The End of High School

On the last day of school, our high school senior was in bed in her room by herself. On Monday she had turned in her last assignment and on Wednesday she Zoomed with her last class.

While her younger siblings were having end-of-year slideshows, scavenger hunts, and superlative awards on Microsoft Teams, the last two days of the school year were spent like so many before, sitting on the living room couch next to her abandoned knitting, watching YouTube videos with headphones on.

The mayor ended the distance learning school year even before the canceled prom, senior awards, and club parties, events whose colorful blocks in our Apple calendar will float by like toy boats.

On the last day of school, I look at her by herself on the couch and feel quicksand in my chest. There were no hugs outside the front doors for her, squeezing each other with your past and your future all at once.

There were no locking eyes with the teachers that believed in you, or last glances at the ones that you didn’t care for, as if to fix them in your scrapbook too. No names being called down the hallway, some names you’ll never hear again, no clearing your locker of gross and strange things, dusty souvenirs from journeys you thought would never end.

There would be no signing of yearbooks with Sharpies, no snickering during auditorium ceremonies, no trying on of caps and gowns in the bathroom. No high fives, no last chances, no watching crushes as they walk away.

A high school career that, instead of exploding, disintegrated. Like a favorite song on the radio suffocated by waves of static as you drill into the long road ahead. Like a candle extinguished, not with a cakeful of others, but little by little in the morning damp.

Endings without Goodbyes

Distance learning packets stand in towers of varying heights
on a table at the high school
I have come to take them for my daughters
but they’re really for me

I want an excuse to come inside here
before they close for good

I want to fill my arms with paper
to feel something solid
I am trying to stay afloat
in a sea of skinny blue links,
invalid usernames, and
portals that lead to no one

I scan the packet titles — World History, Biology, English —
but I don’t see my daughters’ courses
Do you have AP classes? I ask the counselor
“These are for people without internet access,” she says
and I feel embarrassed of my neediness

I take a COVID-19 fact sheet and walk out of the office
to the front door, pausing in the atrium

It smells of cafeteria food, cheap industrial cleaner, and feet
and I realize how much I love this place

Tears bulge, as my thoughts travel to
my daughter, in her last few months of senior year,
who may have to leave without saying good-bye