The catholic school is ageless.
The girl is only eleven years old.
The bricked walls narrow around her small silhouette.
The arched walkway presses on her thin shoulders.
Conversations, some punctuated by laughter, some whispered like secrets, reverberate beneath the vaulted ceiling.
Her worn-out vinyl satchel beats her sides.
The frayed hems of her Levi’s sweep the white chalked hopscotch
that popular girls drew at yesterday recess.
The slapping of her leather sandals echoes on the deserted limestone tile.
Cacophony crowds the girl’s head.
Emptiness is a strange word while so many sounds and emotions pour inside her.
The girl is overwhelmed by their noisy presence.
A bell chimes beyond the walkway.
A parade of grey cloaks heads to the chapel,
in a rustle of veils and murmured prayers.
The girl hurries.
Her walk is almost a run, and yet the classroom remains out of her reach.
Finally a ray of light.
Finally her classroom.
Blood beats against her temples.
Her classmates will turn their heads when she enters.
Panic twists in a knot inside her.
Her classmates will make fun of her for being late.
Her cheeks are in fire; her breath catches in her throat.
Sweat pearls on her skin; her T-shirt sticks against her flat chest.
In a trembling hand she pushes the door.
First a sigh of relief.
Then the heaviness of shame.
Failure digs in her stomach.
A metallic taste coats her tongue.
Flunking mid-term math crushed her.
Saturday detention makes her feel hollow.
Emptiness weighs a ton when you are eleven years old.