I sigh with relief; the key still opens the padlock, even though the lock is rusty and I have to jiggle it around.
The sun is high when I walk into the place, but inside it's cool, damp, woody-smelling, just like it always used to be. It smells the same. It feels the same. In the corner is the old couch cushion I salvaged from my parents' garage, the brown tweed ripped, stuffing poking out of the corner, a cloth-covered button hanging off by a thread. There are probably mice living in it now.
I put my huge backpack down on the rotting planks, stretching my shoulders. It's been ten years, but the sun still hits the same spot in the afternoon, streaming through a wide crack in the wooden walls and hitting the old ochre plastic chair my junior-year boyfriend, a German exchange student named Axel, stole from the school library. I don't think anybody else has been here in all this time. Why would they? I don't think anybody knows about this place; or if they do, they don't care. It's always just been...mine.
I go over and sit down in the chair. Just the smell of this place brings back memories. Some good, some bad. Here's one of the good ones: I'm seventeen years old, my hair dreadlocked and bleached blond instead of short and plain like it is now--easy wear for crossing country. I ditched school with Axel, David, and Rennie. We're all sitting around a makeshift incense burner, a ceramic shoe that David made in ceramics class with a stick of incense poking out of the top. We're passing around a joint, a big fat one that Axel rolled. We are celebrating. It's the day before spring break, for one thing, and for another, Rennie's dad bought her a car for her birthday. We weren't stuck in stupid Grant Line any more. At least, that's what it felt like.
I look down; lean over and pick up an old cassette tape lying on the ground next to my totally burnt-out tape deck. It was on its last legs when I got it at a garage sale when I was thirteen. The tape is a mix tape that Ed, a different, much younger boyfriend, made for me. We were fourteen. Heavy metal ballads, Whitesnake and Poison, side by side with sappy Motown from his parents' collection and eighties new wave emo shit. OMD and crap like that. I never did like that tape much. I pretended to.
The same question comes to me now that came to me so often then: where do I go from here?
This week's piece was inspired by this photo by Flickr user DarkTranquility. This doesn't really feel "done;" it's more like just a scene this week. Check for more Flickr Fiction on the sites of The Gurrier, Tea and Cakes, Elimare, Chris, Mina, TadMack, and Linus.