In Our Age

Content warning: this poem was written about my experiences at school with threats of danger made by other students against other students. It might be upsetting/triggering to others who have similar experiences or know someone who has had similar experiences. Please read carefully. Thank you, and please continue to stay safe.

The sound of shoes hitting hard,
polished floors amongst
the chaos to escape
the drone of
the alarm of
the school emergency system.

Over the noise,
students greet each other in the halls;
most are excited to skip third block. Only slightly
aware drills shouldn’t be happening when children
should be eating.

They all emerge in the lot before the school
without bags, without anything;
most of the juniors and seniors frustrated they’ll need to wait
another day to buy their prom tickets ($70, only sold third block).

Groups form beside student evacuation spots,
friends excited to see each other,
loving this miracle of circumstances.
Thank God someone pulled the fire alarm,
someone says outloud (it’s everyone’s favorite theory at the time).

The fire department comes and checks everything out;
a few people are disappointed they arrive
as quickly as they do.

After ten minutes of searching, they say it’s safe for students, so everyone
goes back inside. They believe everything is fine.

The feel of my fabric backpack beneath my fingers is odd now;
linen only partially, the rest like rubber as
I sit in my chair.

Ring! Ring! Ring!

As soon as my hand
makes contact with a pen,
a second fire alarm goes off; my teacher
groaning, a voice on the intercom saying,
Please evacuate the building immediately. Me asking,
Have I lost my mind for wondering,
Is this a joke?

Coming into the parking lot a second time is like
stepping into a zone of war. There’s sound and
chaos. A strip of land close to the building that
no one wants to touch. We all know
once could be a mistake, someone pulling the alarm
to skip a block.
Twice means that this is real;
someone (we)
could die.

My friends are whispering about it, but I don’t join in.
I watch the crowd instead,
trying to calm my fear that today is
the end of days, seeing
the heads of
the children I’ve been seeing
for my whole life. Wanting to believe
none of them would ever,

never hate us enough to dream of ending
this dream.

Yet, I am here,
looking over them
with a nightmarish imagination of
each one of them driving,
racing down the road to crush a branch
beneath their wheels, feel it break. Able
to pretend the stick was never once
(or had been known) by the tree.

When third block ends, we’re still
waiting. But I have fourth block off;
I see the opportunity to leave,
and I take it.

Every head turns towards me as I walk away, walking home.

I gaze back into the faces I’ve known,
see myself in their eyes,

and wonder,
Is that a bad thing?

That night,
we learn the second alarm was a mechanical failure. We were never
going to die. (The words sound ridiculous now, anyways)

We should be relieved. But no one is.
As a collective we know
the same thing could happen tomorrow,
and we would only care less.
We have become used to being terrified.

Poetry and photography by Hazel J. Hall.

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