Today Some Years Ago

I was in sixth grade science class. We were learning about stars. Somebody from the school’s head office came to our door, leaned against its frame. I didn’t think anything of it—this sort of thing happened. Our teacher, a course-haired newlywed from a few towns away, told us to hold on, to study the open page in our textbook depicting a constellation and try to connect the dots. A minute passed, maybe two, not too many, it’s difficult to say. We had a radio in the corner of the classroom by the window that our teacher went to turn on. She said nothing for a long while. We listened. She had to keep readjusting the antennae because there was static. I was sitting at a table with three or four other students, and we just looked at each other and blinked. We were eleven, some twelve. We blinked, we didn’t know. Our teacher was wearing a red dress with small flowers on it. Her arms were folded against her stomach, her hands were gripping her elbows and she told us, “I feel like I’m in a dream.”

Later, by my school locker, I spun the lock far past the correct combination and spun it some more. Something about numbers that day. My face was wet and warm. I was wishing that I could just stay there by my locker and spin the lock forever. Eventually, there was a hand on my shoulder. Someone asked me whether or not I wanted to try calling someone, and I followed that someone down the stairs and into the school office. The phone’s receiver cupped against my ear. I pressed the numbers—I always remembered phone numbers—but the lines were dead. So I tried another phone number, but there was just this ticking sound at the other end, like something short-circuiting or like the clipping noise that sounded on WCBS Newsradio 880 before they reported the morning traffic, or like the anxious tapping of your foot against the floor when you’re waiting for someone to come home.