Long brushed brown hair. Pimples. Bobbing her head to some faraway music. She is sixteen, and her life is hidden from me. What goes on beyond that unapproachable door? What is in that small wallpapered room? For me, it is danger. Stay away from that door, Lisa will be mad. Lisa mustn’t be bothered. Lisa has homework.
Homework. All the time. From the afternoon to the darkest hours of the night, I know that in that little room beyond that big door is homework. And homework Must Not Be Disturbed.
I see her at dinner, sometimes. She rushes in to the rest of our house, eats, and runs away, back through that unapproachable door, into that mysterious wallpapered room.
My parents worry. College is next year, and they have high hopes for Lisa. Lisa works hard, but sometimes, I know, she does not work. She says she is working, but she is talking with her friends on the internet. Her friends, whom I have never seen. Her friends are in a different world from me. Off downtown, off in Stuyvesant.
What does she do at school? Does she go out and eat lunch with her friends? Is she like how she is at home, hunched over a book, typing away, always working.
Always working. There are almost no breaks. High school looms before me, and I do not want to be like Lisa, slaving away at work, working, working–but for what? College. College = more work. What is for college for? To get a good job. Good job = more work. What is the point? Do I really want that? Work, work, work. A life of work.
After this semester, she says, her work does not count. Colleges will already have accepted or rejected her, it does not matter. For one short semester, she will have a break. Is that possible? I don’t remember when my sister’s work was not important. Even in fifth grade, she was the oldest, so her work was always the most important. Even in kindergarten, she worked the most, because she went to school and I did not.
After this summer, she will go away to college. She will come back for holidays, but Lisa will be gone from our house. Slowly, tentatively, me and my brothers will open that door, peek inside at the little wallpapered room, and cautiously, ever so cautiously step in.
Probably my older brother will move in to that room. He has started high school, and he is the next oldest. He has already begun to be swallowed by work. Will that door really be open? Or will it just be someone else working away in there, someone else working away their lives, until one day he will go away to college and it will be my turn to enter that little room.
No matter how much I resist it, that room will pull me in. I will not be able to stop myself from entering. I will go in, and I will be in high school then. I will be working. I will be the prisoner of that little wallpapered room in the back of the house behind that unapproachable door.
And the cycle will go on, until my family will have emptied out of the house, and it will be my parents, living all alone. And we will come back and visit, and I will go into that little room, and I will remember myself, and my older brother, and Lisa. Lisa, who was the first to enter that room.
Joshua Moriarty, Age 13, Grade 8, Hunter College High School, Honorable Mention