One bend and the lock gave in.
Walking in, the air felt damp and everything was covered with a layer of dust. Vines crept on the red brick walls and I remembered how my fingers would trace the cement between the bricks whenever she walked by. I remembered pressing my back against these walls as she smiled at one of her boyfriends. I remembered my hands behind my back scouring the rough surface finding a way in and I remembered the feeling of my fingernails digging into the cracks, of wanting to disappear. The walls that had once seemed so sturdy now sit in fragility, as if they would break any moment. I walked through the hallway so familiar it was like my body knew where I wanted to be.
Next to her. Next to the girl forever gone from my life.
Silence was filled with nostalgia. Three years later, but I remembered it like yesterday. I even felt like I could taste the faint scent of her perfume in the heavy air.
I stopped in front of the plain grey door that had her name written all over. Room 1023: Class 815. The only numbers that ever mattered. The past I dreaded. Just seeing them brought me back to the memories I wished I had lost. And she was in every one of them. The handle that seemed too delicate to touch creaked as I pushed down.
And then, I was there.
The wooden desks lined up on the polished concrete floor embedded with fragments of chiseled rocks. I walked in and closed the door, wanting to relive the years that had led up to tonight. I let my body dissolve in the moonlight from the dusted windows, that just so happened to shine on her desk.
Nothing has changed, and yet, everything has changed. It felt like a dream. And I don’t ever want to wake up.
I walked through the rows of desks, afraid that the sound of my footstep would break the magic. The room smelled like oak and heavy promises, leather-bound books and quiet heartbreaks.
Around me, the tables were scratched with names, smudged ink of fantasies and strangers and secrets faded out with time that only exists in memories. Written with black pens were a thousand stories that never got to happen. I remembered sitting in class, scribbling out all the words I could never say out loud, and then smearing it all until my fingertips were stained black with secrets. We all did that. In the crevices on every table, were the names that got each of us through the years. I wondered if she’ll find hers, hidden between the rows of desks, scratched in hard and deep with fingernails on the table I used to sit at.
Tucked into the desks, were chairs that had been repainted with a darker brown, but I could still see the dents and scrapes that documented our existence. The way that the seats were arranged remained untouched, nostalgic, and I’ll never forget the day when hers became an empty space.
A part of me wanted to leave and forget everything that happened in these three years, yet letting the memories of us slip past my fingertips felt like a betrayal. I needed to see one last thing. She was writing something in her desk on the last day.
Moonlight shone on the cracked wooden plank. My heart skipped a beat.
In her handwriting, was my name.
“Do you ever dream of me?” a voice, barely a whisper, echoed in the room.
Stunned, I glanced around. All was still.
Then, quietly, I heard the clicks of chalk on the blackboard. It was the kind of sound I would recognize regardless what the rest of the world has become, the sound that would take me back to being in a classroom sitting behind her and wishing for the impossible. I looked at the front of the room. The dark green chalkboard that used to be filled with words we tried to decipher sat still on the wall. I remembered how the sound of chalk against wood once replaced the rhythm of the clock, which now hangs on the wall, displaying the year of 2017. The board was empty but somehow I saw the shadows of our fingerprints still hauntingly staining the blackboard with white chalk.
I knew she liked to pretend that never happened, but I still dream about it every night.
The lights above my head flashed. The light switch stayed unmoved on the wall.
One moment the room was so bright I couldn’t open my eyes. The next it was pitch black. I felt my heartbeat syncing to the movements of the fluorescent lights, each flash making me dizzier, like I was being transported to another realm.
And then I heard it again. Chalk on wood.
Only this time, her shadow began to appear on the blackboard. Gradually, the lights stopped flashing, and settled in complete darkness aside from the moonlight whose softness became eerie.
Something was moving on the blackboard. Piece by piece, the outline of her formed; piece by piece, my body tore itself apart. I sensed a presence too familiar.
I watched, as the ghost of the only person I’ve ever cared about presented itself in front of me. Her entirety was a blur of immaculate white, translucent, and this was the only time I could see through her. But somehow, I felt like it was her who saw through me. It had always been.
The details of her face were not there, but I knew every inch of her existence by heart. Every last part of her had been carved into the hollowness where my heart should’ve been three years ago. I could almost see her eyes, like black glass, the color of forgotten cities an hour before dawn, a vinyl playing hymns that crept into my veins, like sugar-coated black nail polish dipped in fairy dust.
The captivating darkness that I’ve dreamed about for a thousand nights.
“Why did you leave me?” Her whisper filled the silence. I felt a shiver run down my back just from the sound of her voice like glass about to shatter.
And just like that, my sanity broke apart.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry; if only I could go back in time I would change everything for us to have a chance, a chance to… be.” My voice was a mix between a whisper and a scream.
“I was waiting for you. Until the very last moments, until the doctors stopped coming in to check on me, until I was so trashed by the painkillers I wasn’t sure if I was still alive or not. I waited for you on my deathbed, and you couldn’t even bother to show up?”
“I didn’t know, I didn’t know you had ever wanted me, and I’ll live the rest of my life regretting that I had let us go.”
“I’ll haunt you until you know exactly just how much I wanted you.”
“Go ahead. I had already lost my life, my world, when you left.”
“You don’t mind?”
“With you next to me, even hell feels like paradise,”
“I’ll make you regret everything. From leaving me that night to ever wanting me!” she hissed.
Lights began flashing again.
“I’m sorry,” was all I could get out, before the windows were slammed open, and a gust of wind scoured into the room.
Dust rose into the air, as the lights kept going on and off. The ghost of her moved towards me until I was certain I could reach out and touch her. Except I couldn’t.
My fingers slipped in the air, searching for the warmth that was never there.
When I heard her voice this time, it felt like she was whispering directly in my ear.
“Just… stay. Just stay a little longer.”
The next moments happened in slow motion.
I didn’t know if the wind had ceased, or if the flashing lights had stopped; I didn’t know if the vines outside the building had left the brick walls. I didn’t know if the touch of cement caressed by my fingertips would be forgotten. For in this moment, all I knew, was the feeling of her lips on mine.
And we were there, her back against the blackboard. We stood in the middle of the world where our touch was so forbidden and our sins were all that’s left in our empty bodies. We stood there, defying all odds; we stood there, not because we could, but because we couldn’t.
I saw her. I never thought I ever would again.
The white blur was replaced by her pale skin and the outlines of her face that I swore were weaved of poetry. The feeling of her lips on mine became so intense I couldn’t breathe.
She smiled against my lips and it felt like a sunset of broken dreams, like street lights illuminating the white mists of a heavy rain, like shards of ice slipping into my skin and galaxies that could never make me feel anything more than the way she had made me feel all these years.
She was right next to me, and for a moment I could believe that nothing has changed.
And then I couldn’t feel anything anymore. I watched, as if I was a bystander, as my body fell down a dark abyss and dissolved into a thousand pieces. She looked right through me.
“I’m so sorry,”
In that brief moment when I thought we were forever, she had taken my life.
She could stand as a person again. I was the white shadow of a ghost now.
“Was this all to take my life? All the things you said, did they mean anything? If you wanted my life, all you had to do was ask and I’d happily give it all up for you. Instead I’m left with memories I could never erase.”
“I’m sorry, but I swear, it was real. We were real.” She sounded like she had been crying.
Moonlight shone on her face, and if heaven was real it would’ve been whatever I was seeing right now. Her skin glowed under the fading night. I wondered if galaxies were ever envious that the universe revolves around her. The air had never felt so cold. I had used my one lifetime daring to want her, and I don’t regret that one little bit.
Her smile was my altar and I knew to her, I was nothing but a blur.
And as she stood there, still mumbling under her breath, I drifted out through one of the open windows and never returned. It was bittersweet knowing that when the new semester starts and new people begin filling in the seats carved with old names, they’ll tell the story of the girl who disappeared in the summer and the smear of white chalk in the center of the blackboard, where her back once pressed against as I found my ecstasy in her evanescent lips.