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Rice Paper and Red Eyes

The characters were bleeding dry as I finished off a line of calligraphy, the strokes fading out like the angel hair tails of meteor showers. I inked my brush and glanced at Lawrence slumped on the edge of the table, facing away from me.
"You've bitten off more than you can chew, Lawrence. How are you going to balance orchestra, CYS, NHS, 4 APs, an internship with Google, your band, sixteen college apps and seven Ivies?"
"I'm fine," he said. "Seriously."
Teenage lie #1: I'm fine. Seriously.
"Really?" You know, your eyebrows are drawn in like two dian in calligraphy. And you're pinching the bridge of your nose, a perfectly straight shu, because you can't stay awake. And your mouth is a permanent heng. Neither happy nor sad, just apathetic despair. You're going to get a pie and a na for frown lines, and then you'll be sorry.
Of course, I stopped speaking aloud after "Really?" He couldn’t have understood any of the terms, even if I'd drawn a schematic for him.
"No, you're not." Teenage truth #1. "Lawrence, it's like… I don’t know, the chewing thing might not appeal to you, since you never even eat. You're dipping your brush in too much and getting too much ink. So then you'll stain the rice paper so that it gets all soggy and you can't draw anything. That's when your brain goes bye-bye and you go to the hospital for nervous breakdown."
He turned around and stared at me. The two dian were still furrowed with weariness and anxiety. "Helena," he said after a long while, "drop the allegory. Philosophy like that sounds pretty, but when it comes down to filling out college apps, there's no room for it."
My brush stopped in mid-stroke. Crap. So much for not saying things out loud. It's thinking out loud that gets you in trouble.
He took my silence as an invitation for more venting.
"Look, I know you say you want the best for me," he snarled with far more energy than I could have imagined. He slid off the table and stood heavily in front of me. "I know you're always trying to get me to drop what you call my unstimulating academic résumé-filler activities and relax. But no college is going to buy that! Do you think Princeton will accept me as a double E if I write an essay saying that my most influential person was some girl who told me to relax on weekends? You act like you're so concerned about me when all you want to do is bring me down with you!
"But I'm not stupid! I don’t need a friend like you that offers useless solutions! No, I'm out of here." And so he was, knocking over my bottle of ink on his way to the door.
Well, someone's on a short rope.
But as I'd said, he had enough to be dealing with. I couldn’t have expected my calligraphy lecture to have been well-received by that frazzled boy, no matter how good my intentions were.
"It's not your fault,” I murmured.
"Yeah it is."
I turned to see Lawrence at the door again. The pie and the na drooped remorsefully about his lips.
"I'm sorry," he muttered. A single tear traced a shu down his pale, rice paper cheek.



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