I hated Jane Eyre. All out hated it. I can almost hear the collective gasp from the English majors reading this. But, c’mon Jane, have a spine. Rochester doesn’t love you? Oh wait he’s married? Scandal. And you’ll take him back won’t you? God, I hate you Jane. Fight the patriarchy, woman. I’m pretty sure I hurled that piece of shit book into my back seat, where it would remain until the blistering sun of August bleached its cover.
Maybe I can’t blame poor little Jane for my animosity towards her. I wanted nothing to do with school before my senior year started. My AP English teacher skipped into class with her bobbed hair swinging around her shoulders, hand dipping in a basket full of daisies to scatter around the room in pure ecstasy. Why did 90 percent of our English department cut their hair into that pointed bob? I could feel my jaw clenching, my teeth grinding together, sweat trickling behind my knee as the skin from my thigh sticks to the plastic seat. Ms. Bob smiled big and announced we would discuss college essays, battling the urge to clap her hands together. Hey, lady. It’s the first day. Calm yourself.
This classroom was one of the few blessed with a window. Sweltering summer faded as the leaves fell from the trees, plastering themselves against the window. They mocked my captivity in the cement chamber. The walls were adorned with posters like, “Thespians do it on stage!” Dear, God. Every week we discussed the colleges we were applying to and the essays “we were writing” to better our future. Ms. Bob would edit the ambitious students’ essays on the overhead. Their typed words baking into the glass, searing my retinas. I would turn to Alyssa sitting next to me, our eyes rolling in unison. Legs twitching in impatience. We both had decent GPAs; we were motivated students at a time. Just not at this time.
People’s early action acceptance letters started rolling in. Congratulations on your acceptance letter to NYU, Dave. The big city will sit well with your arrogant personality and hipster style, you bastard. Everyone applauded him like this was a big deal. The girl sitting next to him swooned and caressed his arm. Alyssa and I rolled our eyes again. No eye contact. From my peripherals I could see her mouth pulling up in the corner. My shit eating grin matching hers.
It’s not that I didn’t want to go to college. I did. I was just scared, I can admit that now. It takes a lot for me to reach out and make new friends. It could be that I am actually painfully shy when I first meet people. More likely it’s my oh so charming personality. And this AP English class was slowly rotting me from the inside out. Destroying the only passion I really ever had. My love for books and enjoyment of reading was fading, fast. I’d only ever really wanted to teach. But I was discouraged. The college applications stretched on for pages and pages. Eighteen year old kids know it all. What they want. What the future holds for them. Just ask me.
A wet nose shoved into my eye socket wakes me up at 4:30 AM, a morning ritual at this point. Our three year old lab demands to be fed, the perfect alarm clock for work. He was a gift for my younger sister, a four month old furry being that was supposed to fill the empty nest that I never actually left behind. I drag my feet across the carpet of my childhood bedroom, making my way down the stairs. I drop kibble in his bowl and start a pot of coffee, inspecting the small splotchy burns covering both my arms. Results of working day in and day out carrying burning plates that seem to fuse with my skin.
It’s been three years since I graduated high school. I juggle my mug of coffee, keys, and apron as I kick open the front door. The silhouette of a bird crosses the bitter blue sky, protesting the sun’s presence.
I open at a breakfast restaurant down the street from my house. I heat up the friers, rolling dough into perfect balls. I’m the only one working during these early mornings. I cook, I serve, and I make a mean doughnut; doing it all with a smile on my face. At least I’m brushing up my skills to be a perfect housewife one day. Would Rochester enjoy his eggs scrambled, or poached? I guess I’m fighting the patriarchy with you now, Jane.
“Hey, sweetheart, more coffee.” A raspy voice breaks my revere as I feel a tug on my belt loop. How about you touch me again and we’ll see where this coffee ends up? Swallowing my pride for the countless time today I plaster that grin on my face.
“No problem.” Asshole. Its only 9:00 AM, just five more hours. A baby coos at me and upturns a bowl of muffins, sending crumbs across the floor and screeching in delight. My head throbs and I feel my teeth grinding as another couple opens the door, letting a blast of cold air into the coffee shop. Reading the sign that says, “please wait to be seated,” they walk to the only dirty table and sit. Heading towards the coffee machine I hear that raspy voice again.
“Sweetheart, where the hell is that coffee I asked for?” he questions, vaguely shaking his coffee cup in my direction. Not even looking up from The New York Times.
“How about you get it yourself?” I snarl, ripping off the apron. I can’t do this every single day. I walk out the front door, into the cold air, wiping grease from my hands. Three years of this shit, day in and day out. I don’t know what college holds for me, but maybe it’s time to find out.