We drove all night. I stretched out in the back seat and caught as much sleep as I could while Deon listened to Dylan tapes as he drove. It felt homey to fall asleep to “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” It was starting to get light when Deon dropped me off at YOTO early Saturday morning. Everybody was asleep.
I was glad no one was there to greet me. It gave me a chance to find my own way back.
I fixed a pot of chili, and while it simmered, I took a shower, washing off the travel-grime.
So, I’m back for a new year: Junior year.
After my breakfast of chili, I headed upstairs to my bed. All the other beds had sleeping people in them, but my bed was empty. It had been reserved for me. I slept really well.
When I woke, it was noisy. Somebody was playing the video arcade game. Someone was playing the keyboard. A stream of joking voices and laughter rose up from the kitchen and lobby.
There were kids everywhere.
I’d been looking forward to seeing Nadja, Amy, and Marquise. And it would be OK to see Xavier again.
But there were all these kids living here now that I didn’t even know.
Xavier made some kind of snide remark about “the return of the hermit.” I didn’t appreciate it, but I guess if he’s gonna be him, he’s gonna be him.
“Where’s Amy?” I asked Marquise.
“She’s in Fort Sill, probably doing about a million push-ups right about now,” Marquise said.
Turns out Amy took a bunch of classes over the summer to make up missing credits, and she graduated in July, participating in the Summer Graduation ceremony at her school, and then she joined the army. The Army.
It felt weird that Amy was out of here, and I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. We weren’t really close–or even friends. But I admired her. I’d been hoping to make friends with her this year.
I wondered if I’d be able to make friends with any of the new people.
Maddy’s got a style similar to mine.
She asked me where I’d spent the summer, and when I told her about my experiences in the high country, she thought it sounded cool.
Nadja found me in the study later that afternoon.
“Lotta changes,” she said.
“Yeah,” I admitted.
“The new kids are cool,” she said. “You should give them a chance.”
“OK,” I agreed. And I really will. I’ll do my best.
“But even still,” Nadja said, “no one will mind if you to take all the time alone you need.”
I’m so glad somebody else understands. I just can’t be with people all the time.
I spent the rest of the afternoon alone in the study, writing and doing some research, looking for track programs at colleges with good botany degrees.
Then, when I went to get a snack before bed, Maddy was sitting at the counter.
“So, you like it here?” I asked her.
“Yeah,” she said. “Beats the alternative.”
Then we talked about music. She likes Prince and Dylan and all the old classics that I like, too. She wants to be a singer in the old folk tradition but with a new slant. I think she’s pretty cool.