The school toilets in the basement are wet and cold. Ever since they had reconstructed the bathrooms near the cafeteria in the main building students hardly come down here anymore. Most of them, I believe, have actually forgotten about their existence, which has eventually turned them into the perfect hiding place. Shivering, I pull the hoodie jacket tighter around my slim figure as I step inside the fourth cabin on the right. It’s the only one that still has an intact toilet lid I can sit on.
Absentmindedly, I run my cold fingers, that have turned blotchy from the chilly November rain outside, over the faded heart someone must have drawn there with a red text marker back when the now greyish walls had still been white. Tracing the enclosed initials ever so slightly, the gentle touch makes my fingertips tingle. “H+J forever,” it’s said ever since I had first entered this cabin two years ago. Maybe, if I had been born and gone to school earlier, H and J would have been my friends, and we would have been inseparable. A bunch of happy kids strolling around the schoolyard during recess, planning sleepovers and great adventures that we would go on once we were older and self-determined. I would have liked that very much.
But then I remind myself that, even then, it would have been unlikely that such a thing had happened. I don’t have any friends. Tears fill my eyes and cloud my vision, turning the heart on the wall into a deformed, blurry circle. My fingers trembling a little, I start to unpack the peanut butter sandwich my mother had given me in the morning before she had hurried out of the door. I think she was late for a meeting or something because she didn’t have time to toast the bread. But maybe she just didn’t care either. Sometimes, I’m not exactly sure what to think at all.
I can already hear their filthy laughter outside before someone jerks the bathroom door open a moment later. One hand pressed flat against my mouth, I can feel my ragged breath. Pulling my legs up to my chest and hugging them tightly, my stomach clenches uncomfortably.
“Annie.” His low voice makes the lump in my throat grow bigger. I can hear their footsteps echoing from the cold stone floor as they come closer. “We just want to talk, Annie.” Another one snickers. “We didn’t mean what we said earlier.” Silent tears continue to stream down my face, soaking my sleeve and dripping on my pants. His voice lingers in the air accompanied by an unspoken threat, and the silence stretches on as fear lies down on me, penetrative and clammy like a foggy night.
“Come on, Jared. The stupid brat’s not here,” another one announces after a short silence. I notice the annoyance in his voice. “Probably hiding in some other dump.” They are laughing now.
Someone strikes his fist against one of the doors, which flies back against the partition next to me with a loud bang. Their footsteps heavy and haunting, they finally turn and leave.
Paralysed, I remain huddled on the toilet lid. Only when I hear the front door closing and their low voices trailing off in the distance, I allow myself to exhale, an agonised sob escaping my throat as I let go of the breath I had been holding too long.
I need a few minutes to sooth myself, gently rocking from side to side, before I wipe the tears off my face and slowly start to eat the sandwich that’s gone floppy a long time ago.(Photo Credit: DigitalParadox via Flickr cc)