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The Struggles of Senior Year
It was a hot summer day and I was with my best friend, Mike. Mom and Dad were fighting and told me to leave the house. Sitting there in the heat I watched as my chocolate ice cream slowly began to melt onto fingers. “What's wrong?” Mike said with a concerned look on his face, brows knitted together.
“Nothing… I mean my parents are fighting again, but that's nothing new. I’m sure they’ll be fine.” I felt like I was trying to convince myself of this not Mike, but even he didn't look so sure. My parents had been fighting for about a year now, even about stupid things like leaving burgers on the grill for too long. Mike and I had been hanging out since the morning and it was noon. We were outside the ice cream and sandwich shop we always loved to go to, but it didn't seem as cheerful as it usually did.
“Alright, we should probably head back to your place now, my mom said we can't hang' past one because I have homework,” Mike said as he finished the last bite of his ice cream. Without another word, Mike and I started to walk home. When we got to my house it was silent “That's a first,” I thought to myself. But when I got inside I heard something coming from the kitchen, my dad was sitting at the table his head in his hands.
“She’s gone… she's gone… I can’t believe she’s gone,” he whispered in between sobs.
“Who’s gone, Dad? Who left?” I felt like my heart had been smashed into a million pieces, and I started crying too. I knew who left.
“Will! Will! Wake up. You’ll be late for school,” I hear my dad shouting at me as I wake up in a haze. I squint my eyes as they adjust to the bright lights. I scramble for my glasses on my nightstand and put them on to see my dad at my door. He’s leaning on the door frame looking at me with a stern look on his face. “You better hurry up it's already 7:45.” I look to my alarm clock, oh my god it is. I start rushing to put my clothes on and only get one bite of my bagel before I have to run to the bus. I'm gasping for air because my bus stop is five blocks away and I had to run. I open my book for English class and read quietly, as I usually do. Then the bus stops, I sigh, and head into the torture zone called highschool.
I start heading towards my science class when someone shouts “Hey glasses!” I hear that at least five times a day. I ignore it like the quiet, shy kid always does but no matter how many times I hear it, it still stings a little deep down. I'm the first one to get to the science room, I wanted to get here early because we have a test today. A big one. But I've studied, I even run a study group by request of my father. I hear the bell ring and a stream of other high schoolers come in with the grace of rhinos in a stampede. Then the teacher comes in and hands out the test. I try to concentrate but my mind keeps going back to the dream I had, like a moth to a flame.
Ever since my mom left things have gone a little downhill my dad has had some drinking issues though he is getting better. I get a lot of pressure put on me to be the perfect son that my dad could never be for his father. Ever since I was five my dad wanted me to go to Harvard, I don't think he would accept anything else. At first, I thought I wanted to go too because I've always loved math and science and things like that. However, my real passion is art. I've been drawing since I was ten and always loved it, it's one of the few things that relaxes me and makes me smile, which I can't say is much after my mom left. I've wanted to do it as a profession since I started. A small art college where I could just focus on drawing and improving sounds like a dream. Unfortunately, that's all it will ever be. My dad has always thought of drawing as just a silly hobby. I couldn't disappoint him like that, not after everything he's been through. Suddenly I hear someone calling my name, it's the teacher. “Will! it's time to go to the second period you have to hand in your test.” Shoot, I didn't even get halfway through the test. Ugh! and I studied so hard for nothing. But there's nothing I can do so I hand in my test as requested and go to the second period.
The rest of the day goes by in a blur and the next thing I know I'm on the bus heading back home. When the bus gets to my stop I grudgingly walk to my house as slowly as I can. When I arrive I flop down on the couch with some barbeque chips and turn on the TV. I hear footsteps coming towards me but I ignore them, I already know the stare my dad is giving me.
“Will, when did you get home?” my dad asks.
“I got home like half an hour ago. Now, if you don't mind, I'm trying to watch something,” I say not meeting his eyes. He grabs the remote and turns the TV off way too dramatically.
“Hey what was that for!” I yell, trying to have a look of confusion on my face but I can tell my dad sees right through it.
“Will you know you need to start working on your application to Harvard,” my dad says trying to keep calm.
“But dad, I have three whole months before I have to send my application that's plenty of time,” I say as I wave my hands around for emphasis.
“Son, Harvard is one of the hardest schools in the world to get into, it only has a 5.4% acceptance rate. 5.4!,” he exclaims as I roll my eyes and sigh. I've heard this speech a thousand times but I let him continue anyway. “It has some of the best educators in the world. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg went there, even Barack Obama. They offer over 3,700 courses. The possibilities are limitless! But they only accept the best so you need to make sure that your application is perfect. No slip-ups, okay. Understand?”
I go up to my room and start working on the application. I get through the basic questions like my name and stuff, but then it comes to one of the big questions “Why do you want to go to Harvard?”. That's a difficult one for me, I doubt I could just say “my dad wants me to go here”. After about an hour and a half of working on my application, I decide to be done with it for the night. I start surfing the web out of boredom when I spot an article called “top ten best colleges for art majors in New England”. Without my brain's permission, my hand moves the mouse over to the article and clicks on it. I start seeing dozens of pictures of beautiful buildings surrounded by large fields of grass, with college students scattered around with sketch pads in hand. Then it had descriptions of the schools and all the famous artists that had graduated from the colleges. Again I found myself drawn to one of the links to a school that stood out amongst the others. On one page of the school website, it had a list of all the different types of art they teach. It was even more than I knew existed. I start going even further into the website when I hear my dad yell “time for dinner”. I close my laptop quickly and go downstairs.
The next week goes by quickly. I work on my college essay, do homework, study, the usual. And of course, dad's rule, no friends during the week. Friday I come home and see my dad leaning on the kitchen counter, arms crossed, his dark eyes boring right into me.
“I got I call from your science teacher today-” he says in a low rumbling voice, clearly trying to control his temper. “It was about your test,” he continues. Oh my god, he knows about the science test, I didn't even complete more than half the questions. “How could you let yourself fall behind like this? Do you think Harvard accepts people who don't even bother to answer questions on tests-” he says his voice rising in every word. I start to lose my temper.
“Yeah well, maybe I don't want to go to Harvard!” I scream back. The look on his face made it look like I had just slapped him without warning.
“What did you just say?” he said in a low, angry voice.
“Nothing. Look I'm sorry, I didn't mean it okay. You can ground me or whatever you want, I just need to be alone for a bit,” I said as a lump in my throat came uninvited. My Dad didn't say a word so I just went upstairs to my room and went over to what I called “my art corner” as a kid. I start working on a drawing of a boy sitting on a bench in the park, he looks lonely, like how I feel now. My mind starts to unwind as it starts focusing on pencil stokes instead of school. This is why I love art it can make the craziest moments of my life seem so… uncomplicated.
When I get to school things go as usual. I go to my science class after school and my teacher lets me retake the test. Thank god everything seems to be going smoothly again. When I get home strangely my dad isn't waiting in the kitchen, I shrug and go up to my room. I jump back when I see him there sitting in my chair looking at my computer. When he notices I'm there he gives me his famous stare of anger mixed with disappointment. “Is there something you wanna tell me?” he said slowly. I have no idea what he's talking about and I have no idea why he's in my room looking at my laptop. However, judging by the look he's giving me it must be something bad.
“I saw your computer was open to an application to the new Hampshire school of the arts. I just don't understand why you would be applying to an art school when we agreed on Harvard!” he screamed, his voice louder than I'd ever heard it. I can't believe he doesn't even care about schools that I want to go to.
“No dad you agreed on Harvard! I've never wanted to go there but you were too selfish to care!” I shot back without thinking. That shocked him but I keep going.
“I've always cared more about art than Harvard you just didn't bother to look further than what you wanted.” I know I'll probably regret saying that later but for now my anger has overpowered any sympathy. My dad doesn't say a word, instead, he stomps out of my room and comes back with a large cardboard box. “What are you doing?” I asked worried about what will come next.
“All of this-” he gestured to my art corner “has to go, it's distracting you from what's important. And also you're grounded until further notice!” he shouts. I can't believe he’s doing this, all this time I thought he didn't care about me and I guess I was right. I feel a lump in my throat and I try to hold back my, but as soon as he leaves the room I fall onto my bed and cry. I cry until I feel tired and fall into an uneasy sleep.
I wake up the next morning with my eyes puffy and red from the night before. But then I remember what tonight is, the school art gallery. All the student artwork is shown and you can even submit pieces and if they accept they will be put on a special wall. I submitted three pieces and they all got in. Ugh, but I can't go, my dad said I was “grounded until further notice”. Then a thought comes to mind, maybe he doesn't need to know I've left the house. The event starts at six and ends at seven, but I don't need to stay the entire time. Maybe I can go after all.
It has been a boring Saturday all I've done is work on my college applications. But now it is 5:30 and time to go to the gallery at school. My dad’s in the kitchen so I can't go out the door, instead, I go out the window. Mike said he could drive me there so I walk next door to his house and we head to the school.
There are over a hundred people filled in the hallways and all the walls are covered in paintings and drawings. I go over to where my stuff is being displayed. When I get there I have an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. Not everyone gets their art put up if it's not for a school project. Then I hear someone next to me say “wait did you draw that, it's amazing.” I turn next to me and it's a kid from my English class.
“Thanks,” I respond. Then there's a swarm of other kids in my grade. I hear comments like “wow, that's so cool” and “I didn't realize you were so good at drawing”. I can't believe people are noticing my drawings, noticing me. I have a warm feeling in my stomach, kind of like after you drink hot chocolate. Suddenly I hear someone calling my name, I turn to see who it is, my dad. He's marching towards me like a soldier, but his face strangely looks calm and sympathetic. Despite this, the sight of him makes me feel like I just got ice poured down the back of my shirt.
“How come you left without telling me?” he says quietly. I sigh.
“Look I’m sorry. The school chose to display my work in the gallery and I really wanted to go. But, I didn't think you’d let me after what happened last night. So… I snuck out the window.” I try to explain this but it appears as though my dad isn't really listening. He’s looking at the spot on the wall where my paintings are hung.
“Is this your work?”
“Ya,” I reply nervously.
“It’s beautiful. Why have you never shown me before?”
“Well, I didn't think you’d care,” I say, my head hanging low. Suddenly I think I see a tear escape his eye, but he wipes it away. Then he hugs me.
“Let's go home,” he says and without another word, we leave.
My Dad and I drive home in silence, which, to be honest, is surprising. I was expecting him to yell and give me some huge lecture, but instead, we just sit in this awkward silence.
When we get home we just kind of stand a few feet apart for a few painful minutes. “I need to talk to you,” he says in a calm, even voice as he sits down in a chair. He gestures toward the seat next to him, so I slowly sit down too.
“First of all, I'm sorry. I’m sorry that I've put so much pressure on you these past couple of years. And that you've put so much pressure on yourself for me, to be a great kid. But the thing is, you are already a great kid, Will. You always have been.”
Wow. I can't believe he just said sorry. My Dad never apologizes. I thought he was done, but he opens his mouth to continue.
“I’m sorry that I yelled at you for just doing what you love. I shouldn't have pressured you that much. I looked at your artwork and its amazing. And you see there at the gallery I haven't seen you that happy since before your mom died. If you want, you can go to an art school. I just want you to be happy.” I see a tear escape his eyes, and he wipes it away quickly. I can't help crying as well. He tries to continue speaking again, but before he can say anything I wrap my arms around him.
“I miss her, Dad.”
“I do too, Will.”
Finally, I feel like I'm able to be myself.