|Artwork by Jacob D., Grade 8|
The day is March 13th. It’s currently lunchtime, but I’m staying in Mr. K’s room to review before a math quiz. I’ve heard the rumors about a new pandemic arising globally, but like everyone else, I did not think much of it… until ten seconds later.
“Rayan, the championship game’s canceled”, my teammate, Jack hollered across the hallway while I was peering at my notebook through the open door of my dark green locker. I quickly put my notebook down and ran towards Jack.
“No way, you’re kidding me,” I said in desperation.
“No joke,” he replied, “They’re having a team meeting in the cafeteria, but since we stayed in we could not hear any of it; the only reason I found out was when I was picking up my lunch." My heart felt as if all the possible anxiety and stress just arrived… and I had a math quiz in 20 minutes. Great, great stuff Rayan, I thought to myself with a small hope that I was dreaming, and this news had not struck me as the freight train it was. I started walking back towards Mr. K’s classroom.
“I heard your little championship game got canceled; that’s unfortunate,” Mr. K said with a smirk indicating his usual sarcasm. I ignored and tried to start and focus on my geometry terms. 30-60-90 Triangle Theorem and Properties, I slowly read to myself. I could not remember any of the theorems nor any of the properties. This sums up the day pretty well, can’t wait to blank out on the quiz in five minutes because of the uncertainty of our game, I enviously thought. The bell rang and immediately, I stepped out of the classroom to try to gather more information on the situation from my friends and teammates. I saw our team captain Jake, who also happened to be in math class with me, walking towards the classroom.
“Jake is the game off?” I said enthusiastically, eager for a quick response.
“Yeah, it’s actually off bro; it’s BS,” Jake replied. I quickly nodded and stepped into class, so I was not counted as late for the period. I was still processing everything that happened. The quiz was a complete blur; I still have no recollection of how it went since we never got it back due to the pandemic. My last and final class for the day was Spanish. I waddled through the hallways, avoiding eye contact with everyone in my way. Nothing was out of the routine in Señora Kincus’s 7th-period class. Señora gave the players on the team kind words of encouragement as always, but I still could not believe I was going home on the bus in 20 minutes. The whole atmosphere was a bummer. I tried my best to focus, but as the bell rang, I just wanted to do my best to get out of there. My arm slowly pushed against the door as I exited with everyone else behind me; eager to get home as well.
“Don’t forget about our quiz on Tuesday!” I heard Señora say on our way out. No one acknowledged it and the class at large kept sauntering on their way to the locker areas. Little did everyone know this was the last time they would see their lockers for an exceedingly long time.
Beep Beep Beep, my alarm rang. I slowly got up and clicked the “Stop Alarm” button on my phone. My body ached from the chest and legs; I could feel the stiffness in my bones and body. I eventually gathered enough willpower to get up and get ready for the day ahead. In the moment, I was not expecting to arrange anything significant, solely go to the gym for a little bit, watch TV, read part of my summer reading book. I started walking downstairs and peered at my phone that read “11:29 AM.” I quickly ate breakfast and asked my dad to drop me off to the gym for a few hours.
“Remember your mask,” my dad hollered from the car. I grabbed my mask, bag, and water bottle and left for the car. 20 minutes later, I stepped out of the car and headed towards the YMCA entrance. I’m going to try to lift for the initial 30 minutes then conclude with basketball for the preceding hour or so, I thought with speculation in my mind. I entered the fitness center with a not so pleasant greeting,
“You need your mask on upon entrance, please.” Ah yes, I partially forgot about the fact that we remain in a worldwide pandemic that could not escape anyone’s mind or actions. Slightly embarrassed, I place my mask on and secured it to be above my nose. Almost everyone had a mask on; some maintained it hanging down below their mouth while using workout machines which was understandable. I remember thinking to myself, wow this is the world we live in at the moment. Masks everywhere on every occasion. Restrictions on restrictions. You could not escape the virus. Its remnants are with you wherever you go and whenever you go. I could not believe looking back that this was only believed to be like a 2-week minor inconvenience. Nobody would’ve thought that it would’ve extended to everyone looking like surgeons and some going to the extent of hazmat suits.
I ended up only lifting for 20 minutes in the beginning because I saw friends working out on the courts. When I exited, I was sweating, and my hands were closely clenched on my water bottle which only had a few more sips left to offer to my drained body. By the time my ride pulled up to the entrance, it was empty, and I slumped down in my seat and grabbed a Gatorade from the side holders next to me. When I returned home, it was 4 pm sharp. After an hour of sitting on my phone, I honestly did not feel too tired. I asked some neighborhood friends if they wanted to bike around for a little bit. They agreed and by 5:30 we were all together. We did not know what direction we were going; we just kept going down random roads and crossing streets on our bikes till I pointed out that we were on Holicong Road. We all looked at each other; no food nor water, like scavengers eager to find something of value. The boredom of the pandemic and all the closings had gotten to us. I quickly took out my phone and pulled up Google Maps to make sure we were going the proper direction. We started along the road with our bikes slowly but surely making it up the first hill of the 14 long miles ahead of us.
After thirty minutes of biking along and across a few more busy roads and unnecessarily fast motorcyclists, we arrived at an intersection away from the big “H” at the front of Holicong. As I looked behind, I could observe even bikers wearing a mask, and a few people in their cars had masks on as well. That’s how everything was now; precautious with face coverings on and it’s something everyone had gotten accustomed to. When we ultimately got to Holicong, we biked down the empty parking lot only to make a loop near the gym entrance. We could see the empty football field, which still had remnants in my mind of the packed games that everyone has gone to at least once in their high school years. I restrained for a few seconds to regain my breath while my friend was already going ahead and back into the road to consider making it home before it got dark. That’s additionally the moment I recognized that water is always essential on bike rides and we suffered a lack thereof. I gradually positioned my foot on the pedal, turned the gear down a few levels, and started pedaling back the way we started. Brutally tired and hungry, we all just wanted food and some kind of beverage. No one had any cash or masks so there was no chance to pick up anything at the Wawa nearby. We undertook the hasty journey back and by the time everyone said their farewells, I was exhausted. I ran into my house and snatched the first piece of candy and bottle of water I laid sight on. I reflected on the extended, perilous day and thought about how different life was from that one random Friday in March; to now with millions of lives impacted in one way or another. A day for the history books, I thought with a hushed silence throughout the house.
|Artwork by Anya M., Grade 9|
Books are like Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Michelangelo’s David sculpture; they are simply works of art. We seem to take for granted the true power of books, painting a picture in our minds, forming a true friendship with the characters, and tearing apart our emotions: sadness, joy, or anger. The authors are the artists, creating magical, vivid masterpieces with every word. When you read, you get lost in the author’s world, walking beside the characters, seeing and feeling everything they do. Books are not just for reading, they are for experiencing.
I could see the crisp, white moon through my window, floating in the endless black sky. The lamp next to me emits its soft glow, following me as I climb into bed. I place The City of Ember on my lap, opening to where the fading blue bookmark stood. My eyes scroll through the pages and soon, I am lost in my book. As I wander through the pages, my heart beats faster. I hold my breath as I turn the page, too excited to see what would happen next. My eyelids start to flutter, like a monarch butterfly’s soft, delicate wings. I shove the bookmark between the stiff pages, toss the book carelessly onto the floor, and fall fast asleep, like a cat resting in the sun.
Never before had I encountered a book so engaging, one that I just could not put down. I never realized that just a few simple pages of words could suck you in so deeply and never let you out. The City of Ember helped me appreciate books much more than I had before, opening my eyes to other, more advanced novels I would read in the future. It allowed me to read with a clear, open mind, a fresh canvas awaiting the brush strokes filled with color. Now, I finally saw how incredible books could be.
There I sat on the rough, forest green carpet, my legs crossed and my back straight as a pencil, ready for the story to begin. Finally, the teacher sat in the rocking chair, white flakes of paint chipping off from past adventures she had read. She opened the book and began to read, her loud yet soothing voice, echoing through the classroom. Page after page, my eyes grew wider, like a bright yellow sunflower blooming in the morning light. I was filled with joy as a smile inched across my face. My sticky 8-year-old hands clenched my Cotton Candy lollipop, getting smaller with every lick. My entire class stood still, too engaged in our story to say a word. The room was silent, like a dark forest on a windless night, not even the wolves howled at the moon.
|Artwork by Olivia Z., Grade 9|
Although I was in second grade at the time, this particular book still sticks with me. I realized for the first time how an author can draw a picture in your mind through their astonishing words. I finally began to learn that books were not just ordinary pieces of paper, they were truly works of art. This book placed so many images in my head that it almost felt as if I were there. I could feel Ivan’s silky black fur between my fingers and Ruby’s trunk brushing against my arm. I never knew a book could do that until I read The One and Only Ivan; it helped me discover author’s beautiful imagery in many novels I would read throughout my life.
Books can teach you a lot of things, like how to connect with the characters or how to imagine what the author is writing, but most importantly, they teach us the power of words. Words can break us, comfort us, engage us, and help us experience life with the characters. Words can do anything, both good and bad, we just have to appreciate and live everything the author gives us. Without powerful words, books would be nothing, the beach without sand or the sky without birds. Books need valuable words, or else, they will drift away, like a lost shell, vanishing into the endless sea.