She was so focused.
Sapphire eyes stuck to the marble notebook like they were meant to be. Every time she looked back up at the white board, I’d stare at the graphite doodles dancing across my beige desk. One was of King Kong, except he wasn’t rampaging on the Empire State Building; he instead had an apparent affection towards the Eiffel Tower and very, very large berets. I don’t think there was anyone who wouldn’t want to see a mutant, French-gorilla movie.
My fingers gripped my pencil lightly, turning and twisting it between the blue grids of my paper. Today, it was going to be French King Kong vs. British Godzilla. A cup of tea in his talons and Union Jack scales would do the job.
She looked back down.
Okay, I wasn’t really sure when she was looking at the board or not. I had to look out of the corner of my eye so I wouldn’t come off as creepy, even though I probably was. Our legs were touching so slightly it shouldn’t even have been noticeable to anyone sane. But of course, to me, it was the biggest deal in the universe. My thigh was as stiff as a branch, and every breath I released shuddered as it slipped past my lips.
She looked back up.
My head ducked so quickly my forehead almost slammed into the tabletop. I could barely register the incoherent babbling my teacher was letting loose. It had something to do with numbers, I was pretty sure. My No.2 twirled in my fingers and I fed Godzilla some fish n’ chips.
“Andy,” a voice boomed ahead.
I almost didn’t look. If I did, she would notice me for sure. This wasn’t a good first impression.
Figuring that acting like even more of an idiot wouldn’t help me whatsoever, I looked up. “Yes, Ms. Birch?”
My teacher balanced her frail weight on the board sill. “I may be old, but I’m not blind.”
“What do you mean?”
She rolled her eyes. “Just pay attention and actually write down some math once-in-a-while.”
And with that, her back returned to my view and class resumed. A couple of curious eyes lingered on me for a few seconds, but everyone gets bored eventually – I was the epitome of that principle. And King Kong was begging for a croissant-club.
By the time the clock struck two and metallic ringing echoed throughout the humdrum halls, I had a whole sci-fi, action-packed, romance-induced movie scene planned out. I wouldn’t have hesitated to get out of my seat in any other class, but I had to make sure she left first. Any eye contact and I would probably melt in my Converse. I crumpled the paper in my palms like playdough and made my way towards the door. Stray beams of buttery, spring sunlight had managed to infiltrate the gray barriers of this prison, lighting the room with an uplifting-but-solemn aura. My hand swiftly tossed the international-monster extravaganza into the cerulean recycling bin.
“Don’t forget about the other one.” Ms. Birch eyed me from her chair.
I gave her my signature, clueless expression. She sighed, extending her finger towards the desks – her desk. My eyes locked onto the egg-white sheet slumbering on the table next to mine while my feet quickly shuffled towards the mysterious object. The paper shivered between my fingers.
It was everything mine wasn’t.
The silver bricks and cream mortar of the walls were sketched so perfectly I had thought it was a photograph. Sunlight was obtusely shaded with motley hues of gray. Even the pencils were silhouetted against deft shadows with sharp strokes of graphite. Everything was so detailed and realistic – on point. But I paused when I spotted the bottom-left edge, and began to crease the corner of the sheet.
Hunched over and intricately shadowed was my lanky self, a sly, shadowy pupil staring at me from the corner of its eyes.
Ujwal is a junior at Montgomery Township High School in Skillman, New Jersey, where he is the president of the Planetary Conservation Club. When his fingers aren’t thundering upon a keyboard or suffocating a ballpoint, Ujwal loves to watch movies a little too late at night and loop his Spotify. He aspires to attend film school and manifest his stories on screens big enough for the world to see…with a nice, generous bucket of popcorn, of course.