I don’t know what it is about writing that makes you so thirsty. I raised my hand and asked the teacher if I could go to the drinking fountain. She nodded. I rose from my desk. Hands at my side (as we were told to walk). Opened the wood door quietly, then raced down the hall. There’s something about an empty hall that makes you want to run. A drink of water shouldn’t take that long, but it was so much more than that. There was the water pressure. Always different. Each time you went to the white porcelain fountain, it offered up a new arc of water. Sometimes it shot completely over your head and landed in hair. Sometimes, you found yourself sucking on the silver spout. (How did we survive this?) It was as if the janitor was playing his own game of fountain roulette. And then there was the swirl of the water as it glistened down the drain. Round and round. In an empty hall, you could almost hear it. With all of these distractions, it was hard to say how long I was gone. I tiptoed back into the classroom. Mrs. Paulson gave a startled look, like she couldn’t believe she forgot I was gone, but, well, here I was again, so no harm done. All the desks were once again filled and we continued learning cursive. They were on the t’s now. T? When did I leave? Maybe P? or Q? Did I miss the letter S. I did. How do you make that? Looks a little like a duck? A big duck, and a little duck? Mrs. Paulson was moving through the letters so quickly. I had to cut my losses and move ahead. I made my S like a printed S, only with a little flare. Yes, that would be my S. I thought it was lovely. My signature S. And I would be able to use it all the time, as my last name ended in S.
I never learned to make the cursive S. I shouldn’t use the word learned here. Of course, if I had to make one, I could do it, right now. But I had my signature S, and I stuck with it. Not to be defiant. I was certainly no rebel. I was claiming a moment. My S. I’m not sure I knew it then, but this was the beginning, how it starts, how a person gathers in pieces, small at first, and begins to mold a life. This moment will be forever clear. This sense of freedom. This moment of being purely me.
Life is so magical. Some days, now, when my heart is open as wide as it can be, I am running down an empty hall, free from all constraints, racing with wonder, creating my own alphabet, racing with joy, building a soul, with my own cursive flare.