Perfectly Imperfect

December 15, 2007
By Gabriella Pagan, Brooklyn, NY

After her mother died, everything just wasn't the same.
Like now, for instance.
Her father is rapping on the table, trying to get her attention. Her father's eyes are narrowed and his nostrils are flared and his frown is prominent.
Faye finally comes back to earth, staring, trying to look as slow-witted as possible--but of course, she knows it'll only get her into more trouble. However, looking attentive gets her into trouble.
Which way, precisely, would make her father actually stop and listen to her instead of yelling at her for every little thing?
Furious, her father flaps the paper in his daughter's face, "You're brilliant at math! Why did you get a seventy-five?!?!?! It should be a HUNDRED!!!" he screams, slamming the paper on the table and making poor Faye jump out of her skin, "What are you going to do next time?! Huh?!?!"
"Study harder, Papa," Faye remains as emotionless as possible, because if she shows even a speck or it, she'll burst into tears--or perhaps get angry and yell, "I'm sorry, but I can't be perfect!!! I miss Mama!!!"
"Good! Next time I see a test paper, what score is it going to be?!?!"
"Hundred, Papa."
"And what will you get on your Regents examinations in January?!?!?!"
"Hundred, Papa."
"All right, go do your homework!"
"Yes, Papa."
The next test rolls in and Faye gets an eighty-six. Her father screams at her for not getting a hundred, saying if she doesn't pass the final test he will take away her privileges.
The sad thing is, Faye does not have time to use her privileges. She only holes herself up in her room and studies. Just like her papa tells her to.
It isn't until just passing the history test with a mere sixty-seven that Faye's father breaks her cell phone in a rage, and Faye begins to make sure everything is perfect. When her friends praise her for getting a seventy-eight on the science test, Faye worries and beats herself up, calls herself dumb for not getting higher. She constantly studies--even makes sure what she does at home is perfect: the dishes, the cooking, the cleaning, having to care for her sickly younger brother. Everything had to be perfect.
About a few months later Faye got to school late, for her father was reprimanding her and warning her about the math final, saying she'd better pass with a hundred, or he'd take away her online privileges (something she alaways used for once, but only for studying).
She finishes the test first, and worries about questions twenty-seven, thirty-nine, forty-one through forty-six, and fifty. Were they right? Did she write the formulas correctly? Did she--did she even write the steps to solving the problems?
When the bell rings she rushes into the hallway and heads to her locker, making sure every turn on the lock is perfect and hits the number.
When her locker doesn't open, she gets frustrated and tries again.
She misses the last number of her combination by a single turn. She hears the late bell, and rushes to try again.
Again it fails. She pounds her fist on her locker door, and then--she bursts out crying.
She hated imperfection. Why--everything had to be perfect!!! Why was everything being so imperfect now?!?!?!
Someone gently shoves her aside and Faye hears someone calmly say, "Shh...everything's gonna be okay...not everything has to be perfect on your first try...or the second, or the one after that..."
Faye doesn't know who's speaking till she looks up, and it's one of her best friends, who had just successfully opened her locker.
Faye sniffles, and mumbles in a cracked, wobbly voice,
"You're gonna be late."
"So are you," her friend points out, crossing his arms and raising his eyebrows, " what's going on, Faye? You used to be so carefree--so resilient, like you didn't really dwell on things."
And it's his sincerity, his concern, that makes her break and tell him everything. She's tired of holding things in, tired of doing things alone. She misses her mother, wants perfection since her family is no longer perfect, her family is without a mother...and her perfectionist father--who wasn't a perfectionist himself until after her mother passed--demanding so much of her, the eldest child.
He hugs her and tells her he'll tutor her if she needs help--and that not everything had to be perfect. He tells her his family is not perfect, since he is missing a father--no one's life was perfect.
"Now Faye, if everyone was perfect, it would drive everyone crazy and then the world would be imperfect. I think we're perfect with imperfection. Don't you think?"
It's his words, words made to make her feel better, that make Faye realize he's right.
Suddenly, the weight on her shoulders is gone. The massive amount of mass (Faye assumes it would be in kilograms) on her is completely gone.
Relieved, Faye wraps an arm around her friend's arm, and together they walk to class. For the first time in a while, Faye isn't worried about being late--nor is she worried about her untied shoelace beside her perfectly knotted one.

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