I’m on a scooter, I’m hurtling down the street, wondering in the back of my mind if I’ll accidentally roll over a stone, get knocked off, fly into the air, and then roll onto the ground. maybe I’ll even skin my knee, I think to myself. but I keep riding, feeling the wind breeze against my ears and watching as the world blurs around me. a hill is coming up, and I’m preparing to hold on as I start to slope downward. a rush of adrenaline, and I wake up.

it was a dream.

I stare up at the ceiling and slowly loosen the grip I have on my pillow. I hold onto it every night while burying myself under heavy blankets despite it being the middle of summer. the air vent right above my bed blows a/c on me throughout the night. I recently taped paper on top of it to block the cold air, but it still finds a way to bring an endless winter to my bedroom in northern Idaho. I blink my eyes, dry from the aforementioned cold air, and I yawn. it’s gonna be another long day.

I force myself out of bed, willing whatever lingering adrenaline I had in my dream to push me off, I fall flat onto the floor. at least the fall woke me up. I open my laptop and check my emails, then I check Twitter, then I check Discord, and then I open 7Sage because the LSAT has taken over my life, and I need to constantly remind myself that “studying for the LSAT” isn’t a personality trait and that everyone is sick of my complaining and that I just need to suck it up and score in the 99.999th percentile already. lots of people tell me things like, “you’ll do fine” or “I’m sure your score is great” or “don’t stress out,” but I don’t think people realize the absolute dread I feel staring at my 50th percentile score, opening up my fifth practice test this week, and trying to find out the maximum ways Honolulu can connect to Toronto while not connecting with Montreal.

Ashton, Betty, Catherine, Dennis, Elizabeth, and Fierro have to occupy six seats at a table, but Fierro doesn’t want to sit next to Betty, and Betty has to sit next to Ashton because she has a crush on him, and Dennis has to sit in the first seat, but did I mention that the table is circular? the first seat is at midnight, the second seat is at two, the third seat is at four, and so on, and so on. well, I’m sitting alone in my room wondering if my friends remember my name while fraying my mental health studying for an exam from Hell in the middle of a pandemic, Fierro. some of us know how to suck it up, just sit next to Betty, she can’t hurt you. minus five points. 165. fuck.

letting out a deep sigh, all the way from the bottom of my lungs, I get out of my seat and head into the kitchen. my parents left for Costco, so I have some time to myself. my mom was talking about how we’re celebrating today because of the amazing amount of money she was able to net from investments in the stock market (it’s actually pretty impressive, I was surprised). I see two bananas laying out on the kitchen counter and am reminded of the banana bread episode of “You Suck at Cooking,” and I look up the recipe just in case we had the ingredients. we don’t have flour, but I substitute in pancake mix. we don’t have vanilla extract, so I just don’t use it. the recipe calls for baking soda, I walk into the laundry room and grab our pack of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda and pour a teaspoon into the sugary, salty, banana mush batter that I’ve concocted in one of our glass bowls. we don’t have a loaf pan, so I get one of our snapware glass containers… close enough right? the (currently liquid) banana bread slides into the oven, preheated to three fundos, and I set a timer for fifty-five minutes.

that’s enough time to drill 1.571 logic game sets, I tell myself, but I stand there, just waiting, wondering if my parents will come back to the smell of banana bread. I wonder if the glass will shatter, and then I’m thinking about the mess that it’ll make. it’ll be so hard to wipe up all the batter, it’ll be so hard to pick up all the pieces of glass. and the memory of a failed banana bread attempt will stick in my mind forever. I will develop a banana bread-phobia, I tell myself. it will be incredibly unfortunate.

fifty minutes pass, and now I’m curious, so I turn on the oven light to see what’s going on inside. the YouTube video pictured the banana bread beautifully rising, with some tasteful cracks in the center. my banana bread is concave, sloping down in the center and looking very very sad, I’m reminded of the hill I was riding down this morning. this banana bread would be a rad skate park. maybe I really did suck at cooking. maybe it was the absence of vanilla extract. maybe it was the pancake mix instead of the all-purpose flour. maybe this is what happens when Fierro sits next to Betty. maybe Betty made shitty banana bread.

five minutes pass, and I take out my skate-park-like-concave banana monstrosity out of the oven and set it onto the counter. it smells good. my parents come in right then with bags of groceries.

“what’s that smell?”

“oh, I made banana bread.”

“why.”

“I thought it’d be fun.”

“well, I hope you like banana bread, neither of us are going to eat it.”

“oh… I do like banana bread.”

they walk in. “why does it look like that.”

“I don’t know.”

the banana bread has cooled, and it’s ready to be taken out of its snapware glass container home. I flip it over, and it slides out surprisingly easily, face-planting onto the pan like me face-planting into the ground this morning. I scream a little and quickly flip it over so that it isn’t resting on its sunken, depressed face. I use a knife to cut a slice and pop a morsel into my mouth. it tastes… surprisingly good. actually it tastes really good. I’m shoveling the slice into my mouth and forcing my parents to come try it too.

“it looks ugly, but it tastes good, I promise.”

they give me unbelieving looks before trying it, eyes lighting up in disbelief when they taste it.

it’s the brown sugar — molasses-y sugary sweet goodness. the occasional splash of banana. the bite of saltiness at the end. the chew of the bread, how it’s somehow melty and springy all at the same time. it reminds me of the banana bread I baked with my friends back on campus.

it tasted even better back then. maybe it was the recipe. maybe it was the people. substitute the vanilla extract for smiling faces, social connections, and friendship, it really does wonders… having the vanilla extract also helps (I guess).

we eat dinner, and for dessert, I’m munching on the banana bread again. I wrap it up and tell my parents that I’m eating it tomorrow for breakfast. my dad, who is diabetic, and my mom, who is health conscious, do not care if I eat the whole thing, but they politely comment on how they’re missing out. and I tell them that they are.

these days I’ve been writing a lot of fic, and I call it “fic” instead of “fanfic” because the characters are original characters set in a universe that’s a mix of Harry Potter, Howl’s Moving Castle, Alive in Wonderland, Gemma Doyle, AHS: Coven, etc. (not my own, someone actually made this universe, so maybe I’m writing fanfic about their fan-universe…)

(anyways I’m convinced that I’m a novelist now.)

I write a few pages and read some John Green for inspiration, and then I close my laptop to look at a distant object for 20 seconds and then look at a close object for 20 seconds because that’s supposed to help my blue-light-blasted-extremely-damaged eyes.

I play a game of League and do really well for once, although there’s this one teammate who’s insisting that I’m doing everything to ruin their gaming experience. I just wanna win, dude.

the game ends and the person who played Riven types into the chat and wishes that I’m doing well in the pandemic era, apologizing for the shit teammate we had who huffed off after we won. I type back at them, “you too gg,” and they write back “gg” before logging off. I’m expecting that they’ll send me a friend request. kindness is a very scarce commodity in League of Legends — maybe there was a connection there just waiting to happen. the friend request never comes, and I log off.

it’s 10 pm, and I tell myself that I should study more, but then I tell myself that it’s too late to pull at my hair and dread my existence. so I’m typing into Medium in the first-person present tense instead.

“I turn off the app and throw my phone to the other side of the bed. A shower would be nice, it’ll clear my thoughts. Maybe I’ll even take a nap. Is a nap at 8 pm really a nap? I should get up, I should get up. But for some reason I can’t. Staring at the ceiling, looking back on the past dates, I wonder if I’ll ever find them. I wonder if they’re really out there somewhere. Maybe it isn’t that others are incompatible with me, maybe I’m just not compatible with anyone.

I blink my magic away, revealing a world that’s as mundane as ever. As loneliness starts to creep into my thoughts, I close my eyes and fall asleep.”

— Caleb Kim, “Way Back Home (돌아오는 길)”

“by the end of the day, i will be able to do something good. that’s all i ask — to be able to do something good. not for myself, you whiny shithead bastard complainer who, incidentally, i really, really like. but for my friends. for other people.”

— John Green and David Levithan, “Will Grayson, will grayson”