By Irene Hao
Spilling thoughts on paper; the unrefined, unfiltered, unmuted musings of Lavera Yul.
Lavera Yul needed to sort out her desk.
Her hands were sore from switching back and forth between the different colored Muji pens on her desk. Why was her chair wooden? She should buy a pillow cushion. She glanced at Maria; her sister was in class, stumbling, awkwardly laughing. At least she was participating.
Sleepy, she wanted to sleep. Why does sleep exist? If she didn’t have to sleep, if she could stop time, she could finish her homework. Everybody says they’d love to have the ability to travel back in time or stop time to right their wrongs or whatever, but she’d do anything to stop time for an hour just to catch up on what this teacher was saying, and maybe rest. Too fast. That slide went by too fast. She should message Kelly for notes. If she could find the time.
She pushed her chair back, attempted to step out, but tripped on the charger wires to her phone, laptop, tablet. Lavera peeked under her desk: “What an absolute mess.”
“Then clean it.”
“Don’t have time,” she retorted to her sister. “And pay attention to class.”
“I am,” she huffed. “You’re too loud.”
Had Lavera been like this back then? Sure she was quiet, angsty; she had some dark thoughts. Did she ever project them outwards? Perhaps on paper, never aloud. She’s older; she should help her sister. But a shower; that’s what Lavera needs now.
She grabbed some towels on the bedside railings. Lavera loved afternoon showers. Hers have always been long, sometimes fifteen, thirty minutes; once, when she was twelve, she showered for an hour.
The apartment was quiet. Mom must’ve gone out for groceries. The bathroom was hers.
She stretched, heard a bone crack, cranked up the shower.
Hot. A bit too cold. Warm, but not lukewarm. The water was like a warm blanket. She inhaled, raised her face to the showerhead. If she angled her face right, the water would drown out the sound. A dull, muted soundscape. She was underwater, a mermaid, about to be reborn, but no, she can’t hold her breath any longer. She opened her eyes. The light, the bathroom was too bright. She raised her arms in flowing movements, her ballet lessons from nine years ago. Weightless, no clothes keeping her down, flying in a spotlight of sprinkles; the water dripped from her fingertips. She swirled them around; she was waterbending, controlling oceans like Moses. That Prince of Egypt movie was good. She should watch it.
The bathroom mirror, fogging up, was the perfect target. Water splattered on the mirror and dripped down, the hot water cutting through the foggy cover. It’s like blood; no, Picasso, or Pollock. Abstract, shapeless; she made that. She was a waterbender.
There was a new bump on her shoulder blade. And another. Mosquito bites? Acne? Goosebumps? She couldn’t see. There was that idiom, or superstition, that people had a butterfly on their back, beautiful wings that everybody could see but themselves. What would her wings look like? Would they droop in the water or freeze and break in the cold like Tinkerbell? No, she wouldn’t want wings. Everyone wanted to fly like Peter Pan or hop buildings like Peter Parker, but no, what if she fell? Or the web broke? Heights are scary. The higher you go, the more people pull you down, the more people can see you.
Back in her room, towel in her hair, waiting for it to dry. The desk was messy on the left, but the right, the Instagramable shelf was perfect. Aligned bookshelves, colorful pins, bobbles and gifts; her gaze wandered. There were her yearbooks, the leather notebooks where her classmates wrote comments and farewells. The smell was undeniably dusty; “You’re so smart,” and “You have such neat handwriting,” and “Wish I knew you better,” in gold ink, upside down text, scribbles on each page.
She wished she’d known them, too. If she could go back in time, when would she go back to? Middle school? No, there’s a chance she could’ve never met her best friends. High school? She’d have to retake physics. Would she retain her knowledge? If she could, she’d go back to her infancy. Reborn a prodigy, genius. Like Matilda Wormwood, or Akeelah at the Spelling Bee. Every parent hopes for their child to be one, to carry on their hopes and dreams. She was an idea to carry on their legacy, but what is a legacy? “It’s planting seeds in the ground you never get to see,” says Lin-Manuel Miranda. Her ideal, unattainable dream: be the next Miranda, the next multi-talented creative mind that could create a masterpiece. Songs, poems, books, podcasts: not something that just rocks on the first listen or read, or something that “grows” on you. Something that rocks your world; something that won’t evaporate.
Her phone buzzed. Her Google Calendar reminder; brainstorming session in five minutes. Then dance practice; then algebra tutoring; dinner; homework, however long that will take. Rest, then morning will come. A sigh. With so much to do, surely she’d feel accomplished by the end.
Initially an eight-page essay for an English assignment, this piece was certainly a challenge to cut down. Much will be missed: the Spotify playlist, the banter between Lavera and Maria, and a powerful hunger metaphor. What started as a stream-of-consciousness exercise to emulate the style of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway transformed into a long diary entry capturing the life of my alter ego in quarantine.
Irene Hao is a high school senior, aspiring writer and designer. Since middle school, she has written reviews on the latest novels and albums in addition to covering the lives and reflections of her classmates and herself. A lover of Studio Ghibli movies, Chipotle and Canva, Irene is prone to laughing at the dumbest jokes. She has immensely loved the years she’s spent with her mentor Lauren, whether at Whole Foods, Sunset Park or Zoom meetings, and hopes to stay connected in the future. On the threshold of graduation, Irene eagerly anticipates her college years and whatever comes along her way.