Here’s the thing about an empty classroom.
It has a voice.
Perhaps an entering stranger would not realize the room is empty, as you do. The stranger may think it simply “vacant,” and hear nothing.
But for you, the emptiness seeps under your skin: palpable, breathing, sighted,
At first, you think the voice is tenored.
It is Claire’s lyrical laugh, you think. But no, no – it’s not that.
It’s Trevor’s stealthy snark. Ah no, not quite that either.
The voice is Paige’s questioning challenge,
Or maybe it’s Emily’s delicate insight. Maybe.
But then you realize it’s more bass than tenor. The voice could be yours, you know.
It’s that guttural laugh you let loose at Samantha’s inappropriate malapropism.
Or that drone you hear in your own head
whirring whirring whirring
repeating something you’re sure you set in motion three Septembers ago.
Or it could be that culmination of your own muted sighs that stretches like a diaphanous filament
along the edge of February and March
and yes, even April.
Is the voice at rest? Is it the silence
Of Alyssa’s hesitant hand, the palm of which you saw for the first time in May?
Or Matthew’s knowing grimace that only you could spy under his tussled hair?
Devon’s perpetual chin-rubbing in private contemplation?
But stop now. Put down your pen. Stand here, at the center of the empty classroom.
Listen again. Can you hear it now, stranger?
The voice is all these eight years:
All the truths unsaid
All the tears unshed
All the angst leashed
All the fragments pieced
All kept, wept, swept
In a single soprano note
Rising, arching, ascending,