The Fake
14th Street Blues
After meeting Sydney the day didn’t seem so bad anymore. The whispering died down and I was able to focus on schoolwork, which was a plus, since it was suddenly a million times harder than it had been a week ago.
By the time I got to geometry my brain felt like it might explode if I stuffed in one more fact.
The teacher, Dr. Galbraith, must have been a hundred years old. Cavernous wrinkles creased his face and feathery snow-white hair wisped across his nearly bald head. His frail body hunched toward the board as he wrote and occasionally he leaned against it and stopped writing for what felt like a very long time, as if he’d fallen asleep or died or something.
The move, coupled with my nights of painting had exhausted me and it was a struggle just to keep my eyelids open. I finally gave in and drifted off to sleep.
I dreamed of home. I walked through the hallways of my old school laughing with friends. I smiled at my old English teacher who used to be my mom’s best friend. She asked how everything was going in New York.
I told her it was going great, but even in my dream I knew I was lying and I felt a little guilty about it. But then I was scooped onto the back of a purple unicorn and I rode off into the sunset, and…
“Miss Foster.” A craggy voice boomed. “Miss Foster. I need you to come finish these matrices.”
I rubbed my eyes and let a hand drop to my chin where I felt a line of drool connecting my mouth to the desk. I did my best to wipe it nonchalantly and sit up, but, judging by the giggling around me, I failed.
Dr. Galbraith pointed to a seemingly random series of numbers on the board.
If I’d been smart I would have just told him I had no idea what a matrix was and promise to study hard to get caught up, but I was still feeling foggy from the nap and being smart wasn’t quite within my reach. I decided instead to walk to the front of the classroom and hope for a miracle moment, when I’d just know how to do complex geometry I’d never actually learned.
I breathed deeply and wrote another series of numbers on the board and looked to Dr. Galbraith for approval. His face was twisted in confusion.
“Why did you put a four there?
“Um…” I said, feeling heat slithering out to my cheeks.
“And what is the purpose of the equals sign in column 3?”
My surroundings were suddenly crisp and I knew without a doubt I’d made a serious mistake. “I… well…”
“Do you have any idea how to multiply matrices?”
“Not exactly. ” I said, sure my face was red as it was after a day at the beach without sunscreen.
“Do you even know what a matrix is?”
I shook my head again.
The class erupted in laughter and I took my seat.
I opened my book, and for the next fifteen minutes I stared at incomprehensible sets of numbers and blinked back tears.
When the hour came to an end, I loaded my books into my bag and tried to keep my eyes on my desk. Aside from meeting Sydney, this day couldn’t have gone worse. I let most of the class clear out before I left my seat. As I stood I could hear another person rustling papers a few rows back. I turned and saw the boy from the morning.
“I’m sure you have other talents.”
I blinked, forgetting my embarrassment for a second. “Huh?”
The boy’s mouth twisted into a teasing grin. “You know, because you clearly suck at both directions and math.”
He was trying to be funny. I should have laughed and let it go. I probably would have done just that on any other day. But I was exhausted and the last thing I felt like taking were snide remarks from a person I’d barely met.
I rolled my eyes, slung my backpack over my shoulders and marched out the door.
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