The floor smelled like vomit Jolly Ranchers because the school janitor had waxed it. It was SO incredibly gross.
Becca had been trying to figure out where she could hang out when she’d spotted a new poster on the counselling office bulletin board and she’d walked over to see it.
The poster had seniors coming out of school, like at last bell, and they were looking super dweeby and excited about something. Except for this one guy. He was all sort of ‘hmm’ and looking up and thinking and right beside his head was ‘HOW DOES THE FUTURE LOOK??’ in big blue letters. ‘It looks stupid,’ thought Becca. Stupid and dorky and unbelievable. At Becca’s school, the future looked like kids counting down how many years they had left until they were legal to drink. The only people who cared about the future were immigrants’ kids because they’d basically been brainwashed into getting excited about physics.
They must have put up the poster during second period. She knew this for a fact because for the last three weeks, she’d sat on the floor by the lockers across the hall from the AV room during her spare to watch the counselling office. Or more precisely, to be on the lookout for people who watched other people go into the counselling office. Other than her, of course. It was complicated.
Basically, in grade 9, there was this girl whose name might have been Nadia. And everybody said she had private secret appointments, like, once a week with a counsellor to talk. It wasn’t about school stuff. More like how she felt about her family and other crazy people stuff. Becca wasn’t sure whether it was a real rumour or whatever but the meetings had sort of intrigued her except she didn’t want to be snitched on so she’d thought she’d hang by the counselling office to see what happened.
So far, none of the mean kids seemed interested in the office. Becca had only noticed a guy with eyeliner inside the AV room peering out over his half door at her a couple times. But that was probably because nobody ever came by for his cables.
Two people worked in the counselling office. One was young and her name was MJ. You’d think she worked in a mall because she dressed super cool. The other counsellor was old and whatever.
Becca wasn’t sure what she would say when she started talking to MJ but she was pretty sure once she started, the words would keep oozing out of her like ointment when it keeps coming out of a tube even after you’ve stopped squeezing it. And maybe – just maybe – MJ would take her for a coffee or something and that would be how they could start being friends.
Becca’s eyes drifted back to the poster. “HOW DOES THE FUTURE LOOK?” Who was she kidding? She wished Dwayne had been weirder than he looked.
“Can I help you with something?”
The woman’s voice startled Becca. She spun around and saw it was Greeley, the older counsellor. Becca opened her mouth to say something but nothing came out.
Greeley’s eyes were searching Becca’s. Becca turned back towards the poster, blinking back the beginning of something emotional. She was not going to lose it. Not with Greeley. Becca stared hard at the poster. HOW DOES THE FUTURE LOOK? “Umm. How hard is it..to be a..n..astronaut.” Such a loser. She was such a loser.
“Huh,” said Greeley. She smiled broadly, revealing a filling that was whiter than the rest of her teeth. “That is the very first time anyone’s ever asked me that question. Let’s see what we can find out on line.”
Mrs. Greeley marched ahead to a computer desk, Becca trailing behind her.
Greeley was wearing hideous black wedgie lace-ups. Her skirt was pretty bad, too. It was turquoise and stiff and it stuck out on the sides like it was made out of chair fabric. She’d sat on it wrong so one side of her skirt was folded straight back. Greeley didn’t have a clue. At Becca’s house, wrinkles were called mediocrity statements. Becca would hazard a guess that Greeley qualified as a mediocrity proclamation. Maybe even a mediocrity manifesto.
“I imagine making it into NASA is pretty tough.’ Mrs. Greeley said, dropping into a chair at a computer desk. She vaguely gestured towards a bunch of chairs across the room. “Bring one of those over.”
Becca sighed and crossed to the chairs. There was a round table and racks of pamphlets and beyond that, two small offices where you private talking probably happened. MJ was nowhere in sight. Becca dragged a chair across the carpet, getting small shocks off the chrome all the way to computer desk.
“I think,” Greeley said, still searching, “That you need to start off with a Bachelor of Science or something in advanced Engineering. What are your grades like?”
Becca sat. “A minuses and B plusses.”
The counsellor wrinkled her nose like something didn’t smell good but she wasn’t going to say so. She clicked through a few web pages. “So why do you want to be an astronaut?”
“I want to be alone.”
“Well, I don’t get the sense you’d be alone in space.” said Greeley. “From my understanding, astronauts work closely with an big team of people on earth who are responsible for keeping them safe.” Her eyes searched Becca’s for signs of comprehension which is when Becca felt her eyes sting.
It was the closest Becca had ever come to telling someone other than her mom how she felt.
Greeley noticed Becca’s change of expression. All of a sudden, her voice became concerned. “BUT you know, if you know you WANT to work alone, there are plenty of jobs you can do.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh, dear. I didn’t mean to discourage you but you know, it would be a shame to put in all those years of study and then not have things turn out the way you want.”
“I just want to go away.”
Greeley frowned. “Go away where? You mean travel?” She peered at Becca and waited for an answer.
Becca stood up. “I have to go. I have to get to class.”
“Are you sure. Don’t you want to talk?”
Becca nodded and grabbed a random pamphlet on the way out. She didn’t like where the conversation was going. Greeley was sympathetic and all that but she definitely didn’t want to be a travel agent.
NEXT WEEK: A kindred spirit. Maybe.
NEXT WEEK: A kindred spirit. Maybe.