Monday, January 13, 2014

The Secret Life of an Honors Student

It's 10:55 P.M. on a Sunday night. She knows better than to play music to keep herself awake. Her family will hear, and if they wake up, than means another lecture. She can't afford to waste that time. She's got an English essay due in eight hours, her science fair board isn't even started yet, and there's extra credit to do in math so she can bump her B+ up to something decent.
She sips her coke and sets it down atop her chemistry book, wary of how the papers are stacked. She spent three hours on that packet and can't afford to ruin it. Wait, was that due tomorrow? Or was it the science fair outline? She reaches for her phone to check but doesn't bother. All her friends are asleep at this hour. Asleep, or maybe curled up on the couch with a fuzzy blanket and the soft drone of the TV. She spies her jacket on the floor and wraps it around her legs. As if that will help.
She stares at the blinking cursor and tries to come up with an opening paragraph. When she looks again, it's 11:17. Eager for a distraction, she grabs the Tylenol from the first shelf of the medicine cabinet where she last left it. The bottle goes into her jacket pocket. She'll need it tomorrow in first period. You can't read the board with a migraine. On second thought, she'll take some now. And more coke.
Maybe they'll have a PowerPoint tomorrow in history, she thinks. She pulls her knees to her chest and lets the computer chair spin. That's a twenty minute nap. No, it's right before math. She needs that time to finish up problems seventeen through nineteen.
Math. Was that what she's working on? No, the essay first. Her eyes fall shut. The cursor blinks back.  She smashes her face into the keyboard in case that will help. Surprisingly, it doesn't. She raises her head and types a quick introduction sentence.
The coke is empty and her bladder is full. She takes her science folder into the bathroom and balances it on her knees. There. Four more electron diagrams dotted. She sets it on the counter and runs her hands under the water, barely noticing how hot it is. The water helps but doesn't do enough. She finds some nail scissors and runs the curved tip down her left wrist. She's careful not to draw blood. That would drip on the history packet. She simply needs a way to stay awake and there's no more coke.
Maybe she just needs motivation. She curls up on the tile with her head against the door. She thinks of those starving children in third world countries who make bricks to feed their families. Those children can't name the imports, exports, and demographic transition stage of their country. They don't have a quiz on Thursday. They'd swap places with her in an instant, she knows. She doesn't deserve to sulk like this, she knows. She should stop thinking and get back to working. She knows that.
What about her life? What's the worst thing that can happen to her? She goes to a mediocre college and doesn't graduate cum laude. She gets a job as a telemarketer or some other decent enough job instead of...what did she want to do again? Not law school, not medical school, not Yale or Harvard or Princeton. Just a nice expensive college so she has an excuse to apply for scholarships, keep her grades up, and study hard.
That's all she knows how to do.
Her phone chimes. Is that some valiant classmate texting her a homework reminder? Did she send that last text after all? No, it's her alarm. 6:03 A.M. Twenty seven minutes to finish her essay, run a comb through her hair, zip the jacket over her pajamas, and make it to the bus on time. Math. Yes, she can do math on the bus. She can do math anywhere.
Breakfast will come from the vending machine down the hall. Somewhere, somehow she'll find enough spare moments to finish everything. Then it's home on the bus again. Track until four, work until ten, and then her nocturnal day starts over again.
That's all she knows how to do.


  1. There needs to be a like button for blogs like this , and still it wouldn't be appreciation enough for the effective translation of the feelings of us teens . I have been following this blog for quite a long time and haven't been able to disagree with any of the posts till now. "Adults" even though (they say so)have gone through the same phase of life fail to understand our true situations most times forget the facts that once even they had felt the same way and would've done much better with a little more encouragement and that our generation is different and pretty more complicated than theirs . Everything seems good and fair to them, forgetting the amount of pressure and stress they are putting on to us while relieving most of theirs. I would just like to say that I love the way you express and represent today's teenagers. It couldn't have been better.
    Regards ,
    Your Indian Follower (Naina)

    1. Yay, someone in India knows I exist. Glad you enjoyed it.