Standing on a Blue Dot
October 18th, 2020
I’m standing on a dark blue dot, the same color as my school’s logo. The inner curved soles of my shoes cup the perfectly round paint job. My dot and the sea of others that my classmates are also hugging join the rest of the blemishes that dot the New York pavement outside my school building, namely gum; once elastic and pink, now hardened and blackened by the sun. I look down at the blue dot again and take a tiny step back, my heels now on the pavement and my toes just tipping over the curve of blue, almost as if they’re looking out over a small body of water, perhaps a pond. I imagine ducks skating peacefully on the surface while the snapping turtle lurks where the water turns too dark and menacing. That’s what coming back to school feels like—either you’re standing at the precipice of a pond about to jump in, or you’re a duck gliding across the placid water, leaving ripples as you go. Either way, the threat is always at the bottom, waiting to reemerge.
I look up and try to catch the eye of someone I know. Most of them are also staring at our blue dots, thinking regular back-to-school thoughts in an irregular back-to-school time. I adjust the tote bag on my shoulder. I wave back to someone who, in hindsight, was probably waving to someone behind me. When my temperature is scanned and recorded, the elaborate puzzle begins: when one person is let into the building, a free dot is open for three people. We are shifting pieces in a puzzle, and as the puzzle searches to solve itself, narrated by shuffling and mumbles of you go first and thank yous, the sinking feeling of reality sets in: this is really what school is like now.
I was suddenly overtaken by a feeling that this isn’t what I want: this isn’t supposed to be how my junior year goes. I wanted right then and there to dive into my pond and wait there until I could emerge gasping for air and take a big inhale of the sweet oxygen that lets me hug my friends and write emails without signing off with “Stay Safe!” I didn’t want to be covered by a mask or muted on Zoom anymore. I thought about staying there, not moving from my little blue dot until I was the only one left standing in the wide expanse of the school courtyard. But I hopped to the next dot and the next until I was inside, climbing the dimly lit, fire escape staircase to a room where plastic bins replaced lockers and flimsy drawstring bags replaced backpacks. A place where the humanity of my teachers becomes more and more apparent. A place where masks are handed out like pencils. A place where “school” takes on a whole new meaning entirely.
Each morning I stand on that blue dot, never the same one twice. I let my classmates filter by me into a building I am desperately trying to rekindle my love for. What moves me to take a step is my math teacher’s confident stride into the classroom, ready to solve any problem, even teaching during a pandemic. Or I think of my history teacher’s voice when he talks about Alexander the Great, how his hands become more expressive and his breath becomes short from excitement—not just because of his mask. I imagine my advisor’s worried eyes as she asks us how we’re really doing in her heavy French accent.
We’re all standing on a blue dot, harboring doubts somewhere about our safety, doubts about how worthwhile anything is right now, let alone school. We have to remember what we have. We have to remember—or if not, create a reason—to rip ourselves away from drowning in uncertainty and disappointment for what could have been or what once was. We are just getting our footing when it comes to navigating attending school in a pandemic in this big pond that seems lonely and frightening. We can take our time as long as when we realize that we want to test the waters, we recognize that others have already led the way, and all we have to do is trust and follow. We must choose to take a risk, if not for us, for the people who have already refused to drown.