By Karen Wang
“Why am I so bored?” I screamed into the void of my bedroom for the fifth time in one hour. “Why is there nothing to do? I am sooo bored!”
Since entering quarantine, I have felt myself slowly going insane. I’m fairly sure I have also forced the people around me into insanity as well, but collateral damage is inevitable when one is desperate.
“Can you shut up? The walls aren’t soundproof, you fool!” My brother screamed back. “Why did I have to have a room next to yours? Is it too late to move out? Is it too late to kick you out? I swear to God, I can’t take it anymore!”
I ignored him, a sudden thought popping into my head. These past few weeks in quarantine, what have I been missing? Before quarantine, the void in my life was only the inevitability of death by climate change, but now that void has increased to include the inevitability of death by pandemic and something else. Something darker.
And then it hit me. The void in my life is a physical absence in my life: the absence of Amusement. I haven’t been able to see her since quarantine began, and I didn’t realize how important she was to my daily life until now.
Where did she go? And where can I find her again?
Join me, co-editor-in-chief Karen Wang, as I uncover this missing person’s case in this second, at-home edition of Searching for Answers.
Phase One: Venting
Once I realized what was happening, I needed several hours to process and compose my thoughts. These several hours involved many vital investigative processes, including binge-watching my favorite movies, laying in bed, napping, and then laying in bed some more.
“Where could she have gone?” I sniffled into my pillow several hours later. “Where did Amy go? Is this why the movie is called Gone Girl?”
After finishing Gone Girl, I refocused onto the task at hand: I had a missing person’s case on my hands. The thought alone stressed me out so much that I spent another thirteen hours in bed, taking a thoughtful nap to prepare myself for long days ahead.
Phase Two: Searching
After venting, I began my search. A Google Search, to be precise. It’s not like I can exactly leave the premises of my house right now.
It turns out that there aren’t very many people named “Amusement” on Google. She must just be shy. Or maybe she’s super freaked out about social media and the Internet.
“Seems fake,” I murmured to myself.
“Can you get off your phone please?” my mother asked. “We’re trying to have a nice dinner together, not a dinner with our phones.”
“Hush,” I snapped back. “This is important.”
“Where is your filial piety?” my brother, a devoted AP World History student, interjected.
“I’m older than you. Where’s your filial piety?” I responded without looking up from my phone.
“I can’t believe I’m related to you,” my brother muttered to himself. “For god’s sake, just stop.”
He promptly swiped my phone out of my hands and threw it to the ground, instantly vanquishing it. Thus concluded my exciting Google search for Amusement.
Phase 3: Crying
With no phone and no Amusement by my side, I was left in a state of unfathomable boredom. There was only one cure, and that was using my laptop to watch videos of paint drying on YouTube.
Around 3AM, my eyes began watering from prolonged exposure to the artificial light of my screen. Valiantly, I pushed on. I was determined to see this 10 hour video of paint drying through. I was three hours in, and it was far too late to concede defeat.
An hour later, and there were tears fully streaming down my face as I struggled not to look away from my laptop.
Suddenly, the door to my bedroom was pushed open, and my younger brother appeared. His eyes were still half-shut and his duvet was wrapped around his shoulders.
“Leave, small one,” I commanded. “Return to whence you came.”
“Why are you talking like that?” my brother asked, stifling a yawn.
“Return to the kingdom of your room and re-enter the clutches of sleep, child,” I answered.
He squinted his eyes at me. “Why are you still awake? I thought you said you were going to sleep at midnight today.”
“‘Awake’ and ‘asleep’ are relative terms.”
“They really aren’t.”
“Don’t correct me. I have over three more years of sagacity and life experience than you.”
He yawned again, blinking several times in order to stay awake. “Why are there tears streaming down your face?”
“Why do we do anything, little one? What is the reasoning behind anything accomplished by humanity?” I answered.
“Um, okay…It’s a little concerning that you’re crying while staring at your laptop at 4AM…Should I get mom and dad?”
“No!” I yelped. “I’m perfectly fine. There is no need to fetch them.”
“What are you even doing?”
He wandered over to my bed to stare at my laptop screen. “‘Paint Drying for 10 hours,’” he read aloud. “Wow, this must be super important.” He gave me a concerned look. “Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Are any of us ok? What does ‘ok’ even mean? Is anything even real anymore?”
“I don’t even know why I bother trying,” he sighed. “Why are you doing this?”
“Amusement is nowhere to be found, along with my other good friend, Motivation. My attempts to find her have failed and I have been left in a state of sheer boredom so severe it has driven me to watch paint dry.”
“Have you tried, like, baking?”
I held up my right hand, still covered by a mess of gauze and surgical tape. “Did you forget when I burnt my entire hand trying to make cookies last week?” The burns were severe, but manageable. The worst part of the whole ordeal was trying to discern how exactly to turn an oven on. I have never been so thoroughly frustrated and annoyed in my life.
“You still have one good hand. Sacrifice it.”
I considered his suggestion for a long time, carefully weighing the very real potential of future injury with my desire to find Amusement. After approximately twenty seconds, I said, “You’re right. Let’s go bake something.”
“It’s 4AM,” my brother replied. “We can bake tomorrow. Or later today, whatever. I’m tired.”
“Return to thy sleep,” I commanded. He rolled his eyes at me before trudging back to his room to sleep. I wiped the tears off my face as best as I could before continuing to watch. Only five and half more hours to go.
Phase 4: Baking
That afternoon, I approached the kitchen like a true warrior, a pair of safety glasses on my face and hefty oven mitts over my hands. One hand clutched a whisk while the other brandished a rubber spatula. I was ready for battle.
“Come hither, tiny one,” I said. “It is time.”
“I’m not tiny,” my brother protested. “I’m literally taller than you.”
“‘Tiny’ is not a physical descriptor. It is a personality trait that you embody well, tiny one.”
“What? That literally goes against every dictionary ever written!”
“Silence, tiny one!” I snapped. “It is time to approach what may perhaps be the greatest challenge we have ever faced.” I paused for dramatic effect. “Baking cookies.”
Roughly an hour later, and the battlefield was rife with destruction. Flour was caked upon every surface, white and brown sugar scattered over countertops and on the floor, and inexplicably, clumps of a mysteriously thick and yellow substance coated my hands.
“It’s egg,” my brother said. “Stop calling it a ‘mysterious substance.’ It’s literally just egg.”
“You’re ruining it,” I whined. “I’m trying to keep things light.”
“This isn’t a godforsaken reality TV show,” he replied while shaking flour out of his hair. “By the way, you’re definitely in charge of cleaning this. Why did you think it was a good idea to throw the bag of flour at me?”
The oven timer went off, and I went to fetch the cookies we had lovingly crafted.
“Wait!” my brother suddenly screamed. “You need to put on some––”
But it was too late.
Ten minutes later, and my left hand was covered in gauze just like my right hand.
“Twinsies!” I yelled, holding both injured hands up. My burns were in vain; the cookies were so charred that they were no longer edible. I attempted to consume one and nearly died. “That was fun, right?”
My brother gave me a withering look. “When quarantine ends, I am never associating with you ever again. Do not even breathe in my direction in public. Got it?”
“You’re such a buzzkill,” I said while pouting. “Injuries always make for fun stories, you know? Lighten up.”
“You are such an idiot. Like, I don’t even know where to begin. First, you watched videos of paint drying all night like a deranged psycho and now you look like someone punched you in both eyes. Then you started throwing ingredients at me after I specifically told you not to, who even––”
But I had already stopped listening, because I had noticed a new presence in the room. She had just jumped through the kitchen window and was now staring at me with wide, watery eyes.
Phase Five: Reunion
“Amusement! You’re back! Where did you go?” I called out to her, so overjoyed that tears were already flowing down my face. “I missed you so much!”
“I missed you too,” she answered. “Thank you for leaving the kitchen window open for me.”
“Anytime,” I said. “I’m just so glad to see you again.”
“Who in the world are you even talking to right now?” my brother interjected. “There’s no one in this room except you and me!”
“You look like trash,” Amusement said kindly. “But I expected that.”
“I know. I resorted to watching paint dry,” I admitted. “It was so lonely without you.”
“That is pathetic yet endearing. I am honored.”
“That’s what they all call me,” I laughed. “‘Pathetic yet endearing!’”
“Are you talking to yourself right now? Is that what’s happening right now?” my brother questioned.
“You’re ruining the moment,” I informed him. “Can’t you see that I’m having a very important conversation right now?”
“Oh, god. The sleep deprivation and the cookies liquified your brain, didn’t they?” he wondered aloud. “I can’t deal with this right now. Oh my god.” He then stormed out of the kitchen.
“Yeah, good riddance!” I called after him. “You were being incredibly rude to our guest!”
“It is alright. He is still young. He doesn’t understand social conventions,” Amusement said sympathetically.
“He really has no manners,” I agreed. “Very sad.”
I don’t remember what happened next, only that I was suddenly forced awake by my mother screaming in horror at the state of her kitchen a few hours later.
“My countertops!” she was wailing. “My stove! What happened to my oven? Why are there so many strange charred items in there? This is a kitchen! Not a place to conduct your own personal brand of chemical warfare!”
But I ignored her, only fixating on one thing: Amusement had disappeared again.
Phase Six: Acceptance
Amusement was not going to come back soon. That much was clear.
With both of my hands covered in gauze, I was not allowed in the kitchen anymore, although I was also informed that I would not be allowed back into the kitchen even after my burns were healed.
I searched relentlessly for Amusement in the weeks following my last conversation with her, but the immense powers of Google and my willpower were not enough to summon her back.
It was hard to move on. But after binging four more days worth of paint drying videos, I was able to put myself back together again.
“It might be over for now,” I mutter aloud. “But I know I’ll be able to find her again as soon as quarantine ends.”
“Oh, no,” my brother sighs. “Mom! Dad! She’s talking to herself again!”
“For now, the only thing I can do is wait…and hold onto hope.”
My brother clasps his hands together and bows his head. “Please, let this quarantine end soon. I don’t know how much longer I can endure her presence.”
I smile to myself. It would all be okay, as long as I remained patient.
This has been the second edition of Searching for Answers. Be sure to join me next time as I uncover more mysteries from the safety of my home.