After I registered and signed in, I was given the number 171, which I found to be divisible by three. Assuming that there are three students from each school, while I was in the bathroom, I calculated that there has to be 57 schools, but fortunately, the brochure only counted forty schools. I then wondered, what I calculated wrong, but soon enough, I and the other spellers were brought to the auditorium. The auditorium of Long Island City High School was big, but not as big as the one of my middle school. My mom carried my coat and bag as she went to find a seat in the auditorium. I led myself to a seat for numbers 150 to 175 and seated myself down, trying to calm myself down, and looking around at the other spellers. There was one sitting right in front of my row, a boy looking, I suppose, my age, and I asked him the 1,000,000-dollar question:
“We’re competitors, right?”
Of course, you’d groan and be like, “Girl, of course you and the others are competitors,”, but I wanted to make small talk, to help my nerves. The boy responded, “Um, yeah, I guess.” Then he stammered something and turned away. The bee-T-shirted ladies flocked around us spellers asking us over and over if we needed to use the bathroom, since we won’t be allowed to when the bee begins. I checked my bladder several times, but came with nothing to spill. Most other spellers didn’t feel like using the bathroom either. Looking around– and in the brochure– that many participants were from elementary schools. That made me feel relaxed that there isn’t so much competition, but also a bit bad for them. Some of the words I have studied for the bee seem to have come from the SAT.
After quite a long time of waiting, we were brought up to the stage where there were seats. I was seated, numerical order, in the third row, and then the intro started. Small speeches of thank-you’s and about the organization of the spelling bee– along with the names of the four judges there which I don’t remember. Finally, the host stepped up to the mic and announced, “MAY THE NYC HUNGER GAMES BEGIN!!”
Just kidding. He announced the beginning of the spelling bee, and wished us all luck. I was sitting there, my head pointed to the ceiling, praying to the Almighty that I’d make it through the first round still in the game. My fears increased as the spellers dropped like flies under the dreaded ding! of the bell when a wrong letter was uttered. You cannot just start over again; you had to get it right the first time. Many of the words made me jump, they were long words I didn’t find in the words the librarian handed to me. I really hope I’ll be fine. After an agonizing wait, I was called up.
“Nascence,” the judge called out. “The word is ‘nascence'”
Nascence. A fairly easy word. I remembered using the word in a seventh-grade essay. “Definition, please?” I asked, even though I knew the word.
“Nascence: it is the beginning of something or, origin.” the judge responded, looking up, expecting my answer.
“Nascence. N-A-S-C-E-N-C-E. Nascence.”
“Correct.” the judge replied. I came back to my seat, determined, my worry slashed in half, I have gone and lived. Eureka. The rest of the spelling bee went in that manner. Many spellers weren’t able to make it, and many unreasonably so, under words like, “adobe”, “toucan”, and “macaroni”. In Round 2, I was shifted to the second row next to a girl who counted how many spellers were left. After Round 1, there were 54. After Round 2 there were 35. The girl who counted eventually went down in Round 2 for misspelling “pinafore”. After that, I didn’t really feel like counting and my fears eventually withered away as I blasted through “magnolia”(round 2) and “caribou”(round 3). After Round 3, 22 spellers remained. We spellers were allowed to have a break.
Mom hugged me in congrats that I was going to be one of the twenty finalists. In my anxiety, I snarfed down a Chinese dumpling as I joked about gran’s ringtone, that alerted the attention of one of the judges to say that please turn off your cell phones so the spellers could concentrate. The librarian came and congratulated me. We learned that one of the spellers from IS5 have gone down under the bell with the word “toucan”. Looking at the trophies, I was determined to come home with one of them.
After a few sips of water, I returned to the stage, avoiding the front row, where the spellers are most likely to fall. It seemed like this would be over soon, but a parent unnecessarily lengthened it, to include 22 spellers rather than just 20 to “give them a chance”. So most of the spellers were pushed to the back rows, as the final four contested for the last three seats. It took so long, I thought, I am bored.
And that, was the kiss of death on the promises the Man Upstairs promised me to have. When the twenty-two spellers for the citywide bee were decided (including me), we contested for the trophies. Overconfident like the Titanic, I plopped myself down on the front, thinking what could possibly go wrong now.
Soon, I was called up, and the word I was given was irrefutable. Definition: something that cannot be refuted or argued against. Irrefutable.
Here was my Waterloo, “Irrefutable. I-R-R-E-B-U-T-A-B-L-E.” Ding! I was out. Stunned, I walked off the stage to next to where Mom was sitting, wondering what I spelled wrong. Mom comforted me with the citywide bee thing that at least I made it, but I told her I promised to bring home the gold. In my defense, the judge’s voice altered by his mic made the f sound like a b. And I thought that made sense that it would be b, like the word rebuttal. I knew before that it was supposed to be f, but I thought the judge was correcting me that it’s b, not f. And therefore, I flunked. Not only in spelling, but in listening to my gut. Dammit.
Mom had me take the time to study the strategies used by those who stayed, a measly five, since many had my luck. Also, she scolded my cockiness that brought me down. After watching for sometime that hurt my ego, we decided to leave. I no longer cared about who was going to win the trophies because I wasn’t one of them.
After picking up my participation certificate, we walked to the nearest McDonald’s. Turning down my typical quarter-pounder and Coke, which belonged to days of victory, I then, optioned for Dr. Pepper and a sirloin whatchamacallit burger. While eating, me and gran watched Wheel of Fortune, and all three of us took the trains home when the taxis seemed to ignore us. We eagerly chattered about the citywide bee to distract me from my misery. And I was worried sure, but also determined to kick. Their. Butts.
When we got home, we told everyone that I made it to citywide, which was equivalent to “I won”. Cheerfully, Mom took to Facebook to spread news of my glory. I began to type down my tale of woe/triumph in this blog. We were determined, as we downed strawberry banana smoothies, that we would be better.
In Friday at school, naturally, my classmates asked how I did, which I kept confidential, until the principal announced over the PA, that I, and another contestant are moving on to citywide. My whole class applauded, and I decided not to tell them about my irrefutable failure nor to think about it as I basked in praises.
I was going on to the next level against the top-notch from other boroughs in March, so wish me luck!! ;D