins, vital but often forgotten. How the walking paths hugged your curves like a yellow brick road, as if there might actually be some magic to you. I had forgotten how much I loved your geometry. How you had taken something as grossly tangled as high school, and parceled it out into rectangular rooms within rectangular buildings within rectangular patches of grass. I had never known something so complicated to live in straight lines.

The silence in which we were dancing began to swell and then taper, like the end of a song. I told you that I would still donate to your stupid Senior Gift fund; that I would call, that I would come back in five years or maybe ten. I didn’t know if any of that was true, but I told it to you anyway. I told you that it was foolish to fall in love with something transient. That only a fool (or a freshman) could love you. But as I said this, I tightened my arms around the back of your neck. I soaked up your buttery smell, your April showers.

We swayed and I thought about all the times I almost broke up with you. All the times I wanted to scream and cry and say that what you do is wrong. But is it? You weren’t actually unfaithful. You simply outlived your marriages. Just as I knew you would outlive ours. Tomorrow, you would cauterize our relationship with a Senior ring, a rose, and a diploma. And that would be the end of it. I played out the scene in my head like a movie. I imagined it would be one of those slow, dramatic departures: me, in the backseat of a rental car, with my rose and my ring, resisting the urge to turn and look for you through the window. Me, with my ring and my brimming tears, wondering if you were watching me go. And hoping you were.

But we both knew that tomorrow you would not be watching me at all. And I hated you for that. I hated you for moving on. Tomorrow, you would be preparing for a new crowd: guileless teenagers and parents and mountains of cardboard boxes. Kids ready to fill drawers that you promised to keep empty for them. Drawers that meant: things were about to get serious. And after some weeks of unpacking, some arguments about who was supposed to take out the trash and who was supposed to shovel the snow, these eager children would learn exactly what it means to lie in bed with you. TC mark

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