Cliche Teen Crisis
This is an excerpt from Cliche Teen Crisis. Both main characters Jane and Everett defy stereotypes and lead a life they feel is worth living.
“Everett! Your alarm has been going off for the past twenty minutes, get up!”
The voice is thick and resolute and comes directly outside the thin, hallowed walls of my bedroom. Typically, if I oversleep, one of the maids usually roars up the staircase to awaken me. This is definitely not a maid. That’s when I really wake up and hear the boisterous and ear splitting “marimba” ringtone blasting from my phone across the room. I must’ve had accidentally kept it connected to the speaker all night. I get up to turn the alarm off, still confused as to who the voice was possibly resonating from, and precariously pull the sheets of my tall and lanky body. I call to the outside voice, “I’m up, I’m up!”
I glance quickly in the mirror to see my evidently narcoleptic eyes along with my dark, brown, curly locks–frizzy and filled with tangles and knots. It’s frankly a reflection I haven’t seen in months, more specifically since school ended. I run a dollop of curl shaping product through my hair and splash cold water on my face to wake me up a bit. After, I slip into my maroon St. Jude’s Prep school uniform, I rush downstairs to see a face I haven’t seen in weeks… my father’s.
“Good morning son! Before you go I would love for you to have dinner with me tonight…” he says abruptly.
A growing silence lingers between us. I’m waiting, I think, and I know that the next words that roll off his tongue will be about his current love interest. “…Just us?” I say with a slight rise in pitch.
“Yes just us! Some father-son bonding! What do you say?” He says with a questionable amount of enthusiasm, especially considering the time.
“Yeah, sure I will see you after school then,” I say as I leave the house and he smiles at me with the corners of his mouth ear to ear. I make a left turn after skipping down the steps of my Upper East Side penthouse as I replay that conversation in my head. But I brush off his strange behavior, as I usually do, and walk to the nearest train. Bikes weave through traffic and people run across the street. I soon find myself walking down the flight of stairs leading to what many consider the underground armpit of the world:the subway. I make like the bikes I’ve just seen and weave in and out of the human traffic.
I see wads of gum stuck to the floor, maybe once chewed to ease someone’s test anxiety, and multiple shoes, like the running sneakers maybe worn when another person finished a marathon or the black stilettos a third person wore to her dream job interview. That’s when I remember my vocabulary word this summer’s homework. Sonder. That’s the emotion you feel when you take notice that every person you pass has a life as complex as your own. Maybe the man performing reggae music on the pans has had a dream to be a professional musician his whole life. Perhaps the man dressed in fancy attire angrily yelling at someone on the other side of the phone is stressed because he needs that promotion.
I hear a loud scraping noise and snap out of my daze. The train is approaching the station. I hop on the least crowded car where I sit across from a man, dressed in pajamas and with obvious bed head, angrily grunting and texting. I reach for the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in my bag, to read some last minute pages in case of a quiz. The train makes a very abrupt stop and my attention is no longer on my book but the girl situated on my lap. She has big green-hazel eyes, and long, wavy, brown hair that ran down her back along with a black blazer with the letters “SJP” written below the shoulder. That stands for St Jude’s Prep, my school. I don’t recognize her–I know everyone.
She quickly gets up and says, “I’m so sorry, are you okay?” as her face turns incredibly red. I reassure her that it’s no big deal and say, “I’m fine don’t worry about it.” In a blink of an eye, she is scurrying to the opposite side of the train when I realize she’s dropped her book, To Kill A Mockingbird. I open the book to see the inside flap: “Jane Rosenthal Class 1121” appeared in feminine, detailed handwriting. 1121, that’s my class. I walk over to her, holding the bars so I don’t pull a Jane Rosenthal, and say, “Excuse me?” She looks up from her phone, a deer in headlights. “I think you dropped this…”
She bends her head down and says quietly, with a slight laugh, “Thank you, I need this.”
I sarcastically say the words, “No problem, Jane.”
Emily is a Class of 2019 mentee alum from Staten Island.