"What are you writing?"
His hand paused over the page. Glancing over the few pen strokes he'd already made, he honestly couldn't answer the question. It wasn't a story, or an essay; it was barely words. He couldn't even remember or articulate why he'd pulled out the paper in the first place. It was just that his textbook was so…boring. Science was boring. Why should he care about converting liters into milliliters? When would he use that? A cookbook wouldn't ask him to do that, he wasn't pursuing a career in any sort of distribution facility, and if God forbid he actually did need the knowledge later in life, he could just Google it. The expectation of having reading this junk, to have his hand forced into something so idle and yet praised as important by teachers, parents, society…it made him claustrophobic. So he'd grabbed the paper.
Wide-ruled margins bugged him. It was less length for the same amount of tree, and his tiny handwriting looked awkward in them. Plus all he had on him was a Bic pen—those things were so crappy. You you'd start to write something, get into it, and the minute you got into your stride the pen would start to die and you'd spend the whole time trying to get the ink out, a masterpiece forgotten. It was like super-sizing a salad at McDonald's—pointless and an empty gesture.
Nonetheless, he tried. He just couldn't look at the textbook anymore. He didn't have anything in mind—he just wanted to get away from that damn textbook, its words apathetic to its own content. What asshole gets to write textbooks for a living? he had wondered. They were so bland, there was no passion in them. There was no passion in anything around, not for years, not that he had witnessed. The closest he had come to seeing real passion in his lifetime was a science teacher in sixth grade. Lord, she'd been passionate. She loved lizards and chromosomes and all that shit. Her little brown eyes sparkled behind her wire rim glasses as she told them about the fruit flies she'd kept during college as part of a genetics project. He didn't get what was so inspirational about it, not at all, but Lord that woman loved those flies. He loved the way her whole face lit up when she talked about them, the way her whole build flashed, perky! In love with life! That's what he wanted in a girlfriend—not sex, though that'd be nice. He just wanted to get those sparkles in their eyes when they thought of him.
He started to write about that science teacher, about how science should be taught, but the words failed him, and the pen died. His brow furrowed, but he was more drained than frustrated. He stared at the meaningless words, blank canvas, no content, no sparkle. His study hall teacher, eyes narrowed and suspicious, zeroed in on him. He'd had headphones on. She yanked them off, hard, and had asked in a sharp tone, "What are you writing?"
He looked at her eyes, half-crazed, angry over music, over art. Her salt-and-pepper hair, mostly pepper, was tied into a harsh bun. Her horn rims were posed on the tip of her nose, the cold metal flashing under the florescent light. She did not stoop to glare at him—her shoulders were perfectly poised, back straight. He wondered, suddenly, if she'd ever been a dancer. He stared at her, in that moment, squinting to find the spark through the stands of silver, and heard himself say, "It's preventative medicine."