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Jane's Life's Lottery

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1. You've been here before.

It's the same whiteboard, the same fluorescent lights, and the same Mr. O'Neill reading from the same feel-good script. All around you are the familiar burnouts, screw-ups, and rejects.

Your people, in other words.

You've been here before, but now there's someone new. You didn't quite catch her name, but she sticks out from the crowd. She holds herself the way a popular kid would—someone who's way too cool for a self-esteem class—but she dresses like she doesn't care, and her glasses look heavy enough to count as a weapon.

You're not sure what to make of her. Maybe a fallen queen bee from another school, seeking a new hive in Lawndale? No, queen bees never dress like that. Maybe a nerd slumming with the idiots? But nerds usually sucked up to their teachers, and this girl is grilling Mr. O'Neill with eyebeams of pure contempt, amplified by her glasses.

For some reason, you want to paint her. She reminds you of Dix's Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden. Contemptuous, cool, and iconoclastic.

Mr. O'Neill babbles on. "...and when we do, each and every one of you will be able to stand proudly and proclaim, 'I am.' Now, before we..."

The girl raises her hand. "Excuse me. I have a question."

For some reason, you're curious as to what that question might be.

"Sorry, question and answer time is later." Typical Mr. O'Neill answer.

"I want to know what 'realizing your actuality' means."

Somehow, you're pretty sure she's not really wondering. Rather, she just wants to know if Mr. O'Neill has any idea what he's saying.

"It means... look, just let me get through this part, okay? Then there'll be a video! Before we unlock your potential..."

Maybe you should tell her the whole class is rote. You get the feeling she'd be gratified to hear that. Plus, it'd be nice to talk to someone interesting. Everyone else in the self-esteem class belongs there—and you're starting to worry that you belong there, too.

To stay silent, GO TO 2.

To talk to her, GO TO 3.