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April 29, 2019 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

Burnt Honey

First tutorial of the year. When I open the door, I underestimate my strength, thinking it to be all used up in my journey here. It swings open violently and I trip into the room where awkward gazes greet me. Frozen, my legs are lead and I’m stuck on display for too long. My overpacked bag clings to my back like a tortoise shell. I look like a fresher, but a Year 9 new-to-college version. I sweep the room quickly and realise the ‘less baggage the better’ memo seems to have slipped me again, both physically and mentally. I squeeze in the narrow gap between the seats and the wall, shuffling and trying hard to not smash my backpack into anyone’s seated head. My hair shields my face, almost as if it knows. Left it natural today, hoping that no one would guess; I couldn’t be bothered with product or getting into a fight with the straightener this morning. When I finally manage to reach my seat, I shrug off the shell and collapse into the chair. The plastic seat is too hard for my ass, and my back aches. The nape of my neck is slippery.

I stopped climbing Mount Everest (Wellington version) ten minutes ago and I’m still dripping—and not in the gold chains gleaming, Gucci fit fire kind of way. I open my laptop; the reflection catches me subtly trying to look at my current state without being openly vain. I look and feel like one of those Troll dolls. For fuck’s sake the guy next to me can probably smell my B.O.  He’s cute. Tall. Ethnically ambiguous. Wearing worn jeans. His hair is cut short on the sides but the top—his natural waves are better than mine. Upon closer examination I see that his shirt is none other than Hilfiger. Basic or rich? I find myself thinking ‘I can be your Tommy girl if you want.’

Where the heck is our tutor though? The other people in my tutorial seem to catch my energy and there is an air of agitation and sweat—this room is too small. I glance around and realise Tommy Boy is one of two males—the rest are super polished chicks. Like thin thin too. Unlike myself, they have the minimalist thing on lock, as well as decorated fingers, and boujee sunglasses. Must be to deflect any ugliness. Did I even think before putting on my clothes today? Or my shoes? I’m wearing my black converse as always—always might just be the reason I can see my sock through the left side. Bet I have bags under my eyes from working on the tutorial problem last night. Should not have left it so late. At least I’m confident in my answer enough to hopefully strike a conversation with Tommy Boy when sharing time rolls around.

The door swings open and our tutorial group holds their breath. The most gorgeous chick I’ve ever seen enters. She is beauty. She is grace. And she ends up sitting next to me in the last free seat. I don’t believe in competition but if there was one this morning, I would still be stumbling up Mt Everest and she would be Sir Edmund Hilary at the top. Her poised posture and careful movements rub off on me immediately, and I find myself drawing strength from her own self-ease. I’m encouraged and remind myself that I need to calm the fuck down. I’ve done the prep that was required, and that is all that matters. Out of the corner of my eye I feel eyes on me and realise it’s her.

Insta-model is smirking at my holey shoe.

I turn and make eye contact and suddenly, I’m not stressing and anxious and scatterbrained anymore. Her eyes are beady as they judge me, passing over my crumpled top and resting on my messy hair. I knew I should have straightened it. And at least chosen a top without wrinkles. Her gaze shifts to my laptop and lingers on the sticker over the front camera—a worthy safety precaution from government eyes, but I find myself wishing I wasn’t so childish. The tutor rushes in and expresses his apologies but not before I turn cold.

We are given 20 minutes to re-read the tutorial prep and attempt to answer it properly; the tutor is adamant no one could have been bothered to do it beforehand. I’m unsure what to do and still shocked from the coldness. Do I know her from something? The tutor finishes scribbling on the instructions on the board. Maybe I was rude to her at a party… Could she be from primary? The tutor sets the timer. Before I can put up my hand to explain that I have already completed the problem, the tutor doesn’t wander, but strides directly to where I’m sitting and hovers behind me. She asks if I need help to do the exercise properly.

Wait. What?

My face is burning, and I can feel Insta model and Tommy Boy from both sides looking down at me. I bring up the prep and show my tutor how it’s already completed. He is shocked and feigns apology but only after hovering for another 30 seconds.

It’s not until we reach the end of the tutorial that it hits me. What I’m wearing, my holey shoe, my hair, the absence of my minimalist tote—none of that is what makes me different. It is something much more obvious, a point of difference that is… permanent. The tutor is finishing up his example on the board and I glance down. On my right, I see the cool, ivory skin tone of Insta model, creamy, flawless, and perfect. My arm runs parallel to hers, resting on the table in stark contrast. Soft, the colour of burnt honey, and unapologetically brown.



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