Marble Silence

Have you ever felt like you’re just sitting in a room, and everyone is walking through it, but you can’t get up?

I’ve been away for four years, and kids I used to babysit have started high school. Kids that had just been born when I moved here are getting ready to start middle school. And here I am, just me, just the same.

***

Maggie Tate almost couldn’t remember a day when she had not sat in this chair, in this classroom, listening to the same lecture from the same gray-faced professor. High school seemed so long ago. Had it only been two months?

It was Halloween today. Most of the class wore orange and black, but there was no mirth in any of their eyes. No high spirits, no joy. At least, not until he walked in. He was a transfer, he had to be. Maggie had never seen him before.

He was nearly at the tall as the doorway, with sharp blue eyes and a white stripe chalked into his black hair. He smiled at his new classmates as he walked toward the empty seat behind Maggie. A soft chatter followed him as the students turned to watch him.

“Morning,” he said cheerfully to Maggie, putting his backpack on his desk.

Maggie stared back at him. “Morning,” she said finally.

“Is Mr. Tiffany a good teacher?” he asked, pulling out a MacBook and closing up the backpack again.

Maggie tried to say yes, but ended up shaking her head slightly. The boy broke into a grin, revealing plastic fangs. Maggie covered her mouth to muffle a giggle. He laughed softly and put the fangs into his pocket.

“I’m Phil,” he said.

“I’m Maggie.”

***

I read “Massinello Pietro” by Ray Bradbury this morning. It’s a lot better put than what I’ve just said, but it seemed related. I think my favorite line from Bradbury was, “The world was full of statues . . . So many could move no longer, knew no way to even begin to move again in any direction, back, forth, up, down, for life had stung and bit and stunned and beat them into marble silence.”

Pietro had once been rich, and when it was all taken away from him, it “killed him dead,” and he decided, “I won’t ever let anyone kill me again.” I was about eleven when I made that decision. Now I’m sitting in a room that I can’t leave. Pietro was stronger than me. He exploded back to life and brought the world along for the ride.

“Good-bye! Good-bye! I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way!”

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