Annie likes things to be color-coded. She started this practice early, in kindergarten, with her brightly colored folders, each labeled carefully so there was one for every individual subject: blue for math, red for language arts, orange for social studies, and green for science. She never lost anything, always had her homework done on time, and she credited it all to this simple organizational system. In fact, the only time things ever went awry was once in second grade, when the mean little boy sitting next to her slipped one of her math sheets into the back of her science folder. To her seven-year-old brain, it'd been chaos.
The bright folders had lasted until middle school, where they'd seemed almost immature, and she'd promptly switched to a three-ring binder. This is what she keeps now, her classes divided by just as brightly colored tabs, each with a corresponding notebook for neat, hand-written notes—and, she admits, a folder too, just in case.
Sometimes Annie wishes she could color-code life this way, slip each experience into its own designated section, organized, tidy, everything in its place, ready for revision and review. If only the world worked like that, she thinks on occasion. Often, events simply defy classification.
Her addiction to Adderall is one of those events—an anomaly, like a math paper viciously hidden in her science folder solely intended to throw her off track. She hadn't even wanted to take the stupid pills in the first place, but between co-opting, three AP classes, and being in student council as well as an officer in four different clubs, something had to give. She'd been at her wits' end when she overheard two of her classmates mentioning it, and, dangerously close to ending up with a B+ in AP Calculus, she'd sought out Melissa at lunch the next day.
Melissa Evans was the school drug dealer at the time. She was pretty and sociable, but scary, so although everyone knew how she could afford a brand new car and designer clothes, no one actually said anything about it. That was considered suicide. "Annie!" Melissa greeted her warmly, which was the way Melissa greeted everyone. "Come sit down. What can I do for you today?"
"Um," she said, looking awkwardly over her shoulder. "I need—I heard there was something that could help you focus? For school and stuff?"
Melissa smiled. "I have a few things like that. Did you want something specific?"
"Adderall, I think?"
"Good choice," said Melissa. "A bottle of thirty pills will cost you $150."
Annie nodded. "Do I—do I pay you now, or?"
"Wait until you get it," Melissa advised. "Meet me across the street day after tomorrow, before school."
"Okay. Thanks." Annie stood, feeling slightly sick to her stomach, and Melissa waved at her as she walked away.
At first, things had been perfect, she reflects. She'd been able to concentrate long enough to really study for Calculus, managing an A on the midterm she'd been worried about. She'd also stopped being so tired during her student council meetings in the morning, and best of all, she felt better, almost more confident. It'd been great until suddenly it'd been awful, when she couldn't sleep at all, when the pills stopped working as effectively, so she had to take more, when she'd had a breakdown in the middle of AP Chemistry.
"Leave my bag alone," she snapped at one of the football players. Other than Troy, she'd never bothered to learn their names.
"I wasn't touching it," he said, which was true enough—he'd brushed it, but in hindsight, she could see it'd been an accident.
"You football players are all alike!" she yelled. "You walk around here like you own the place. Well, you don't! Other people exist, you know!"
"What the hell is your problem?"
"I just don't want you touching my things," she said, tugging too tightly on her bag. It crashed to the floor, front opening, her bottle of pills rolling out and landing at the feet of her chemistry teacher. He picked them up, eyebrows rising as he looked at them, then her, and back again, and it felt like time had slowed to a crawl.
Almost an eternity later, he said, "Ms. Edison, where did you get these? They're not prescribed to you." When she refused to answer, looking anywhere but at him, he added, "I think we ought to take a trip to the dean's office."
After that there'd been a call to her parents, plenty of sobbing, trips to the doctor, a psychiatrist, withdrawal, rehab, and an inability to finish school. Her parents told her she'd make it up in the summer, but that wasn't an option with her scholarship, and just like that, in an instant, she saw her future unravel before her eyes, like the mean second grade boy had grabbed all her folders and tossed them into the air, papers senselessly falling to the floor, out of order. This time, however, there was no little boy. She'd been the one who'd screwed everything up.
These are memories she wouldn't file away under the School category, designated in her mind by a pretty green color; instead, she wishes she could "accidentally" toss them into her trash the same way she "accidentally" loses every application for various internships that her mother keeps sending her. She'll focus on doing more after her two years at this school are done and she's transferred somewhere respectable. Until then, she isn't making the same mistake twice. She isn't going to overdo it to the point of implosion, not again.
This is easier said than done, because her instinct is to throw herself 100% into everything, and with Troy in her Spanish study group, it still feels like she's in high school, what with crushing on a guy who is too oblivious to even give her the time of day.
Nonetheless, he falls into the Love section—separated, of course, by a bright red tab—and he's the only one in there, because she refuses to include the...mistake that had happened while she hadn't been in her right mind. That's another memory she'd happily toss away if she could.
It had seemed sensible at the time. She'd been with her boyfriend, though admittedly "boyfriend" was something of a misnomer, since they were only together because they'd grown up down the street from one another, and they'd known each other since they were four, and everyone always said that it just made sense. Somehow, a late-night study session had turned into heavy petting—the furthest they'd gone—and after that, sex had seemed to logically follow.
It'd been quick, in his closet while Madonna played quietly in the background; her eyes were closed most of the time, partially for him but mostly for herself, and she remembers wondering if they were doing everything right.
Annie also remembers holding her boyfriend while he cried afterward, thinking, Is that it?
It's different with Troy. Her crush on him is the epitome of contradiction, a schoolgirl fantasy that has remained just that: a fantasy, yet somehow it still seems real. He's someone she can't manage to forget about no matter how she tries, but then again, she's not sure if she really wants to. In some ways, he's more addictive than the Adderall, which is pathetic, because right now, at best, they're just friends and nothing more.
Friends. That thought gives her pause. There's a category that's new to her, a surprise if there ever was one. In high school, she had some acquaintances, a couple informal study groups, her fellow classmates on the student council, and the people with whom she was in different clubs, but no one to count on, no one she could actually call a real, close friend. She'd been too focused to worry about it, but now that she does have a circle of people who could maybe be considered friends, she can't believe how much she's missed.
They don't have a color yet. She can't decide on one, because so many seem to fit. Jeff's a cool blue, effortlessly appealing; Britta's an attractive burgundy, pretty yet deep; Pierce is a solid brown, misunderstood but certainly a foundation; Shirley's a pale purple, soothing, but there's more than meets the eye. Troy is still red, and Abed...Abed could be an entire rainbow of colors, and then some.
Maybe this is why it's fruitless to try to categorize life. Maybe this is why her skills at organization seem to fail her when she applies them to anything but school. She can't put her experiences in neat little boxes with a label and a color underneath, and maybe—maybe that's a good thing. Maybe she's better off this way.
Maybe. That possibility isn't enough to stop her from trying, because she likes things to be color-coded. It's something she can't just give up. She beat the Adderall, and she may even get over Troy eventually, but if she can help it, she's never letting go of her colors. They're too much a part of her.