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  • Writer's pictureRochelle Estrada

Sleepwalker

Updated: Apr 15, 2023



With a crinkled nose and squinted lids, I looked at the jail cell that is my school building.


Air would enter my mouth through my teeth as I bit my tongue to prevent any words from coming out. I knew my words and protests would serve to be a knife that gashes into my lungs, being in a classroom already felt like having my head inside a guillotine.


I shuffled as I felt my black polo tape itself onto my skin and my khakis suffocating my knees and thighs. No matter how much cologne I applied on myself, it didn’t remove the dust coating my clothes from the searing summer days in Phoenix, Arizona, and the pungent odors of oil surrounding my clothes from the months it rotted in a basement of a factory. My mom got my clothes as a hand-me-down from one of her male friends that gets paid well. She has a lot of friends, too many.


I felt the firm grip of my dad’s hands on my shoulder. His hands were hard, with broad fingers and nails as thick and ridged as little clam shells. His fingers were torn with blisters and the hems of his hands had calluses; they were the hands of a factory worker who overworks to make a living for our family.


“Do good in school, Isaac.”


I heard the baritones that came out of my dad’s mouth and felt my shoulder become stitched feathers again.


My eyes stared at the building that was as old as Arizona itself. Phoenix Union High School is considered a landmark that holds the memories of passing generations with every campus and classroom; yet for me, it’s nothing more than withered columns and false pristine. I almost wanted to be one of those columns because if I was, I would be able to fulfill the desires of my parents of spending my time in school without actually having to enter.


I never understood why I’m meant to be here; my parents say it’s so I can have a future that is better than what they could ever have. The logic may not be valid to me, but I don’t want to be a disappointment to them. Yet my legs have become tree stumps. My eyes desired to become closed gates with no view of the other side so I didn’t have to witness the building’s monstrosities. I couldn’t escape the urge to want to close my eyes the entire time I would be here.


So, that’s exactly what I did.


I felt the marbled floors freeze my soles from the broken heels of my shoes when I entered the building. My nose took in the funky odors that are like rotting onions crinkling under immense sunlight as I passed bodies that would shove my own. It made my eyes start to water.


My body would sway as I kept moving forward and feeling the pushing of students and faculty around me. My lips curved upwards hearing the complaints and aggravation of those around me. I felt the bumps of opened lockers and would be halted feeling a locker slam into my face. I kept walking.


“Dude, open your eyes and get out of the way!”


“Get a walking stick!”


“Are you blind?”


The questions only made me more amused. My ears took in the booming of rumbled voices talking about pointless topics, the screeches of rubber-soled sneakers sliding against the floor, the slams of basketballs bouncing on the ground, and the clicks of doors opening from stairwells and classrooms.


After a while, I started stretching my hands forward and feeling the murky air coming down from our ventilation. It was thick, and I felt myself start to sweat. I still kept walking and allowed the bitterness surrounding me to become my compass.


“Mr. Davis, are you sleepwalking?”


It was the principal.


The heat of steamed business suits, the nauseating sprays of Versache Eros, and the crunches of candy mints are right in front of me. I remained still, feeling my fingertips touch one of his suit buttons. I could hear the grunts he is attempting to hold back from witnessing a student that has made his day start to sour.


“Open your eyes now and go to class.”


I pretended to contemplate. I moved my hands to touch my chin, letting my fingers stroke my jawline repeatedly. I heard his breath sharpen. “You have five seconds to open your eyes Mr. Davis, or you will be going to my office.” I continued my movements; his aggravation has always made my time here more tolerable. I sighed.


“I can’t, I’m a sleepwalker.”


My arms were gripped tightly, and I felt my body being dragged by stomps and aggressive tugs. Eventually, the door to his office opened and I was placed on a chair. I stayed in that chair for a while. The principal’s lectures about me abusing the term sleepwalker lulled inside one of my ears canals and came out from the opposite end. I was aware that I am not a typical sleepwalker, and that being in a state of somnambulism is not meant to be a joking matter. What I wasn’t aware of is that his voice began to fade at some point, and everything went black.


“Isaac, wake up.”


It was my dad. He sounded like he was tired, I could imagine that he looked that way as well. I felt the metal handles of the chair that I remember feeling when I sat down at the principal’s office.


I’m still here. My eyes stayed closed. I anticipate my dad’s next words to be a lecture about his disappointment in my mistakes and to spend the next week being grounded. Little did I know, I would be wrong, and his next words would bring me victory.


“Let’s go, we’re going home.”


My eyes opened.


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