During our morning snack break, the girls and boys of the eleventh and twelfth grades gather in the cafeteria. It’s not the one we eat lunch in, but a classier area meant for teachers, outfitted with a bar and coffee machine. For half an hour, after third period, the tiled linoleum, the tables and chairs, the glass doors: these are lent to the pandemonium of the older students.
It’s difficult for me to consider myself an “older student”. I’m shy of even first graders, tracing wide arcs around they and their playthings. School feels like a spherical environment, and I take a path lit by an infinite series of great circles. One of few stopping points: the cafeteria.
The tables are always occupied. The galaxy by the windows, threaded by cosmic rays and globular star clusters, all gravitationally bound, wound up tight. The string of outer space accompanying the bar, populated by the old glowing inapproachable. The mess in between, solar wind and magnetic fields, perilous and easy to trip over. I find a chair and carry it with me to the solar system farthest away.
It’s a quaint place where I am comfortable, if plenty superfluous. If they care they say nothing, fixed as they are on breaking past their orbits and poking fun at dwarf planets. There’s a pair of blazar boys, luminous and disruptive, a shiny hypercompact stellar system, a trio of components of the Orion constellation (three vertices of a triangle, Sirius, Procyon and Betelgeuse) and me, the closest thing to a perfect vacuum.
Nature abhors a vacuum, but you are not nature, you are expansive, wild and intergalactic, spanning light years and eons, you are teenage stars, so, can I ask you, please: don’t hate me.
When I get to class in the mornings I don’t stray farther than the two foot radius around my desk, and that only to deposit my book bag and take a solid, perfunctory glance around the room. Chalkboard, windows, door; this is my own little private universe, but the sun can be anywhere at all. I don’t know around what I revolve, but I do so willingly.
I am only ever truly tired the five minutes after I wake, but it is not until eleven thirty that I stop telling people I’m exhausted. It’s one of the few conversation openers I know, initiating the inevitable concurrent response, the cycle of shared sleep and lack thereof. “I’m tired.” “I’m tired too.” “How are you?” “Fine.” “Hello!” “Hi.” I am an automaton, I run through lists like names for hurricanes.
For the first time in a while, I hate living in Spain. It’s a feeling that lasts a maximum half hour, but I feel it poignantly, and I feel it absolutely. I can’t do intelligent or passionate discourse in Spanish, despite the fact that I’ve lived here for most of my life. All those who cannot express adoration nor ideals in their mother tongue are failures. On a discrete level in my private universe I am blind to the interpretation of the thoughts of other sentient beings. On a smaller level than even that, lying on the fringe of some dead supernova, I fear that I am blind to their love as well.
There is a sun, but it cannot be pinpointed. There are blue stars too, but they are visible only to those with proper equipment. The only element ever to be mapped here is ground zero, and I already know exactly where that is.