That Flight of Stairs | a prose
The bell rings. The sudden movement overwhelms me. My vision is blurred, but I managed to focus only one thing. The green exit sign. My classmates bump my shoulder as they rush off to the highly coveted canteen for two things. Satisfy their hunger for food and attention at the canteen table. I take my time to pack my books into my backpack. I noticed I had spent the past two hours or so doodling on my textbooks. In no time, there was a deafening silence in the classroom. Slinging my backpack over my shoulder, I take a step out of the walls of the classroom. The walls which kept me safe from social awkwardness. I guess you could say that it works both ways, it’s keeping me safe by separating myself from the rest of the class, or the world, in that matter. I instantly feel a wave of confidence draining energy go through my body as I step out of the classroom. It felt bitter sweet. It felt as if I was finally able to escape the prison cell, the cell which I ironically felt safe in. I guess that is how prisoners feel once they are released after a long stint locked up behind bars. They are overwhelmed by this feeling of uncertainty, not knowing what to do and too busy absorbing in the change the world has undergone since he went in. That feeling of uncertainty, being lost and unable to communicate effectively with other people. It’s a whole new world, and only the brave can survive, only the strongest both physically and mentally can survive the harsh nature of the outside world. I thought that was exactly what I felt immediately when I stepped out of the classroom. But I thought wrong. I knew where I was going to go to. I knew a place in school where nobody knows, where I am able to get lost in my own world, where I can call my sanctuary.
I was never really much of a sociable person throughout my school life, but I did have a handful of people I could call friends. One was particularly interesting to me. His name was Raymond. He was my classmate and had spiky hair and a lean body. He loved wearing converse and adored anime. A part of him was similar to me, which was the need to escape from reality and go on an adventure. With these, both of us became close friends and we came up with uncountable plans of routes to places in school which were forbidden. We would come up with maps of certain areas in the school which we wanted to explore and spend the entire class trying to figure out scenarios which we would get caught in and how to counter them. This took away the boredom which was so strong in the classroom. By the time we ended the lesson, we would have about five or six pages worth of work, all planned with the utmost precision. All we had to do was to execute it. One thing which was intriguing was the fact that most of our plans were to get to hidden staircases around the school. We were somehow fascinated at the thought of entering these staircases. We didn’t expect anything, but the thought of just finding them creates a wave of excitement through our bodies.
Before I met Raymond, I would go the multi-purpose outdoor court, which was usually vacant which allowed me to embrace the lack of human activities. I would sit there and stare blankly at all the classrooms, which were empty for the entire recess. There was this recess prayer session for the Christians in the school, which gave the students a piece of bread for attending the session. I would go in to take the bread and then give an excuse to get back to my sanctuary almost every recess period. With these, I went through five years of primary school sitting on the outdoor multi-purpose court, with a piece of bread on one hand, all by myself.
I decided to find Raymond, and we decided, over a cup of iced milo, that we would start off our first adventure with a bang, and chose the staircase behind the teachers’ staff room. This place is forbidden to students, which made us wonder why. After following our detailed plan with a tank full of adrenaline, we finally found ourselves staring through a full glass window of the back of the staff room, with the destination to our right. There was a sign on the door leading to the staircase which read ‘Do Not Enter’ to the school, but ‘Please Enter’ to us. “ After you,” Raymond whispered to me. I could feel the suspense in the air, and as my hand reached for the ice cold door handle, a deafening scream burst the bubble of suspense surrounding us. Both of us turned around and realised that it was our discipline master, Mr. Tan. Without hesitation, I opened the door and pulled Raymond in with me and we locked the door. In between the heavy panting, the scream of Mr. Tan pierced through the wood of the door and travelled straight into our ears. We exchanged worried looks, wondering hard if we had come up with an escape plan for this particular scenario. “Let’s go downstairs, which should lead to the back of the canteen and then we can escape there,” suggested Raymond. It wasn’t much of a suggestion, as we did not have any other option. We sprinted down the stairs, jumping down to the end of the flight with five steps to go and landing with a loud thud every time we reached the bottom of each flight of stairs. “Out here!” I pulled open the door, only to realise that it is locked. “Ah, shit.” “I guess we have to stay here, wait it out I guess,” Raymond suggested, with a strong hint of disappointment in his voice. Feeling dejected, we sat there on the stairs, heads down and knees up to our chests, our heavy panting echoing throughout the staircase.
That was the first of many of the young adventures Raymond and I had in our Primary school days. And that was five years ago. Now, I am standing at the top of the flight of stairs, the same one which echoed all of our memories, the same one which started my adventure in my otherwise boring Primary school days. All these years, this particular staircase sparked something in my life, making my miserable younger days better to some extent. I smiled, but it was short lived. A part of my past came rushing back immediately, causing me to tumble down the flight of stairs. It was a part of my past which I never wanted to remember, a part of my past which I wanted to move on from, a part of my past which I was extremely afraid of bringing it back.
Raymond, my ‘best friend’, was my adventure partner. However, there were a lot of problems which made our relationship as friends tense. He wasn’t exactly a good influence on my general well-being, as he was constantly involved in trouble outside of school. I didn’t think of it much back then, as I thought that as long as he did not cause me any trouble and as long as I was having fun it would be all right. I was wrong. There were two sides to Raymond, and the school Raymond was toned down, while the out of school Raymond never held anything back and that was what exactly caused me to carry that bag of regrets everywhere I go, weighing me down. First, it was small issues, like stealing from the school bookshop just for the fun of it. However, with each adventure, the activities became more daring, and there was one time where it was no longer fun and games, where my entire life changed.
We were on one of those adventures, but this time it involved doing something more dangerous than any other twelve years old would ever do in their right mind. Our school was designed in such a way that it was a like a lego brick but hollow in the middle. The classrooms filled up the perimeter of the building, which was seven stories high. Being the oldest in the school, our class was situated on the highest floor. Realising that the railings circling the edge of the corridors were under repair, Raymond had an idea. We were going to jump from one side of the building to the opposite end. In between the two ends was a seven story drop and a fish pond right smack in the middle. “Are you up for it? I mean, you only live once right?” He spoke, with an unusually high level of confidence in his voice. I noticed it immediately, and I knew why he did that. He tried to cover up his inner self which was extremely scared. He always had to portray himself as one who was daring, and never one who would back down from anything. While it is kind of a good thing for others, it was not the case for Raymond. I was nervous. I was only twelve years old, I had plenty to live for and this could potentially end all of it. “Fine, I’ll go first then,” Raymond said, after realising that I was caught in my own world. “Hey, you sure about this?” “This is what we live for right? Adventures.” I turned around and closed my eyes, as I couldn’t look at him make that jump.
I heard a scream, followed by a loud splash. My worst fears came rushing to my head. Did he make it? Please don’t die. Please don’t die. Please don’t die. I turned around and looked across the building. There was no sign of him. “Oh my goodness! Raymond! Shit, shit, shit.” I took a look down to the pond. There he was, floating on the surface of the pond with his back facing me. There was a group of people surrounding the pond, and there were several screams and a security guard came rushing towards the pond, and called the police. The next few weeks which followed was the toughest time of my life. I went through investigations, counselling and constant trips to the police stations and counselling centres were made. I was distraught, and completely at a lost. Losing my supposedly best friend, especially for someone who was never sociable, is an extremely difficult process to go through. It was so tough I almost committed suicide three times in the following months after that incident.
I spent long hours locked in my room thinking hard about what happened. I blamed it on myself, not being able to be a better influence on him, not being able to be a good friend and tell him what was right and what was wrong, not being able to stop his untimely death. Even though I knew about his troubles, I never once did anything to try to help him. If only I had just tried. It didn’t matter if it didn’t work, at least I know that I did my part as a friend. Now I have to live with this regret.
Fortunately, five years after that incident, I am able to move on, I am able to learn from my mistake I made as a friend. This staircase was exactly what I needed to help me move on from that incident completely. It served as both a start and an end to our friendship. I guess that why we can climb both up and down the stairs, as we are able to use each mistake we committed in the past to help us in our journey up the stairs, one step at a time or we could be stuck at the bottom of the flight of stairs after every mistake we make, and live our entire life down there, at the bottom.
I picked myself up after that tumble, took a deep breath and started my ascend up that flight of stairs slowly but surely, removing a mistake I made in my past from my bag of regrets for every step I take up that flight of stairs.