It’s the pressed button-up, the pants that sway as you walk and the 4 2B pencils (sharpened at both ends, you’re prepared like that) tucked inside its case.
It’s the congratulatory e-mails and the once a week phone calls.
You stare at the strip of paper and your eyes try to find the rhythm (and maybe work out the beat and deflection, too) amongst the sharp mountains and hills. You think it reminds you of your feeble attempts at joined-up writing when you were 4.
It’s the one too many times you sat with that group of friends also assigned to snack and beverages duty on PTI. The rest of the school is dark.
You watched them enter and exit the hall in turns, thumbing the embossed letters on your own badge, but you’ve never made it inside. Sometimes you think it’s fitting how if you switch the order of letters “R” and “E”, you get something that supposedly means no flaw.
“We already know you’re doing well,” they said.
It’s the twice a week press on the button before you feel the automated band constrict around your left upper arm. You wait for the countdown and then 3 sets of numbers; 2 in form of a fraction and one beside the flashing heart. Ironically they opted for the symbol of love instead of the vital pump.
Some days there are 4. The one inside a circle and then you know it’s time to lay off the caffeine for a while.
You feel the rush and listen to the seemingly slowing beat in your ear and wonder how you can feel so in motion when in reality you (albeit moving) remain stationary.
You hit the stop button when the numbers in bright yellow staccato against blue reach 60 minutes.
It’s the 5 different 10 minutes of rainstorm on loop, the 2 cups of liquid, the hairclip holding back your fringe. The 3 to 4 hours of sleep (interspersed with bouts of wakefulness), the 30 minutes ride to, the 45 minutes ride from. It’s the rows of heads of 40 something others, 26 of the alphabet in a report (amazingly, they all made the cut) and the size 7 latex on your 8 fingers and 2 thumbs at least 3 times a week.
It’s the reed against your bottom lip of that woodwind you’ve now neglected. It’s also the 2 million grains of salty in a spoon, the 200 degrees of canned heat, and the 4mm width of steel on the weekends.
And you ask yourself, is this what you want?
But you already know the answer.