Online meetings suck. Especially the ones where you’re required to keep your camera on. In my opinion, the teachers don’t get it. So what if I want to leave for a second to grab a snack? I did it all the time in regular school except this time my kitchen is my locker.
I shift in my chair, holding my computer still so it doesn’t shake. My science teacher doesn’t notice, yet of course she would notice if I switched my camera off for a few seconds. It baffles me how teachers don’t trust the students to stay in meetings yet they’re planning on going back to school in the fall and trust the immature highschoolers not to fake cough on each other and play with their masks. Don’t get me wrong- I hate online school, but in person school is worse.
“Everyone go to the online worksheet now. I want volunteers for the answer to question one and if no one steps up I will unmute someone random. You’ve seen it happen.”
I switched tabs to find the excruciatingly long worksheet, groaning when I count 33 questions.
“No one? You should have this all written down. It’s in the notes I gave you.”
I suddenly feel my food-deprived stomach moving, growling and rolling around inside me, screaming for its breakfast. I sigh when the sensation ends, and look back at my computer.
I may as well be buried six feet under the ground; my microphone was on. My teacher expected an answer and got my loud, ten-second long stomach growl instead. Did I mention this meeting was being recorded? My face flushes and I sink down in my chair.
“The… the answer to question one, April.”
“Oh. Yes. Um… lithium?”
A few of my classmates are smirking. Their microphones are off but I know they are laughing.”
“Yes. Good. Let me guess, you woke up five minutes before this meeting and didn’t get breakfast?”
“More or less.”
“Well, I suggest you set an alarm- or multiple alarms- to make sure you have time to eat.”
I turn my microphone off, still embarrassed to death. My attention then turns to the top of my screen where a new person had been added to the meeting.
“Good morning, Marek. You missed half of the meeting.”
I smile when I see my favorite person turn his camera on. He looked just as embarrassed as I do.
“Sorry. I’m kinda sick and had to take medication.”
My teacher raises her eyebrow. I chuckle to myself as Marek’s face turns redder, and I watch him clutch onto the purple blanket wrapped around him.
“It takes thirty minutes to take medication?”
“Yeah, my allergies-”
“It’s fine, Marek. Just rewatch the recording once I upload it. Pull up your worksheet and your notes.”
He nods and mutes himself. I switch to another tab and open my messages, giggling as I send him one.
[What’s up, mister allergies? I thought pollen season starts in the summer.]
I change tabs again and watch the tiny rectangle with his face in it. I see him smile and I catch a glimpse of his fingers typing.
[Unfortunately there are multiple types of pollen. What did I miss? Everyone was grinning when I joined. It was a bit creepy.]
My cheeks turn pink again.
[I may or may not have woke up late and skipped breakfast. My stomach answered question one for me.]
He puts a hand over his mouth in his tiny rectangle, trying to look serious but I know he’s laughing.
[Wow. Was it loud?]
[Of course it was. At least we can be embarrassed together now.]
Marek’s sweet smile reappears, and I have to put my face in my hands to hide my warm, red cheeks as he brushes his soft chocolate hair to the side. The tips are still a light shade of brown from when he dyed it, but his natural dark hair had reappeared due to months in quarantine with no haircuts. I thank God I can stare at him without being detected online. I silently obsess over his two-toned hair, noticing how good it looks when it’s long. The lighter brown at the end caresses his jawline and hides the back of his neck. I never thought I needed to see him with long hair. I suddenly want to pet it.
[Lost in thought? We’re on question twelve. I would’ve thought you would be more attentive these days considering you share a name with the current month.]
[Ha ha. Very funny. By the way, you look really good with long hair. You should keep it after quarantine is over.]
I look at his face; to my delight, it has turned slightly pink.
[Oh heck no. Once we can get haircuts again I’m chopping it all off. My mom offered to cut my hair but I don’t want to relive my bowl cut days.]
[Nooo, don’t cut it! It looks amazing. I will cry if you do.]
I see him look back at his camera, and I discreetly traced a ‘tear’ down my cheek in case he was watching me.
[You can’t trick me, idiot. I’ve been crying all day and I don’t see what’s so bad about it.]
[Yours is just allergies, idiot. Maybe if you weren’t allergic to everything that grows you would understand.]
[Very funny. Fine, I suppose I’ll keep it on the long side for a bit after quarantine. I will be scheduling a haircut either way, though.]
[Good choice. It’ll cover the pimples on the back of your neck.]
I grin mischieviously and switch my tab back to the worksheet, filling in the answer for question eighteen. I missed a bunch but I’ll figure them out later.
“Marek, give us the answer to question nineteen please. All three parts.”
“The answer to part one is no, because the number of valence electrons-”
Marek’s speech is interrupted by a violent shudder, fluttering the purple blanket. He leans back and sneezes hard, sniffing to recover from the violent reaction. It takes him three seconds to realize there’s a huge booger hanging out of his nose.
“I- uh- hold on…”
I snort, trying to hold in my laughter as he grabs a tissue.
“It’s okay, Marek. Sara, finish the answer please.”
I cover my mouth with my hand to try and stop laughing. My poor friend has the tissue shoved up his nose, trying to stop it from running.
“Alright everyone, we’ll stop there for today. Finish the at-home lab section of your worksheet plus the demo for Thursday’s lesson for tomorrow. You can work on the three assignments due by the end of this unit as well, but they won’t be due until next week. Have a good day, and stay inside.”
I spam the ‘leave meeting’ button as fast as I can until the screen reverts to the website’s main menu. Sighing in relief, I click back to the message screen and attempt to video call Marek. He answers almost immediately.
The first few seconds are completely silent, but then I burst out laughing. He does too, the rolled up tissue falling out of his red nose.
“I can’t believe it. This really isn’t our day, is it?”
“Hey! Mine was worse. I showed up late and then a giant booger fell out of my nose. I hate allergies. I couldn’t find my medication so I had to ask my mom, but she was asleep and-”
“Shush. It’s okay. No one’s gonna remember today anyways. I doubt half of the people in our class- including me- can even remember what day it is.”
“Ah, the lovely atmosphere of quarantine. The statement ‘time is an illusion’ has been realized to be the truth as the days shut inside go by. Though we all stay inside, letting the time flow, I still have to deal with whatever crap is outside because my nose likes to torture me.”
I snort, shifting my computer on my lap.
“Such a poet.”
He chuckles, getting up from his desk to grab a banana. My stomach growls again.
“Man, that thing is loud. You want this?”
Marek waves the banana in front of the camera; he laughs when I move my head to follow it.
“Go eat something, wild animal. I have another online class soon.”
“Ha, hope you don’t blast off into space when you sneeze. That would be a fun recording to watch later.”
He pretends to punch the camera, and I laugh.
“I’ll see you later, idiot.”
“See you, snotbucket.”
Six hours later I’m standing in front of a light blue house. The white roof is spotted with yellow pollen; no wonder he had hay fever.
“You have fifteen minutes,”
My mom tells me from inside the car. I wave goodbye, sliding my mask over my nose and heading up to the bright red front door. His mom answers when I knock.
“He’s upstairs finishing homework. I think he’d like to see you.”
I sneak up the stairs and turn the corner, slowly opening the door to his room.
Marek jumps up, quickly grabbing his mask and putting it on before running over to me and giving me a strong hug. My face is pressed into his black shirt which smells like essential oils and laundry soap, and I can feel a wet tear drip onto my neck. His hair brushes against me too, feeling even softer than it looks.
“I missed you so much, April.”
“I missed you too.”
We stand in the doorway, hugging until the strong scent of healing oils makes my nose numb. I don’t know if it’s the allergies or my presence, but tears are still dripping from Marek’s eyes.
“I can’t stay long. My mom is waiting for me outside. By the way, you should really power wash your roof. It’s covered in pollen.”
He sniffles, smiling. I can’t see his mouth under the mask, but his eyes show that he’s smiling.
We sit down together, enjoying each other’s company and trash talking our homework assignments until my fifteen minutes is up. I grab his arm and drag him upwards, giving him one last hug before I have to leave.
“See you in our geography class tomorrow. I love you, idiot.”
“I love you too, snotbucket.”