A Perusal of Pink

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: February 26, 2018

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Submitted: February 26, 2018

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Ever since Miguel Cardoso was young, he’d aspired to go to Academia do Paraíso.

This wasn’t an unusual dream for a child to have; any parent who genuinely cared about their children would want the best for them, and there was no secondary school better than Academia do Paraíso. Most children were taught to strive for the academy from the moment they crawled out of their mother’s womb.

Miguel’s classmates in elementary school would whisper excitedly about it, sharing their own beliefs about Academia do Paraíso’s secret list of requirements. Ima, whose cousin had attended the academy, claimed that only graceful people were ever selected. Cézar, whose stepmother had supposedly declined an acceptance letter, insisted that anyone who played the trumpet would immediately be turned down. Teo, who didn’t know anyone with a connection to the academy but still considered himself an expert, swore that everyone needed to be able to sing the alphabet backwards in order to have even the slightest chance.

Miguel never contributed to these rumours. He knew no more than any of his classmates, and even if he did, nothing he said would be considered credible - his only familial connection to the academy was his sister, Rosana. She’d been expelled from Academia do Paraíso in her second year, which had hung a cloud of shame over the whole Cardoso family. Even at the age of nine, Miguel could pick up on the whispers and stares that branded him and his family as virtueless.

The situation only worsened when his brother Leo refused to apply, despite the desperation of his parents. Hardly anyone refused to turn in their application; the only time it happened was if someone was trying to make a statement. However, whatever statement Leo might have tried to make fell on deaf ears as more gossip about the mediocrity of the Cardoso family spread.

Miguel’s classmates became cruel towards him. They went out of their way to point out his shortcomings at every opportunity.

Ima would pester him about his posture. “You’ll never get into Academia do Paraíso if you can’t even stand or sit properly.”

Cézar fixated on his lack of confidence. “If you talk this quietly during your interview, there’s no way they’ll let you in.”

Teo zeroed in on Miguel’s handwriting. “They don’t pick the people with messy writing. If you aren’t going to take the time to write neatly, then they won’t take the time to consider you.”

They all managed to come together for their favourite piece of criticism: Miguel’s preference of the colour pink.

The debate over the academy’s position on pink was a famous one. After multiple studies came to the conclusion that applicants wearing pink were far more likely to be rejected, these findings were accepted by society as the truth. Although there were a few who claimed it had to be a fluke, most had resolved that it was simply a colour the academy thought to be unprofessional. It was common knowledge that showing up for an interview in pink would be an automatic strike against. Miguel knew this, and yet he still indulged himself.

Over time, however, he began to feel as if his classmates might be right - he lacked the confidence and self-discipline necessary for the academy. Perhaps being his authentic self wasn’t what the academy wanted. No, they wanted a better, more polished version of Miguel.

Thus, Miguel began to bend himself to the suggestions of his classmates: he reminded himself to sit up straight and took his time while writing to make sure his calligraphy was as neat as possible; he taught his voice to stay level so that he could appear confident; and, most importantly, he avoided the colour pink.

This partially worked. The other children ran out of faults to point out, but it was exhausting to keep up the facade. Conformity clearly wasn’t the right way for Miguel to get into Academia do Paraíso, but there weren’t any other possibilities.

Then, about a month before Miguel’s interview was scheduled, his teacher gave a lecture on the academy and suddenly, Miguel knew what he needed to do.

 

The morning before the interview was hushed. The house lacked its usual buzz of energy, adopting instead a tense silence that only heightened Miguel’s nerves. He could feel the eyes of his entire family on him, but every time he looked up they would avert their gazes. After a while, he stopped looking up, choosing instead to stare at the bowl of cereal in front of him.

Soon it was time to go, and the entire family slid into the vehicle. Before Miguel could get in, however, Leo placed a hand on his arm. “Are you sure you want to wear that?” he asked uncertainly, eyes fixed on the pink blazer Miguel had slipped on over his dress clothes.

Miguel nodded immediately, then gave his older brother a strained smile. “Of course. I want to make a statement, like you did when you chose not to apply.”

Leo raised his eyebrows at that. “I didn’t do that to make a statement,” he said. “I just didn’t want to deal with all the hypocritical rubbish surrounding the academy.”

“Oh,” Miguel said. He hadn’t considered that possibility. “But wouldn’t that qualify as a statement?” he pressed.

“I suppose it could be,” Leo responded with the hint of a smile.

He ruffled his younger brother’s hair, and off they went.

 

Miguel walked up the steps of Academia do Paraíso on his own. The building was imposing, with a wide stone staircase framed by enormous columns. The school itself was constructed from red brick that highlighted the old age of the refined academy.

Looking up at the elegant school building, it hit Miguel just how much he wanted to go here. Today wasn’t just for making a statement; he had to treat it like a serious interview, or else he’d lose his dream.

There weren’t many people waiting in the office when he arrived. Regardless of the small numbers, all eyes turned to him as he walked into the room, no doubt questioning his rather bold choice of outfit. Before anyone could say anything, however, a man with a clipboard came into the room. “Miguel Cardoso?” he read.

Miguel rose his hand. “That would be me.”

The man glanced him over quickly. If Miguel’s blazer had surprised him, he didn’t show it. He simply turned around and started walking down the hallway without checking to make sure Miguel was following.

The man led him to a small room with two chairs facing a desk. Behind the desk, there was a woman. She, too, had no obvious reaction to Miguel’s attire. “Good day, Miguel,” she greeted with a voice that sounded far younger than she looked. “I’m Ms. Costa, the principal of Academia do Paraíso. I’m going to ask you a few questions, and I want you to answer them as truthfully as you can. Is that okay with you, Miguel?” Miguel nodded, and she continued. “Excellent. I suppose I’ll start this off by addressing the obvious: you chose to wear that pink jacket today, despite what many believe to be our policy. Why was that?”

The practiced words stuttered out of Miguel. “I like the colour, and I feel as if it looks no less professional than any other colour.”

“So you chose it to make an argument?” she asked.

“Yes. Well, no,” he amended quickly. “I did want to make a statement about something that seems irrational, but that wasn’t my whole reasoning. You see, my teacher told me and my class that what really matters is being true to yourself.” He gestured towards his blazer. “This is me being true to myself. I figured you would appreciate honesty rather than something fake that I’ve put on just to please you.”

When Ms. Costa’s expression didn’t change, Miguel started to feel nervous that he’d said the wrong thing.

“Do you condemn anyone who chooses to hide what society deems imperfections?” Her voice was impossible level, not a single emotion slipping through the cracks of her perfect mask.

“Not at all,” Miguel said easily. “They’re only doing what we’re taught to do.”

 

A few minutes later, Miguel was walking down the steps back to his family. In his hand was the white envelope that Ms. Costa had handed him at the end of the interview. “You know what this is,” she’d said. “Wait until you’re with your family.”

He ran over what he knew about the letter in his head: gold for acceptance, red for rejection. The suspense was driving him out of his mind by the time he reached his family’s car. Miguel slipped into the car quickly and began to open the envelope, ignoring the eager stares of his family. He slipped the paper out and let out a breath of relief.

There was a shiny gold sticker at the top of the page.


© Copyright 2018 Emma Rylaarsdam. All rights reserved.

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