I’m terrified to be here, but there is safety in it’s emptiness. The echo of only my own footsteps traipsing down the vacant grey halls is oddly comforting as I take in the building around me. The classrooms surrounding the courtyard on my left are where the big kids go, we aren’t allowed on their side.
The school hall with green curtains along its huge wooden stage is on my right, the choir practices there, with our white shirts and yellow cummerbunds, Mrs T tells us to open our mouths wider and sing from our tummies. I don’t like singing in front of people, they might think I’m not very good.
The smell of garlic bread still lingers in the air as I pass by the old canteen. Garlic bread is 10c a piece, I really like it. That and chicken nuggets but they’re 30c each.
I keep walking up the concrete steps. There’s the big glass front entry door, I could easily run straight out along the red bricks to the car park and disappear right now but I take a deep breath and turn back towards the library instead.
I climb up the carpeted steps and the musty smell of well loved books greets me as I walk into the big old room with over stacked shelves lining one side and windows overlooking the roof on the other. Familiar padded mint green chairs beckon me to sit and I pull a worn picture book from the wooden shelf next to me. I flick through the pages of ‘A Hippopotamus On The Roof Eating Cake’ and smile as a nostalgic glow passes through me. Maybe it wasn’t all bad after all.
I leave the warmth of the library and make my way past the juniors rooms, I remember a boys Dad came to play guitar for us there once. There’s the courtyard with the cubby house, there are dolls to play with and pretend cooking things but you have to be careful cause there’s spiders in there too sometimes.
I see Mrs B’s room and Gregory starts singing his dinosaur song from somewhere inside “here comes the chorus, of the brontosaurus…” I peek into the room, hand drawn artworks of dinosaurs hang from the ceiling, a blackboard on the far wall has the alphabet hanging above it, each letter on a piece of coloured paper. There’s a big desk for Mrs B and rows of little wooden desks and little wooden chairs standing vacant waiting for someone to arrive.
I make my way outside. I take a drink of cold water from the bubblers, its metallic tang hasn’t changed a bit. There’s a breeze blowing and litter flys up making miniature tornadoes with crunchy brown plane tree leaves then falls again getting caught between the corners of the asphalt and the brown brick wall. I walk further and further, across the new basketball court and onto the playground. I slide my feet across the icy grass and pretend I’m ice skating until I reach the back corner and stop at a timber structure.
My breath quickens as I look up, heights make me nervous but I’m determined to do it anyway. I can feel the rough wood beneath my palms as I climb the logs, focusing on the one in front of me, never looking down. I get to the top of the a frame, straddle my legs either side and survey my surroundings. Everything seems smaller from up here, familiar but different. It’s so quiet.
People don’t seem to exist here anymore, I don’t know where they went or why, but I’m just a ghost now anyway, haunting the echo of a place I could never escape. Only this time I’m just visiting, this time I’m alone, this time I’m safe.