Junior Year, By Presley Barnes

My Junior Year

By Presley Barnes

My Junior year of highschool began on a Thursday. The August air seemed like a federal crime against my lungs, the humidity was equivalent to standing directly in front of a space heater. The sound of the engine  as my mom drove away formed a tight feeling in my chest as I watched the dark charcoal truck drive beyond the horizon. Entering the heavy steel doors, I was suffocated with the typical smell of Pine Sol cleaner sparkling off the tile floors, reflected by dimly lit beams of light installed in the ceiling. I was drowning in self pity. My schedule--as usual was incorrect, and trudging through the packed hallway only seemed to increase my anger. I stomped through the hallway like a dramatic 20th century cartoon character. The weight of my backpack stuffed with blank notebooks seemed to press into my heels, heightening the force of my feet as they slammed into the new tile. As I entered what appeared to be to be a facade of an African American Studies class, I involuntarily placed myself into a stuffy room that seemed equivalent to a cell while waiting for any chance at an appeal for my release. I considered myself a prisoner to an education system I could not identify with and a culture that I thought I knew.  My only source of freedom--I thought was through the images I spray painted onto my paper like a graffiti wall in downtown Chicago. Words thrown together like a word scramble sheet, seemingly lost as they traveled through the lines of my college ruled paper. I was trapped within the depths of my writing, yet my life seemed just as disjointed as my work. I clung to a false identity in a culture I had no identification with, trying to placate myself in a fictitious version of reality. 

As I looked around sitting in a straight back chair and a polished desk doused in clorox. Trapped finely between the two, I found myself lost in a classroom filled with African American girls, a room filled with a stream of different hues as if the sun herself crafted each of us finely in her presence. My image was reflected through a mirror of myself and I became enticed with streams of brown skin, my brown eyes reflected like a dull glass in other sparkling eyes. I was a lone wolf in my own pact. A history my peers were fond of, remained unfamiliar with me. As if randomly placed under the beaming ultraviolet light to be judged for ignorance, I was ashamed that my honor student status was no longer a badge of pride in this classroom.  

My junior year of highschool began with a soft voice of wisdom of my teacher marked with selflessness and empathy. The first day of class, we were remarked as beautiful in a society where our skin was constantly a victim of war and the accused on trial. Like a civil rights activist, I was trained to be the prosecutor against ignorance instead of the victim to it. I became the judge, jury, and prosecutor in my own trial.  I was no longer fighting a physical war of slavery, but a mental one. As time progressed, I inherited an understanding of my beauty.  My pencil, once dulled by the marking of words randomly placed, was now sharp as if untouched replaced by a thin ink pen. What I said could no longer be forgotten, erased by a nice fifty-cent eraser from office depot. My history was rich and plentiful, yet secretive and infamous.  It was to be handled like an ancient sword.  I was drowned in beauty, knowledge apart from everyday ignorance until the point I became a soldier to the belief of a better world.  Like sun rays blocked by clouds on a rainy day, my existence was a necessity yet a threat on the everyday life. My feet became lighter and quicker as I, like my words, had a purpose. My dull eyes began to reflect a gleam like  polished family china. I no longer stomped through the hall, demanding my presence be acknowledged, instead I became another wave in the sea of students, acknowledging the beauty of other presences that surrounded me.

My junior year of highschool ended with chilling silence. An education I once viewed as a prison, began to look like a moving corporation running through my fingers. I was the Ransom E. Olds of my own assembly line of life. My pencil, once dulled by the marking of words it randomly placed, was now sharp as if untouched replaced by a thin ink pen. My spray painted words were crafted into a fine cartography of poetry displaying my story like an ancient artifact through a thin glass window. My junior year, I an activist, and a poet and myself.

Virginia ArcherComment