UCI Critique Letters EssayAugust 6, 2022 2022-08-06 13:19
UCI Critique Letters Essay
UCI Critique Letters Essay
five critique letters ( 400 each) (use easy words, because I am an international student)
Use letter form, write about what are good point, bad point, and some suggestion of their story, for example, “I think your story should……”
for each document, you will write an individual response to the story Written by your classmate. The focus of the letter can be on a number of things, including: the aboutness of the story, the strengths of the piece, and areas of the story you think could be strengthened. Be honest, respectful, and specific. As a member of the workshop, we want fellow writers to leave workshop excited to get back into their writing, not to leave defeated. We will talk about workshop etiquette in class.
In short, talk about what is good and what is weak about each story, and give some suggestions.
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February 13, 2020
I’m not sure when, probably at the point when I started to remember things, I see this
world in a seemingly unusual way. I could say unusual not because I watched so many comics or
superhero movies that I believe I was the chosen one, but rather after self-reasoning and
analyzing seriously what others commented about me, I reached this conclusion. I see
everything as matters developing, interacting along with some kind of formula or maxim if you
will. Okay maybe it is not that unusual, but it was unusual enough for a child to think that way,
especially for the fact that I was raised in a religious family, which, I remembered, forced me to
go to church every other week, so I could adopt the ideas that we could talk to God if we are
religious enough or something or that I could actually gain something if I devoted into it.
Obviously, I didn’t buy it because no matter how hard I learned I was never the top of my class.
It reminds me I did have a period of time I was enthusiastic about things. I guess that’s why I
ended up here: graduate of a fair state university but can’t get any job offer except this
administrative position. What a shame. Well, I’m not despising people who do this type of job, I
just don’t like it so much. Back to the topic. However, I do believe one has his or her own
reality, own world. The world will be shaped differently according to one’s thought and
perspective. I might have been criticized for being dishonest or inconsistent with my value of
materialism as such belief is totally idealism. I have no objection against their opinion, and I
don’t care what others think because their criticism could also be my very imagination if the
world were shaped per my thought. In a sense, I don’t even know if others were all my
imagination that from the beginning of the world, I had always been alone. Anyway, I don’t
actually mean it. Too crazy. Aside from all these speculations, I am perfectly materialistic. There
has to be a reason for my distorted view, and apparently, I have the ability to see some
numbers above people’s heads displaying how many times I could hereafter meet this person.
Most people had 1’s or 2’s above their head while those numbers suddenly decreased
by one without anyone noticing it except this young man – he knew those people who had 0’s
were mere passengers of his life. He would never meet them again. Knowing the times did not
bother the young man too much as he was already used to it. This too shall pass. The strangers
were in the same way to him.
“Seattle never fails me.” Young man turned his scarf sideway, wrapped the longer end
around the neck, and tucked it into the loop. He puffed out a cloud of white mist on his hands,
looking up the top of the building. Drizzling.
“You working maniac. Time to go.” A blue cap slapped on the young man’s back, “I can’t
have dinner with you today. I gotta go home and get my wife. It’s our first anniversary after all.”
“Cheers man. Say hi to Sandra.” They fist-bumped and walked to the subway station.
“I remember when we were in college. You were such a jerk. No one liked you.
Especially, Dr. Sorensen. But look at you now. A married successful lawyer. Who would believe
it?” Young man shrugged his shoulders, making a resigned face.
“Isn’t ‘no-one’ a little harsh? At least San was there for me. And you too. I am pretty
thankful to you to be honest.”
“I don’t even know why I didn’t hate you at that time. Wait a minute. Probably I did.”
“Shut up.” Both laughed.
Drizzling as if it had never stopped. Their laugh disappeared into the roar of passing
vehicles. The wheels produced sticky sounds while rolling on the wet asphalt. Drops of rain
deflected upward from the edge of the wheel and disappeared in the air. They continued
walking for a few minutes. “How is you and eh, what’s her name? Mary?”
“We haven’t met for almost two years. And her name is Anna, not Mary. You are still
sloppy on names since I met you.” Young man grinned back.
“Guess being a lawyer doesn’t help that. I am seriously worried about my shitty bro
can’t get a date.” Blue Cap smirked and made a weird face.
“Since when you start nagging about my relationship status. Just didn’t find the right
It was true. Every girlfriend of him had numbers not exceeded than 100. No matter how
hard the young man tried to keep or restore the relationship, they left him forever as the
number ticked down from 1 to 0. It was like a curse that could never be lifted.
Ten-minute walk to the station went fast. “Alright, I am going this way. See you
tomorrow buddy.” Blue Cap boarded the train and turned around, facing the platform.
“Have a good night, man.” Young man smiled, pinching his lips.
“Thank you but what’s that face about? You look like I’m gonna die or something.”
Lawyer smiled back.
Subway shutters closed. Young man watched the train start to move. “Goodbye.” The
moment when the number of his best friend became 0 replayed in his head again and again. He
just stood there, gazing at the darkness of the tunnel until the next train arrived.
The next day, he heard news of a shooting in a restaurant. Two were killed. According to
one of the witnesses, the gunman was firing while shouting the lawyer’s name.
“He couldn’t help treating others as the number appeared to be. Even though they
seemed to be a good friend or colleague, when he saw the single digits above their head, he
would suddenly change his attitude, being cold and indifferent, as if he was doing a favor for
them so that they would feel less pain when they realized they couldn’t meet him again. He
deeply believed it was better not to meet if they would eventually break up. The more attached
to the other, the greater sadness either would feel when separating. This works the same to
him. Maybe, he tried to be cold before he could never meet them again was because he could
not bear the fact that he was the only party who knew they would separate forever.
Surprisingly, as he changed his attitude, no one would feel it was inappropriate for the
situation. Certain uncontrollable factors such as a reposition order to a branch in a different city
might occur just in time, then the person will not meet him again in a reasonable way. Not
surprisingly, their attitudes towards him would change as well. Everything would work in
concord, contributing to the consequence that they would separate. He called this effect as the
Great Force, or just destiny in a simpler way. He seemed to be cool with it. But I don’t think so.”
It was Sunday morning in a coffee shop. Also drizzling. Young man was reading reddit on
his phone by the window, holding the handle of a sage-colored mug. As for the girl sitting at the
opposite side of the table, it was a bit complex to explain.
Turn the clock back to ten minutes ago. Young man was in the exact same position.
“Salut, ça va. Je peux me joindre à vous?”
Young man’s eyes followed the melodious and ardent voice to the side of his table. It
was a girl in a beige sweater coat. He didn’t understand what she said, but thought she was
probably asking if she could sit here. “Eh, oui?”
“Merci.” She sat down and ordered a cup of Kilimanjaro coffee and a chocolate cake.
Young man looked around. There were a couple of empty seats and it was not crowed. Puzzling.
“What a boring face.” The girl opened up. The sudden switch to English confused young
man’s mind that he failed to reply anything to the sour phrase. “Locals don’t come to this shop,
only the tourists will. From the clothes you are wearing, the way you move your body, and your
accent when replying, I reckon you are American. Am I right?” Young man’s mouth was halfopened. He couldn’t comment anything on her quick phrases as he was still in shock.
“I was making fun of you. I saw you were reading English on your phone, so I took a wild
guess, and it looks like I hit the jackpot,” She smiled like a blossom, “Hello? Are you still there?”
She waved her fingers in front of his straight eyes.
The young man was pulled back to reality by her question. Indeed, he was surprised that
the girl chose to sit with him when the shop was not so crowded. When he sees the 7 above the
girl’s head, he quickly deduced that, as for he could not speak French fluently, and for she came
for himself, she could probably speak English and was possibly after something from him
because they were still going to meet several more times, which was too much for a stranger.
The deduction was completed in a second just as what he has done routinely. However, he was
puzzled by what he observed – the number above the girl was covered by the white noise he
had seen on TV when he was a kid – he had never encountered this situation before.
“Have we met?” The young man tried his best not to ask “What do you want from me?”
“My name is Charlotte. I sit here because, do you see? On the tree by the window.
There’s a squirrel trying to open that box. She’s so cute. Well, not just that. When I see you,
you have the face that says you left where you used to be at, left your relations behind, and
came to a foreign place to seek peace of mind, but it was not quite fun at all. Am I right?”
“Eh, okay? It was a pretty long modifier about my face, but okay?”
“Hahaha, you are so funny. I knew we would have a great talk when I saw you, but your
reaction is even more than I anticipated.” She picked up the chocolate next to the young man’s
cup, cracked it into pieces, dropped into his coffee, and stuck the spoon into the cup, swirling.
“You had a sip of the coffee without sugar. But you don’t look like the type of person who loves
black coffee. Do you know people say that the sugar you add into the coffee is the sugar add
into your life? I think it suits you better.”
Young man stared at this mysterious but incredible girl, sipping the coffee of new flavor.
“It tasted better right?”
Young man nodded as a reply. Amazed with this girl.
“I just told you my name, could you tell me your name?” Her eyes are calm and deep,
containing everything in the world as well as what the young man was thinking.
“My name is Joshua.”
“O, Joshua, good name. I think we can get along.” She smiled, setting her cheek on the
back of her hand.
Joshua looked at the 7 above her head. “I just arrived here, and I plan to stay in Paris for
a week. You seemed to be very familiar with this place. Would you mind being my guide during
“I knew you would ask,” Charlotte turned her face slightly sideway, pointed her index
finger to Joshua with a faint smile, “meet me every morning here. I will be seating at the same
chair waiting. How does that sound?”
Joshua did not even understand his own thought. During the past four days, they
became ever closer than he thought. Was it because Charlotte was too attractive or because
she understood himself too well? He didn’t know. He knew he liked her, but the 2 above her
head kept reminding him cruelly that there wasn’t much time for them together. They had a
great one. But he knew it was about time. About time to be cold. After all, he was good at
It was actually the second time Charlotte visited Paris. As a travel blogger, she was
surely knowledgeable about travelling and places around the world. On the contrary, Joshua
had never left Seattle once. Mostly because he recognized the numbers, he simply reacted
according to the numbers. Although, she could be different from others, she would be same as
others eventually. He thought.
“The firework show is about to start, why don’t we wait at front?” Charlotte pulled on
Joshua’s jacket and pointed at somewhere on the road.
“Eh, ah, I don’t like fireworks, why don’t you watch it by yourself?” Joshua turned his
eyes to the other side.
“There’s no meaning we don’t watch it together, plus, you have to see the firework
show when you visit a Disneyland. Everyone knows it. Don’t you…ah, not that boring face again.
Where’re you looking at?” She stepped forward and stood on her tiptoe, blocking his vision.
“I just don’t want to watch. And you are just my guide. You shouldn’t argue anything
about the tourist’s decision.”
“Why you have to be so harsh? You weren’t like this. I thought we were closer. Or is it
just me think so?”
“I have stayed in Paris long enough. Maybe we should not meet anymore.” Joshua was
still staring at the right-most in his view, avoiding looking at her face.
“Is that what you really think? If so, look at me, look into my eyes. Are you afraid?”
Charlotte raised her voice. People turned and looked at them, wondering.
Joshua slowly turned his head away without saying anything. “Why she was so worked
up?” He thought. Everyone Joshua met just walked away when he was cold to them. “I don’t
understand. I don’t understand. What’s wrong with her? What’s wrong with me?”
“I thought you were the one I was looking for. Maybe, I was wrong. We should not see
each other again. But I did have a good time. Goodbye. Make it the last time we meet.” Calmly,
peacefully, Charlotte turned away.
Crowds formed within no time. Talking, laughing, screaming. They were trying to be as
closer to the center as possible. Only two people outside of the crowd were not walking to the
front as they did not belong to the place. The illuminations from the stores shone the walkaway
bright. At that second, he could not hear anything.
“Wait, what’s going on? If I remember, she had a 2, right? But she said we would not
meet again. Did I hear that wrong? What’s going on? We would meet somewhere at least for
the last time, wouldn’t we? But what she was saying…That’s not the point. Are we going to
separate now? She said my real thought. What did she mean? What’s real thought? Wait, what
do I really think? The first day I met her. I did feel something. Very strange. Was I imagining it?
But we went out for four days. And it’s already day 5. Do people naturally date the person they
met the first day? Wait, date? Was it a date? Are we dating? What is date anyway? Really?
Errrr, too many things are going on in my head right now. I can’t think. I don’t know what I truly
want. But I do know I want to see her again.”
Quickly taking a deep breath, Joshua turned around. He lost her in his sight as more and
more tourists walking towards him, or, rather, towards the front. He used his hands, creating
space among the people, trying to escape this carnival. The 1’s and 0’s above people’s heads
dazzled Joshua’s eyes. He could not bear not to see her again.
“There she is!” A girl in a checked coat and a red beret was at the rim of wave of people.
“Wait.” When he realized what just happened, he was holding the girl’s forearm.
Both stayed in the position for seconds. The 1 above her head was just like others’.
“Char, er, it was not like that,” He burst out but soon lowered his voice and turn his
head sideway embarrassedly, “You know, em, I have, er, I don’t even know why I do this.”
The girl turned her face around. Black eyelines had extended down to her cheekbone.
Probably due to the firework show, not many people were at the Ferris wheel.
“I don’t even know where to start. You might think I’m crazy, but…I know how many
times I could meet the person in the future.” Joshua led Charlotte into the cabin, as she sat
down, he released her hand and sat on the other side. The operator closed the shutter.
“When I know I don’t have many opportunities to meet the person, I would try to be
cold to them. Because I know I cannot fight destiny,” Joshua continued, looking the empty
space next to Charlotte, “I have tried before. When I knew my parents would leave me, I tried
to find the reason. I tried to fix it. Isn’t strange for parents not to see their kids anymore? Even
if they divorce, we could meet at least one of them many, many more times. I knew something,
something bad would happen on them. I remember on that day, I failed to stop them. I stayed
up late because I didn’t want to miss the moment, but I couldn’t resist to sleep. When I woke
up late, they already left. They didn’t come back that night. Later, someone told me they were
involved in a serious accident that it was even impossible for the police to id them from the
face. I hate myself. I hate this ability. Because of it, I completely understand how powerless I
am. I don’t know why I’m telling you all these. You are first one though.”
Their cabin reached the top. “So, you are cold to whom you would never see. Or should
I say you are acting cold? People separate. This is common sense. It’s just no one, except you,
know when it would come. You think you are the only one who suffers from it? Everyone does.
But it’s also part of our lives. Don’t think you are different. One or more things you can do
doesn’t make much of a difference. You are just like other people. We meet. We get to know
each other. We hang out. We get along. We fight. We repair our relationship. We separate. We
die. These can’t be more common. Knowing the time that you must leave your loved ones
should not be the excuse you treat them as garbage. Does it explain why you are in France?”
“When I saw everyone around me, everyone in my office, every one of my neighbors
had 1’s above their head, I knew I would never be able to see them again, so I left Seattle. But
choosing France is just random.” Joshua crossed his fingers and rested his nose on his hand.
“So, the numbers you see represent the times. But if you think twice, in that situation,
there were two possible outcomes. One was you left that place. The other one was you died
right there. The latter might not even occur to you. Am I right?”
Joshua swung his head, peaking at her eyes.
“But, does it mean that you could choose the outcome? If you didn’t leave the place,
you were probably dead. From my perspective, you rely too much on what you see. And the
way you treat people. I don’t know what to say. Let me tell you a story. There was a girl who
could see numbers that represent how many times she could see others. One day, she knew it
was her last time meeting her best friend. She did not treat her friend like a crap, instead she
invited her friend to her house and treated her friend with her homemade cake. She told her
friend she wanted to travel around the world, to see different food, places, and cultures, but
they might not be able to meet again. Her friend fully supported her idea. She promised to her
friend that every time she visited a new place, she would take as many pictures and tell her
how beautiful the world was. Until now, the girl is still doing it. The point I’m telling you this
story is I want to let you know you could choose the way you separate from your loved ones. If
you know you are leaving the person, let the person know and make it the best. If you are
afraid of separating, make it memorable. If you feel the pain, let it be, let it carve on your heart,
accept is as part of your life and embrace it, seek for the next encounter. What do you say?”
Their cabin reached at the bottom of the Ferris. The operator opened the door. Joshua
looked at Charlotte like a dog who knew what he just did was wrong looking at his master.
“You guys can take another rider.” The operator shut the door with a weird smile.
It was silence for a while. Charlotte stood up and sat down on Joshua’s side.
“Are you…” Joshua stopped what he was about to say, “I guess you are right. I was
wrong the whole time. If I knew it, a friend of mine might not have to…Why am I like this? I
have been like this for the whole time. Am I manipulating others? I don’t think I deserve…I…”
“The past is already past. You can’t change it, but you can accept it. As your flaw. You
are not manipulating others’ life,” Charlotte touched Joshua’s face with the tip of her finger,
“Because you have the power, you feel the responsibility, you want to be noble. You don’t have
to be. Accept how the world is and how you are. I know you are a kind person that you don’t
want others feel the pain you feel when separating. You have done well. Now it’s time to rest.
Listen to your heart and be honest to it.”
The fireworks blossomed in the sky. Their cabin reached the top the second time. It was
quiet. The only sound they could hear was their breaths. The lips were pushed against each
other. It was almost a minute, but it was like a century.
“I knew you would do it, but couldn’t you be gentler?” Charlotte blushed her face,
looking up at his face. Then she turned away, gazing at the fireworks far away.
“This is actually our last time seeing each other. But. Even if this was the last time that I
could see you, I will…” He stopped.
The 1 above Charlotte’s head suddenly turned into 36782.
22 January 2020
The Purpose of Having a Purpose
“You know, I can’t lie, it’s pretty hard to explain the beauty of the sky. From wavy, seablue hues to gentle, but sassy red and pinks—the different types of sunsets I will experience are
infinitely infinite. I know I haven’t seen all the gradients its nature has to offer, but almost every
time I look up, I can’t help but think, ‘it doesn’t get better than this, matter of fact it can’t.’ Yet
the next day, the sky always somehow manages to slap me in the face with a color I’ve never
seen before. Keeping my body anchored to the ground and my eyes swiveling the horizon.
Looking at the sky makes me question my own inability to describe myself. A person, like any
other, constantly evolving through their experiences and beliefs. Never knowing if this is the day
I spill my own colors for all to see. Don’t think there’s a single person who wouldn’t be
Fun, easy-going, lively and energetic—but those are all just general adjectives any friend
of mine would spew, who ever said I believed that about myself? I mean, even if I did, what’s
the point of being fun if you can’t be boring? The point of being easy-going if you don’t set a
line of boundaries others should not cross? How can one be so, so “fueled with life” despite
feeling like he’s always running on…empty…questions I have yet to find an answer for which
continue to parasite my mind until they control my emotions and eventually my impulses. You
would think for someone who, so dearly, wants to know all the answers would put more time in
his studies. But it’s not that easy, it still feels pointless and the end-goal is…muddy.”
“Well, is it?”
“No…. ahhhh, actually yes…. no. Well, listen. In my adventures of grading school, I
would be called gifted by all my teachers, but there was not one who ever saw me apply myself.
‘He is such a joy to have in class, he just………doesn’t do his work,’ they would say, right on
cue for my mother’s reprimanding. ‘Tiwa! What is wrong with you? Don’t you know the
struggles we have endured to get to this point in life? Working two jobs and sacrificing our
freedom to—’ No, actually. No. No, I don’t know what you have endured in life because I am but
an eleven-year old who rather find a way to watch ‘Spongebob’ while at the same time listening
to Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech than spend more than 5 minutes reading it
myself. But hey, it never really mattered because come test time, I knew all my shit like anyone
else. Hell, if not better. I might have done it differently, but the point, I thought, the point was
that I still did it.
But no, it wasn’t enough. It was never enough.
‘He does so well on his tests but his scores in homework are suffering,’ Mrs. Eaglin
would say. ‘I’m not sure if he will be able to pass the 5th grade if he does not start taking this
seriously.’ ‘Tiwa! What is wrong with you? Don’t you know the struggles we have endured to
get to this point in life? Working two jobs and sacrificing our freedom to bwom raise buh-bwom
bom bwom-buh-buh bom and your sister….bwom…’”
I chuckled at that memory.
“The blank look in my eyes must have indicated that I had stopped listening to my
mother because I couldn’t comprehend why the skin on my face was stinging as if I turned the
shower water two degrees too hot—oh wait, that’s right—she slapped me out of her efforts to
discipline me. But I guess it’s ok, you know, I- I got used to it. I learned it was a Nigerian
mother’s way of letting her children know she cares for and loves them. Even supported
biblically, she’d tell me, ‘spare the rod, spoil the child.’ As if I was supposed to thank her for
hitting me. FUNNY, because once, she actually told me to thank her when a ‘calm’ chastening
turned loud lecturing left me angry and frustrated. ‘You should thank me for correcting you,’ she
would tell me in a bitterly spiteful tone. Looking back, you know, maybe I would have. Maybe if
it wasn’t accompanied by inconspicuous belittling. But whatever—she’s the parent,
I’m the child.
But I understood my stubbornness! I understood that I was so young, and I really didn’t
know shit about…shit! But I’m still a person who was a sense of awareness and a coaster of
feelings like anyone else. Don’t get me wrong, though, it didn’t mean I didn’t want to be
corrected. I just rather be corrected the way my white friends’ moms would correct them.
The cliché slap on the wrist always seemed so beautiful and underrated. Not really
anything more, aside from a quick lecture but apparently nothing less. If not, at least a way that
wouldn’t make me feel invalidated for fairly feeling upset. But that’s all subjective—I found
comfort in my soft tears massaging the parts of my face her hand hit. A sweet feeling nigh to
being kissed by lips made of Aloe. Only for a moment was I humbled because I immediately
went back to my usual thought processes: the fact that me, barely a preteen, was expected to
have some sort of ‘seriousness’ for my studies was dumbfounding. It’s not as if I’m trying to fail
in the first place, I just didn’t understand the importance of complete success. I mean, shit, at
least I passed most of my tests, right? Down the road, little did I know I would find a passion that
I would feed with every inch of power I possessed.
I’m thankful for Mrs. Eaglin. Despite my “energetic” behavior in her class and probable
(and relatable) regard to my mother’s concerns as a Black mother, she allowed me to turn-in
every missing assignment I could finish before the end of the year. I spent hours every day
slowly bringing my grade to perfection. Even then, when concert band was introduced amid that
elementary chaos, of the three-ish maximum names she could have put down to participate, she
selected me. A student who maybe was gifted but didn’t yet apply himself. A student who wasn’t
undeniably sound in his studies when compared to the rest. I’m thankful. Because of her, I was
able to enter this new world of music arts that I would later build upon and perfect to a
professional level. Matter of fact, I tend to disappear every weekend and every other summer
because of it—I mean, goodness, it was what kept me motivated to “finish strong” in high
school, end with a fucking bang! even though I ended up getting a D in AP Physics. But it’s not
like I tried to get a D……right? I just rather spend my time watching Netflix or improving my
percussion skillset; classic me and my excuses. The grade only came with it, didn’t really mean
anything to me until I chose to go to a nationally renowned four-year university. Keep in mind,
this was all motivated by the constant (and I mean constant) reminder that my parents didn’t get
such an opportunity. I wanted to make them proud but I—
Anyways, there is not much that comes to mind when remembering Mrs. Eaglin other
than the word, “compassionate.” I wonder though, did her compassion root from the fact that I
was a “struggling” student specifically in her class or did it matter more that I was Black? She
knew exactly what my mom felt in those parent-teacher conferences, as she lived it maybe 20
years prior with her now adult son. We never saw him though. I guess at that stage in life you are
your own and your parents are left alone—
It’s hard to explain what it feels like to want the care-free life my white friends had, but
also be compared by my parents to the hard-working Asian students whose lives seemed to
revolve around school. As a Black kid, you had shoes to fill. They might be two sizes too big,
but you better grow overnight and or put some tissue paper at the toe of the shoe—whatever you
had to do to fill ‘em. Expectations to meet, surpass. It made me wonder when I was younger, are
they genuinely hard-working, or is that just…them. You know, the way Black people tend to be
entertaining. Maybe Asians were just smart. A generational lie many of us learned and used to
put a ceiling on our abilities, I mean, fuck, it was just in their culture to be successful, what was
wrong with us? It wasn’t connected to genetics or any of that bullcrap. They were just
unapologetically hard on their children. Even other Nigerian families I knew of lived by the same
premise, so I knew it wasn’t a “race thing.” But our family was different. We had a little girl who
loved to dance and sing but needed that extra minute of reading upon the hours and hours I
would see her studying. Next was the boy. He could remember and recite anything he read but
rarely applied himself because everything was boring or too much work; he didn’t feel the need.
It was difficult for me to understand, but so simple to explain when it clicked: if I was
interested, I would give my all and apply myself. I liked French, so I went and got the A. Same
with AP English and my band classes. It was odd that the objectively hardest year for a high
school student was easiest for me. Prideful with my 3.8 GPA, I felt on top of the world and that
maybe, just maybe, I finally found a passion for school that I could go on cultivating up to
graduation and on to college. But that wasn’t the case. I just happened to be at the peak of any
children’s fairytale where the common theme of redemption and responsibility came to play. I
still hated school. More so, hated life. I didn’t have a reason to though, I guess I was blessed
beyond measure with a powerfully rounded family. My sister was already on her way to
graduating from college, it would soon be my turn to step up to the plate and build a life of my
own, keep the family name pumping. But ultimately, it’s the memories and traditions that keep
the heart of a family alive, even when physically separated. Does anything really matter after a
certain point? Did anything really matter?”
I let out a big sigh, as I forget to breathe when going on a tangent.
I let out another one because I often remind myself to breathe during tangents and I
always forget to. Mental note: put that to the top of the list.
“It was only recently that I began to wonder if that heart would continue beating if I had
decided to spill my colors. Would it be for the better? Worse? I may not have known the answers
at the time, but no doubt, it would have been selfish, immature, to not keep it pumping. Quite
honestly, I really loved my sister too much and she loved me even when things between us were
rough. And I suppose there was a time I could even call her my best friend, though “sister” was
packed enough because she—
Actually, instead of reminiscing about every little thing I loved about my sister, let’s
flashforward to 2019. The year the chaos of my mind unfolded.
I didn’t intend to come out to my parents, but I did anyways. More so, my mom
physically wouldn’t let me leave my room until I told her why I have grown so distant and
I thought I was bisexual.
Can you blame me? Christian-born and rooted in Nigerian, raised on Christian beliefs,
my sexuality created such a rift of juxtaposition in my soul I was prepared to live the rest of
eternity in hell. I mean, these feelings started so young, you can imagine why it was so hard for
me to care about shit I didn’t see a point in. Like, there was no point.
There really was no point.
When I began to hear about a new black kid going missing every day, or another incident
of a police encounter gone wrong highlighted by police brutality, or a president who seemed not
to care about my people, or rising costs of living while minimum wage barely increased, or
weed-out programs in college that only wanted the best and the brightest—I didn’t let this stop
me, though, because I had music. I grew accustomed to my brain being overwhelm by these
thoughts, but there was always that colorful source of control in my life. I still had music. Even
when I was grounded or punished with spankings or got the Wii taken away or anything, I still
had my ears to listen to the beautiful sounds saved on my Christmas-gifted MP3 or my fingers to
tap tables with to my own beat. I would think of all sorts of random ways to express the colors of
my soul without bleeding them, even still it seems I haven’t quite found out how—”
“Sorry to interrupt, but—”
“But, I have to ask, what is it that you said you are majoring in?”
“Can I raincheck this conversation?”
We both laughed. Softly and honestly, little chuckles slowly dying out and getting more
“Well, to be real with you, it feels like my life revolves around school. Even during
summer break or Thanksgiving, someone just always finds out a way to bring up school. My
aunt and I could be talking about cheesecake and before you know it my laptop’s out and we’re
filing for FAFSA,” I explained.
“Well, to be real with you, as your therapist it seems like something I might benefit from
knowing, but of course, this is your safe space, if you don’t want to talk about school, let’s talk
about your music life. That seems to give you purpose?” she asked in the same disbelieving tone
my parents and relatives would.
“So, I guess I call myself a Physics major, but we’ll see where it goes…”
“You’ll be graduating college soon and you haven’t quite settled on a major?”
“Trust me, if I wanted my mom to be my therapist, I would have FaceTimed her at my
“Sorry, sorry, I am just concerned…”
We put the conversation to a halt and allowed the heat of the air to simmer down. The
soft whistles of the waves outside were overthrown by the relaxing vapors of sea salt which
paraded through the open window net. The deafening silence of the room was also pushed out, I
kept on repeating her last words in my head: concerned, concerned,
After another heavy sigh, I began again.
“No, I have not exactly settled on a major. This time I’m thinking of pursuing English.”
I liked writing, I rationalized. Poetry is sometimes dreadful but the ability to be poetic is
“Ok, that’s good! How is that going?”
She gave me a stern look with eyebrows that screamed “NOW what?”
“Not to be classic me, but I just…hate reading. On the contrary I love it. I mean, it’s a
love-hate relationship, so.”
“I think it’s actually impossible to hate reading as an English major.”
“You’re right, you’re right, that’s why it’s a love-hate relationship. I love reading things,
especially when the author is good at keeping things interesting.”
She got up roughly from her beanbag chair and walked across the room. Passing me,
behind her orchard, life-sized desk stood a mildly tall bookshelf. A myriad of binds with multiple
colors were displayed as well as the spread of toppings in a hot bowl of ramen.
You know, the way they make it look appetizing and not all cluttered.
She skimmed down her rainbow hardbacks and steered her hand to the bottom row, full
of blacks, greys, and whites. Pulling out the darkest of binds, she mumbles something to herself
then makes her way back to me.
“Here,” she said, handing me the book. “When you finish it, let me know if you’re Team
Jacob or Team Edward.” Winking at me with a cocky smirk, she made her way around the
glossy, brown coffee table and plumped down into her beanbag chair, pulling her dress down to
her knees just before re-crossing them and adjusting her sitting position for comfortability. I
think she loves when my eyes follow her old-fashioned, yet sculpted body around the room. I
think, maybe, she just misses the attention. It’s no coincidence that she wears such form-fitting
“I really thought pursuing English would help me get my eyes off a screen but if
anything, my eyes are glued to my laptop nowadays.” I forgot I pay a stranger to complain to.
For a second, she felt more like a friend than my therapist. “And to be more specific, the
consensus is…I do like reading, I just hate busywork and lately that’s what reading has felt like.”
“I don’t blame you. Reading is…I suppose not as entertaining as the on-screen adaptation
of any piece of literature.” Trailing off, she asked with a curious glare, “Speaking of, out of all
the books you have read that now have a movie adaptation, which is your favorite? Assuming
you have read any.”
We both laughed again. This is how each one of our appointments went, everything is
really grave and serious in the beginning until one of us breaks the ice and suddenly, a pay-bythe-hour-strictly-business meeting turns into a weird flirty hangout, almost like casual banter in a
bar before a hookup.
“Maybe Enders game. Even though the movie’s adaptation was a little under my
expectations in term of graphics, I felt like the story really makes me feel like Alyosha in the—”
“Little Black Hen!” she said, excitingly cutting me off.
Just like a sunset she never fails to surprise me.
“I would never have thought you were familiar with Russian children’s literature.”
“I would never have thought you to have read it.”
We laughed once more. I’m aware she’s a first-generation Russian, fluent in it too. She’s
also aware that I’m taking a class on Russian children’s literature.
She continued, “it’s nice that you’re actually taking school seriously again, I’m proud of
you. You’ve definitely come along way since we’ve started meeting.”
I couldn’t tell if this compliment was to tell me that meeting with her was changing my
life, like the ads on Twitter say, or if she was genuine. Either way, it felt backhanded and I
couldn’t help but find myself promptly irritated by this.
“Yeah, but it’s not like I wasn’t taking school seriously before,” I said in a monotone
voice, killing off whatever moment of playfulness we were enjoying.
“That wasn’t really what I meant to say, I apologize.”
And just like every other meeting, we’re back with the formalities.
“But I do mean that I am happy things are overall much better for you in school,” she
“Yeah,” I replied, coldly and blankly staring at my dizzy reflection in the coffee table.
Even though I wasn’t looking at her, I could sense her festering nervousness, so naturally,
she started talking to prevent her from getting lost in thought.
“You said music changed your life, right? Why not major in it if it makes you so
“I’m passed the point where that’s an option. Brain-washed people like you made it all
too difficult for me to see it as a reality. ‘How can you make a living off of that, what’s the point,
how will you provide for you family just playing music?’ No one even gave it a chance until I
blamed my depression on it. Every decision I want to make is wrong unless it’s done the right
way. And the right way is always deemed by someone else who doesn’t feel the same things I
feel, or even experienced the same things I have, how do they know what’s good for me?”
“Honey, everything a parent or adult will tell you is based off their own experiences and
what they have learned to be the recipe to success. I’m sure they don’t mean any harm when—”
“What about you, huh? What’s your recipe for success?”
Caught off guard, she stumbled on how to answer my question. I didn’t mean to be an
ass, but I just needed to hear it from her.
“I don’t know. I don’t have a ‘recipe for success’, I’m just doing what I know how to do,
what I went to school for, what I understand. I…….I don’t know. I’m just doing what I can.”
I already knew this. I already knew she didn’t understand why she was a therapist
because in reality, she has just as many problems as anyone else. We’ve talked outside of these
sessions. But, I wonder, who’s her therapist?
Her iPhone’s chime bell went off, disrupting another wave of silence in the room. I
packed my things and thanked her for letting me continue to see her. As I walked out, I started
thinking about answers to my own question. I feel like even though I don’t know what’s going
on, neither does she. But somehow, just somehow, it always feels like I need her just as much as
she needs me.
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