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Young Writers Project: Windows And Walls

06/11/12 1:00AM
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Sossina Gutema,  a junior at Essex High School, has been involved with the Young Writers Project for five years. “It has truly become a substantial part of my life,” she says. “Writing, for me, is the candid expression of the emotions which sometimes I don't even know I have. I write because I have to and because when I do I am able to create with my own hands and mind something new and beautiful. Writing is the ultimate comfort.”

Windows and Walls
By Sossina Gutema
Grade 11, Essex High School

Windows and walls were all she really saw when she went back to that place. In the halls, windows and walls made up the edges of her vision and enclosed her like a spectacle of human despair. She kept rubbing her hands together as she walked past lockers and doorways that were unsuccessful in catching her attention. The icy chill of a northern November was somehow seeping into the building despite the layers of insulation packed to keep it at bay. Her school was worn like fading denim shoved into the back of a drawer and the back of a mind. The walls had been rubbed into submission by hand after trailing hand. The floors were scuffed with dismay and the ceiling speckled with the spat wads of rebellion. Some time ago, somebody had decided that this place was not worth saving. Somebody had set down a pail of paint the color of eggshells and turned away. Disgust had instead primed the face of everything. Irritation had tinted the windows, and when it rained, hot tempers steamed the scratched glass into mirrors that reflected back dullness and disinterest. She glanced at them now with contempt as they showed her the misleading image of freedom and a cold, clear sky.

Her feet beat the tiles and their clumsy squeaks and thumps clanged against the silence of order. Everything and everyone had found its seat and settled down into droning routine. Except for her, because she walked without the purpose of those on the way to the water fountain or the urgency of those late to the doors of the classrooms. Instead, a steady directed motive hung on her gait and her arms waved past her hips in a rhythmic opposition. She had the balance of a pendulum, returning time after time into place. As she walked, she ignored the windows and walls on either side.

With adulthood had not come grace. With age had not come reason, but time had piled up on her shoulders like thick and freezing snow upon a browning barn. The cloudy white was weighing on her and her knees stooped with it; her neck tensed with it. Time accumulated without malice, but rather by nature, and threatened to break through the disease-rotted roof. She was clothed uncomfortably because clothes had never given her any comfort. She had never basked in any glow of her own, or thought that any amount of fabric could change her in any way that truly mattered. Instead, clothing acted as a barrier against cold or sun.

Were anybody to see her as she passed down the hallway, ignoring the windows, and stepped as though distaste were slicking the soles of her shoes and were she not careful, she would slip in it and crash to the floor- were anybody to bear the responsibility of witness, they would not notice the hollow of her neck which betrayed most clearly the fear that had redirected the blood from her lungs and commandeered the oxygen from her arteries. They would see only her legs, which were lost to the progression of maturity and looked as though they were better suited for a girl of sixteen or ten. They would see only her back, and how it was convex as she slumped with lost perspective and the kind of heaviness you gather up over the years. They would certainly miss the more grotesque emotions that paralleled those most usual to the canals of a high school highway system. In the agitation and frustration they would miss the sadness. They would miss the anger. They wouldn't see the deep and terrible imprints that could have only been made by penetrating love.

She wondered about responsibility as she passed posters held to the drywall with scotch-tape and vandalized with pencil-mark corrections. Not December first, but rather the second. She wondered where she'd ever learned about any of that. In a physics classroom, she imagined, they could calculate and analyze the fist that seized her up inside and dragged her along the dimness and mess of voice and barely contained hatred. She was a woman void of purpose, reason, relation, and sanity, but she had things stuck in her that lodged far past those silly things like awareness and accountability. She had all she needed, but all she needed did not have the same. That was why she was here, was it not? She wondered about will, how it wasn't so different from won't. She'd figured she wouldn't come back, but there she was. She had no will for will; will was something for people who had not grown up here, seeing this place as she'd seen it.

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