Age: 15, Grade: 10
School Name: Baruch College Campus High School, New York, NY
Educator: Baruch HS
Category: Novel Writing
Marble Summary:Two seventh graders, Zeke and Rosie meet after they are assigned partners in a class math activity. Zeke noticed Rosie’s eyes and is immediately captivated by her, her mesmerizing green eyes triggering nostalgia before his parents’ traumatic divorce. This pleasant memory is of his childhood marble jar, a symbol he has correlated with the connection of his family, and more or less, the connection of himself. His parents’ separation has left him with a massive deal of undealt anger in which is a more difficult battle, consuming him with each passing day. With the marbles being one of the few things that fuels him through his life, Rosie immediately gives off the same energy, and he subconsciously calls her “Marble.” When Rosie learns of Zeke’s circumstances, she is quick to take form of a healing outlet for Zeke and they form a connection more powerful than neither of them can ever possibly understand.
Zeke doesn’t know how it got out. Not that he can find anything to regret about calling Rosie that name. He decides it suits her- more than any name he’s ever been called. He remembers how her brows crawled inward to her forehead before he left. There’s some sort of instant pleasure that comes along with confusing Roise. The same level of satisfaction as smoking a large dose of heroin.
Ever since meeting her, Zeke’s observed she’s packaged with satisfaction of her own. She’s a fresh opportunity to be seen however he wants. A mystery, a rebel, a douchebag. Anything’s better than a trash can. Maybe the name had come from what she had said, her attempt to calm him, to cool off the steam Zeke lugged with him everywhere he went. Her approach at this, the naturalness she had to it, baffled Zeke. She hypnotized him into her emerald marbles, like this was the only way to make him sane. And Zeke does feel sane. Temporarily, most likely, but oddly zen.
Zeke exits the bathroom, heads downstairs for some water and then heads back up again into the bathroom. Zeke looks into the mirror, caked with dry soap. His eyes journey down to his face. This area represents all misfortune known to man.
He starts at his hair, the color of runny dumpster sludge. Here sleeps ten million particles of dandruff. Now down to his forehead: a desert of flaky skin, pimples littering its surface. Someone might as well have thrown a gravel party and forgot to hire cleanup. Next stop is his nose, with a bump so tall God could shake its hand. Overall, the cartilage is abundant, unappealing, and sprinkled with tiny blackheads. Zeke travels down to his lips. His upper lip is mostly wrapped in a browning coat he would eventually have to peel off. On most days he leaves it as is, only for the sake of not tasting blood for the rest of the day.
Zeke turns his back to the mirror. He already knows he would get a detention for yelling and ditching class. Zeke has been down this route too many times before. He understands consequences. He just wishes people would stop reminding him of them. He examines the paint on the bathroom stalls when his focus gravitates to some peeling paint. Zeke plays with his time by continuing the peeled works, and expanding every bare spot.
* * *
Ms. Green tells Zeke that he’d had “all period” to finish the poster. He sits in recess detention with his face on the desk, battling sleep. The teacher lifts the poster up from her desk and holds it in front of him so it is all he sees. Rosie had only written down the first question. The assignment was marked incomplete. Ms Green reports that she had graded both of their homework pages, and that both were “unmistakingly misunderstood.”
“You might want to consider tutoring,” she says. Unfazed, Zeke still pulls petty acting out of his ass. “And this goes for just me?” he huffs.
Ms. Green is exasperated. “Where did you hear me say ‘just you,’ Zeke?” She sighs and grabs a dry-erase marker. “I’ll email you and Rosie the details later today.”
Zeke’s eyebrows leap to the sky. “You want Rosie to go to tutoring, too?”
“You both already lost a quiz grade and a homework grade.”
“The poster was a quiz grade?”
Ms. Green writes down three words on the whiteboard: THE GOLD STAR
“Maybe you can help each other.”
And that is that. Zeke’s academic issues are no secret to his mother, who accepts the news absent-mindedly. His father will hear about it over the weekend, followed by his lifeless slogan, “Every grade counts.” Every Monday from 3:30 to 4:30 Zeke is to race to The Gold Star Education Facility. Zeke thinks that basically, it sounds like first period smushed back in his face.
All weekend long, Zeke rolls questions left and right in his head: Will Rosie even show up? Does she even care about math? Should I even show up, then? I could get away with it. Does she hate me so much now she’s transferring to a school in Mexico? Zeke and Rosie hadn’t spoken a word throughout the remainder of Friday, so his expectations are a whirlwind.
However, as Monday approaches, Zeke realizes he’s wasted his weekend. Rosie thrusts herself through the doors of The Gold Star three seconds after Zeke finds a table. The Gold Star is basically a rip off of the New York Public Library, except with a more private, modern twist. Tables decorate the first floor while crate lamps dangle above. They profoundly flood a toasty glow throughout the room, filling every shadow. It looks especially comforting with a thunderstorm displayed outside. Different colored doors fill the walls, for private sessions. Probably my next destination, Zeke thinks.
Bookshelves hold pages covering geology and trigonometry and geometry and anthropology- basically all the “-ologies” and “-metries.” The space has a dull and secluded aura. Besides the tutors themselves, only one other college student sits in the computer section. She’s typing rapidly and looks like she hasn’t slept in days. She is frantic and grunts occasionally.
Rosie holds a brown paper bag in her dripping hand. She wears a white oversized raincoat drizzled with black polka dots. She plops herself in the seat across from Zeke and pulls out a can of Coke from the bag and onto the table. She then turns the bag upside down to release a bag of Lay’s. Rosie’s eyebrows furrow again soon after making eye contact with Zeke.
“Why ‘Marble’”? She pops open the bag. Into the air flies smells of salt, artificial potato, and a gallon of oil.
Zeke hides a smile and shrugs. “Nada.”
“Que?” she questions in a horrendous American accent. Zeke innocently glances at empty spaces scattered in the room.
“Hello? Earth to Zeke?”
Zeke glances up. He figures he should try to ease the tension. “Did Ms. Green, uh… tell you-”
“Unmistakingly misunderstood?” Rosie cuts off. “Yep.”
Zeke forces out a light chuckle.
Rosie pokes her finger into her bottom lip. Zeke can see her fall into a spiral.
She speaks. “What happened yesterday…”
“Happens all the time,” Zeke finishes. Rosie looks surprised.
“Really? Do your parents know?”
Zeke takes time to consider this. He imagines he is Chase, with parents that probably keep a record of their son’s every detail. Chase lives and breathes his life as an open book, because lies aren’t meant to slip through pearly whites like those. It had taken two months of silence until Zeke’s father had finally told him he was moving out. How can Zeke speak truth when his parents are the reason behind his torn pillowcases, his burnt playing cards? Zeke reflects on his thrown-away childhood, and how Chase lives the crystal-clear life Zeke has stopped believing in. Connections don’t last, Zeke’s mind echoes. Not for liars like me.
“No,” he says. “Guess they don’t.”
“No?” Rosie sits in the plastic chair in silence. Zeke’s head hangs low, arms crossed. She pushes the Lay’s bag towards him. “You want one?”
“I’m good,” Zeke says, head unbudged.
Guilt spreads over Rosie like a morning dew. “Hey- sorry.”
“I’m alive,” Zeke insists.
“Um,” Rosie looks around the room before looking back at him. “My parents aren’t divorced but they… aren’t together either.”
“Score.” Zeke looks at the bag of chips still open pointing towards him and shrugs.
He reaches inside and pulls out a wide, glistening, salt-coated chip and pops it in his mouth. “So, Marble,” he chomps. “What does your dad do?”
“How did you know it was my dad who-”
“Your mom picks you up every day after school.”
Rosie gives him a funny look. Zeke puts his hands up. In his next sentence his words splutter out like he’s been holding them in his mouth for years. “Hey, everybody sees it. I’m not the only one so don’t go around calling me a creep or anything.” He holds his breath. Rosie rolls her eyes again.
“You’re kinda paranoid, Zeke. At first it was fine but it’s getting old really fast,” she says. “She’s so annoying. I live no further than across the street from school and she still won’t let me walk home alone.” She pushes back the tab on her soda can and delicately hovers her lips over the opening, followed by a careful sip. Click, fizz, slurp. Before today, that sound was nails on a chalkboard to Zeke. Now, he wouldn’t mind it being his alarm sound for the rest of his life. No, that’s too far, he thought. Let’s start with favorite sound on earth, then get more serious if that’s what we feel like.
“It’s so terrible it’s almost funny,” she scoffs. “My dad is a professional ping-pong player.”
Zeke’s eyes widen. “I was not expecting that.”
Rosie lets out a laugh. Her laugh is higher than her speaking voice, and the symphony is innocent and sweet. “I know, I know.” She swallows the last of her laughter in a gulp of jittery Coke. “But it’s true. He’s always going away to places like China for tournaments and other important things.” She taps the nails of each of her fingers on the cool surface of the table. “He sometimes brings me stuff, when he comes back. Notebooks, pens, and even sometimes paint.” She is quiet, but for only a minute. “He thinks I like to draw and write. And paint. Just any creative stuff. If only he knew. You can’t do creative if you don’t do anything in the first place.”
Zeke regains his attention. “It’s hard,” he says. “Not having a passion.”
“My mom keeps saying it’ll help make me look like less of a dumbass in high school interviews. I mean, I could care less.”
Rosie is near interrupted when a friendly looking woman with a name tag reading “Ms. Jingles” comes over. Her blonde hair is held in a casual low pony. Perched in her hair are big glasses with chestnut, rectangle frames.
“Shall we start?” Ms. Jingles asks the two, and leads them into one of the rooms. The first day is filled mostly with review, but Rosie and Zeke don’t mind all that much.
When Zeke gets home, he wishes his life were a movie so he could fast forward the rest of the week. The case isn’t that he likes her. It’s not. That should be clear as day. He knows himself well enough to know that he sheds his skin around girls he likes, in the smoothest way possible.
While everyone else goes to bed on Sunday night, with their groans and complaints set for the following day, Zeke goes to bed in peace. It’s a strange feeling knowing he is still capable of looking forward. Day after day, he’d grown to accept the fact that he was below everyone else he knew. Whether the limit was school, behavior, looks, anything possible. Everything Zeke has known has always been out of reach. Maybe the Gold Star Student isn’t what he’s existing to be in the first place. Maybe it’s only out of reach if you’re reaching by yourself.