Adapting Back To The Physical World

By Salma El Boudali:

Part of the AP US History Exam was handwriting an essay. It was about ten minutes into the essay portion of the exam when the testing instructor, while walking down the desk aisles, noticed a particular student. A teenage girl had set up a lined sheet — the paper she was meant to write her essay on — horizontally in front of her, and she was tapping on it with typing motions. She donned a shabby hoodie and pajama pants and was sitting crisscrossed on her chair, rubbing her eyes every few seconds as if they were strained from staring at a screen.

The instructor carefully walked over to another teacher standing in the corner of the room. “Is she...okay?” He asked, pointing at the eccentric.

The teacher looked at the girl, then shrugged. “I don’t know. But she’s one of the kids who did school all virtually this year.”

The instructor nodded, then began to consider how to approach her. It was his responsibility to inform the girl that she was meant to handwrite her essay and that, at this rate, she was for sure going to receive a zero on it.

He tentatively walked over to her, then bent down to her level. She was still wordlessly tapping away at her paper, not sparing him a glance.

So he tapped her on the shoulder. Big mistake. She let out a shriek that startled everyone around them, and turned to the instructor, infuriated. “Why are you in here?” She exclaimed angrily. “I locked the door, and I have a Zoom meet in ten minutes.”

The instructor was baffled. “Uh, you—you’re completing the AP exam, and...uh, so is every other student around you. You have thirty minutes left to write your essay. By—by hand, that is.”

The girl looked around the room. Everyone’s eyes were on her, and she began to feel self-conscious. Then she started to jut her finger out as if she was pressing something in the air. “Turn off camera, mute. Turn off camera, and mute,” she muttered. “Turn off camera and mute. WHY IS EVERYONE STILL LOOKING AT ME?” she shrieked.

She turned to the instructor. “Can you hear me?”

He nodded.

“UGH, why aren’t I muting?”

The instructor stepped back. “Uh, this is real life. You’re not behind a computer.”

The girl stared at him. “So you mean to say...I’m here...physically?”

He nodded again.

“What on Earth?” she stood up. “You do know we’re living in a pandemic, right? I’m going home.” And she grabbed her bag and walked out of the classroom.

Everyone was silent for a moment, trying to process what just happened. The instructor stood up and chuckled awkwardly. “Well, it looks like the virus isn’t the biggest danger to students nowadays, huh?”

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©2018 by The Milking Cat.