In algebraic circles it spirals down. What is the derivative of a square? Well, you see, it must be Hamlet’s monologue, and the skull, obviously the skull is the answer because there is nothing quite like the beautiful void of an empty eye socket after a good murder. Ah yes, murder. It continues as we spiral in, and farther away. Chained to desks, the links shaped like check marks, the tops of the desk beige and perfectly smooth. The lid opens and you feed it your lunchbox, your food, endless paper, endless paper, endless paper, pencils, snacks, the rare note from a crush who despises you despite your love which is dense like the ocean floor, which according to your geology teacher is sinking beneath the lighter continental land masses. You made it through kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, and now, hallelujah, twelfth grade. Each success granting another link in the chain that holds to the speckled black leg of the desk with twelve years of graffiti specific to you. There is a finely detailed tree, a running tally, and of course, an abundance of biologically inaccurate penises, which need to remain away from vaginas because sex leads to AIDS and death and babies, and if you’re gay, those are a myth, go see the guidance counselor. What did you learn today? Did you learn today? Must be tricky, being in physics, when you know that it’s pointless and people are dead, but at least hydrogen and oxygen make water and you breathe oxygen and dissect frogs while you spiral in. Looks like you got a B on a test, looks like you’ll never succeed at anything ever. What are taxes and how do I file them? There is no such thing in the magical world because here is a poem about tigers to distract you from the actual reality waiting on the other side of the spiral, but the other side is just a few inches above your head at all times. The opportunity gap, some people have another spiral miles above, some have another spiral latched so closely that they are forever trapped in the downward halls. Best time of your life, they scream while you giggle over a statistics paper about the number of leaves that turned orange on a specific date in April of 1924, but that’s funny because leaves are green in April, don’t generalize, everything is different, but everyone around you is white, and you skimmed the Native American genocide because if you build a sculpture in the correct shape it will dry faster in the kiln. A funny square hat drops from your parents’ wallet high above you, are you happy, they smile, oh yeah. You reach the bottom and the desk launches you out, higher, higher, higher. Who knew there could be such pretty colors, all of the stars are a different one, and your friends fly around you hollering at all of the various shapes, and burning liquids slap you in the face, and before you get too high a huge rocket that spells out the word Loans punches you in the stomach and you fall back, and your friends do too, and they fall away and land in a different spiral, and you never see them again until their obituaries cross your new desk which is made out of wood, and will have a new chain in the shape of dollar signs, and by the time you die, it will have sixty whole links, or all the freedom you ever imagined.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sean T. Stevens is a MFA in Creative Writing candidate at the University of San Francisco. He wrote this as a dream research project for one of the courses at USF.