Written By: Bryce Moulton
February 14, 2015
A New System
I stop to take a sentimental first step into the building that I will be in for the next four years, but get unceremoniously pushed forward by the crowd swelling up behind me. I look around at all the smiling faces of friends seeing each other for the first time in a while and look hoping to see a familiar face. I don’t see a single one in the rolling sea of unfamiliar teenagers, so I make a mental note to find them soon. I reflect on just how many kids come to this high school, it looks like there are at least more than four times the number compared to my small middle school. I hear the kid beside me shout out a name and see her hand flying into the air like a brown rocket out of the corner of my eye. I am a good foot taller than the girl, so her waving hand slaps the side of my face. She turns and glowers at me like I put my face there on purpose to offend her. She stomps off into the crowds and I lose sight of her. Wow, what a way to knock the sleep out of my eyes, literally. Oh who am I kidding, I barely got two hours of sleep last night as I tossed and turned in my covers with a horrible case of butterflies in my stomach.
I readjust my glasses and brush back the long strands of red hair that have been knocked out of place. I am still trying to figure out how she blamed me as I see a sign that instructs all freshmen to gather for class schedules. I weave my way through the crowd of maroon and khaki and find a place in the line that has emerged from the sign. I constantly glance around for any of my friends, but to no avail. I am almost to the front of the line when I spot a girl that had been in all my classes since we were in kindergarten. I call her name and wave, glad to see a friendly face in this unruly throng. She glares at me with a look of borderline disgust, and wonder at why I thought I could talk to her. I feel more than a little hurt by this and decide that I just need to find out what class I am going to first and hopefully reach my friends. I step up to what looks like a little barricade of tables guarding tubs of files underneath the freshman sign. A man with a crew cut and deep black bags under his eyes ask me my name, then shuffles through a bin. I stand politely wondering why they are still not using a digital system, but think it is not a good idea to ask the exhausted man. Grumbling about not getting paid enough for doing this job, he pulls out a schedule from a folder with my name on it. Before I can say thank you to him he yells for the next kid to step up. I take my queue and step off to the side to review the paper, even though I had questions to ask. It appears that my first class is in the second floor English department. I take a deep breath before I head off in this madhouse.
I shuffle along in the crowded hallway wishing I had a little elbow room in the shoving mass of uniforms. My nose tries to cope with the combating odors of unwashed bodies and excessive amounts of perfume. As I tower over the hordes of students I have to think back for a second, aren’t I supposed to be the little fish in the stream? I knew that my life would change a little going to high school for my freshman year, but since I got back from summer things have been a little off it seems. The guys all walk around looking like they glued fuzz to their chins and claim they have beards since last time I saw them, the girls are wearing masks of make-up and definitely are wearing their uniforms differently, some kids I’ve known as classmates for years won’t give me the time of day, and everyone has grown a foot taller. I steal a peek at the map printed on the back of my schedule to make sure I am heading to the right stairwell. As I look around the hall I notice several arguments occurring, hands flying with obscene gestures in exaggerated motions. I realize that I have unconsciously started walking to the other side of the hall to stay clear of them. Blank papers scatter at my feet as a kid drops his new note book on the floor. I bend over to try and help him, and feel the tension in my ironed shirt slacken up a little bit. He just glares me down like I am trying to steal his papers. I put my hands up in surrender as I back away slowly. How’s it that things are always my fault in this new school? I stare at a bald man with glasses and a tan sweater vest who is stomping around ranting about the dress code down at the end of the hallway. His beady eyes suddenly lock onto mine. I feel a sense of fear mixed with eternal damnation as he looks into my soul. Wondering what I have done wrong this time I glance down and notice my uniform shirt is untucked. As I look back up he is making a b-line strait for me with a snarl on his creased face and a growl in his throat. The next thing I know a kid shoves me into a side hall and whispers that I should run. I weave around the back hallways with no clue where they lead as I try to escape. I glance over my shoulder occasionally to make sure I lost him. Once I finally convince myself that he is gone I stop to get my bearings, and tuck in my shirt.
The crumpled schedule I pull out of my pocket confirms for me that I am completely lost in these labyrinthine halls. I remember seeing the map show the English Department on the second floor so I start searching for the nearest stairwell in these strangely deserted parts of the school. I have a sense of adventure about the whole thing, but the atmosphere in these parts make me more than a little on edge. As I come up to a musty smelling stairwell set beside a moldy water fountain I see two students standing in the dim light with shirts untuck and dreads hanging. I realize I might be late to class if I don’t take my chances now so I proceed. As I get closer to them they shove whatever is in their hands into their pockets. A feeling of suspicion settles over me so I know I should just keep my head down and walk. I say hi under my breath and climb past them. As I reach the top I glance back to see them pull out tightly rolled papers and a lighter. A little bit of shock touches me even though I’ve heard that this isn’t uncommon at high school. I remind myself that I shouldn’t use the shady areas of the school to get around anymore.
Entering the English department, I am greeted by a giant painting of Edgar Allan Poe on the wall. I analyze the map on the back of the schedule to remind me of my specific room number. With Poe on the wall as my landmark I see that my GT English 1 class will be the third door to the left. I flow with the crowd of students into our classroom. The room smells like aerosol disinfectant and is decorated with pictures of bulldogs and duck dynasty memorabilia. The teacher is halfway underneath her desk shuffling materials and the floor is already littered with pencil shavings and paper scraps. I feel right at home in this off kilter room. I hear my name being called by a familiar voice. I look over to see my friends from middle school smiling at me and gesturing to the open desk beside them. A smile as wide as a text book spreads over my face at the sight of them. It is an utter relief to know that I’ll be with these guys to start off every day. I sit down and start to compare schedules with them until our teacher dusts herself off and introduces herself with a distracted smile.
I had heard a few of my older friends and teachers saying that public high school was just like middle school. That was a polar opposite of the truth. I could already tell there was something different about this year and I’ve only been here for an hour. Even though this new environment feels almost alien, I can’t wait to see all the things that this different year has in store.