I must’ve been traumatized in junior high when I couldn’t find my locker. I don’t remember it, but it must have happened. How else can I keep repeating it in my dreams? It’s been 20 years since I left junior high, but I regularly roam the halls, stairwells, and busy classrooms looking for my locker. Oddly, I do this as an adult, which makes my confusion and embarrassment that much more ridiculous. Come on man, give it up, you don’t need a locker. My dream self won’t listen, and tries to act like he knows where he’s going, pushing through the crowds of students who are completely with it, know their class schedule, have already found and decorated their lockers, and are ready to turn in their homework. I, on the other hand, am coming back to school after a long absence, and have no idea what I’ve missed and where my locker is. Every once in a while I find it, and it opens with a steely squeak. There inside, untouched after 20 years, is my old backpack with some papers, crumpled gym clothes, things I’d forgotten I had and carried around with me like totems of youth, now uncovered like relics in a pharaonic chamber.
But why? Why do I wander the confusing hallways month after month? In my real junior high, and in high school too, there were accordion steel gates that shut off certain corridors, often at night when there was a concert or dance and kids were to be cordoned in at one end of the school. In my dreams I’m often coming up against these gates, stymied to get to algebra class before the bell rings. Stairways lead to the wrong hallways, other children are already in their seats or getting somewhere Important, while I smile and pretend not to be lost.
Sorry, I gotta go. I’m late to class.