“Are you sure it’s here?” Clementina’s mom said, pulling into a parking lot full of yellow shirts. Dozens of young high school graduates like herself were already lining up at the sign-in table, waiting for their room assignments.
“Yes, Mom.” Clementina said, in a voice that was trying to hide her frustration. She had been in a car for 3 hours and in her hurry had forgotten to bring her motion sickness pills.
“Te dije. I tol’ you if you have every ting.” Clementina’s mother had said after getting on the freeway. “Too late. Ni modo.” She had said, and that settled the argument.
So, Clementina was forced to live through 3 hours of horrible headaches and nausea scares, and all with the annoying fruity scent of strawberry glaze up her nose. What was it with her mom’s obsession over those stupid car scent plug-ins on every single air vent? With every gust of cold crisp air came the underlying viper of a smell. It took all of Clementina’s strength not to lose herself to madness, especially since her mother insisted on having the air conditioning on. And as everyone in the car knew, when the air conditioning was on, there was no way any conversation about having the windows down would be permitted. As her mom drove into a parking spot, Clementina reached for the door, scattering her fingers over the handle until the door burst open, letting in a wave of clean organic air. “Finally,” she thought breathing it all in. “I made it.”
Twelve years of hard work and now she was here at Eastwood, starting the next part of her life. College. She always wondered what it would be like setting foot on the campus as an undergraduate student. Of course she’d been there before, how could she not have been?
During her junior year in high school, her teachers selected a few token students to take on a trip to CULA, or the California University of Los Angeles. It was supposed to encourage students to aim high and apply for schools they all thought were out of their reach. Clementina had been indifferent at the sight of Eastwood, but when she applied and got into CULA, she couldn’t help but be at least a little bit excited.
Stepping onto the campus, Clementina tried to take in all the sights, smells, and sounds. She looked at the bright faces as she collected her room key, and as she pushed her cart full of “necessities” into elevators and down hallways. She looked at the friends she would potentially make. There is Jenna, her new best friend (maybe). And Dan (her new bud?). After all everyone had said that college was going to be the best part of her life, that this was the place where she’d make long lasting friends and memories.
Everyone except Mr. Zaid. No one really knew how to pronounce his name so everyone just called him Mr. Z or Mr. Math since he taught all the advanced math classes at school. He was a wiz with numbers but not so great with people. A lot of students thought he was mean but Clementina knew he was just a little different. It’s not that he didn’t like people; it’s that he didn’t know how to talk to them. Take as an example the time Mr. Zaid tried to give some students college advice. He kept saying that it all wasn’t going to be “peaches and roses.” “I don’t know what you all think,” he kept repeating, over and over again. “It’s just not gonna be all peaches and roses.”
Some kids tried to say that Mr. Zaid was talking about sex and how it wasn’t all just gonna be sex and romance but Clementina didn’t really believe in that interpretation. She thought it meant more than sex. She never got to ask Mr. Zaid though. Right before the end of the year he had a heart attack and retired to Nevada where “he could finally get some peace.”
In the end it all didn’t matter though. Clementina was gonna stick with college. What other option did she have? It didn’t matter if it wasn’t all gonna be “peaches and roses.” College was going to be the greatest time of her life…
or at least that’s what she thought.