I remember taking refuge in the calm dark that surrounded me. The familiar smell of books and old paper, dust, stale air, chalk, the ink for the duplicator, the filthy carpet, the smell of wooden floors and floor polish coming in with the draft from the narrow stairs. There is always a draft despite all the tall windows being shut and covered. There was the distant sound of traffic and other city noises. And none of it needed any light.
The building had a voice of its own too. Cracking of wooden beams and floors. Squeaking doors and roofs. Rattling tiles and pipes. And I was spooked by every sound the priests made as they moved about in their residence. The very same building, only separated from where I was by a double hinged door on both floors. In the basement the two parts of the building were not separated at all. Likewise in the attic. Those doors were an addition of more recent times I would guess.
I heard their part of the building go quiet though, very soon after lunch hour. Maybe they were in prayer. Or asleep.
I was so tired. I was so hungry. On earlier occasion we had set ourselves up a comfortable place in the editors room of the school newspaper, with some gymnastics mats we dragged in from the gymnasium, and some spare curtains we found back stage at the auditorium. That now provided me with something to sleep on this coming night at least and maybe a little while longer. I knew I could not stay here for ever, but now would do. But first I needed something to drink, and some food too.
I went downstairs to the school cafeteria and scavenged about a bit. I did manage to find some edible stuff. Not much, but it would do fine. Some fruits even. Later on I might check out the teachers quarters if they were not locked. See if there was anything left behind that I might take if I dared.
I was tempted. This empty building. All that space dedicated to teaching. To passing knowledge from one generation to the next. I loved the place. I could not resist being there as I was, and I started to explore unsupervised. Most of the classrooms were locked. Occasionally a broom closet was left open, but that was all there was to it. The offices of both the rector and his deputy were locked too. The teachers quarters were unlocked though, but I found I was not able to go in. I just looked through the opened door before closing it again, carefully.
Then I found the attic over the history classrooms was unlocked. What a treasure! It was the room used to watch episodes of school television and films and slide shows and such with larger groups. Discuss them afterwards. It was the room where I received my first formal sex education. But also where I got to see a startling slide show on the subway of Saint Petersburg, which I found to be, quite honestly, an infinitely more interesting subject altogether.
I looked everywhere. Opened all the cupboards. Looked into all the drawers of all the desks. Looked behind all the boards, looked at notebooks I found. I loved it. All those topics and random notes and ideas. Beautifully wild, like a bunch of flowers coming from a field in the summer.
After some enjoyable moments in that attic I left the room again as I found it and closed the door behind me. The stairs were awfully creaking going down again, but this room was at the very far end away from the priests residence, so I was not too worried about it.
Then I had another idea. I went back to ground level and went to the gymnasium. It was not locked. I tested the locker and shower room. Those doors were not locked either. I tested the water. It ran. I walked back up the hallway a bit, listening carefully. It was not too noisy at all. This might work. As I came back to the shower some hot water was flowing. I closed the tap. I sniffed my armpit. I looked at my nails. I studied the skin of my ankles underneath my socks.
I opened the tap again, stepped out of my shoes, took off my clothes, walked up to the running water and slowly, carefully leaned forward.