First day of freshman year.
My heart slams in my chest and rattles my rib cage.
I hear my shoes squeaking on the linoleum floor.
I glance at my phone.
Ten minutes until the bell rings.
My best bet is to hide out for a few minutes before I go to class.
I make a beeline for the bathroom.
It’s poorly lit and there are no paper towels
but at least, for a moment,
I am alone.
I wash my hands,
dry my wet fingers on my new jeans,
and head to the classroom.
The first to arrive,
but my teacher greets me with a smile that makes me feel welcome.
“Sit anywhere, honey.”
I try to comply.
The desks are arranged in groups of four,
pushed together like tables.
Picking one seems a staggering task.
I sit down, praying to catch a glimpse of a familiar face soon.
My prayers are answered.
My eighth grade friend is the second person to walk through the doorway.
We greet with relieved smiles.
We are in this together.
A nervous blonde girl asks to join us at our table.
She is friendly and makes a successful attempt at breaking the ice.
The three of us have the same second hour.
A sigh of relief.
Our teacher hands out a syllabus and explains the rules,
and we spend the remainder of the hour talking.
Conversation starts slowly, then flows.
We are equally nervous,
but somehow nerves feel better shared.
For the first time all day, my smile is real.
This is the first hour of my first day of my first year of high school.
It gets better.