“Have you ever wondered what it’ll feel like to die?”
“Jake, what did you say?” Jake shuffles the soda can with his feet and whispers so low that even the moon grows closer to listen, “I don’t even think we’re alive, Jimmy. Not now, not ever.”
I’m looking over the school fence and find row upon row of desolate backyards. Sullen walls of barbed wire and wood- planks divide square plots of land, giving an effect of an everlasting patchwork quilt drained of all colour. This is what Jersey looks like, no matter which way you look at it. Fat flies buzz in and out of my vision, loitering in the space between rubber tires and the odd rotting tree branch. A cloud of brown dust groans upwards in the heat, riding the slow, thick summer wind. Above all of this, above home, is a wide and infinite roof – a promise. I drink up as much of the sky’s blue as I can; asking please oh please, take my worries, I’ll trade today for some of your perfect blue, just take today away… But no, the school alarm system goes off, and I curse the sky, hop down off the fence and head back to school.
I heard Lee Brook High opened eight years ago as a solution to Camden’s education epidemic. Shabby though it is, ‘Brook took the edge off mom’s nerves when we got here back in ‘01, sardined at the back of Tara’s car. It has three floors, and its huge as fuck, but all the lessons take place on the first floor because of circuit issues and lack of equipment, and the dismally low headcount. Don’t get me wrong, people still use the other floors, though they hush up for a while after they do. I can always tell when some poor sucker’s done a little exploring on the second or third floors. They walk around with a little fire about them in the morning, you know, a little dare flickering in their eyes. Then they‘ll disappear for most the day, as far as I can tell, and reappear changed: floating in their own skin like ghosts trapped in between two worlds though too stunned to know it.
I take one last look at the desolate schoolyard, spit at the floor, before entering ‘Brook’s rusting blue doors.