The professor has just called your name. You sit up in your chair, straightening yourself out before turning on your camera. Staring into the black circle at the top of your laptop’s screen, you offer to your instructor the sacred question: “Can you hear me?”
Your question has garnered no response from the sensei. You begin to repeat yourself. “Can you he-”
“Are you there?” the professor calls.
“Yes! Hello?” you reply.
“Anyone there?” the professor calls again.
It is now that you realize what is happening. The professor cannot hear you. Blasted technology, you think. Quickly, panic sets in as you picture your final grade drop by half a letter, then another. Your heart beats more quickly as sweat collects on your forehead. Blood rushes to your face, turning it bright red like a tomato. Thoughts of failure swirl around your head like a nightmare sequence in a movie as your eyes frantically scan the screen for any hope of redemption. You can’t fail English 102, you speak English! Surely you’d be done for. Then what would happen? Your parents certainly wouldn’t let you move back in. You’ll be destined to flip burgers for the rest of your days if you don’t figure something out.
Your gaze falls upon the chat: of course! As you hear the professor call again, you struggle to type anything coherent. Your mind filled with the thoughts of cold, lonely nights on a park bench, so desperate for dopamine that you suck on a burnt-out cigarette from the sidewalk.
Finally, you manage to send a message. “I am here!”
“Then please answer my question with your voice,” the professor says.
Panic returns to your mind as you move your face closer to the camera. “Can you hear me?” you shout into the computer.
To the other students, you look as if you’re trying to climb inside of the laptop screen, and they can see your face breaking out in real-time. With such horrible skin, you’d never be able to land a sensible job! You can see the live feed of your professor, and they don’t look happy. You lean back again before seeing a ruby dash at the bottom of your screen. You click the dash and it disappears.
“Hey, sorry, I was muted. What was the question again?”