A Stranger Goes to Her Grave(s)
The walk from Stevens House to Graves Hall is pretty much a straight line, or so I’m told. Stevens isn’t very much to look at, with its low roof and dark hallways, but it’s nice enough. The hill leaving the dorm is short but steep—I have to lean forward a little to comfortably balance my heavy backpack. Two chickens cluck nearby, one black and the other spotted gold, and I wonder why there are chickens running around a prep school campus. Both have beady eyes and, for some reason, do not flee when I approach them. I dangle my keys in front of me and both eagerly approach, perhaps thinking that I am feeding them, or perhaps fascinated by the shiny object. They lean their heads toward it eagerly, standing only a foot away from me as they strain for the metal keys. I shake my head, chuckle a bit, and then feel bad for teasing them. As I proceed up the hill, they take off like shots into the street and bawk at a passing car. Daredevils, I tell you. These chickens have no fear.
On my walk, I pass a large building that never ends and another dorm identical to the one I just left. The chickens are now bobbing their way towards it. I briefly consider asking someone if it is normal for chickens to be running around, but no passersby has batted an eye, so I ignore them once again. The next building I come across seems to try too hard. A candy-apple red brick path leads to an austere-looking inn with tall columns and a big glass door. Jazz music is playing for the guests that sit on the patio, most likely because the inn workers think that playing jazz music makes the Andover Inn classy and refined. I think that the fact that the inn sits on the campus of a prestigious prep school in a wealthy town would do that, but I’m sure the jazz music really puts it on the cutting edge, as far as inns go.
I stop across the street from the church, a little surprised that there is one. Grey steps lead to four columns and more red brick, which support a mint-green spire. On the other side of a short stone wall to my left, students lounge, play Frisbee, and, for lack of a better term, canoodle. Most of them look older. I swear, some of them could be twenty. I feel like a baby.
I finally arrive at the Main Street light and wait patiently for a walk sign. When it appears, a loud chirping sound fills the air and for one moment, it drowns out the sound of the real birds I had been hearing my whole walk. Before I cross, another car manages to slip past me, and I am momentarily taken aback—that guy just ran a red light! I’m alone at the crosswalk, though, and there’s no one to tell or raise my eyebrows at. So I keep walking, my destination in sight.
Finally, I see it. Graves Hall. It’s beautiful, in an old-building sort of way. It doesn’t have an air of pretentiousness, like the inn I saw earlier, and it’s not nearly as chicken-infested as the bomb shelter-like dorm I left. It has a few stairs leading up to the door and, like nearly every other building on campus, red brick. I climb up the front stairs, and then down another flight once I’m inside. It’s hot. Stuffy. A little musty. But I like it there. I hear the sweet sound of violins—no, violas— somewhere down the hall. Someone behind a paper-thin wall mumbles to herself as she strikes keys on a piano. “One-e-and-a-two-e-and-a-three-e-and-a-shootthat’snotright.” I can hear them start again, and then again. Someone skillfully practices arpeggios on a flute, and I suddenly remember why I made this trek in the first place. I go to locker 16 (which has a broken lock), pull out a flute, and pick a tiny room at the end of the hall. A window overlooks my path, straight down the line. I shut the door and finally put the cool metal to my lips. I breathe into my flute to warm it up, and my instrument makes a tiny chirp.