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One Foot In Front of the Other
Her gaze was directed towards the clock hanging on the pale yellow wall. Thirteen minutes left, only thirteen minutes left; she can’t possibly get in everything she wants to say with only thirteen minutes left. It was fourth period, and there was only thirteen minutes left. She knew the principal’s office well by now. Its friendly painted walls and leather-padded chairs seemed welcoming to most. She knew better. She hated this school; everyday surrounded by the same boring classrooms, the same stupid routine, learning the same useless crap. She was tired.
Her wiry chestnut hair was pulled back into a low bun, messy and resting just a touch above her pale but soft neck; messy not because she had woken up late, but messy because she didn’t give a damn. She slouched in the chair as Ms. Burton made her way into the cold office, file in hand. She sat down across from her.
Silence. Rose starred right back at her, every so often diverting her eyes up to ceiling, neck tilted to the side, pinching her skin in between her index finger and her thumb.
“Are you just going to sit there or are you going to say something?”
Probably not, she thought to herself.
“You’re failing science Rose. Again.”
“Now, how are we going to handle this? Do you want to tell your mother or should I? There’s no escaping it Rose, you did this to yourself.”
People should write a book about this kind of stuff. You did this to yourself Rose, your attitude sucks Rose, you’re going nowhere in life Rose.
“Now, Ms. Knight has offered before and after school help for these grades but she says your attitude is something you’re going to have to learn on your own. You can’t just go around insulting people’s occupation like that you know, it’s hurtful.”
She interrupted Ms. Burton before she could continue,
“I didn’t insult her occupation I just told her science was about the last thing
I’d ever choose to do with my life. Which is the truth. There’s not much I can do about saying the truth. Maybe that’s just something she needs to learn to handle on her own”.
Ms.Burton didn’t appreciate her rebellious humor. Rose focused her eyes on the carpet, trying to hide her pleased smile.
The truth was Ms. Knight didn’t like Rose much. Day after day she had walked into her classroom with that loud outspoken voice of hers; she was one of those kids that was going somewhere in their lives. Rose’s free demeanor was simply the epitome of what Ms. Knight had always wanted to be.
“That’s it Rose, I don’t know what to do with you anymore. Your attitude sucks and every time people try to help you, you just push them away. You’re failing science and it’s your own damn fault. Grow up and take some responsibility”.
Rose sat stunned in Ms. Burton’s office. The room was filled with silence. Immediately the nagging sound of her mother’s voice filled her thoughts, you think your getting into a college with these grades? And even if you do, you think I’m paying for it with that attitude of yours? Not a chance Rose Elizabeth. You’re dreamin’. The truth was Rose didn’t want to go to college. Her mother wouldn’t know that though. She wouldn’t know that Rose wasn’t interested in what the standards of society said, or what it demanded of a middle-class white teenager. Rose wanted to travel the world, explore the depths of different cultures and music rather than the depths of Algebra and American lit. She got up and stormed out of the office. Her face was hot as tears started to pour down her defined cheek bones; her throat began to close. She felt trapped: stuck inside a life of do’s and don’ts and high expectations; how she had felt for most of her life. She headed for the front door of the school. No destination in mind she threw her copper suede satchel over her shoulder and swung open the front door. The soft breeze hit her face and left her with a temporary high: freedom. She was well acquainted with by now; she knew how it felt to run.
Outside now, making her way to nowhere, she dug her hand into the business of the inside of her purse. In her hand surfaced her Marlboro lights. She grabbed one and threw the pack back into her purse, lifting the cigarette to her pale blue 99-cent lighter. It was hotter than the 30th of September should have been, the loose strands of her low bun blowing around in the easy wind. This is awful ballsy of me, what the hell am I doing? Whatever. No turning back now. She began to hum quietly as she walked; the only way she ever drowned out the bickering of her own conscience.
” Worrying ‘bout the way things might have been… big wheel keep on turning-“.
“Proud Mary keep on burnin”.
She was interrupted by the refrain to her tune, a loud and deep voice making its presence. It startled her. She turned to her left to find a man sitting on the curbside. He was older, probably around fifty, his blonde scrappy beard reminding her of someone; she just didn’t know who.
“Good song” she said as she stopped her stride to look at him.
“Very good. Gota light?” looking up at her.
She hesitated. She had a light, but he was an older man. This is weird isn’t it? She realized she was contradicting her very own way of thinking. She sat down beside him on the curb and handed over the tiny plastic lighter. She knew this was strange. Is he homeless? Doesn’t look like it. They were both quiet as they sat beside one another.
“So what you runnin’ from?” the cigarette in his mouth bouncing along with the rhythm of his words.
“Excuse me?” she was puzzled.
“What are you runnin’ from?”
She paused. “I don’t know”.
“Well where ya going then?”
“I don’t know”. She really didn’t.
“Well those are two awfully important things to know, don’t cha think?”,
“I guess so” she replied.
There was another long silence, not seeming to bother either one of them.
“Well what’s eatin’ at ya then? Ya boyfriend break ya heart?”
She waited a few seconds, “No, society did” she shot back.
“Ahhhh, I see. Society” he said as he grinned and shaking his head disapprovingly.
“What? You have something to say? Say it then. No one else seems to be holdin back” She was angry now.
“You wanna change the world just like everyone else” he wasn’t questioning her.
Suddenly she felt stupid. He made being rebellious and taking your own road sound like just about the dumbest concept in the world.
“I mean, yeah…. I don’t want to waste my life sitting in a classroom.” She sounded tough this time, more confident than her first response.
“Yeah. Sitting in a classroom, how stupid is that. You wouldn’t even know the meaning of changing the world if your butt hadn’t never been in a classroom”. There was quietness.
Who the hell is this guy?
“Ya know if we all threw our problems into a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d pick ours back. Being a kid is about the least of the worries you guna have in your lifetime”.
She looked up at the sky. Her sarcastic thoughts mismatching her confused and tired emotions. Her eyes became blurry again; she felt the same feeling of being trapped; she didn’t know what to do anymore with the tears rolling down her face. Who the hell is this guy?
“I don’t even know you” she turned to the man.
“What, society says we got to know one another to have a conversation?”
She laughed at his response. He understood her more than she could see.
“So what am I supposed to do? Where am I supposed to go from here? I’m a 12th grader who just stormed out of her high school in retaliation”
She said questioning him, not really expecting an answer: one of those rhetorical kinds of ideas that you spend your whole life lingering upon.
“No one knows the answer to that, how should I? Why don’t you start with one foot in front of the other?”