pamela lovato

The Drop-Out


First Week of School


Monday: What is she doing? It’s dinnertime, no time for reading some book. The tension made his shoulders ache. Hard enough sitting quietly without the added stress of her breaking the routine. He needed routine.

Tuesday: Alone, walking from room to room, he felt better. Everything was status quo. Maybe he worried too much.

Wednesday: Bone-dead tired, he didn’t think he could sit still a moment longer. Busy. Busy doing what? Why all the books? Too tired to worry anymore tonight, that was for sure.

Thursday: What a mess! Books scattered around the room. Papers and endless lists tucked on the shelves and behind the computer. Snooping here and there, he checked to see if her bills were paid. Her paycheck was stretched thin; she needed to be careful. Very careful or she’d be out of this new apartment before her clothes got comfortable in the closet. Not big, but a nice apartment, and it had been clean. Quickly, he stacked the books and organized the papers. Too bad the AA meeting was tonight. He wouldn’t be around when she saw the perfection he’d created for her.

Friday: She seemed a little frantic, stomping from room to room, muttering under her breath. Now, he’d be worrying about her all weekend, but he had to go take care of his mother.


Second Week of School

Monday: The long weekend with his mother had frayed his nerves, and, now, another mess to clean up. Sitting at the desk, he pulled a paper from the printer. Critical thinking? Reading the paper, he cringed at arguments stated in illogical order and reasoning askew on every page. A wiggle of the mouse and the document loaded. A change here, another there, appropriate emphasis—much better. Logical, precise arguments in appropriate sequence. Shred the old paper; print a new one—done.

Tuesday: Work sapped his energy; he needed rest; he needed peace and quiet.

Wednesday: Rifling through papers lying by the phone, he picked up an envelope, lying unsealed and inviting, and peeked inside. A check to the university? My word, how did she think she could afford that? Money doesn’t grow on trees! He slipped the envelope into his pocket. He might mail it; he might not.

Thursday: Why did she always leave the computer running? Wasteful, purely wasteful. Another paper? Hmmm, gay marriage. Oh, what lame reasoning, but easily fixed. Much better. Gay marriage: fascinating subject.

Friday: Why did his mother get sick right now when he had so much to do? Another weekend wrecked. With two women to watch over, he never had time for himself. Really, no one appreciated the sacrifices he made; no one thanked him.



Third Week of School

Monday: So much to do. Behind on evaluations and with a presentation to prepare, he had so little time. Never enough days in the week or hours in the day. Maybe he needed to get up earlier; the thought exhausted him. Focus…he must focus.

Tuesday: In only a few moments, he’d managed to get her kitchen cleaned up. He hated kitchens; eating out was much more efficient.

Wednesday: Too much pressure. His mom, his new job, his AA obligations, his precarious health, and this. A huge mess from one end of the apartment to the other. How could one person create such a disaster in a day? He sat at the desk, reached out his hand, picked up two bound manuscripts. Management Principles: his expertise—time to get busy, quick, quick. Then he picked up the second manuscript: Religious Freedom—difficult subject. The next time he looked up, two hours had passed; but he was done. Both papers perfectly revised, printed, bound. He shoved the old copies into his back pocket.

Thursday: With only 30 minutes, he pushed to whip everything into order—again. Again and again: the tediousness of the mundane.


Friday…Friday of the third week

Friday afternoon 3PM: Counselor’s Office, University of Hawaii

“Susan, calm down. It’s only the third week; you can’t quit. All adults get frantic when they first return to school. It’s a shock. Learning to study and meet deadlines while working full-time. It’ll be okay.”

“Okay! Okay? How can it be okay? I told you I didn’t know if I could do this. I told yousince this last rehab, I’m not the same. Maybe I’ve fried my brain and I can’t recover. Work’s just work, but school’s making me nuts. I’m going crazy! I just can’t do it.”

“Susan, calm down. What’s not going well? I called your instructors. They say your papers are outstanding, and your grades are excellent. You’re doing just fine.”

“NO. I’m not.”

“Susan, please, sit down. Why do you think you aren’t doing fine?”

“I know you won’t believe me. I don’t believe me. I write my papers, and the next day they’re different.”

“Different? Susan, sit down. Explain what you mean.”

“I tell you, I write my papers; then, when I go back to do the next draft, it’s already done. It’s not what I wrote before; it’s better—great in fact.”

“Susan, maybe you don’t remember exactly what you wrote. You’re taking three classes and working full-time. Maybe you should have taken only one class, but you can’t change that now. It’s too late to withdraw without massive penalties. Your grant will be jeopardized, and you might not get back in. The University has made a lot of exceptions for you.”

“Are you listening? I remember what I wrote. I DO! I didn’t write those papers.”

“Susan, rehab was only a few months ago; maybe you’re having memory issues. Don’t be discouraged. You’re expecting a lot of yourself in a short time.”

“And another thing—I leave my apartment a mess. When I come home, it’s clean.”

“Maybe your roommate straightens up?”

“I don’t have a roommate—I live alone. Not only that, I wrote the check for my tuition balance; but I got a call today. They didn’t get it. I looked everywhere, but the envelope and the check are gone, so I must have mailed it. Wouldn’t I remember if I mailed it?”

“Susan, sit down. You’ll find it in a book or your backpack; people do these things all the time. You can write another check. Take it easy.”

“YOU take it easy. I didn’t revise those papers. I didn’t clean up my apartment. My papers aren’t the papers I wrote, and I always leave a mess. I DO! I always leave a mess. I can’t do this. I quit. You can’t stop me.”

“Susan, come back!”

Susan ran down the hall and out the door.


Friday evening 9PM: Police Station, downtown, Honolulu, Hawaii

“Officer, you don’t need to be rude. Don’t push. I haven’t done anything.”

“Mr. Anderby, sit down. Remember who you’re talking to. I’ve arrested you more times than I can count. What were you doing in that tree outside Kapahulu apartments? Climbing off someone’s lanai?”

“I don’t have to answer your questions. I know my rights.”

“What’s this ? Lock picks !”

“That’s for me to know and you to wonder about.”

“Mr. Anderby, you’ve been warned over and over. I hoped you’d make it this time. You’re brilliant—you have an IQ of 165! With your new job at Oceanic Research Project, you’re making ten times the money I make. Why can’t you just stay out of trouble?”

“Don’t have to answer any questions.”

“The judge said the next time you’re caught peeping, it’s back to jail. You’ll lose your job. And another set of lock picks! You know how that looks? It looks like you’ve been breaking and entering again.”

“Have not! You can’t prove anything.”

“Mr. Anderby, you’ll need better answers than that when you see the judge on Monday. Come on; let’s get you booked.”


Friday evening 10PM: Kapahulu Apartments

Susan sat on the lanai with her feet up, drinking a glass of soda and eating mochi crunch and nuts. She watched the lights of Honolulu through the branches of a banyan tree growing so close to the building that one large branch leaned over the railing. First time she’d sat here since she started school three weeks ago. First time she’d relaxed

When she got home, the apartment was a mess—just like she left it. She checked the computer; the paper she’d started writing seemed the same. Yes, definitely the same. Maybe she shouldn’t have been so hasty. Maybe she shouldn’t have dropped out; a college degree would give her a real future.

NO! It was the only choice. The stress of school had made her do weird things she couldn’t even remember, like cleaning her apartment. She only cleaned when her mom visited, and good old mom got on a plane for Denver the first day of school. Yup, gone for three whole months. YEAH!

Going back to school had been worse than her most horrendous drug trip.

Sighing, leaning back on her lounge chair, she closed her eyes. It was the right decision. No college for her.

The End