The note fell out the moment I opened my locker. You’re next. it read, in scratchy, scribbled handwriting. I picked it up and shrug. It was a strange note to leave in someone’s locker, but then again, it was just a strange month. It was the last month of Senior Year and everyone was in a strange mood. Too eager to grow up, too scared for change. We moved through those weeks like we had magnets attached to our body, moving slowly to really attract the details, and gain memories. I tried to shrug off the note as I walked to class, but those two simple words were really gaining my attention. You’re next.
I thought about all the times it had been said to me over my life. You’re next. Like when I awaited my turn for the talent show. Sure, my stand up was heckled on stage, but it really seemed to catch Becky’s attention. You’re next. My mom would say that to me after another one of my perfect sister’s accomplishments. Next year I would place in the science fair, next year I would make the team. I was always second best to her, waiting to follow in her footsteps while being cast in the shadows. I even thought about all the times I would hear it again. You’re next. At weddings, at births, hell maybe even someday at a funeral.
Life was happening. No matter what I did to ignore it, to slow it down, to stop for just a moment life was happening. Life was on deck. Not the life I’ve been living; that hasn’t been life at all. I thought I was living, but I was just doing what I was told. I was tracing through this grand adventure with direction but no passion. My real life was about to happen next. College, marriage, jobs. The real things, the things that really mattered at the end of the day were approaching. I wasn’t sure I was ready quite yet. I didn’t feel I was done being a kid.
I sat down in class, placing the note in my history textbook. Perhaps I’ll never know who wrote the note or what it meant. Maybe all along it was a social experiment to make you think. I’ve been thinking a lot these days, maybe I needed to stop and just accept things as the are. The gunshot rang through the halls as if time was moving through a thick molasses. The seconds felt like minutes after; the ringing of my ears, the bang from the shot, the crescendo of screams. Just like that I stopped being curious at the note and terrified for my life.