The rustle of papers joined the symphony of a droning lawnmower and the creak of chairs occupied by fidgeting students. The lingering ghost of a lady’s perfume swirled in the breeze. Conversations wafted in through cracks in the tall windows. The florescent lights plated into the ceiling did nothing to illuminate the classroom, but clear bright sunlight poured in, unimpeded by the thick white clouds that dotted the sky. Though the class was silent, the air was thick with swirling ideas, projected from the minds of other students. Papers littered every desk, and the smell of ink radiated from everyone’s racing pens as they built worlds on the pages. Right now, their entire world was a classroom on the second floor, full of people dreaming powerful dreams.
Silence swept over the room as the class began their assignment. The air was cold; forming goosebumps on my skin. The movement of pens across pages of paper disrupted the quiet. The instructor marches up and down the the rows, her stout black shoes tapping steadily on the scrubbed white linoleum. I write nonsense, babbling about shoes and clothes and parties. Finally, the bell rings. The hour is up. Rose, my nurse, leads me down the sparse white hall to room 24. I step inside. Fighting the urge to collapse on my bed after a day of intense treatment, I go to the closet and pretend to examine my wardrobe. Garments rustle as I push them mindlessly aside. Satisfied, Rose excuses herself, sliding the bolt across the door from the outside. Her heels march back down the corridor to the dining hall where she will study my journal entries. Lisa, the woman in room 25, is being led away for treatment. She used to resist, but ever since she got that scar on her forehead, she’s been silent. That’s why I’m cooperating as much as I can; a scar like that means you can’t go back to normal. I lean back on my bed as screams begin to echo through my room, reverberating off the floors. I don’t know where they’re coming from, and I begin to panic. Rose comes in again with the medicine cart. She snatches my arm before I can regain my senses and pull away. I close my eyes and I can barely feel the pinch of the needle.
One year ago today, I buried my brother. Brady was the best big brother I could have. We didn’t fight much, and once he got his license, he was always willing to drive me around in his bright red convertible. Brady was always looking out for me. He tried to teach me everything he knew. We may have had the same looks, but Brady would always be the genius. The driveway looks so empty without Brady’s car. It was wrecked in the accident along with my family. Brady used to drive me to the park once the sun went down to stargaze. He was obsessed with the sky. From my room in the attic, I can look beyond the minivan, past the neighbor’s house, and over the trees at the night sky. I brought some of Brady’s astronomy books up to my room. With my brother’s things by my side and a quilt around my shoulders, I embark on a hunt for Polaris. As if it were magic, the stars rearrange themselves and form the constellations I have heard so much about. I grab Brady’s photo off my nightstand and hold it so that he can see the stars too. “See?” I whisper, “I’m doing it.”