“A” lives with two other freshmen and a video game console in an apartment building converted to a dorm. He stole something from the store. As punishment, he has to write an essay about theft in convenience stores and how ubiquitous it turns out to be—many losses in bodegas run by immigrants working long hours. Charges are not pressed against him, as the store is on campus and that provides immunity. His essay convinces college officials that he understands how selfish his behavior has been. His parents never find out about the theft because the office of conduct does not disclose student conduct violations.
“B” doesn’t socialize much offline. She can’t make eye contact or do group work in class. She hasn’t a real friend and grows bored if she can’t stare at her phone. She plays Candy Crush to pulverize jelly beans and gumdrops. Her only boyfriend abused her, and now he won’t stop trying to friend her under his three different profiles. She answers questions with questions.
“C” is addicted to gambling online, and instead of doing homework he stays up and loses $160. He admits this in his essay and wonders how and if he can find new friends who don’t play and gamble. He makes numerous excuses for his absences. The prof says he should get counseling and he nods, but he can’t imagine doing so.
“D” lied to her grandmother who takes care of her baby. She said she went back to her classes after the break, but she did not. Instead, she went shopping and hung out on her phone. Smoked some weed with her boyfriend, not the baby’s daddy. She and the teacher exchange heated words in the hallway, each expecting an apology from the other. She missed thirteen classes but planned to come back no questions asked. Showed up late for the final exam and fell asleep. She writes better than she lies.
“W” works too many hours. Also, he must drive his relatives to the airport, and he misses school due to family demands. He smiles when necessary but stares at the screen and writes one paragraph in 90 minutes. W is not diagnosed with a learning disability because he doesn’t visit that office. He drops out before spring break.
“NC’s” Office of Accessibility counselor said she could not adjust to the demands of the first semester. In class, she had an anxiety attack that resembled a seizure. When she came back she was alternately friendly or hostile to those who approached her. She stopped doing the work after the midterm. She thanks the professor for changing her F to no-credit. She’ll try again; a friend she met in class and her mom give her hope she’ll manage. She signed up for tutoring sessions in the writing lab with “A.”
Cheryl J. Fish is an environmental justice scholar, fiction writer and poet. Her short stories have appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, From Somewhere to Nowhere: The End of the American Dream, (Autonomedia Press, 2017) and Liars League NYC. An excerpt from her novel manuscript, OFF THE YOGA MAT, was a finalist for L Magazine’s Literary Upstart contest. Her most recent chapbook is Make It Funny, Make it Last (#171, Belladonna). Her poems have appeared in The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry; Hanging Loose; Terrain.org; New American Writing; Talisman; Santa Monica Review; Kudzu House Review; Reed Magazine; Volt; (B)oink and The Gyroscope Review. Fish has been Fulbright professor in Finland, writer-in-residence at Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, and she teaches at the City University of New York.