Jayashree Gandhi

A Beginning

Nervously, I played with the friendship bracelet that I had dutifully worn for the past five years. The four of us had met in third grade, though it now felt like time had slipped by shockingly fast. Now, here we all were, still together, on the night of our eighth grade graduation.

Since my school was both dirt-poor and miniscule, the graduation was being held in the cafeteria, which also served as a gymnasium, as well as an auditorium. An auditorium, moreover, that didn’t have a stage. All of us complained endlessly about the lack of these essentials and more than once expressed how much we’d like to leave this place behind. However, I knew that tonight, at least, everyone felt a touch of nostalgia that no longer would we all be together here. Everybody was standing in the designated lines, faces drawn and lost in his or her thoughts. The dead silence only heightened my nervousness.

Sweat dripped down my face, and I sighed with impatience. The fifty of us had already been standing in the non-air conditioned hallway for a good thirty minutes. The hallway, like the rest of the school, was tiny, so we were all more or less crammed into it. As I had nothing else to do, I stared at my bracelet, frayed threads held together by neon colored beads. Suddenly, I was overcome with repulsion as I realized just how much it clashed with my outfit; the hot pink and lime green jarred hideously with it. I tugged at the bracelet, frowning. I was surprised it hadn’t fallen off in all these years.  We certainly hadn’t made them to last this long. I could remember the day that one of my friends, the craziest of us all, had spontaneously decided we needed friendship bracelets. We had been sitting in her room, and upon this announcement, she had dived under her bed and pulled out a box filled with thread and beads.

In the midst of this memory, two teachers barged through the doors. There was a collective groan as they started lecturing, for the umpteenth time, about exactly how we were to behave once the doors opened. For such a poor school, the teachers were surprisingly uptight about how we represented it.

“Remember to walk straight and smile!”

“Don’t talk during the speeches!”

From behind the closed doors, I heard the beginning notes of the opening song. We had practiced this ceremony so many times that it was likely I’d never be able to forget it. Both teachers simultaneously shouted, “Get in there!” Quickly, we all aligned and started marching down the hallway and through the doors. Smiling broadly, like we’d been trained to do, we all walked calmly down the aisle. Cameras flashed, and little spots appeared before my eyes. Blinking, I sat down in the front row.

From the mock podium, the speeches started. Seeing as how the whole getting-into-the auditorium process had taken about an hour, I could just imagine how long this was going to take. I glanced down at the program and groaned inwardly; there were going to be six whole speeches to sit through. I started twisting the bracelet around my wrist, watching the threads become more and more unraveled.

“I’m bored!” my friend hissed from behind me. I turned around slightly and nodded, too utterly bored to say anything else.

“Me, too!” Several other people along the first row immediately agreed, a little too loudly. The person now giving a speech, who was conveniently the principal, noticeably raised his voice, no doubt to drown out our chatter. Everyone suddenly perked up; the principal was the last speaker. The excitement passed, almost like a baton, from one person to the next, as we all stood up gracefully, like we’d been taught, and walked to the edge of the steps. One by one we each climbed up, took our diploma, and shook hands with the principal.

As the last person in line climbed down, I felt overwhelmed by sadness; it was almost over. There was a thunderous sound of clapping as we all stood and threw our caps into the air spontaneously, knowing we’d get a lecture about how it hadn’t been part of the “carefully planned program.” The song we’d picked, “Graduation”, by Vitamin C, burst onto the speakers as we all slowly filed out. I glanced back when I reached the door and smiled when I saw many parents openly crying.
The moment we were in the hallway, everyone instantly ripped open his or her diplomas. There were shouts of jubilation from those who had managed to graduate. I heard someone call my name and turned to see my three friends approaching.

“We made it!” they screeched, pulling me into a four-way hug. Around us, everyone was doing the same, especially as parents started pouring into the already crowded hallway.

“Party in room 602,” someone shouted. The multitude of people turned and jostled their way into the large room filled with food and balloons. This room, although large, was still a tight fit for the massive crowd. The heat was even more unbearable in here and the crowd started thinning out as people started to leave early. From the table where I was sitting with my friends, I watched everyone’s tearful goodbyes. A group of people I had never spoken a word to walked up to our table and hugged each of us, promising to keep in touch. Bemused, I promised I would, too.

Reminiscing, the four of us sat together until my parents called from across the room, “Ready to leave?”

“Sure” I replied, turning and hugging my friends. There was a chorus of “keep in touch” as I walked out the door. I stepped outside and breathed in the cool night air with relief. It had been unbelievably stuffy inside.

As I walked slightly behind my parents, I turned for one last look at the school I had spent what seemed to be such a large part of my life in. I swung my hand in the breeze and felt the bracelet loosen. I pulled at one thread and watched as the bracelet fell to the ground. Walking more freely, I got into the car and we drove away. I didn’t look back again.


Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.