Monday at Eleven
Shelly stares at the eggshell wall of her dorm room, seemingly mesmerized by a series of miniscule cracks, her nails clicking on the edge of her laptop keyboard like a pair of high heels down a tile hallway. Her laundry day ensemble, pink sweats and a ponytail pulled halfway through, makes her look prepubescent, even though she is now a senior at Northwestern. Her Mac’s blank screen glows in the mirror of her eyeglasses, distracting her, if not visually, then at least mentally. She groans, forcing her gaze back to the screen and tapping out a possible title for her history research paper. The tapping continues while she deletes the title and types a new one, as if she needs the title to continue, like an artist needs his muse.
It’s not writer’s block that keeps Shelly’s creativity caged, but rather, a pure lack of motivation. For three years she has poured every ounce of her energy into this school, giving up road trips with friends to study for exams, and foregoing a dating life in order to maintain her 4.0 GPA. For three years she has lived over a thousand miles away from her family in Denver. And for what? She has been counting the days until graduation (one hundred and eighty-eight), but it suddenly seems as if her whole world is falling apart. She is failing one of her classes, and overall her GPA has been steadily slipping over the last year, gaining backwards momentum like a cartoon snowball rolling down a mountain. Her writing group has squeezed her out, and last week she was punished by the school’s administration for an infraction she unwittingly committed. Who knew that it was considered plagiarism to have three words in a paper that exactly matched another source? Three words!
Now Shelly is going to be in even bigger trouble with her grades. She has exactly fifty-nine minutes until her paper is due. The paper that, as of yet, doesn’t even have a title. She heaves a huge sigh and resumes her inspection of the spider webbing cracks on the opposite wall. The weird thing is, her decision to attend Northwestern and major in Journalism was God’s idea. At least, she had thought so at the time. She had been so sure that this was God’s will in the beginning, and her initial scholastic success seemed to second the motion. But now…she isn’t sure anymore whether this is where she belongs. How long do you pursue your dreams, she wonders, before giving in to what circumstances seem to be telling you?
A sidelong glance at her Hello Kitty alarm clock tells Shelly that her time is almost up, she now has forty-two minutes to write this paper that is worth forty percent of her semester grade. She can feel tears stinging her eyelids like hundreds of tiny wasps. Why am I here, God? Is this really what you want for me? Why would something that’s Your will be so difficult? Have I really sacrificed these three years with my family only to fail now?
Tears drip like drops of rain onto Shelly’s lap as she prays, wishing that God would speak the answers to her out loud like He used to for Moses and Samuel. Beethoven’s Fifth interrupts her thoughts, dancing gaily from her cell to signal the thirty minute mark of her deadline. She wipes her eyes and nose with an aloe-infused Kleenex and returns her attention to the moonlight glow of her laptop screen. Heaving a deep sigh, Shelly resigns herself to addressing the present challenge, and once again begins tap, tap, tapping on the keyboard like Poe’s raven.