Maybe life's not so big after all.
The library stands painted against a too-blue sky, surrounded by trees that are too-orange and too-yellow, and some that are still too-green. I’m by the dining hall, dwarfed beneath the universe, wondering who colored this page. Perhaps it was an infatuated child, wielding make-up they stole from their mother’s drawers. Right now life’s a coloring book with its fate in the hands of risqué artists, and I’m a bystander, none too amused by the sound of clattering trays and silverware. In the background there’s only the mummer of the wind cha-cha-ing with the tree tops, bending the pines and teasing the oaks. One soft leaf unbinds itself and flutters like a lost soul to the path. It’s just a stepping stone now.
I peer up at the weeping building towering over me; a hundred eyes reflect the sky back at itself, a curious vanity. I see sadness in the impressionable angles. Stepping between the brick pillars I feel the rough consistency of its surface. My teeth are cold, my sweater’s zipper is broken, and I’m still hungry. I go inside.
I am greeted by the marble staircase with its two arms extended in an embrace. I walk up one arm, with my hands brushing the soft stone, and my eyes looking down at the trivialities displayed under glass. I reach the first floor, where four granite eyes stare down at the lone Harkness table from above.
I walk across the room to the stairwell. In here there is nothing but silent gray steps and dust covered windows. I take a piece of winterfresh gum out, pocket the foil and pop it in my mouth. I start up the stairs. This place is like a prison. The walls and floors and stairs are the color of burnt coal. The farther up I go, the more layers I can see spiraling below me. It smells like old newspapers in here.
Halfway up I turn to one of the small windows. I see a pristine campus stretching across the town of Exeter, dots of orange and red trees lining its delicate paths. I can not see flaw from so far up, cannot smell burnt pizza, or hear trays clattering, or see leaves falling. There is only the blue sky enveloping a perfect world. I imagine the smell of fresh cut grass in the morning as I walk to French class. I imagine reclining against that surly old tree in front of wheelwright on a Saturday afternoon. Staring out the window, I remember every perfect Exeter moment. And a few imperfect ones too. I remember running to the academy building from elm with a half BS’ed history essay crumpled in my hand, and only one minute and thirty seconds to get to class. I remember my first test grade ever: a mocking D+, staring up at me like an old friend.
At the top of the stairwell I stop and look down. The geometric symmetry, the casual mix of metal and concrete gives this prison a rugged beauty. It is me and an empty stairwell. In this building there are one million metaphors, 400,000 books, and too many ideas. I hold one palm against the wall, feelings its cold, grainy surface, and the world is passionate under my finger tip; I can do anything in this moment.
“Maybe things don’t have to be perfect,” I think to myself.
Just for kicks I take my glow-in-the-dark rosary off my neck and hold it in the palm of my hand. I roll it around in a ball, feeling the cheap plastic texture against my skin. It is a pile of circles and an iridescent cross; 56 plastic prayers, and one plastic Jesus on a plastic cross. I close my fist, and extend it across the gap. I open my fist into a platform, and then turn it sideways. The crucifix begins to slip toward empty air, but it catches on my pinky. Now it is one straight line going down. I let it drop. The feeble necklace spins and twists about itself, glittering slightly from the dusty light. Plastic Jesus hits the ground, still glowing slightly.
I am a million cells and a headache. I make my way back down, this time feeling it in my knees.