I stood with the other spectators, hot and sticky in the stagnant air of the gymnasium. Programs waved in an effort to create a little movement of air which gave the illusion of cooling you off but actually only served to move the hot air around the room. I wiped my sweaty palms downward on my purple suede skirt, oblivious to the fact that it would probably stain.
I was trying to maintain my composure, trying to ignore the lead balloon in the pit of my stomach. “I am not going to cry. I am not going to cry.” It was difficult to be there but it would have been more difficult not to.
The speeches droned on endlessly. People were shuffling in their seats, waiting for their escape, waiting to see their son, daughter, niece, nephew, sister, brother or cousin walk across the stage and accept that piece of paper that signified the next chapter in their lives. My mother wasn’t there. There was no need, her daughter wasn’t graduating.
Finally, the time came for the graduates to walk across the stage, one by one, as their names were called. I watched as my friends, wearing caps and gowns, accepted their diplomas with broad smiles of accomplishment and pride.
Still trying not to cry, I wallowed in self-pity even though my spectator status was entirely my own fault. I could hold the tears no longer, though, as the theme song played.
“Love lifts us up where we belong. Where the Eagles fly, on the mountain high…..”
I didn’t belong here. I belonged up there with my friends. Some of them I had gone to elementary school with including my best friend since grade three but I had veered in another direction. I dabbed at the corners of my eyes, trying not to blink so as not to smear my makeup, willing the song to end so I could escape the stifling gym.
Mercifully, the song was over and the procession ended. People started to shuffle out of the gym. Head down, I weaved in and out of the throngs of people, not wanting to make eye contact with anyone. I didn’t want to see anyone that I knew, such as teachers or parents and siblings of friends.
I desperately wanted to escape the disdainful looks that said, “Loser. I always knew you were bad news.” Or worse yet, the pitying looks that said, “But you’re such a smart girl, what went wrong?”
Finally, I made my way to the door and escaped into the late afternoon heat. My legs carried me automatically to familiar territory – the smoke pit. I sat down on top of one of the worn picnic tables. My legs dangling, I let my shoes fall to the ground.
I pulled out my package of king size Player’s Light and removed one of the cigarettes. I placed the cigarette in my mouth and flicked my lighter, inhaling deeply while closing my eyes.
This is where I belonged. This is what I deserved.
A few more smoggers came to join me on my picnic table but before they did, I assembled the look. You know, the “I don’t give a shit that I didn’t graduate because I am way too cool anyways look.”
This post was inspired by this week’s RemembeRED prompt over at the Red Dress Club:
It’s that time of year…graduation.
For this week’s prompt we are asking you to remember a graduation. It doesn’t have to be yours and it doesn’t have to be high school