It’s setup week at school, where all the teachers prep their classrooms and sort out their notes and unpack their supplies. Normally, during the course of this week, I would be the go-to guy for fixing/assembling/building things. I always had my toolbag in tow for the week, since I was one of a very few guys there, and of those guys, the only one with a fully stocked toolbag (that statement wasn’t meant to be as euphemistic as it sounded).
It was one of my favourite times of the year. I loved the people there (I still do, even if I don’t see them that often now), and I loved the feeling of setting things up for the coming year. I looked forward to seeing the students again, to playing guitar while they came in for the first day of class. The anticipation of the school year suddenly became the same as when I was going to kindergarten; it was the most exciting time of the year.
This year is different. I have watched my friends return to the school, and I was not there with them. I have been building and fixing things, but it has been in the form of some general contracting. My students will be there without me next week. The things on which I had built my identity are no longer there. I feel very lost. I feel very alone.
As a teacher, I was surrounded by people doing the same thing I was doing. Their problems were the same as my problems. Their experiences meshed with my experiences. I looked to them for support, and I tried to give it back to them whenever I could (that support usually came in the form of grammar solutions or a screwdriver, but it was nice to be needed for something).
Now, trying to be a writer, I don’t have them. Those other teachers are still my friends, of course, but now they are off doing “real jobs” while I click away on my keyboard. I could go visit the school, but it would be as an outsider, unaware of the ebb and flow of things that can only be felt when one is fully immersed in a wonderful, dynamic group of people. They would be dressed in freshly-pressed work clothes and I would be in raggedy jeans and a t-shirt. I would be the prodigal son without the happy ending.
I hope that they have a wonderful year. I hope that the students are as good to them as they always have been to me. I hope that someone there thinks to keep a set of Allen keys in their drawer (along with a roll of duct tape and a hammer, since people always came to me for those too). I’ll bite back the tears at the thought of not being there with them, and I’ll return to Emily Rose.
The house was empty now.
Emily stood in the kitchen, a place that once felt like the very nexus of her day-to-day life, now turned to a dusty shell. The chairs were empty. The table was not set. The cupboards were bare, cleaned even of their old crockery, chipped plates and bowls that had survived thirty years of marriage, countless meals, fourteen years of a little blonde girl underfoot while Ma tried to cook. There was nothing left in these rooms that had made them living, breathing places to her.
So why could she not leave? Emily had been standing in the same place, feet rooted as if they had grown right into the scuffed and dirty stone floor, for the last hour. She had watched the sliver of light that passed between the row houses across the street cut through the rippling windowpane, watched it inch across the wall the way it always did at this time of day. She felt time dragging past her, achingly slow in its progress through the day.
Emily finally tore herself from the room, slowly climbing the stairs to the second floor. The two rooms up here had been cleared out as well, nothing left but the heavy pieces of furniture that could not be moved. The frame of the bed her ma and da had shared for as long as they had lived in this house stood like the skeleton of a dead beast. It was stripped of its pillows, covers, and mattress. Emily thought that it might be the saddest thing that she had ever seen.