Bert and I were late for class, and we started running.
We were already inside a building, which looked strangely like a fancy hotel lobby. We slammed open the gold-rimmed double doors and ran up some stairs. It soon became clear that all this building had were stairs and short hallways. Most sets of stairs looked like it was from Fallon Memorial School in Pawtucket. One set looked like it was from the Harvard T Station.
With Bert to my left, we kept running and running, and we looked like cartoon characters, our heads and bodies leaning forward, our legs converted into a circular blurred wheel of motion.
“214… 214…” one of us said. There were no sign of doors anywhere.
I looked back at Bert and was surprised to see him replaced by Jenny, the most beautiful girl from our high school class. Her face was looking forward, determined not to be late, with a half-smile, as the background of the staircases and hallways whirring by.
I did a double-take. “YOU’RE going to poetry class, TOO??” I said.
“Come ON!” she said, encouraging us to go faster.
I laughed and wrapped my arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer. Our feet were still going and going up the stairs. Soon our wheeling feet were sharing the same axis, as if she was riding a bike and I was riding the back wheel with my hands on her shoulders.
Finally we came across a sign at a T-intersection at the top of the stairs. It had two arrows pointing left and right, each corresponding to a range of room numbers. 214 fit the range on the right. We ran in that direction, where there were more stairs.
We realized we had lost Bert. “He must have gone the other way!” I said.
The stairs here weren’t that wide, more for single-file use. Then I realized it felt like we were on a roller coaster, and we changed from the warp speed of our blurring feet to the clunking, inching forward up a spiral tunnel. We sat together in our car, her in front of me, facing forward. I held her close. I saw her neck, partially bare from her blonde hair, and I started to nibble. More playfully than anything else. In mid-nibble, I stopped and opened my eyes in shock. What was I doing? She’s just a classmate!
Luckily, coincidentally, I noticed something outside the staircase window (the whole wall was glass). To distract her from the nibbling, I said, “Hey, look at that rainbow!” The sky was a sulfur, dark brown, and cloudy, and the rainbow could only be seen if you looked hard enough. It was fuzzy. A double rainbow started to appear next to it.
“Are you sure it’s not us?” Jenny said. At first I wasn’t sure what she meant, but when I looked back at the rainbow, I noticed our reflection superimposed, stretching across the curve in the window.
The roller coaster completed its turn around the spiral staircase and leveled out. Our car was suddenly floating in water. I was aware of other people also half submerged, in their own roller coaster tracks, in this dark cavern.
There was a way out on the other end. When it was our turn to exit the hole, I realized we were high above ground. I could see we were on the other end of the Orono campus, near Public Safety and Chadbourne Hall. We were high above ground. The water emptied us out into a parking lot. It was just after dusk and drizzling.
I found a parking spot far away from the building, from the one that was where Chadbourne Hall is located but it was an altogether different building. It was to the left of the spout we just came out of. We stepped out of the car and collapsed on the gravel ground. We were exhausted. I tied my shoe in the rain, with Jenny slumped over in a dead-tired pose.
I heard a rumble of an engine and looked up to see a black F-150 pickup truck pull up and park on the grass, on the edge of the parking lot near the building. Bert got out of his truck, and I could hear the “more power” grunt he liked to do. I don’t think Bert actually grunted, it just happened. He looked over at us slumped in a pile near a puddle and laughed.
“Let’s go!” he said. We were probably late.
We quickly walked up the stairs to the building, and when I arrived to class, Bert and Jenny were already seated and engrossed in the class’s lesson.