“I mean, what is something I would want that badly? I mean, Martin Luther King wanted voting rights. That’s something huge. Me, I fight for what color shoes I should wear each day.”
“This is the time to fight for something. While you are in my class, you will have to work your butt off trying to show me what you can do…the world what you can do. For this year’s project, note that I said year, you will have to find something that you want, and write to me on why you believe you want this thing. Now, let me tell you, this will be a huge project, and you are going to receive a huge grade that will change your life! Do not let me down!”
The bell rings, and Mrs. Olsen nods for all of us to get lost. I honestly find this project ridiculous. I mean, what is something I would want that badly? I mean, Martin Luther King wanted voting rights. That’s something huge. Me, I fight for what color shoes I should wear each day.
But that’s not the worst part about it. I expected to do amazing. My family, all of my family never let their parents down. My mother went to Harvard, and now she’s a lawyer. My dad went to Princeton, and he owns a business. My big brother yearns to be an engineer, and he already has some scholarship money for MIT.
Who will I be? What will my parents say if I get a thirty on a quiz, or a sixty seven? Will I be ashamed? Will I hate myself forever? Will I want to be a foster kid? I don’t know.
I have to do this project and I have to show that I can be my mother or father, or brother. I have to continue this legacy. I can’t “ignore the beautiful potential that I have.” I imagine mom inside of my head, smiling at me, and rubbing my back.
Walking home, I feel like an inspector, waiting for the next wrong move. My eyes grow huge with every falling leaf on the floor.
I am finally home. I knock on the door, and see my Mom on the other side. I smile, and go inside.
“What happened at school today?” Mom asks.
“Nothing. Just a project,” I say.
“Mmm. Well, I trust that you will do amazing. Not good, or great. Amazing.”
“Thanks, Mom.”She smiles, and goes to the kitchen. I follow her. I sit at the table, and watch her cook. I happen to look out the window. I see my mom’s old plant. It looks like it’s wilting. Mom completely ignores it. It’s as if it could survive on its own. No one to hold. I go to the window, and touch the plant. It’s not dead yet. It’s almost dead, but not quite. Mom is cooking with all of her kitchen stuff. She has an apron, a hat and everything. She stands up straight, and walks only when she has to. Unlike me, when I see a burning stove, I run to that stove and try to solve the problem. With mom, she know how to do everything, and nothing ever goes wrong. I feel like the opposite of what she is. She knows what to do, and knows that it will never go wrong. With me, I have to hope it never goes wrong.
I eye the plant more closely, and I see something. It’s will to live. I see how hard it tries. I touch it’s rough surface, and see how hard it is to pick its little leaf up. I see the brown-black edges of the leaf, and I see how old the soil looks. I want to help it. I can help it. With my history project. This is what I was meant for. I look at Mom.
“Hey Mom, do you need this plant?” I ask.
“No. Why is it still there? I told Thomas to throw it out,” Mom says.
I am hurt. I’m glad my brother forgot to throw it out.
“Teresa? Dear, why do you look hurt?” Mom asks.
“Why would you ever think of throwing it out?” I ask.
“It’s about to drop dead.”
“But it’s only wilting. Don’t you see the potential it has? Don’t ignore it.”
“Teresa, take the stupid plant if you want to, alright?”
“Thank you. I will make this a beautiful plant. You’ll see.”
I walk to my room, and I hear Mom sigh in the background. I will prove my mother wrong, and show my family how good I am. I stomp into my brother’s room, and go inside. I look at all the awards he has gotten from his engineer stuff. He basically has his future planted out. I look down at my plant, and smile.
“What are you doing here, Teresa?”
I turn around, and see my brother with a friends, and they both look at me. Thomas. He just has to ruin everything.
“I asked you a question,” Thomas says, with anger.
“Um, I need paper,” I answer.
“Go to the printer room.”
“There is no paper in the printer.” That’s a lie. I filled it this morning.
“Liar. We were just there. There’s a whole stack of paper.”
“Ooh! Right. My bad. Well, can I get paper?”
“Ugh, fine! Just get out of my room!”
He hands me paper, and takes my arm and tries to pull me out of the room. I lose balance, and I feel the plant almost falling down. No! I have to save the plant. It can’t die now. I take my right arm, and punch him in the arm. That was really his face. Uh-oh.
“Ow. Ow. Why did you do that?” Thomas screams, and closes his door shut. I look down at my plant. The plant is the only thing that matters now.
I run to my room, and close the door. I place my plant on my desk, and sit down on my chair. I try to find some way to make the plant unique. A name! Perfect, a name. George. George. That’s a cool name for a plant. I’m hoping. I run to the sink, and see my brother at the sink with a napkin to his nose. Great.
I walk past him, and open a cabinet for water. I use a nearby marker, and label it ‘George.’
I fill the cup with water, and I walk back to my room.
“You are weird. You know that?”
I am sitting down in my room, when I see my brother’s friend in the doorway.
“Um, what do you want?” I ask.
“That plant pot. It has a name,” he says.
“Plants don’t have names.”
“They can have whatever they want to have. Stop being a jerk. Why don’t you go check on my brother’s broken nose instead of on my plant, okay buddy?”
“Alright. I’m sorry. My name’s Frank.”
“Well Frank, next time pick on something breathing like you.”
“What are you-”
“Leave me alone.”
He just called me a weirdo. For loving plants! Well, if weirdos care for all of the world, then yeah, I’m a weirdo.
The windows turn dark, and George looks tired. I smile at him one more time, and climb into bed.
When I wake up, George isn’t here. I get up fast. Where is George?
I run to the kitchen and see a plant by the window. George. Thank goodness.
I go to the window, pick up George, and sit down.
Mom shakes me awake. I’m on the kitchen counter. I hold George in my hands.
“Teresa? What happened?” Mom asks.
“I don’t know,” I say.
“You were sleeping with a plant.”
“Oh, George? He doesn’t mind.”
“George? Are you going through a mental state?”
“No. Why would you say that?”
“Doesn’t matter. You will have to have breakfast at school instead. I’m running late for work.”
I go to my room with George in my hands. I wear sweats and go to get my bookbag. I get my coat, and walk out the door. George still in my hands.
I’m finally in school. I see my friend Laura. She smiles.
I go to her and sit at the table for breakfast.
“So, what’s new?” She asks.
“Nothing much,” I say.
Laura smiles, and pulls out a container of salad. I freeze. Salad. That’s a plant. Why are we eating plants? Lettuce. How could she?
Laura takes a fork and grinds the lettuce. A murderer. My friend?
She holds her fork, and picks some lettuce up with it. I take my hand and knock her fork down. She jumps and looks at me with a startled expression. I look at her and give a nervous smile.
“What was that for?” Laura yelled.
“Um, you can’t eat plants. You were killing that plant,” I said.
“You can eat lettuce, Teresa! They are given to us by grocery stores! You can buy them to eat! Why are you suddenly this care-for-the-plant girl?”
I take off my bookbag. I open it and see George falling apart. One leaf fell off. I gasp. Laura looks at me. She walks over and looks at my plant. She rolls her eyes.
“Seriously?” She says.
“Um, yeah. Hello, plants are people too,” I say.
“No, they are not! Do they have legs?”
“Then they aren’t people.”
“Laura! I don’t think I know you anymore. I think we need a break.”
“Are you serious? Teresa, you’re crazy.”
I’m crazy. I’m crazy, and she just said plants aren’t people. Yeah, okay Laura. Two can play at that game.
“I’m not crazy,” I start, “You’re just too selfish to look around at the beauty all around you.” I pull my plant out. “This poor thing can’t survive on its own.” I suddenly looks down, and notice how it looks worse. “Oh no. Give me water, now!”
Laura looks puzzled.
“Don’t just stand there like a statue! Help me!” I yell.
“I-I don’t know…” Laura starts.
“I said help me! What don’t you understand Laura?”
She goes in her bag, and gets some water. She holds it to herself.
“Laura, my best friend. Give me the water,” I say.
She shakes her head.
“Ugh!” I say.
I reach across the table, and grab the water bottle. Laura looks a little mad. I uncap the bottle and pour it on the plant. The soil gets wet, and I sigh relief. Laura grabs the water bottle from me, and walks away.
I think I might have lost a friend.
I think I really hurt my brother.
I think I freaked out his lame friend.
Just for wanting to save a plant.
Mrs. Olsen looks happy. I never know why. I take out my plant. I get the weird stare.
“Aww. Teresa has a plant as a friend since there are no humans who want to be her friend.”
I look behind me, and Maya Maystein laughs. I roll my eyes.
Mrs. Olsen says, “Everybody, half the class work on the year project, and half the class work on the actual lesson. Work!”
I get out some paper, and look at George. I write some details on how I will decide to save George. Mrs. Olsen looks at me. Then she walks to me.
“Hello, Mrs. Olsen.” I say.
“What are you doing, Teresa?” she says.
“Oh, I am writing about how I will save my plant from dying.”
“That is something revolutionary?”
“I believe so. Saving an organism-”
“That is not a real person, not something MLK would have fought for, dear.”
“That is not a person you are trying to save.”
“Teresa, find another project.”
I am shocked. Saving a plant is a big deal! That woman!
“I believe this is a good project, Mrs. Olsen” I say, standing up.
“Then you can write how in detention,” she says.
I put my head down. I feel tears in my eyes. Oh, brother.
I walk into the room. Dread is running through me. The walls are cracked. The chairs are old. The tables have eraser shavings all over them. The walls are painted blue, a sad color. Depression. A kid picking his nose. Ugh! I can’t do this. I cannot.
The teacher opens eyes wide. Yeah, I haven’t been here. Ever.
“Um, Teresa, are you sure you’re in here?” the teacher asks.
“Y-yeah. Mrs. Olsen,” I say.
The teacher checks her lists, and sees I’m in the correct spot. I wished those blue eyes would tell me to leave this room.
The teacher is on the phone contacting my mother. She looks at me. The gets up and walks out the room. She comes out five minutes later.
In five minutes, I hear my mother yell in the hallway.
“This is unbelievable! I want my daughter…yes! I’m getting her, okay… okay.”
I put my head down. Oh, mother. She comes into the room. Did I pack George? Yeah. He’s in my bag. I stand up. She glares at me. Great. The face of shame.
“I cannot believe you screwed up your project. I told you to do amazing, but-” Mom starts. We are in the kitchen. I sit on the table. As long as I listen, she doesn’t really care what I do.
“Maybe you’re setting too high a bar,” I said.
“Too high a bar? Your brother already has money to go to MIT. It’s humanly possible, Teresa!”
“I get it. Thomas is this big shot. But do you ever think of helping me?”
“I never got helped. It was me, or fail.”
“Yeah, yeah, the world sucks. I know.”
“Teresa, you better look me in the eye and tell me you don’t care, if this is what you
Bam. She shot me. I end up becoming silent. I do care. But Mom doesn’t get it. She never did. I guess she wants me to be the next huge thing.
I look at her. I jump off the table, and get my bag and get out to go to the hallway. I open my bag. I forgot George. I forgot George. I forgot him.
“Teresa, are you okay?” Thomas says, peeking out of his room.
I hadn’t realized I was on the floor leaning against the wall.
“What do you care?” I mumble.
“I care about my sister. I do.”
I look at him. I motion for him to sit next to me. He pretends to think about it, then sits next to me.
“So, how does it feel to be the next big thing?” I ask.
“Ugh, awful. Mom and Dad are always on my back. ‘Not good, not great, but amazing!’’” Thomas says.
“Yeah. I went to detention. My history project sucks.”
“Oh, then you are already dead.”
I look down at the ground.
Thomas lightly hits my shoulder.
“Hey, that’s a joke,” Thomas says.
“No, it’s true,” I say.
“Just do a better history project. Show Mrs. Olsen that Teresa can take a punch.”
I look at him. He’s right. Mrs. Olsen hasn’t seen the last of Teresa.
“You’re right,” I say.
“Yeah?” He asks.
I look at my hands. I stand up. I hold out my hand for Thomas to get up. He takes it and stands up. I smile. Teeth showing and everything. George is just a plant. I have more important things to worry about. Bad things happened because of George. I need to break free. I will break free.
“Yeah,” I finally answer him. I hug him, and run to my room.
My computer is opened, I’m typing. Typing. Finding something new. Going somewhere else. Finding the something that’s worth obsessing over.