|Diary of an Asian Kid
Author: Lonian PM
I chronicle my more exciting days as a ninth-grader in Taiwan, struggling, as we all do, to get into a decent high school. Both me and my friends encounter many things, from failed romance to bullying. Now, high school has started! Things which I have once considered unreachable suddenly become normal and everyday for me. But one thing that doesn't change is my bad luck...Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Humor - Chapters: 99 - Words: 256,199 - Reviews: 103 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 8 - Updated: 11-12-12 - Published: 01-08-11 - id: 2880301
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
19th March 2012, Monday
I don't know what to write, what to think, what to feel, or how to react. I have two stories resonating in my mind, one god-awful and the other straight out of a fantasy of mine. Guess I'll start with the short one; it's slightly more recent, and it's disturbing me more.
Let's start by purging out all the bad things that have happened to me until now:
1. The standards for the entrance exams into the Experimental Classes came out last Friday, the last day of midterms. Turns out I don't even meet the basic criteria for the Math Experimental Class—average of 80 in Math—so I'd had to completely give up on that dream. I'm still going to leave the EEC, though.
2. For some unknown reason, I started coughing about a month ago and have been doing that steadily ever since. I've been to a Chinese doctor three times already, but the darned symptoms aren't showing any signs of alleviating (according to the doctor, it's an allergic reaction to the abrupt temperature shifts lately). Maybe it's time to try Western medicine? Anyway, I am sick and tired of my heaving lungs and runny nose. Have I mentioned that coughing is one of my most hated activities?
3. Results for midterms came out today. Due plausibly to the fact that I had entered not one but two contests that took out huge chunks of my time (a science exhibit with Jessica and an English Future Newspaper with three other girls from my class), I failed miserably at the exams. Literally. I rather suspect that it was because of a vicious circle that I was helpless to stop: I'd be trying to finish the project until late into the night, usually going to sleep after one a.m., and when I had to go to school the next day, I'd spend most of it sleeping. Let me just tell you, sleeping in class has absolutely no benefits. My grades this time sucks to the end of time, even worse than the first exam I had in Taiwan. Here is my pathetic sob story.
As if brutally finding out that I got 55 out of 100 in Chinese, the worst I did ever since that disastrous first exam in the 5th grade, wasn't enough.
No, after walking into Math class from the DTAC (Da-Tong Associated Clubs, similar to a student council of sorts) meeting that had gone through lunch and nap, I found my Math paper lying accusingly in the middle of the mess that was my desk.
It read: 48.
I was in shock. I double-checked all the answers to make sure that there wasn't a terrible mistake, something, anything, that could wake me from this horrific nightmare come true.
Knowing me? No such luck. Of course.
Later, as the teacher went through the paper, I found out that I knew most everything in it, so this disgusting fail was merely induced by my own blindness and stupidity.
As if this not-so-startling discovery made me feel any better.
Even worse, when I plucked up the courage to mark my History paper (the answers were on the blackboard), I was rewarded with increasing despair, anxiety, and a general sense of doom.
My fears were confirmed when the goddamned History helper went onstage and actually read out everyone's marks. Mine? 51.
Nice to meet you, I'm going to die just about now.
By the time break time finally rolled around, after the longest fifty minutes I'd ever had the misfortune to endure, I was already choking back tears. And it was only two in the afternoon.
Waiting for the nervous breakdown? Soon, my friend, soon you will see.
The last straw was when one of the girls on my security patrol team showed up to inform me that our group leader (a second-year) was extremely furious with me and William because we had failed to tell the other members of our team that the whole security patrol had a meeting today.
William looked at me. I looked right back at him. "Did she tell us that there was a meeting?" He shook his head in utter incomprehension. "Never mind, I don't think she's really angry. She never is," he said thoughtfully.
Easy for him to say. He's not the deputy team leader.
"Anyway, she told me to get you two to see her right about now," continued the messenger.
Another girl from class 102, nicknamed ET, was waiting for me at our class door to let me see something when both she and William left.
She looked at me apprehensively, as I was apparently noticeably green around the gills, then went ahead and showed me whatever it was.
I looked at it and said, with marked disinterest for me, "Oh." I just could not muster up any enthusiasm for anything.
Bless her sweet little heart, ET then went on to say worriedly, "Laurence, are you all right?"
There. That was it. My breaking point.
All the strain of the past hour, day, weeks—they suddenly broke out of the protective net I'd temporarily stowed them in and collapsed upon me.
I broke down sobbing, managing to choke out, "I failed three subjects!" I barely registered ET's look of confusion when I decided I couldn't stand it any more, at least not right then. Crying in public is something completely unacceptable to me; it makes me feel weak and vulnerable in the worst way. Plus I knew way too many people here at school, and I really didn't feel like meeting anyone I knew in this state.
In short, wretched little me couldn't even cry properly.
To my amazement, the words "I'm going to the restroom now" tumbled out mostly coherently before I turned and all but ran there. I tried to keep my eyes closed as much as I could; they were threatening to brim over with tears. It didn't help that I was choking and hiccupping every other moment, either.
I never thought that I would one day wind up the clichéd girl crying in the toilet; well, everything has its first, right? I managed to sniff my way into semi-sanity until I felt halfway respectable.
Unfortunately, I ran into Jessica and Joy, two girls from my class who were pretty friendly with me. "Go to the toilet with us!" Joy crowed.
"I just went there," I mumbled weakly.
Jessica shot me a sympathetic look. "You don't have a choice, either." Apparently she was dragged there.
I let myself get pulled along after them, choosing the path of least resistance. I just didn't have the energy to do anything else.
Then Joy made some casual reference to her bad grades and I lost my precarious hold on the edge.
When Joy disappeared into a cubicle, Jessica remained completely cool and collected. She hustled me into the back corridor, which was empty except for a washbasin.
"Here, cry on my shoulder," offered Jessica. "See? It's even at a really convenient height for you!" She was one of the few people who were even shorter than me.
I placed my crossed arms on her proffered shoulder, knocked my forehead into them, and bawled.
"Take off your glasses, and here's a tap," Jessica said comfortingly. I did as she said and ran my face under the cool water, sniffling to get my nose clear as I did so. I remember cursing my allergies during the process.
In the dim, far, recesses of my mind, I registered the fact that Jessica must have done this several times before.
I steadied myself and we got out, collecting Joy as we did so. My vision was still blurry from all the liquid in my eyes, so each of them hooked their arm around one of mine and escorted me back to the classroom.
Our class, the EEC, was slated to tour the "Only English Radio Station in Taiwan," ICRT, so everyone was busy packing their bags for the excursion.
I threw whatever the heck it was that I needed into my schoolbag, drew about twenty tissues from the large pack that I had brought to school, and followed Taylor, another one of my crew, out the door.
Once I scanned my surroundings (aka the corridor) and deemed myself unfit for public consumption, I went and leaned against the railing overlooking our beautiful courtyard (known as one of the Roman Squares, although they're actually semicircles).
Taylor tried to understand what my breaking point was, but I was sniffing and hiccuping and generally being so near-hysterically incomprehensible that she only got the impression that my damned grades were driving me crazy.
As we started down the stairs, something spurred another near-attack, and I had to be escorted by Jessica and An Cheng.
I am so darned weak.
"You'll have to cheer up and revert to your normal self before we got to ICRT," Jessica said mock-warningly. "I'll be taking loads of photos!"
I felt marginally better when I asked, "What photo?"
To our happy surprise, we found a chartered bus waiting for us parked in the school. No need to make an arduous journey by MRT or bus!
Somehow, I ended up settled into a seat beside Vicky, the girl in our crew who lived in France for two years. She managed to (intentionally, I think) distract me, and pretty soon, I was telling her the humorous incidents from the Intelligence Ironman the day before.
The trip to ICRT turned out to be the perfect antidote to my depression; in short, the station was everything I imagined it to be and more!
We listened to a really old, seventy-three-year-old news anchor, known as Mikey, who was wonderfully hilarious. He mimicked several different accents to such tremendous success that our class laughed all the way through his speech. Of course, that might have been due to the fact that he mostly spoke in English interlaced with funny-sounding Chinese.
One of the most memorable one-liners was the difference between "happy news" and "sad news".
This is happy news: Last Friday, an alligator [you guys know what an alligator is, don't you?] saved a woman's child from drowning.
This is sad news: Last Friday, a woman stole an alligator and made it into a purse! [Sobs] And…and…her husband stole a baby alligator and made it into a wallet!
Ah…even though the subject was actually no laughing matter, I couldn't help myself.
We also visited the tiny studio of Jeremy, an ABC (American Born Chinese), who was in charge of recording commercials. He let me and two others record a fifteen second commercial, which he said he'd mail to our teacher later. I was pretty good, if I do say so myself. My voice is suited for this kind of thing.
Last stop was the somewhat larger room of the DJ Stevie G, who chatted with us plenty. He tried to get us to realize that speaking in English was not a scary task; he had endured much worse during his learning of Chinese.
Anyway, thanks to the visit to ICRT, the day not a total loss.
Okay, have I been driven utterly insane? Due to motives unknown to even myself, I messaged Howard at night, complaining to him that my Math was a complete and utter fail.
How, you ask, did I dare to do something like that to the guy whom I liked who had a girlfriend already?
Answer: I don't know either.
After saying that he got 88 and it was awful, he offered his condolences, saying that he didn't study for the midterms either.
Why? I asked him. I felt rather like hitting him. Come on, I didn't even pass the test, and you're going around saying that this is the first time you've ever gotten anything below ninety?
Because I've been too busy chasing a girl, he replied.
Yes, let me die already. How embarrassing. And I'm a girl too! What do you mean by saying something like that to me?
I hoped I came across as sarcastic when I told him, Do you know just how much you sound like a pig brother just now? And anyway, just where is the use in chasing girls?
His reply made me go, if not forever, then temporarily off him. Feels good and is flashy [our term for couples being an eyesore on single people]. And I'm very faithful, okay?
Thanks for your feedback. Do you know that Nick once said the exact same thing as you? Then I quit talking to him before I started crying again.
What another epic fail.
Our dear Howard messed me up so much that I messaged Yvonne, and when that didn't work, Jeremy.
Midterms were so tragic that I cried. Basically.
His response was much more gratifying.
He replied at once. How do you feel right now? What do you think was the problem?
Anyway, after I established with him that it was because I had only studied for two weeks, tops, he said,
I only studied for twelve hours, so I can't say anything. I had even less than enough time. I don't want to draw conclusions hastily, since two weeks is plenty for me. But I don't know what kind of paper your English Experimental Class has. According to you, the problem is that you didn't study enough.
So which subject was the problem?
What I'm trying to convey is, I won't comment on what a hurt person did. I would rather comfort with words. I prefer taking actual action to prevent the subject from getting hurt again.
Spot the difference? Granted, I didn't tell Howard that I had actually broken down, but then, I rather suspect that he wouldn't know what to do even if I did.
It was then that I finally admitted to myself that if I really wanted to fall in love, it should be with someone like Jeremy, who genuinely cared about me, rather than someone like Howard, who was fun but unattainable.
We ended up discussing quite a lot of things, including, but not limited to, the meaning of life, how to study History, questioning my motives for wanting to be a vet, and he and Martin's talent for being serious when circumstances called for it but utterly ridiculous the rest of the time.
As for guidance on schoolwork, apart from telling me that I really needed a more decent background for History, Jeremy wrote that And for Math…I'll supervise you~
And he held true to his word. He asked if I had time to go to the library with him on Tuesday. Really regretfully, I had to tell him that my mom was taking me to see a doctor.
Anyway, Jeremy's comfort was one of the best spots of this whole tragedy.
I told myself to hold on to this friend, tight. He's worth it.
On Tuesday, I found a text reading something along the lines of I thought I was being so efficient by squeezing out time after school on Tuesday, but apparently your schedule is pretty full :-S How could someone who seems as strong as you are cry because of grades? Berating yourself in your heart is enough, just don't let tears blind you and hesitate to take the next step.
I wrote him back, and we managed to reschedule to after Wednesday.
When Joy asked me what I was doing after school as we were walking to the bus stop together, I said, "I'm going to study with a friend at the library near my home."
"Oh?" she said. "And what school does your friend go to?"
Argh. Why does everyone, even me, feel the need to ask which school are you from?
Being me, I couldn't bring myself to lie, so I said, rather hesitantly, "Chien-Zhong." See, there's the disadvantage to being friends with someone in the first-choice high school for boys; as soon as you speak the name of the school, they'll know that you're talking about a guy.
"Ooh," Joy remarked.
"What?" I asked her defiantly.
She shook her head. "No, nothing."
Thank goodness. That's one thing I love about Joy; she doesn't judge. She probably doesn't believe that I could have a boyfriend, either, but that's not the point.
After trekking through half of Daan Forest Park and getting sidetracked by the waterfowl in the central pond, I got to the library with five minutes to spare.
I hung around for a bit with no sign of Jeremy. Then I plucked up the courage to call him and found out that he was already inside the building. I couldn't understand him clearly, but I got the gist that he was already in the library and would come down for me. Since I could tell that he wasn't supposed to speak loudly, I hung up pretty hastily.
While waiting for him to show up, I hung around the first floor, and when that got old, I sat down and got out a book. I noticed lots of students from Longmen around the place; my old school was in the area.
I'd just turned a page when Jeremy turned up. "So there you are," he smiled.
"I want to go upstairs to put down my stuff first," I told him, hefting my school bag. "This stuff is heavy."
"Okay," Jeremy walked into the elevator after me. I was pretty surprised at the scene that greeted us on the sixth floor: it was half empty. I'd never seen it so empty on weekends!
Since I thought that Jeremy knew what he was doing, I followed him as he made his way across the large study room, seemingly exploring.
"Um, you do know that we have to take a number card, right?" I asked him when I sensed that he was clueless.
"Oh, yes. Where?" Jeremy turned around in a circle slowly, scanning the surroundings.
I had to stifle a laugh. "It's…ah, on the first floor."
"Why didn't you say so earlier?" Jeremy whispered.
"I thought you knew what you were doing!"
And thus we turned around and went back down to the first floor, where we picked out seats on the fifth floor.
I'd forgotten that on weekdays you could actually choose your seats.
I felt kind of silly when we went up in the elevators again. Plus I kept coughing. To change the subject, I asked Jeremy, "Why's your umbrella sticking out so much?"
He grinned sheepishly. "Well, I just took the first umbrella I laid hands on this morning, so it was a little too big for my bag."
For some reason, the silence was a little awkward, so I was glad when the elevator stopped and we went out to chuck our stuff onto the seats.
"Well, so what are we going to eat for dinner?" I figured I might as well get the hardest question over with.
Jeremy shrugged. "Whatever you wish. Let's have a look around."
Seeing as the library was in the midst of a housing neighborhood and right next to one of the biggest parks in the city, there wasn't much night life around the place.
We ended up strolling around the streets next to the library for around twenty minutes. "If only Martin were here," I sighed out loud. "This is his territory.'
Jeremy agreed with me. "Um-hmm, he took me to a pretty good breakfast place here before. But I take it you wouldn't want that for dinner?"
I shook my head, smiling. For some strange reason, we passed several hot-pot stores, none of which had acceptable prices. An Italian place was tempting, but the store was pretty empty, which seemed weird.
In the end, we ended up going back to the first store we laid eyes on that was even moderately acceptable, a dumpling place. It had a nice supply of customers, so we had to settle for seats next to a stranger.
Right away, I noticed a high school couple in front of us, and gulped inwardly. I glanced at Jeremy, who had gone to get the menu.
Thankfully, we managed to maintain our usual level of conversation, even if I did find the unfamiliar sensation of sitting across from one single boy and talking to only him, with nothing on the table between us, a little unsettling. But still nice, in a weird sort of way.
You can't blame me for wishing he was mine, can you? Who else would waste a perfectly good after-school period right after midterms studying with me? Certainly not any other boy I know. Not that I would dare to ask any of them. I kept reminding myself that Jeremy already had a crush, and that I shouldn't be thinking like this anyway.
When our food finally arrived, I filled him in on the recent happenings at school, including but not limited to our trip to ICRT and the Intelligence Ironman.
"It sounds really fun, maybe I'll enter it next year," Jeremy said thoughtfully when I wrapped up on that topic. "I already pretty much know who I'll round up."
I didn't dare ask him for details pertaining to that. Anyway, if I did go again next year, I'll probably choose Howard and Co...
Ten dumplings didn't take long to polish off. Before I knew it, it was seven pm and we were making our way back to the library.
I'd brought some Chinese and Math homework, the latter with the sole purpose of asking Jeremy for guidance with.
But first, I had to finish the Chinese stuff. Our teacher had asked us to copy outstanding sentences from some essay or other onto a practice book, and I was full of resentment about it. The last time anyone asked me to copy anything was in the sixth grade, as punishment!
Jeremy used his pencil to write, Your handwriting is pretty wild, on the paper.
This is called penalty handwriting, I joked.
You got punished? He seemed surprised.
Of course not. It's homework. We're supposed to write down the good sentences.
Comprehension dawned on his face. When I was almost done, he wrote, Are you interested in entering a writing contest? For our school publication?
Now that was unexpected. What, they accept people from other schools?
Jeremy grinned. No, I'll enter you under my name, and you'll get the prize money.
Ah. Interesting. Do they accept English essays?
I enjoyed his look of consternation. I haven't seen any before, but I think they'll accept it.
I managed to convey to him that I might have something, if they could take the work that I submitted to our junior high school journal before.
Finally, I was done with Chinese. Reluctantly, I got out the Math workbook. Mathematics has never been my favorite subject.
About halfway through, I got stuck in a rough spot. Somehow, Jeremy noticed and leaned over to add a factorial (or whatever it is that they're called), solving my problem.
Several questions later, I ran into something that well and truly stumped me. After a brief inner debate, which entailed much staring at the answer key, I gave up and poked Jeremy.
He looked the question over and wrote down, Use brute force and list out all of the possibilities. Flipping to the answer key, he checked the answer and started writing down combination methods of different numbers.
Understanding came to me. Thanks! I mouthed to him.
And promptly got stuck in the next question.
This time, I gave up much quicker and decided to ask the mathematical prodigy for help.
Underlining nine numbers, I wrote, Brute force wouldn't work on this one, I think.
Jeremy looked at my message with a silly grin. "Of course it could!" he whispered.
I flipped to the answer key and pointed to 180. Uh, I don't think so.
Anyway, with Jeremy's help, I managed to understand my math homework. More or less.
At eight fifty, the library suddenly started blasting loud classical music, its not-so-subtle clue to shoo us away.
We exchanged looks and started packing.
"What an indecent way of running us out," Jeremy remarked on the way out.
"They do this during the weekends, too," I sighed. Out of some latent sense of self-preservation, I hadn't told my mom about this deviation from my normal plan (studying with Vicky and Taylor near our school), and I wanted to keep it that way. But at this rate, I'd be home one full hour earlier than normal.
The long walk home seemed far too short with the pleasant company. The heavens had smiled on me for once and obliged with dry-ish weather.
What seemed almost laughingly ironic to me was that we took the exact same route that I used to travel with Christopher.
Jeremy and I even parted at the same little intersection as Christopher and I did, even though you can see Jeremy's house from there while the other guy's domicile locale is unknown.
It was, to put it simply, one of the best study sessions I'd ever been to. And this is the third study-date-like occasion I've encountered! I'm not sure whether to laugh at myself or feel satisfied.
For this, for all his help, I was in Jeremy's debt.