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For the Poundcake This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     Stop it. Stop hiding. Get your coffee-stained fingers off your face and do the job you worked for. Do the job you wanted - want - like oxygen. No, like marble poundcake. Do the job you wanted like warm marble poundcake with ice cream. Yes, that’s it. Perfect. Do it for the poundcake, do it for the poundcake ....

Someone could have warned me, you know? About the lights - these damn fluorescent lights. Because, in all honesty, they’re brutal. They’ve worked here for years, too - most of them, at least; surely one of them could have warned me about the glare-induced headaches, the peripheral pains - the Finance Branch’s desperate lack of natural light. Whoever heard of an office building without a single window? I could have brought aspirin. And had anybody bothered to ask, I certainly would have shared.

“Summary of Significant Accounting Policies: September, Two Thousand and Six.” Stop stalling, Jen. A million girls want your position. A million girls will never get this far. A million girls pray - beg, in fact - for an opportunity like yours. Finally, you have arrived: Assistant to the President of Wagner Accounting, located at New York City’s core. Excitement. Vivacity. Perfection. You live and breathe the very success that a million girls may never comprehend, and you can’t even start your first report? Pathetic.

Sometimes, I wonder - I dream, you know - who would I be had I stayed? I knew my Michigan, my haven, my home. Everything comfortable and calm: familiarity guided every facet of that small-town lifestyle. Was it right to forget it, then, and leave it all behind? From the out-of-business, allegedly haunted corner store to the backyard remnants of my family’s failed attempts at rosebushes?

A lifetime’s paintings - lusterless, now - still cover my bedroom walls. With one fateful gaze out my window, the world would come alive: radiant colors! Electric sights! Winter-inspired, autumn-empowered, and every evening astonished anew. From vision to palette, from palette to canvas: my universal language, my sole aspiration. I thought I discovered my purpose. But artists starve, they warned me; “You’ll regret it, Jen. Don’t waste the potential we know you have.” And now, under these harsh, fluorescent lights, I wonder: was it truly just a childish fantasy - a trifling dream of a trivial history? Should I have left? Stayed? Thought? Dreamt? It’s sort of like that Langston Hughes poem, the one with dreams like frozen snow: “Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” But sometimes - surely, sometimes - won’t a dream die for the best?

“Summary of Significant Accounting Policies: September, Two Thousand and Six.” Okay. Really, now, get to work. Focus, Jen, focus. You want this, remember? You want this like poundcake. Do it for the poundcake, do it for the poundcake ....

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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