Corrie Garrett_Empty Lockers

Empty Lockers 

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First day of junior high, and they’ve got no record of me. I’ve been in this district since I was nine, but today I don’t exist. (Did your mom register you? Oh, foster mom? What’s her number? What about your caseworker? For heaven’s sake. Not your fault. Wait here.)

It’s supposed to hit 103 degrees today. My legs are freezing because I’m under a vent but sweat is beading up under my hair where the sun shines on me.

Sometimes I think my identity is like sweat. It’s in me, what I smell like and how I react when I’m upset. It’s what the world turns into as it filters through my skin. But it’s not something I can hand over and say, “Here, see? This is who I am.”

I do hand over my city library card, because that’s the kind of ID that’s helpful. Anything with numbers is good. Soon I’ll have a school ID. That’s better than sweat, too.

This morning I passed behind two girls snapping a selfie. I’m probably in their picture. It’s gonna be really sad if that’s the most interaction I have today. There are kids here I know. Maybe if I ask they’ll let me wander around and find some of them.

Maybe I’ll just slip out…

It feels weird to be in the empty hallways, but I won’t get in serious trouble on the first day. I’m still “transitioning to the independence and responsibility of junior high.” Obviously.

I trail my hand over the empty red lockers outside the cafeteria. Smells like there’ll be pizza for lunch today. One locker has an extra splotch of paint on it. I heard a rumor that they won’t let anybody use lockers this year because of drug problems. Or maybe it was gun problems.

Maybe they’re already full of blank paper and extra textbooks and toilet paper. Or teachers’ drugs. Academic corruption is a thing, apparently.

I run my finger down a crack between two lockers. I don’t know why, but I really want to know if these are empty or not. Is one of them waiting to be assigned to me? Am I surrounded by clean, empty spaces, with unique combinations? Or have they all been keyed with a master code for the janitors to store stuff in?

I bet they have old air in them. If you opened them up, they’d smell like 2015. The inside might still be hot from the summer months with no AC.

“There you are, Ivy. We’ve put together a schedule for you.”

“Can you open these?” I blurt. “Do they all have the same combination?”

She eyed me. “I have a key.”

“Can I see the inside? Please?”

She shrugged and unlocked one. “You’ll get one next week.”

I take a deep breath of the warm, metallic air – empty and waiting – and slowly let it out my nose. “Thanks.”

A locker combination – three more numbers I can claim as mine.

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Corrie Garrett is a science fiction and romance writer, currently working on indie publishing her fifth novel. She enjoys writing about the weirdness of simple moments and building characters who overcome their circumstances. Corrie has been featured numerous times on and in ezines like EveryDayFiction. She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her husband, four kids, and a lot of rabbits.

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