"Hey, shouldn't you be heading to class? It's onthe other side of the school. I heard there's ... "
Before my friendhad a chance to finish her sentence, a big "uh-oh" sign had alreadyflashed in my head. For fear of getting a detention, I urged my legs to runthrough the always-crowded hallways. Having too much fun chatting with myfriends, I had lost track of time and forgotten how far away my next class was.Huffing and puffing, I reached Biology as the bell signalled the start of theperiod.
Whew! Barely made it, I thought as I plopped down in a seat,trying to catch my breath.
"Sientante ... andale, andale!" Dr.Jang, my teacher, yelled, clapping his hands, speaking in Spanish to catch theclass's attention.
When everyone was seated, Dr. Jang cheerfully told us,"Instead of going on to chapter 44, I decided to let you guys dissect acow's eye today."
This announcement was received with mixedreactions. Some were ex-cited but others, including me, thought it was just plainhorrible.
I disliked everything about dissecting - the rusty scalpel andsurgical scissors, the smell of latex gloves, and most of all, the gore. Havingno choice, I sighed and tried to find a group that would perform the dissectionand allow me to sit and watch.
While I busied myself putting on thetight-fitting latex gloves, Dr. Jang walked from table to table with the bucketof doom. To make things worse, the specimens were submerged in formalin, whichreeked with the most terrible smell you can imagine.
To avoid reachinginto the bucket, I pretended to fix my gloves, but Dr. Jang caught onto myact.
"Whoever has gloves gets the privilege of dipping their handsinto the bucket," Dr. Jang said with a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"No! That's not fair!" I protested, growing veryalarmed.
"Come on, it's not that bad," cajoled my groupmembers, Tina and Lawrence.
Knowing full well that they did not wantthe task either, I shut my eyes and reached into the bucket. I felt my heart slaminto my chest and my heartbeat, like a jackhammer, thumped loudly. Slowly, my armdescended into the bucket and I could feel my gloves get soaked. As soon assomething made contact with my gloves, I grabbed it and threw it into thedissecting tray. Relieved that the hideous task was over, I opened my eyesexpecting things to return to normal, but to my horror, a lumpy, murky,cinnamon-roll-shaped object met my eyes.
There, right in front of me, wasthe eye of a cow that once lived happily mooing in a grassy meadow. The rubberysurface of the eye itself was dark gray, and covered with thick whitish fat thathad soaked up formalin from the bucket. The foul smell, similar to a sweaty sock,caused a nauseating sensation to travel from my stomach to my already constrictedthroat. As I poked the eye, droplets of formalin gushed out. The glassy lensmanaged to stare into my eyes and successfully evoke a feeling of guilt. I waspositive that hideous thing would be the subject of many nightmares to come.
"Not to mention any names, but if a certain person whose first namestarts with the letter 'C'dissects today, then her group will get extracredit," Dr. Jang announced.
Without a doubt, I knew he was talkingabout me. I did not like being put on the spot and having to choose betweenabiding by my personal preferences and doing what was good for the group.Surprisingly, though, it did not take me long to decide.
"Okay, heregoes. Wish me luck, guys," I told Lawrence and Tina, bracingmyself.
I took a deep breath and picked up the scalpel and the specimen.Even with gloves, I could still feel the thick flesh resting on the palm of myhand. The smell of the formalin and the latex gloves was enough to make mystomach churn as I started making a circular incision.
"You can doit! It's just like opening a can with a can opener," offered Lawrence withan unbelievably candid tone.
Encouraged, I took the surgical scissorsand snipped the eye open, but what I saw did not match the image I hadexpected.
Lips curved into an appreciative smile, Tina quickly exclaimed,"Oooh! That's so pretty!"
Inside the eye were many fascinatingthings. There was the vitreous humor, a colorless jelly that jumps and jiggles,and across from that, the colorful iris. It was perhaps the most beautiful animalpart I have ever seen. The iris was like a rose, with royal purple and a hint ofaqua splashed all over as its petal color. When I started peeling the iris, thepurple liquid trickled down the iris, creating an artistic design. With all theparts removed, Dr. Jang came over to rate my cut.
"Nice. Verynice," he said in an admiring murmur as he picked up other parts toexamine.
"This deserves a ten out of ten, Dr. Jang. Look at this,it's the work of a surgeon," Lawrence joked.
Nervous, I kept silentand awaited the verdict.
After a few seconds, Dr. Jang said with aflourish, "Mmm ... eleven out of ten! Good job!"
Burstingwith delight, I leaped out of my chair, causing it to fall back with a loudclang.
"Oops ..." I meekly apologized, my cheeks turningtomato red as the class looked at me.
More than satisfied with ourgrade, I sighed happily and started to clean up.
While putting away thedissecting tray, I thought, "Hey, second period wasn't as bad as I thoughtit would be."
As I walked out of Room 44, I held my head high andfelt proud. In less than an hour, I was able to put aside my fears and face achallenge. Most important, I learned that to get to know myself, I must be openand brave enough to try new experiences.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.