The bright white building with the printed letter A on the top left corner slowly grew into sight as I turned the corner of our school to find my building. I stopped near a blue bench and quickly grabbed my calculus book from the bag. More students started to fill into the school and I hurridly heft the heavy backpack back onto my shoulders. Might as well get a little studying in while I walk, I thought.
The black doors of the hallway appeared and I quickly walked toward them. Just as my hand reached out to open the door, a high pitch squeal pierced my ears causing me to drop my book. I turned around. Two pretty girls ran up to each other, hugging and squealing, way too excited to see each other. I sighed. We literally had school yesterday, I thought as I picked up my calculus book. A few of the pages were bent in half from the fall and the corner grew dusty from the dirt on the pavement. I reached down to grab my book as the door opened.
“Whoa, hey there, you okay,” a guy asked. I looked up. It was Brian.
“Hey dude,” I said, “yea I’m okay. Just dropped my book on accident.” He laughed.
“Well, take care. I’ll see you in math and lunch,” he said before walking past me and disappearing into the mob of students. I smiled. Brian and I had been friends since middle school and always happened to be in the same math class together. I hope that dude studied, I thought as I opened the door and walked into the heated hallways.
As I walked, the Gen Z high school terrain appeared. The soft boys with their beanies and vans were leaning against the wall, each talking about some Tik Tok dance they should learn. I waved at one of them, Ryan. He and I had known each other since freshmen year. It was funny how we were friends. He and I were solid opposites. By the looks of it, I’m guessing we only got close because we suffered through a year of computer science together.
“Hey,” he said as I walked by, “going to class so soon?” I smiled at him.
“Yea, gotta get some studying in,” I said as he laughed before running his fingers through his blonde hair.
“You study too much,” he teased before returning to his friend’s conversation.
I rolled my eyes. Classic Ryan. Perfect grades, but studied the bare minimum. Talent, I thought. I continued to walk, a little faster this time.
I walked through the grey hallways, covered with lockers on each side. Above me was a cheesy banner. “You can do it,” it said. I rolled my eyes because yes, cheesy sayings always happen to make me feel more motivated than before. Yippee, I thought.
A group of athletic boys entered the hallways and tossed their stuff onto the side of the hallway. I side stepped to avoid their books and bags as they sank to the ground and slumped over their backpacks, dead from last night’s game. At least they won, I thought, a rarity.
I continued to walk and passed by a group of soft girls, exiting their zero period together as they stopped at their lockers. One of the girls opened hers and the interior was thoroughly decorated with stickers and pastel locker paper. I stared at the beautiful polka dotted wallpaper in her locker. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. One of the girls looked over at me and I quickly shifted my gaze and continued to walk.
The girl’s bathroom door opened releasing a strong aroma of perfume as I walked by. I peeked in and could see the cheerleaders, freshening up. I covered my nose. It was just a little too strong for my taste, I thought as I fast walked by the door. I continued to walk, passing the AP Korean class, filled with the koreaboos. I waved at one of them, who looked up and smiled before returning back to her video of Blackpink. They were a fun group, but were always trying to get tickets to some concert that Ma Ma would never let me go to.
What a shame, I thought as I approached my classroom door, I always wanted to know what it’d feel like. I reached out for the door and realized that I was still holding my textbooks.
Gotta drop these off first, I whispered to myself as I turned left to my locker. It was a boring locker. Mostly just empty and grey with four pink magnets that pinned up some reminders and pictures. It was a frugal attempt at decor, but it wasn’t like I spent that much time at my locker anyways.
As I finished putting the last of my textbook in, a pretty Korean girl, Claire, came up to the locker next to me. By the looks of it, she was an ABG (Asian Baby Girl). Long fake eyelashes? Check. Perfect mocha eyeshadow? Check. Cute brandy melville or pacsun top? Check. Yup. She definitely fit the criteria. An AirPod was in her left ear as she hummed along to some familiar rap song. A long skinny arm shoved the locker door shut and she grabbed her textbook. Her perfect, glossy hair twirled behind her and she headed into my English classroom. I stared at her. I wanted to be like her, an ABG. Pretty, smart, and somehow wasn’t too Asian for the white kids. But Ma Ma wouldn’t approve. She disapproved at me wearing even a little bit of makeup or even something remotely revealing.
“Too fake. Natural beauty is what’s important,” she would say, shaking her head in disapproval. Or “Show too much. You’re not an adult yet,” she would say while redirecting me to other clothes that were, in her eyes, more suitable for my age.
I shrugged and headed into English class. Whatever, I thought, I was fine this way more or less.
An hour passed and the bell rang. I picked up my papers and quickly stuffed them into my backpack. I needed to get to calculus early for a few extra minutes, I thought as I quickly slumped my backpack over my right shoulder.
“Class, take a seat! I dismiss you. Not the bell! Norah, come-,” the teacher started to say. But it was no use. Half the class was already out the door and before he finished his sentence, I was too, rushing to my calculus class.
The hallways were packed, but I somehow managed to maneuver through the cracks of people and arrived in one piece at my calculus class. I checked the clock. I still had a few minutes, I thought as I quickly took out my textbook.
“Y equals x plus four squared. The graph revolves around…,” I mumbled to myself. The bell rung. Not already, I thought as I closed my textbook. The teacher had already begun passing out the tests and before I knew it, a white paper landed on my desk. I picked up my pencil and begun.
I trudged out of the classroom door. The guy behind me sighed.
“Can you go any faster?”
I moved aside as he walked passed me shooting a dirty look. Whatever, I thought as I walked into my locker and banged my forehead on the metal surface. The test was definitely a fail, I thought. I kept on getting confused between using the shell or disk method. I looked down at my feet, disappointed. Well, what can I do but study more, I thought as I took out my lunch and headed to the tables, thinking about how many points I needed on the next test to make this one AND the last one up.
“Seventy three plus eighty one,” I muttered under my breath, “divided by-,”
“Over here,” a voice interrupted and I turned around to see my bubbly friend’s , Sydney’s, face “How was that calculus test,” she asked as she took a bite out of her pizza.
“Oh my god, I think I failed,” I exclaimed, “Shells and disks don’t seem to make sense.”
“Aww that’s too bad. It’s alright! You can make it up next time,” she said patting my head like a dog.
“Like I haven’t already bombed two of them in a row,” I said as I sat down next to her.
“Ehh! You’ll be okay,” she said, pausing to take another bite of pizza, “Besides that’s not the only thing you’re bad at. Look at your clothes!”
I scrunched up my nose, feigning anger. Compared to Sydney, I looked shabby. The fashion genius had her blonde hair in perfect curls and was wearing a short black skirt with a cute pink lace top.
“Hey, I’m not the one that designs clothes for fun,” I said, still feigning anger. She rolled her eyes and we both ended up laughing. As we talked about our classes, Vivian and Amethyst, our other friends, joined us.
“You have no idea, what just happened,” Vivian squealed as she brushed her long black hair behind her and raised her arched eyebrow.
“I just bumped…,” Amethyst cried barely able to contain her excitement as she looked around before leaning in and lowering her voice, “I just bumped into you-know-who in the hallway. ” We all squealed in shock as she begun talking about her morning encounter.
Lunches came out. Amethyst took out a ham and cheese sandwich with a mixed vegetable salad.
“Wow, You’re so healthy,” Vivian teased as she took out her canteen of chicken Alfredo pasta. I laughed as I took out a container of stinky tofu and pot stickers and the aroma of my oriental food filled the air. I looked at my friends. They didn’t seem to mind so I thought nothing of it and started eating my lunch.
“Oh yea! Quick interrupter. Can we all go the mall Saturday,” Sydney asked.
“But progress reports are this week…,” Vivian said, trailing off.
“Exactly. It’d be to relax,” Sydney pleaded, looking at Vivian with adorable, puppy eyes.
Vivian, Amethyst, and I looked at each other.
“Fineeee,” we said, and Sydney immediately, laughed in happiness.
“Anyways, ” Amethyst continued, “the guy asked-.”
“Whoa. Your food looks disgusting,” a guy teased as he sat at the table next to me. I rolled my eyes. Leave it to Connor to say something like that.
“It’s just food,” I said as I took a bite out of my tofu. He laughed and I continued to eat as his friends joined him.
“Whoa. That looks like dog. Do you eat dog?” one of his friends asked, snickering.
“Nah! That’s bat,” another answered and they all laughed, slapping him on the back.
“Oh, shut up. Leave her alone,” Vivian said as she shoved him.
“Oh yes! Because dog is definitely what she eats, ” Amethyst added on as the guys continued to poke fun at me. I looked at my food and continued to eat, thinking none of it.
“Mm…that bat really hit the spot,” I said as I ate my last pot sticker. The guys laughed and we spent the rest of the period exchanging snide remarks at each other.
The bell rang and I gathered my lunch. Next class was history. Great. Another boring class, I thought as I grabbed my container and shoved it into my bag. Connor and his friends grabbed their backpacks and left with Vivian and Amethyst to orchestra. I waited for Sydney before heading out to class together. She was awfully quiet.
“Hey you okay,” I asked.
“Yea, I’m fine. I’m just thinking about something,” she replied
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“No, I’m good.”
“Alright, well I’m here for you,” I said and gave her a little hug to reassure her. We walked in silence for a few moments. I shifted my books back and forth between my hands. I never knew what to do during these moments. I looked at her. She was looking downwards. I should leave her alone, I thought and readjusted my focus.
“Hey. Just out of curiosity, you don’t really mind those comments right,” Sydney said, interrupting the silence as she stared at me with her concerned blue eyes.
“No, it’s fine. I know that the guys are just joking anyways,” I replied.
“Oh, but you don’t really think that’s sort of offensive right? ”
“Well, that’s not the first time I’ve heard of those comments. It’s pretty much normal if you’re Asian.”
“Yea..well if you don’t like it, you can say something.”
“I can’t really do much about that anyhow. If everyone says it, I guess I rather just stay quiet than cause a commotion.”
“Okay…well I saw on Instagram this weekend about how Asian racism is normalized now and there was a list of what people tend to say and take at jokes and what Connor said was one of them on,” Sydney said, looking at me for a reaction. I looked at her, beckoning her to continue.
“Well, it said that even lots of Asians, don’t realize that what others says is racist because it’s normalized or they just pretend that its okay. I just wanted to make sure you were okay and that-.”
The second bell rang.
“I’m okay. Don’t worry,” I replied as I shot her a smile, reassuring her before scrambling to my seat.
“I’ll send the post to you later,” she called from across the room, just as the teacher walked in.
“Hello class,” the teacher said as I took out my notebook. “Today we will be covering…” he said, trailing off about the book he assigned. I sighed. This is going to be boring, I thought as I stared out in space.
My mind trailed back to my conversation with Sydney and I glanced her. She had already taken out her notes and was diligently capturing every word the teacher said. I looked back at the board, still zoned out. I replayed our conversation over in my head.
“Normalizing Asian racism,” Sydney had said during lunch.
“I’m okay,” I had responded to her concern. I hesitated for a second. Was I really okay? Yes, I’m okay, I thought as I mentally tried to slap myself. It was all just a joke, a simple platonic joke.
I looked at the board, determined to focus now, but a lingering sense of doubt entered my head. Was Connor trying to be racist, but I didn’t pick it up because I thought it was normal? Was there something he was trying to tell me? Was there an underlying statement under the joke? What if they actually think that my food smells bad? Do they think I actually eat dog? Does that make me dis-
“Aubrey? Aubrey! Are you paying attention,” my teacher said, snapping me out of my thoughts.
“Yes.. sir,” I stammered, looking around. Every single eyeball in the room was pointed in my direction. My face grew hot.
“Okay. Answer the question,” he said, leaning against the corner of his desk and folding his arms. I looked down at my paper, realizing that I had no clue where we were.
“Question three right,” I mumbled, terrified to look up.
“Choice B. Thomas Jefferson,” I stuttered.
I sighed. That was a close one. I better start paying attention. The last thing I needed was an email about me daydreaming sent to Ma Ma, I thought straightening my posture and tuning back into class. For now, Sydney’s conversation would have to wait, I thought as I made a mental note to bring a normal sandwich tomorrow.
Class continued and I took diligent notes. I stopped for a second and admired the colorful, detailed outline I had made. If I only I did this every single day, I thought happily as I turned the page.
Boom! Flash! Suddenly, thunder clapped and lightening struck outside. The lights flickered out for a second before returning back again. The class began mumbling as we all turned our little heads to the window.
“No need to be alarm,” my teacher said as he rushed to close the windows, “just a surprise storm.” I stared outside and shifted back and forth in my seat. Thunder always made me uneasy. Flash! Boom! I reached up and covered my eyes from the flash. A blast of thunder followed behind and I felt the room shake a little. I stared at my classmates. They all seem unbothered, except for a few. I shouldn’t worry either, I decided and focused on the board in front of me. The lesson continued and the day moved forward, just like any other day.