Saturday 24 June 2023

'Youth of America' by Bethany Jarmul

We dread the alarm clock. We tolerate our mothers’ shrill voices, the wrinkled clothes in baskets. We enjoy the crunch of cereal, the sound of spoon scraping bowl. We dread the weight of our backpacks. We tolerate the school bus, the honking, the sticky leather seats. We don’t mind our names read aloud. We respond with “here.” We tolerate the roar of the lunch room, the gym’s sharp smell—body odor and basketballs. Some of us like tubas, trumpets, and trombones. Some of us prefer baseball or soccer. We detest the locker rooms. We tolerate the locker combinations and short lunch periods. We enjoy love notes folded into triangles or texted with heart emojis. We dread the pop quizzes, the spelling bees, the stand-in-front-of-everyone speeches. We’re curious about the beakers, Bunson burners, and toxic chemicals in blue or green. We detest the whispers, the rumors scrawled in permanent marker in the bathroom stalls. We tolerate the fire drills—hordes of humans pouring from the building like ants. We’re not afraid of the active shooter drills. We’re not afraid of the dark. We’re not afraid of hiding underneath our desks, squeezing into storage closets, pushing desks against the door. We fear the day it’s not a drill. We fear a man or woman or teenager. We fear a gun—a pistol, a hunting rifle, a semi-automatic. We fear our cell phones going dead. We fear our teachers forced to be heroes. We fear holding a friend’s hand while they bleed out from a mangle of skin. We fear forgetting the first-aid we learned in health class. We fear not keeping a level head while our hearts are galloping. We dread the alarm, the clock. We wonder—is everyone afraid to die?

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