By Hannah Yi
I look around my classroom, eyes glancing over each of the students with only a single thought plaguing my mind: My classmates are boring.
Michael, the class clown. Emily, the one who has bad grades. Julia, the one obsessed with social media. Even though I don’t interact with them, their actions and appearances say it all, and I have a feeling it would be the same for the new student joining our class today.
“Hi, I’m Ella! Nice to meet you!” The new student smiles widely.
My eyes begins to scan her from top to bottom. Dyed hair, glasses with a crooked hinge, a graphic t-shirt, ripped jeans. Small backpack, clearly not big enough to contain all of the textbooks needed for class. Has a fairly short introduction, but is still answering questions enthusiastically. Mediocre.
After a few days, she remains just that: mediocre. Nothing changes from my initial perception of her. She makes many friends. She didn’t show any sign of studying for her tests. It’s all the same.
A few more days pass. It’s before science class, a day after our test. Practically the whole class crowds around Ella as they laugh vivaciously, and my eyes narrow.
The teacher clears her throat with a grimace. The classroom quickly falls quiet as the test papers are passed around the classroom. By the time the teacher places the papers on my desk, I hear some students sigh dejectedly while others gasp in shock or relief.
I flip my papers over, expecting a 100, not the 99 boldly written at the top of my paper in a red pen. I stare blankly at the page as if that would change the number. It’s okay, I reassure myself. You know that everyone else can’t get a grade as good as yours.
Unfortunately, the one abnormality that I didn’t account for was walking towards my desk.
“Oh, hey!” Ella sits down next to me, tossing her papers on the desk. “Want to compare scores?”
I can only open my mouth in disbelief as I look at her paper. A large 100 stares back at me.
“99? You must be really smart!” Ella’s eyes widen with admiration.
“How did you…” I stutter, staring at her paper, then mine again.
She takes notice of my stare and laughs. “I just studied, no big deal!”
“No, it’s just…” This is carefree, social Ella. Just be blunt. “I never expected you to be a good student.”
For a second, I brace myself, thinking that Ella’s actions would defy my expectations yet again, but her features relax. “Oh, so you’re the judging type?” She remarks jokingly. “Never took you to be one of those.”
My face flushes. “I’m just good at reading people! At least until you got a 100 on your test!” I blurt out defensively. “ Michael is a bad student because he always goofs off in class, but he’s really closed off! Emily is similar, but she tries her best at school, at least, judging from all the tutors that she talks about, and you didn’t even show any signs of trying academically-”
Ella’s tone suddenly hardens. “You’re wrong.” I look at her in surprise. “Michael also tries his best and asks for help from the teachers. Emily isn’t even a bad student, it’s just that she’s so busy that she doesn’t have time to do anything. And me?” She pauses, her hand crumpling her test paper slightly. “You haven’t even known me for a week.”
I open my mouth to speak, but Ella cuts me off. “I’m not an exception. You’re just making assumptions about people without actually trying to understand them properly.”
“They’re all based on fact-”
“Exactly! You take one look at their appearance and actions in class!” Ella hisses. “You think you’re the best because you know everyone, but you don’t even talk to them. The reason you’re so wrong about everyone is because you never get to know them!”
“Hey, Ella!” a voice calls from the other end of the classroom. “You’ve got to see this!”
“Give me a second!” Ella responds, waving back. “Think about what I said, alright??” she tells me with a firm tone, and then stands up.
I stare at her retreating form as she sits down next to her crowd of friends, continuing to laugh as if nothing happened. I watch as Ella meets my stare while talking to them, as if saying to me,
“You don’t know any of them.”