The split second that a soundly sleeping person is woken up too early is one of profound fear and confusion.
“Why am I being woken up so early?” the body asks. “What is so damned important that it can’t wait till I’ve gotten my full eight hours?”
And then it is the brain’s turn to fill the body in on that grand thing called reality and all of the responsibilities that come with it. The responsibility that morning was Senior Sunrise or, rather, that I would need to go to it.
For those yet unacquainted with the tradition, here’s the gist: the incoming seniors are encouraged to get to school a few hours early by pancakes and (theoretically) the chance to watch the sunrise with all of their classmates.
My mother’s responsibility that morning was to drive me to school, as I can still cannot drive at the age of 17. The reasons for this are numerous, but it’s mostly due to laziness.
The campus was deserted, save for an empty table and a griddle, which I could only assume would be the source of the aforementioned pancakes.
I walked out towards the blacktop and saw a group of two dozen teenagers swaddled in blankets sitting on those white folding chairs the school seems to use for everything.
All the information I had been provided told me to arrive by 6:30 a.m., but apparently I was the last to arrive. There were still a few people missing, but they would eventually prove to be no-shows.
My friend Maxwell Shukuya said that we wouldn’t be able to see the sun—something about mountains, or trees or whatever. I was told that there had been some prettiness in the sky a few moments before I arrived.
Most of them hadn’t seen me since last June, but you wouldn’t know it from the way we talked. The conversation was more akin to friends coming back to school from a long weekend than a group of kids coming back together for their last “first day of school.”
I’ve never been much for nostalgia. It’s pretty much every day that you do something for the last time. I mean, the next day would be the last second day of school, but you don’t see anybody getting emotional over that.
After five minutes or so passed, groups of people got up and began to make their way over to the quad. Apparently, it was breakfast time.
The concept of a Senior Sunrise is nothing original to our school. I’m not quite sure how it works elsewhere, but I think it has something to do with the bonding-through-trauma effect of waking up at an ungodly hour with a couple hundred of your closest acquaintances.
But no amount of pancakes or sunrises could cause me to bond with my classmates.
That was something that had happened over years. Over trips and classes. Over failures and successes. For some, it had simply come from growing and learning together for more than a decade.
As the sky got lighter and our interest in pancakes and coffee waned, people broke off from the group. We didn’t have to be back until around 9 a.m., so some went off to sleep in their cars or go head out to parts unknown (most likely to get more coffee).
It would, in about three hours, be business as usual at Country Day.