Writers (in order): Jane Fairfax*, Michelle D. Koo, Nina., Rohit Divekar, Lillian Fong*, CL, Miguel Lopez*, Joel the Great, Irene Tsen, Casey, Irene Hong, Diya, Michael Zhang, Kelson Cantrell, and Emily Jiwon Hwang. Editor: Ms. Wilson.

*Wrote more than once.

You wake with a jolt. Your hand is extended in front of you; the distinct warmth of a handshake still lingers on your fingers, though you are alone in your room. You relax your arm, rub your eyes, mumble sheepish apologies to yourself. The glow of your laptop screen brings you back to reality. Crouched in your chair, you refresh your email, squint to read the words. A sigh escapes you. The scent of coffee floods your senses. Not again, you whisper.

“Thank you for applying to our company. We are most apologetic to inform you that…”

Without bothering to read the rest of the email, you flop down onto your bed.

Another rejection. Regret fills your mind as you reflect on your past.

If only you hadn’t taken that deal. She’d sworn it’d be fine, that you could go back to your day job working at a coffee shop down the street that cost too much and paid too little. Oh, how wrong she was. Right now, that coffee shop job sounded like heaven.

As you lay there, you remember the warm, fragrant aromas of the shop, the golden rays of sunlight shining through the windows after each shift, and the smiles on people’s faces as they walked out the glass door.

But you realize now that you can never return to that time of peace.

Not anymore.

You creep your head over to the side and see a forest of coffee mugs littering your desk with endless brown stains on and near them. You think about how you waste away, day after day, rejection after rejection, coffee after coffee, trying to get things back to how they used to be. All you can do is wonder about what your life would be like now if you hadn’t accepted that deal on that fateful day.

You sigh again, your body sinking into the mattress. Regardless of rejection, you have to try again. You’ll never be happy again if you don’t.

In the bathroom, you splash cold water on your face, hoping that it might make you feel a little more alive. Your reflection looks tired, dark shadows hanging under your eyes. So maybe you’ve been getting a little less sleep lately, but it’s nothing a little extra caffeine can’t fix.

As you pass your room again, you pause, contemplating the coffee cups that nearly blanket your desk.

It’s fine. I’ll pick them up later, you think, starting down the hall towards the kitchen.

Your old, barely functional coffee machine whirs as it heats the water. You stare at it, thinking of the woman who’d convinced you to chase something better, if you just worked hard and worked together.

As if standing here, waiting for your watered-down coffee, is somehow “better” than everything you had before.

You close your eyes, listening to the soft hum of the machine before it shuts off with a click. Your hands tremble as they reach for the mug, but you barely notice. The dark, swirling liquid in the cup is enough to distract you from your current state. It may not be “better,” but it’s the best you’ve got for now. It’ll all get better after a cup of coffee. You know it is a lie, because you say it after every new rejection you recieve. But in that moment you want nothing more than for it to be the truth. You walk towards your mug-littered desk and sit down. It’s time to look for more job applications. You log on to your Google and begin searching. Suddenly you hear your phone vibrate. What could it be? You think to yourself. The few friends you have are currently at their jobs. Maybe it could be something to do with the applications. You hold your phone and read the messages.

UNKNOWN NUMBER says “I know you’ve been having a hard time. I can help you feel like you have a purpose, other than just sitting at a desk and drinking coffee all day. You look like at this point you would do anything to satisfy your urge to do something. Now this brings me to my offer. It's not your traditional job, but it does offer you to be something greater, something you never thought you could ever be. Meet me at the alleyway of the big brick skyscraper on 6th Avenue and 34th Street this Thursday. You may reject this offer but what I have here for you will change your life, so think about it.”

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