The hallway was empty as I leaned my back against the push-bar of the exit door for what I knew may be the last time. This moment was it. I was taking pause to remember everything that had happened in that hallway and in the rooms attached to it. Immediately to my left were the double doors to the stage, through I’d walked every morning I’d attended high school. There were so many moments, on-stage and off. There was the time my orchestra teacher tripped over the podium and smacked her face on the floor. I also remembered sitting in the middle of the second violin section as a freshman terrified and excited and completely lost trying to learn second position. I also remember the frustration I’d felt as a senior when I was told that I not only had to audition for concert master, but that the seat was not going to be given to me and would, instead, be given to a junior. As a sophomore I stood off-stage, nervously planning a house party – the first real house party that would be hosted by one of my friends – and was picked up early from fall drama rehearsal to go to it.
It was in this hallway that my best friend and I would gorge ourselves on the refreshments for the cast of the spring musical during intermission each year, strangely disoriented after a couple of hours reading music in the pit of an unlit auditorium. “Copa Cabana,” “Once Upon a Mattress,” “Into the Woods,” and “Meet Me in St. Louis;” these were the chapter titles for my life each spring. Making the mad dash to my car and racing to the nearest deli to get food between school and rehearsal was added to our routine in my junior year, along with skipping class to go to Dairy Queen and calling each other’s cell phones from different classrooms.
The second door to the left, string storage, was where my violin had lived and it was where I would sit on my instrument case and hang out and chat with a couple of friends, it was where I stored my candy for the First Ladies’ fundraiser the one year we had to raise money for competition; it was also where I stored most of my other belongings. The first slot to the right of the divider in the center of the wooden instrument rack was mine, along with the red folder that once belonged to the girl who had given me private lessons and which I superstitiously believed would make me a better violinist since its two previous owners had been fantastic musicians whom I greatly admired.
To my right was the band room where I’d had guitar class with several boys who had meant so much and so very little all at once. The freshman who hit on me mercilessly and for the first time made me feel incredibly attractive, the boy from my graduating class who was so talented and who partnered up with me to get an easy A, I playing the melody and he playing the chords, and my friend from childhood whom I’d met by chance on the playground at age 6. This was the room where we’d had so many initial rehearsals that involved more laughter than music as we attempted to sight read and in my senior year it was where I zealously copied 300 pages of piano music so that I may transcribe and write the string parts since there were none, being watched by that boy who spent so much time practicing improve on his bass. Having almost no classes, we’d both become fixtures in that hallway during our final year.
The chorus room was where I’d spent the majority of my time, it was where my a capella rehearsals took place, it was where we watched The Crosbys, I’d had violin and voice lessons in this room, the orchestra occasionally rehearsed in there, and the choruses both did. This was the room that housed AP Music Theory, a class consisting of eight students and perpetual chaos.
This hallway, as I stood there staring into my past, had been my home. Walking up it singing “I’m a little acorn” with my best friend, vomiting in the bathroom nearby to get sent home early from school, sitting against the wall eating a Chipwich playing around with my cousin after school; this hallway was filled with ghosts. There were so many people who I’d known only in this hallway and so many people who I would never see again.
I inhaled deeply through my mouth and nodded to those infinite memories. With my yellow graduation cap in hand, I bounced my rear against the bar to release the latch and with a quick, awkward motion turned and walked out the door.