“Five minutes left.” My teacher’s calm voice chimes.
My brain freezes. I glance at the clock. The seconds are ticking by rapidly. I HAVE to finish this test. Now I am just trying to do it as fast as I can. Should I think it through or just slap down an answer? Kids start standing up and handing in their papers. The metal legs of chairs clang against desks. I scribble across the paper, not able to feel my hands. Thoughts are running uncontrollably through my brain. Will I fail sixth grade math? My head feels like it’s on fire. Stop it! A voice in my head barks. You are being an idiot! Three more students stand up and push in their chairs. I frantically look at the clock. 10:28. Two minutes left. Should I think it through or just slap down an answer? Tears spring into my eyes, but I won’t let them escape. Should I go to the washroom and buy myself some more time? Suddenly, it’s a race against the clock. I just want to be perfect.
I know I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself. I really want to do well on this. It feels like my whole entire life will rely on this math quiz in sixth grade. It’s not like my parents force me to do well in school or will be upset if I don’t get 100%. It’s me that will be upset. I want to be that perfect student you see in movies and read about in books. I pound my fist against my thigh. I squeeze my eyes shut so the tears won’t leak out. My knuckles turn white from gripping my pencil with all my might. Okay. I take a deep breath. Focus.
Finally, I give up. It feels like I’m going to throw up any second now. I rummage through my desk to find my pencil case. I zip it open and see a picture I will treasure forever.
It’s my little cousin Emily, at her first birthday party. It’s like it was yesterday. Her mouth was in a perfect ‘O’ shape, ready to blow out her candles. Her reddish-brownish hair was pulled into two ponytails with white ribbons. She was wearing a lavender frilly dress that she kept tugging around, uncomfortable with its itchy material. My parents, my brother and I arrived an hour early to help set up for the party.
My cousin was in her dress and dancing around singing “Emmy birthday! Emmy birthday!”
We tried to teach her how to say her name, but apparently now it’s just “Emmy.” I scooped her up in my arms, and we headed towards the basement as she squealed at the top of her lungs. We climbed down the stairs one at a time, the rough carpet scratching against our feet. She caught her eyes on her bright red toy car and sprinted over to it.
“Wait!” I shouted. But she ignored me. I sighed and ran after her.
She climbed on and looked at me with a huge grin. I bent down on my knees, grabbed hold of the handles and pushed forward. We circled around the white couch and accidentally crashed into a pile of stuffed animals. Emily fell over and so did I.
“Whoops! Sorry Em,” I said. She didn’t have to say anything. Her smile said it all. She gave me a big hug and I knew that she loved me, no matter what I did. The little red car was beat up and old, but it was still filled with many memories.
She was honking the car horn and screeching “Beep! Beep! Go car gooooo!” And then she would laugh hysterically. This made me laugh too, so we kept on laughing and laughing until our bellies ached. Suddenly, all my aunts and uncles came thundering down the stairs and raced over to Emily as fast as the 100-meter dash at the Olympics. They all start to gush over her, taking pictures and talking in those high, squeaky voices that adults use when they talk to babies. No one even notices I’m there.
It’s so easy for her—she doesn’t have to worry about doing well on a test, or care about what people think.
“Kate!” a voice says, snapping me out of my daydream. “Are you coming out for recess?”
“Yeah.” I say, zipping up my pencil case
I hand in my unfinished test. Nobody’s perfect, not even me.