Four Hundred Words
At the beginning, it’s blank. The black cursor winks at you innocently from the far left of the page, and you stare back, motionless, as you gather your thoughts, packing the day’s events into midnight-colored suitcases and hiding them in the recesses of your mind, to be found and examined later. Breathing in deeply, you close your eyes for a moment, the fluorescence of the screen burning the inside of your eyelids. This pain is so familiar to us, the digital generation, that it is almost a pleasure. Moisture blurs your vision, but you blink away your body’s feeble attempt to protect your retina from the harsh light emanating from the man-made square of plastic and metal in front of you.
Arching your fingers, you place them on the keyboard exactly where you used to see your mom put hers – left pinky on A, ring finger on S, middle on D, pointer on F, then skip over to J, and so on.
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You sit, momentarily unable to recall what you are supposed to be writing about, digits hovering as gracefully as a pianist’s over the square black buttons. Your brain draws a blank, but then colors it in with memories, and you remember your task: the essay. Four hundred to eight hundred words, the bold typeface had boasted, and creativity is encouraged. You stare at the slip of paper on which it is written, the assignment that holds the key to your release from the expected humdrum curriculum of the not-so-honorable English course you will be thrust into if you do not type at least four hundred words.
Pausing, you muse at the curiousness of your previous thought. It seems odd that four hundred words could mean the difference between a diploma and an honors diploma, the difference between a mother and father and a proud mother and father, the difference between a curriculum and a rigorous curriculum. It doesn’t seem right that four hundred words could cause such a ripple in your life. However, you know that four hundred words will get you the things you want (rigorous curriculum, proud parents, honors diploma), so you will your hands to move, force your fingers down on the keys, and type three words before deleting them and starting over. It has to be good. Maybe not perfect, but as close to it as you can get.
You don’t know what you’re going to say. You’ve contemplated this paper for a long time, procrastinating until there’s a weight on your chest that you know can only be lifted by the writing of four hundred words. A variety of topics are flitting around your brain: the standard persuasive paper, stating the “whys” of your argument to be in the class; the half-formed idea of some sort of great journey upon which you would gain the privilege to be in English III; or maybe you should write something to spice up the endeavor, something that rhymes or is written entirely as an alliteration. However, persuasive papers are, in your opinion, atrocious and sure to be massively overdone by the hopeful future members of the class. The journey, though entertaining in concept, is still quite fuzzy in plot and general message, and the paper of alliterations sounds like a dreadfully tedious task that will lead to an almost inevitably mediocre result.
You erase the entirety of what you have typed and open a new Word document for good measure. Turning from the computer, you gaze around the room, letting everything drift from your mind. Your chest expands and contracts with a sigh. Now, you arch your fingers over the keyboard once again and decide to begin your much-deliberated paper by describing the state of your psyche:
At the beginning, it’s blank ….