• Bryana Lorenzo

55 Bucks

It was time for me to face the facts: I was about to die, and all over fifty-five bucks.

Oh sure! Help an old man get rid of some ransomware on his computer, they said! It’ll be the easiest paycheck you ever get, they said! You got a five on the AP Computer Science A test, right? Of course, I did, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified to get rid of some hacker’s malware attack! And I’m definitely not qualified to survive some old dude’s haunted house full of creepy porcelain dolls, cursed marionettes, spooky mannequins, and ghost girls running up the walls!

Really though, this is all actually my fault. I’m the one who willingly chose to stay in the house even after I saw my first ghost because I was that desperate to earn the fifty-five dollars to pay for the March SAT. My parents made too much for me to qualify for a fee waiver, but they also wouldn’t pay since I’d already taken the test once and had gotten a “good enough” score in their eyes. I had to be the one to pay my way this time. I only got my fifty-five bucks when the entire computer was decrypted, and I was only about a fifth of the way through.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

I flinched. They were banging on the door of the home office, which I’d blocked with a bookshelf. But they had ghosts on their side! Once the monsters all reconvened, it wouldn’t be long before the demons floated through the walls to murder me.

I looked to the computer, still only part-way decrypted. A part of me still had the urge to continue decrypting until it was completely fixed. Another part of me hated myself for thinking that. I wondered if I was more insane for still wanting to decrypt that desktop for fifty-five bucks to pay for a test that would result in me paying more to send it to the colleges, or if College Board was much more evil for making me so desperate that I wanted to do such a thing? How could I still be determining my worth by a number when I was about to be butchered by spirits?

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!




I cursed and put my body weight against the shelf. I thought about the test, thought about my buddy from another school that didn’t give out fee waivers no matter how little you made. Thought about how he had to scrimp and save just to pay for the first test, only to get an average score after sleepless nights of studying.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Boom!

Thought about how he didn’t get into anywhere he wanted for college. Thought about how he blamed himself for it because he should have studied just a little bit harder or smarter. Thought about how his life revolved around that stupid number. Thought about how he’d do anything for another fifty-five dollars.

Come out!

Come out!

Come out to play!

Everything they judge us by is arbitrary, even the fairest, standardized part of the application. You could be great at reading and writing, but terrible at math. You could be terrible at math, but great at reading and writing. Your score sucks all the same, and the College Board makes a profit off of each and every retake, despite supposedly being a non-profit. How were we ever supposed to win when they make fifty-five bucks off of every student who needs to retake that stupid test?


The computer before me glitches to a rotted acorn. I almost laugh. Instead, I spit. I spit that I was so desperate for fifty-five bucks that I let myself stay stuck in a haunted mansion to earn a bit of cash. I spit that I’m not better at the reading and writing section. I spit that some kids have to pay to take every SAT, every AP test, every CLMP exam, every score sent. They have to. They have no choice. And the College Board still has the gall to make a profit. And the College Board still has the gall to call itself fair.

We’re here…


On the table before me with the computer, I see a practice SAT from the Princeton Review textbook. I look at the bookshelf and it’s full of practice SAT textbooks. So much studying, so much cramming. And you can still get by with a bad score, or you can still not get into your dream school with a good score. It’s all arbitrary, all a game. It’s the most frustrating horror game.


And all it costs is fifty-five bucks.


The demons are before me now: demons, devils, ghouls. They’re smiling, laughing, shivering, crying. I’m doing all the same. How could I let myself end up like this, all to take a test I didn’t want to retake? I got a 1330 my first go. That was good enough for guaranteed entry to a lot of schools. But it still wasn’t good enough for the top of the top. I still wasn’t smart enough, still wasn’t hard-working enough. Still needed to retake an exam to line some bureaucrat’s pocket with fifty-five bucks. Whoever thought I’d be so desperate? Whoever thought I’d be so pathetic? But that’s the way we’re trained to think about the SAT.