The benches are long, maybe long enough for three people. The wood gently scratches my legs as I sit down, but in an oddly comforting manner. A small, intricate fountain made to look like nature is propped up against the wall. Delicately cut wood with intricate vines lightly draped over it, it is a masterpiece few take the time to really look at. The narrow streams of water flow in a manner that is simple, yet inexplicably captivating. The soft sound of the slow flowing water is harmony with the light rumbling of the engines of the vallo school buses outside. Terribly hungry, I can practically smell the mouth-watering meals from the food trucks. I work on a paper, the sound of my pencil scratching away periodically drowned out by the sound of students practicing passionately in the auditorium.
Sometimes I’m there with a friend. Other times I sit alone, my music as my companion. Music is a wonderful substitute for human beings. One can change it to exactly what they want. I could be listening to a musical at one moment but then rapidly switch to something that was perhaps a bit more on the rap side. From Hamilton to Heathers to Hits of 2016, there lay a world of possibilities. After all, why choose when one could just listen to everything their heart desires? Of course where there is music, there is usually singing. Not necessarily good singing, but still singing nonetheless. I can often be heard mumbling along, and while I find my voice to be not-so-appealing, it is drowned out by the music and the students screaming nearby. Music fills a void. One may not necessarily know what missing part of them they are attempting to replace, but the effect is still there nonetheless.
Often enough I’ve sat there with my best friend. Sometimes that’s the only time I’ll get to talk to her. We’d dump our stuff on the benches, the sound of our belongings hitting the wooden seat, echoing through the air. Of course, being the studious child was, she’d aim to accomplish some of her work. Being me, I aimed to distract her, playfully whining for her to entertain me. She’d roll her eyes and shrug me off, but there was always the tiniest hint of a smile on her face as she did so. I’d huff and lay my head on her shoulder, ranting about classes and homework, complaining about the time and gesturing wildly with my arms. She constantly joked about my never ending hunger, taunting me with salty seaweed crackers and sweet biscuits. If I think hard enough, I can still feel the salt flecks and sugar crystals landing on my tongue.
The Memorial Garden has always been a way for me to escape school without really leaving. My belongings scattered along the bench, I prop my feet up on the armrest as it lightly digs into my ankles. Sometimes I throw my head back gently, my music playing faintly in my ears as I attempt to catch a few blissful minutes of sleep. Other times I stare at the fountain, zoning out as I watch the water drip besides the colorful plants that surrounded it. If I listen hard enough, I can hear the soft tapping of students’ shoes as they walked up and down the halls. Occasionally, I can hear peals of laughter and bubbly voices as friends paced the corridors.
Though the garden is home to many wonders, it is not the garden itself that necessarily makes it so special. Sitting on the bench, I am enveloped by numerous memories. Some of these are of times I had to pick up friends. I remember waiting for hours, staring at the auditorium doors hoping that maybe my friend might finish sometime soon so I could just go home. It was boring at times, but waiting was always worth it in the end. Other memories are of times I got closer to people, as we discussed our hopes and dreams, learning small details about our friends. Most of these memories however, are simply of my friends and I sprawled out over the benches, laughing over everything and nothing until our sides ached. Not very much to them, but it was times like those that we truly felt free. It was times like those that we weren’t Bronx Science students, that we weren’t teenagers with hundreds of responsibilities on our shoulders. It was times like those that we were simply people, and it was times like those that we were just happy.
I’ve always wondered how different my life would be without the Memorial Garden. It’s a small area, relocating physically wouldn’t have a large impact on the school itself. Yet, I can’t help but think about how many important moments I’ve experienced there. The tiniest of actions, words, and memories had the largest of impacts. A simple conversation on the benches, words echoing in the halls and laughter bouncing of the walls, could be enough to turn a dreadful day into something worth suffering through. From small interactions with friends to relationship defining experiences, the seemingly insignificant area has been the center point for many memorable moments in my life.
I’ve got a habit of wandering. Wandering around the school, wandering off topic — I suppose I might being doing that right now. It’s how I’ve found some of my favorite spots, but the Memorial Garden has by far been the most life changing place I’ve wandered upon.