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By Anné-Marie Andrei February 14, 2024

A White Lab Coat Stained with Paint

I wish I could say I was an “early-bird gets the worm” kind of girl, but I’m far from that. I hate cold, dark mornings. My eyes take what feels like hours to adjust to any source of light, the streets are empty and all I can hear is the buzzing of street lamps. Everything feels sad and lonely.

Early mornings give me too much room to think.

When the time came to register for my classes, I lucked out, having my days only start in the late morning. Except for Fridays. Every Friday morning at 8 am I have a chemistry lab. Yay!

Now, 8 am seems reasonable, but I happen to live an hour and a half away from Dawson, which makes the wake-ups harsh. I am in no way whatsoever a morning person, and you’re telling me I need to wake up early and take the metro during rush hour? There’s always someone whose music is pouring out of their headphones, someone else who’s towering over me, and three people in my close perimeter who have never heard of the phrase “inside voice”. All that for a chemistry lab.

To be fair, the lab does have these beautiful big windows where we can see the school’s facade light up as the sun rises, which makes going to school on an icy winter morning a little more tolerable. Even in the face of pretty sunrises, I do wonder what I’m doing with my life, but I’d rather not think about that, so I blast music in my ears and ignore that little voice.

One Friday I was looking out through the window and noticed my own reflection in the glass. Faint, but present. I was wearing my white lab coat and worn down sweatpants, and my hair was messily tied up. I felt more exhausted than ever before in my life. The past weeks had been marked by exam after exam, grade after grade, failure after failure, never mind the tiring commute to school and my relentless self-questioning. My eyes started to water. I got a lump in my throat and I could feel my face flushing with shame. What the heck am I doing here? I stared at the laboured rise and fall of my chest in the window as I struggled to breathe, but the lights were too bright and the smell of burnt rubber singed my nostrils and my fingertips were freezing and my face was too hot and I felt far away from everything and everything was so loud yet the silence was blaring and my legs gave out and I crumbled down waiting for it to pass.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing.…

I wasn’t in the lab anymore. I was in the middle of a meadow. Staring at myself in a mirror. I looked miserable. I closed my eyes again.

When I opened my eyes and looked at my reflection, I saw myself but much, much younger. Her hair was long. She was wearing her PJs inside-out and they were all stained with paint. By the looks of it, I would say I was 9. I looked down at myself and there I was, still wearing my ridiculous lab coat. Young Me opened her mouth. She started crying uncontrollably. I tried to comfort her, but all I could muster was I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.

She threw her paintbrushes and screamed at me. I just stood there, embarrassed. I’m so so so sorry.

—I know. I’m sorry.
—Why?... why…

Every time I blinked, I saw a different version of myself in the mirror. One was an actor. One was a singer. One was a photographer. One was a painter. One was a writer. I blinked and blinked and blinked until I found a version of myself wearing a lab coat, but when I did, her lab coat was stained with paint. I blinked again and there she was again, 9 years old, ready to brave the world with only her paintbrushes and potential. And there I was, telling her…no, showing her I had given up.

She looked at me sternly and asked me why again.

—I don’t know
You’re lying. You know why. You just don’t want to confront the truth.
—I’m sorry.

She then threw a bucket full of paint at my face. What a harsh reminder of what I’ve been ignoring for the past few weeks, months, years even. I tried to wipe off the cold splotches but that didn’t do anything. I scooped off a handful, but it was as if my pores were bleeding colour: the paint just came back. It got into my hair and it dripped down onto my lab coat. My hands had all a world’s hues creased into their wrinkles. I threw some of the paint on the ground, dirtying both my shoes and the grass. I looked around and the meadow seemed to be melting and mixing its colours. I took off my lab coat, trying to keep it at least a little clean, but I just smeared more paint onto it. I took a moment to look at myself in the mirror. I was covered in blues and reds and yellows. My hands and face were particularly bright. It sure seemed poetic, I had to give younger me that. I stared at the mirror again.

What do you want me to do? Quit? I’ve worked so hard to be here and you just expect me to quit? What about our parents? Our sister? Do you really think I’m capable of leaving all of this behind?

The wind blew.

- AreYouReallyOkayWithPursuingALifeInSciencesLove?


I closed my eyes, still screaming and crying. When I opened them, I was back in the lab. It was cold and empty.

I stared out the window and saw a younger me staring back.

I blinked and saw the older me, burnt out.

I blinked, and I saw me with her eyes stained with tears and band-aids all over.

I blinked and I saw…nothing

I blinked and saw my paint-stained white lab coat.

And the paint smudged on my cheek.


Photo by Amauri Mejía on Unsplash

About the author

"Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable." Anné-Marie Andrei dabbles in all kinds of arts, trying to make sense of her mind and hoping to one day find her way in this busy world. Until then, she's a first year student in the Enriched Health Sciences program whose notes are covered in doodles. 

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