The next day, I repeated the same routine as I did before. I woke up, ate breakfast, and was rushed out the door by Ma Ma who quickly dropped me off at school. I waved good-bye to her and simply trudged into the school hallways like a lifeless zombie. Someone made a comment about my puffy eyes, but I ignored whoever it was. I simply didn’t care. And so, my lifeless self simply went through the schedule of the day and before I knew it, I was sitting down in my calculus classroom as Mr. Wilbert paced back and forth at the front of the room, waiting for the bell to ring.
I stared down at my desk and began fidgeting with my eraser. Don’t get confused, I thought to myself. Shells are for dy rotation around the x-axis. Disks are for dx rotation around the x-axis. My hands begun to get clammy and my fingers began to sweat profusely. I let go of my eraser and wiped my hands on my hoodie. The bell rang and I looked up.
“Alright, class. This is it,” Mr. Wilbert said as he begun handing out the test papers, “You have exactly one hour and a half. No extra time. Good luck and you may begin.” I quickly grabbed my paper and flipped to the first page. I lifted my pencil and began writing.
“You got this,” I whispered to myself as I begun.
Bells after bells rung and I, like everyone else, rushed between the hallways to get to class on time. Soon, the day had ended and I was standing out of my counselor’s office, trying not to pee my pants. Stressed out of my mind, I had went through my day drinking bottles after bottles of water. I was terrified. Terrified that the last calculus test wasn’t enough to give me an A-. Ma Ma would be so disappointed.
I sat down on the bench, waiting outside. My counselor was still on the phone talking to someone. I looked at my watch, 3:05. I sighed. I had to leave in five minutes for dance, but at the same, waiting just one weekend for a progress report was just one weekend way too long. I looked around. The counseling center was filled with different posters of different colleges. Harvard. Yale. Princeton. Prestigious schools lined the right wall.
A hand clasped at my heart. A burning sensation of my excitement filled my mind. I want to go to those schools, I decided as I drifted into a daydream. If I worked hard enough, imagine if I got into Yale. I could study in that huge, beautiful library with all the rare manuscripts. I looked up at the poster again. A lump formed in my throat as my nervousness took over. Who am I kidding? What if I don’t get into those schools? I sighed. Of course, there were other schools, but those are my dream schools. I’d disappoint everyone, I thought. I shook my head. No. I need to do well. For me. For Ba Ba. For Ma Ma. I don’t want to-
The door clicked and my smiling counselor came out.
“Do you want this,” he asked as he handed over my progress report in a yellow envelope.
“Yes! Thank you, sir,” I said jumping up to grab the envelope.
“You did quite well, this semester,” he said as he returned back to his office.
“Thank you,” I called as I raced down the hall and into the parking lot. I checked the time. 3:07. I could still get to dance on time, I thought as I ran down the hallways.
“Young lady, there is no running in the hallways,” a teacher yelled and I immediately slowed down before turning the corner. I looked back. The teacher didn’t turn the corner with me and I immediately begun running again. I passed the lockers, the classrooms, and finally exited the building, entering the parking lot.
“I’m here,” I yelled as I threw my stuff into the back seat, startling Ma Ma mid-scroll through her WeChat moments.
“Slow down next time,” Ma Ma said disapprovingly, “you could have fallen and sprained your ankle. You have a performance this weekend.”
“I know, Ma Ma,” I said as I tore open the top of the envelope and looked at the report.
A in history. A+ in English. A- in calculus. Wait. A- in calculus? I smiled happily. I finally got the grade, I thought as I tucked the report card back into the envelope and into a folder to put into my backpack. Ma Ma looked back at me curiously.
“Yes, Ma Ma,” I said as I began to tell her my grades. When I finished, she looked and smiled.
“Good job. Keep it up,” Ma Ma said as she begun humming to herself in the front. I smiled. I knew Ma Ma was happy and proud of me, even if she didn’t express it all that much. It’d be weird if she did express it a lot though, I thought trying to imagine Ma Ma enthusasitcally celebrate with me. I shuddered at the thought. Too weird.
The car continued to travel down the highway and I looked out the window. A bulletin board with a smiling girl in a graduation cap passed by. I wanted to get into a good college. I wanted to get into a good college for Ma Ma and for me. I wanted to make her and my grandparents proud, I thought as I stared back at my progress report. I smiled. I just have to take one step at a time, I thought as I slid the progress report away.
“Aubrey,” Ma Ma called.
“Yes,” I asked.
“Oh,” I said, realizing that I had zoned out. I quickly grabbed my bags and ran inside.
“Bye Ma Ma,” I called as she waved and drove off.
I entered the dance studio and immediately, I entered a world of chaos. Little kids, teens, adults covered the room and costumes were thrown just about everywhere.
“God, full dress rehearsals with everyone are such a headache,” I thought as I squeezed through the crowd. A mom was helping a little girl who couldn’t stop wiggling put on her makeup. An adult was trying to sew up a broken costume. A bunch of teens were in the corner warming up. I looked for my friends.
“GIRLY,” a voiced called in front of me and I immediately saw Amanda and Cheryl sitting down in the corner.
“You guys are seriously talented for getting through this whole mess,” I said as I ducked behind a cabinet to change into my costume.
“I had to fight for it,” Amanda said laughing as she told us how she got here an hour early to get a spot for us. Cheryl and I laughed.
“Dang. I could never get here that early,” I said.
“Well, you literally show up like right on time every time. No time cushion whatsoever,”Cheryl said.
“No, I don’t. I am fairly early sometimes.”
“You are definitely not.”
“No, I am.”
“No, you -”
“Listen up everyone,” Lao Shi yelled from her microphone, “I need everyone to clear the dance floor. It needs to be quiet in here. We will start running the performance from the top right now. If the dance isn’t perfect, I will rerun it. Understand?” Everyone nodded and immediately scrambled to the side of the room. Cheryl, Amanda, and I quickly shoved the rest of our belongings into the cabinet before finding a seat at the front of the room. The little kids were up first and in a few moments, the room was quiet and our dress rehearsals began.
The sides of my feet were rubbed raw and my arms were too sore to even lift above my head. I sighed, sitting down on my bed. Lao Shi really went all out on us, I thought as I grabbed a few bandaids to slap on. I examined my feet. Hopefully these will go away soon, I thought as I lifted my arms and stretched.
Immediately, soreness traveled down my right arm, tickling my spine and I quickly set my arms down. I massaged my right arm and sighed. I guess thats what happens when you do the same move over and over again, I thought, remembering how Lao Shi made me do a twirl ten times. I sighed. The show was the day after tomorrow anyhow. Perfection is expected at this point.
I laid down on my bed and stared at the ceiling. The smell of relaxation and freedom and the mix of oriental food filled the hair. It was finally the weekend, I thought, smiling. Downstairs, Nai Nai and Ma Ma were practicing and trying out the different foods they are planning to make on Sunday. I should go downstairs and steal some samples, I thought, thinking about a giant red bean, sesame ball.
A tin pan crashed downstairs and I heard someone quickly rush over. I smiled. This weekend is going to be great, I thought, thinking about the plans I made with my friends. It’s been forever since I went shopping with them. On top of that, Auntie and Uncle were coming over the day after tomorrow for a Chinese New Year lunch. Quite fun.
My door opened and Ma Ma came in.
“Are you tired? You should probably take a bath to relax,” Ma Ma said as she handed me a bath salt.
“I think I’ll wait,” I said. “I’m not really in the mood for one.”
“That’s fine. Just make sure you rest well so you can perform well the day after.”
“Okay, Ma Ma.” The door closed and Ma Ma disappeared downstairs. Beep! My phone buzzed and I checked my messages. Everyone was talking about grades.
Brian: Hey. How was the test?
Ryan: Easy dubs.
Me: It was good.
Vivian: Omg. I did so bad.
Ryan: Come on, Vivian. That’s not true.
Sydney: Oop. May have messed up slightly.
Amethyst: Wait, guys here’s the zoom meeting. Everyone in the grade is talking about progress reports.
Vivian: YES! Join. Join. Join.
Ryan: Sounds gross. Don’t wanna spend my Friday night like that. I’m gonna play league. Bois, who joining?
Brian: Pass bro, sorry.
Ryan: rip :o
I clicked on the zoom. Immediately, all my friends plus my classmates faces popped up.
“Hey,” I said.
“MICHELLE! Yes! You joined,” Amethyst squealed as she jumped up and down, excited. I laughed.
“How did all ya do,” a guy who I’ve never seen before ask, “Oh. I’m Dylan from the last period by the way for those who don’t know me.” I nodded.
“I did alright,” I said as I picked up a pencil and twirled it on the edge of my fingers, “I’m Aubrey by the way.”
“Me too,” Vivian added, “the first few pages weren’t as bad as I had expected.”
“Yea. Though the last few questions were hard,” a short-haired girl from a different class said.
“I think, it went okay,” Claire, the ABG, said as she picked up her cup of boba on the side.
“Classic Claire. When do you even do bad,” Dylan said, “Yea, well how about progress reports?”
“Oh my god. I was so stressed out,” Sydney said laughing, “but mine came out okay.”
“Same,” Vivian cried, jumping up and down.
“Me too,” I said sharing in everyone’s excitement.
“Straight A’s,” Dylan asked, scanning his eyes through everyone’s faces.
“Yea, I got them,” Claire said, smiling a perfect smile, with her pearly white teeth.
“Omg! Congrats,” Dylan replied, “Dang. I could never with your work ethic.” Claire smiled.
“Just put your phone away for a bit,” she replied.
“Yea. I’m going to take a pass on that one,” he said.
“Yea. Congrats,” another girl replied as she twirled her strawberry blonde hair in her hand, “You deserve it.”
“Anyone else,” Dylan asked as he scanned the room.
“Me too,” I said smiling.
“YESSSS,” Vivian exclaimed as jumped up in her chair, “I knew that you got this.” I smiled and laughed.
“Thanks,” I replied. Sydney gave me a smile and a big thumbs up.
“Damn, I wish I had Asian parents like yours who can force me to work,” Dylan said, rubbing his head, “I might be a genius by now.” I titled my head, perplexed.
“Oh, my parents don’t really force me,” I said smiling, “They said everything is ultimately down to me anyhow. They just have high expectations for me ”
“Really,” Connor said, “But, you still get super stressed out over grades and do so well.” I smiled.
“Yea, I do,” I replied, “I mean, I don’t want to disappoint them. My parents are kind of like Claire’s parents.”
“Yea right,” Connor said, “You and Claire are so different though. Anyhow, I heard that my friend’s, who acts just like you, mom wouldn’t even talk to him after he got a B+.”
“My parents are definitely not like that,” I said, smiling.
Dylan laughed. “I think I got it. You’re not a real Asian, but you’re not a non-Asian like Claire either. Anyhow, you got a bit of Asian in you so I guess, that makes it easier right?”
I shook my head. “Not really…”
“Come on. We all know Asians are naturally smart,” Dylan said. Claire simply rolled her eyes and began examining her nails.
I hesitated for a second. Did everyone think that because I’m Asian things come naturally for me? Because things really aren’t that easy. I have to work just as hard as everyone else has to.
“Anyhow, my mom is calling,” I lied and immediately hung up. I didn’t want to hear whatever Dylan had to say. He never saw how stressed out I was for every single test. Did he see how much I struggled? Did he think that the only reason I had good grades was because that I was Asian and had strict parents? Why couldn’t he just take that I work hard?
I turned around in my bed and let out a muffled scream into my pillow. I felt a little better after and turned back around. I was calm for a moment and took a deep breath. I titled my head and looked out the window. The yellow envelope with my progress report sat on the window.
Tears formed in my eyes again and I rushed to the bathroom. “Stop crying,” I said to myself. I took a deep breath and swallowed down my saliva. The tears immediately stopped falling and I looked up, hoping to see a hard demeanor. Instead my eyes were already red and puffy.
Foreigner. Chinese chink. Sharp fox eyes. Those that rip people off. Those that steal entrances at top universities. Those that parents force to be successful. That was apparently who I was. That was apparently what everyone was telling me who I was.
The nasty feeling that I once felt reappeared. I dug my fingernails into my chest and tore at my shirt, hoping for it to go away. It was no use. The feeling stayed.
I turned to the mirror and looked at myself. I looked at the ugly shade of yellow that covered my body. I looked at my small eyes that everyone called sleepy.
“I hate it. I hate it all,” I said as I lifted my arm, hoping to destroy the ugly sight in front of me. I hated the way I looked. I hated what people thought of me. I hate how people judged me. I hated how I couldn’t be “normal.” A sob escaped from my lips and I sunk to my knees.
I hated being Asian.