Labor PainsBy: C.A. Huggins
Writing this novel was definitely the most difficult task I have ever completed. And that’s saying a lot as I am someone who has assembled boxes and boxes of Ikea furniture. All of the days and nights of staring at blank screens of my computer would not have been possible without the help of my support system. My parents, Byron and Felicita, who have instilled in me a work ethic to accomplish my goals. My sister, Alyssia, and my brother-in-law, Sean, have cheered me on me throughout the writing process. And my lady, Adaobi, has read and re-read drafts upon drafts of my manuscript, provided me insight, and honest feedback along the entire journey. Thank all of you for time and encouragement.
I’ve been sitting in classrooms for the last thirteen years of my life while teachers have stood in front giving us students the keys to becoming successful adults. This classroom isn’t much different from the very first one I ever occupied. Sure, there are no colorful tables standing two feet off the ground or a naptime area, but it’s all the same. Kids are still napping, because nobody really has any interest in high-school biology, unless you’re a nerd who gets off, literally and figuratively, on science or a future serial killer who likes hacking up defenseless amphibians for fun. I am neither of those, but I’m unlike most people at my suburban high school.
In theory, this classroom should be filled with future congressmen, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, and Nobel Prize winners who’ll cure rare diseases. But this is Redbrook Regional High School and that’s just a theory adults have been feeding us since I stepped into that colorful-tabled classroom twelve years ago. Now, I know better. All we have in here are future Walmart clerks, garbage men, welfare recipients, gas pumpers, and low-grade porn stars. You can’t lump me in with that lot of losers though.
With the shades pulled down, there’s a hint of sunlight seeping into the room, allowing me to see all of the uninterested faces of my classmates. You can’t really blame them. With only two weeks left in the school year, you’re either passing or failing—most failing. And that’s practically set in stone. No more tests, pop quizzes, projects, or extra-credit assignments to save them. And let’s be real, if they had a chance to take action and change their grade, they’d probably end up with a worse grade.
The school district’s curriculum recommends students take bio in the tenth grade, but I just got around to it my senior year. I opted to take my tougher classes earlier, before I became a senior. I’m blessed with unbelievable foresight. Plus, I’m a complex young man who can’t be bothered with regimenting my life to the school’s coursework suggestions. A few of the kids in here are seniors like me. Well, there’s one other kid, and I don’t know if he’s actually a senior. I do know he’s been going to school here for a long time, and I think he has a five-year-old of his own. Anyway, I’m used to being the elder statesman of large groups, whom others can lean on when they seek wisdom. The younger kids can look to me as someone who’s achieving his dreams. Two more weeks and I’m out of here. Then, in the fall, I’ll be off to the prized four-year college of my choice. Not like the rest of the graduating class of 1995. They’re more inclined to enroll in the thirteenth grade: Redbrook Community College. It’s basically the same as Redbrook Regional High School with permitted cigarette smoking and no dress code.
Being one of the few brown faces speckled in the sea of suburban white faces leaves me with no other option than to stick out. But my race isn’t the only thing that sets me apart from the rest of the student body. Unlike them, my identity isn’t solely dependent on my popularity. Don’t get me wrong. I’m extremely popular and well-known, but not for the same reasons they are. I’m not an athlete, so I never get lauded for catching the game-winning touchdown. I’m not the best dressed or the class clown. I can go on record saying I’m the most handsome, but would never get voted as such due to politics and whatnot. I’m the people’s champ. And my notoriety comes from my wealth of positive traits, not because it’s in people’s best social interest to like me. I’m not a part of any particular clique. I’m just me. I have a confidence that exudes way past these cramped halls. I don’t need a class presidency or the prom-king crown to be respected. I lack the same insecurities most teens cling to that lead them to constantly seeking validation from their peers. I’m intellectually and emotionally superior compared to the rest of the student body, and possess a maturity of someone twenty years older (according to a test I took in an issue of Esquire during study hall). I notice things that others don’t.