I couldn’t tell time until the fourth grade. Don’t even get me started on long division. I was not even a student with potential. I stalled the class. I was infamous for needing that extra shove to graze mediocrity. Granted, I was an incredibly lazy child. While my siblings recited multiplication problems, I idly gnawed on sugar cubes. I spent more time spying on the cul-de-sac of stray cats. I wandered into any crevice I could shrink into. I dragged pearl-colored sofa cushions onto the blunt and begrimed shingled roof—don’t ask how I got up there. I made dwellings with bricks, hay, and old tires. I fed pineapple coconut buns to my stuffed animals until they reeked of rot.
When it rained, I submerged in depressions of thick and almost carbonating mudbaths. When it snowed at midnight, I climbed out the window, rolled sloppy snow-people, and laughed at the red sky. I was a dirty, lopsided, and elfin child. Age was not a factor of improvement. To avoid going to SAT prep, I cramped my body and napped in the closet. In high school, I drank a liter of Kirkland sangria and vomited pulp. I drank so much Red Bull, my circadian rhythm was in Beijing time. I ate buffalo wings for breakfast and arrived at school during lunchtime. I was defiant. No one could standardize me because I didn't even show up.
Decades later, I do all my homework.
I strive for perfect attendance. I take pages of notes, transcribing even my professors’ pauses. I do more than I’m asked. I take initiative. I’m a try-hard. I’m an overachiever. I am obsessive-compulsive. My hands have aged from harsh suds. I bathe my phone in isopropyl alcohol. I wipe down counters. I bleach the shower. I separate my white laundry from my color laundry. I comb my hair. I spend $200 on a winter coat and good walking shoes. I eat salads. I drink water. I pay most of my bills on time. I overcook the chicken. I steam my vegetables limp. I know how to eat crawfish. My steak is pink in the middle. I snack on baked Cheetos. Sometimes, I drink coffee with just milk. I’ve switched from chewing gum to Altoids. I take care of other people’s children. I give advice to other people’s children. I give advice to adults?? I’ve memorized my social security number. I have a Spotify subscription. I play Minecraft. For some reason, I have a schedule?? I declared my major. I’m applying to grad school. I’m not applying to grad school. I’m applying to grad school. I deflect fear with banter.
Oh, and I can really tell time now.