Monologue: Zeta from Clay

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Zeta, female, a high school junior.

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ZETA

Of course I cheat. Listen. I’m taking AP Comp, AP American History, AP Bio—there’s like three hours of homework every night for just that one class, Honors Math Analysis, French—only third-year French, because I took Spanish in middle school, then I switched to French in high school because that’s what all the other high-end kids were taking. Or Latin. Or both.

Junior year. That’s what the colleges really look at, you know.

If I was one of the seriously smart kids, I would’ve taken Geometry in eighth grade, so I’d be in Calculus by now. And I’d be in fourth year French. And Latin. For instance, there’s a girl on my crew team, Sophie Janowitz, she’s only a sophomore, and she’s first violinist in the orchestra, but she’s in most of my classes. So I’m behind.

I don’t cheat in Bio or History because I actually need to learn the material in those classes, so I can pass the AP exams. But if I wrote every English paper from scratch and never snuck a cheat sheet into a French exam, I would just die. The subjunctive? I mean seriously, what is the subjunctive? Truly, I have no idea.

Don’t warn me about getting caught. I won’t get caught. You only get caught if what you write yourself is bad and what you steal is good. But my work is fine.

I just don’t have time to do it.

People say it’s pushy parents who are to blame for kids like me taking too many AP classes and getting pneumonia. Or having a nervous breakdown. Or both. Because we’re up ‘til 1:00 in the morning doing homework and taking Adderall to stay awake ‘cause we’ve been up since 4:30 in the morning doing Crew—if you want to go to an Ivy League, or any school that counts actually, any school that anybody’s ever heard of—you’d better do either Crew or Lacrosse, and Crew doesn’t require a try-out, just showing up. So I do Crew.

But it’s not pushy parents. At least, not my parents. Actually, my mom tries to tell me not to do so much. But she doesn’t understand. When she was my age, you could get into a good college with a 3.5 GPA and 1300, maybe even 1200, on the SATs. Can you imagine?

Also, I’m taking ceramics. I love being in that room—and just breathing. How could anyone not love the smell of clay?

Most people, when they talk about peer pressure, they mean pressure to do drugs and skip school and have sex. But that’s not the pressure I feel. The pressure I feel is the pressure of all those other people like me, but better than me, about to graduate from high school and apply to college and it seems like they’ve all done these amazing things, like swum in the Olympics—swam?—or won the National Science Fair. Or both. And me, what have I done?

Maybe I could be a potter. Throw pots for a living.

Does anyone actually do that?