Studying for the S.A.T.


June 1, 2015 by The Citron Review

by Tammy Delatorre


You set out with the best of intentions, to improve your math score on the S.A.T. How beautiful you look, the boy said when he picked you up for your study date; how sweet you are, he said as you walked out of the library; always wanted a girl just like you, he says now parked in front of your house.

He’s been tutoring you all night, so you feel compelled to talk about your dreams. He pretends to listen and peeks down your sweater. Your pearl-like buttons glimmer in the moonlight. He’s a math genius and he’s suddenly calculating the likelihood in which he’ll be able to cop a feel. The whole time you’re telling him about your stepmother, how she snorts coke and spent your college fund on her drug habit. It was more of a junior-college fund, and probably would have only covered the first year, but still your father had saved. It was his promise that you’d have a chance at something better.

Now, the boy is looking between your legs and thinking about a word problem that goes something like, if a train leaves point A traveling at a rate of X and a second train leaves point B traveling at a rate of Y. And if the distance between point A and point B is the same distance between his hand and your thigh, then the two trains have a possibility of collision at point C, and he should have stolen at least one of his father’s condoms. He’s thinking this as you tell him that, thank God, you won a full-ride scholarship—contingent, of course, upon your final grades and S.A.T. scores. He is thinking that the two trains have suddenly stalled, and one has run dangerously low on fuel. You notice the disappointed look on his face and believe it’s because you said you’d be moving. So although it’s past your curfew, you let him French you.

That tingle in your body must be love. Of course, you’d fall for the boy who helped you improve your math score and cinch your college admission. You imagine that sex with him now, although you’ve never had it, only experienced it as the crescendoed cries of your parents echoed down the narrow halls of your home, in which you placed ear to wall to hear the final rapture. It must be the same for you now, a feeling so amazing you forget the need for no. 2 pencils and carefully shaded circles. You let him get on top. But soon you want it all to stop because, no, this is not like any love you imagined. Over his shoulder, you see a man standing at the driver’s side window, watching your lips part in pain. He uses his nightstick to knock on the glass, and the rays from his flashlight invade parts of your naked body.

As the boy pulls up his pants, it dawns on you: Your critical reading and writing scores on the S.A.T. have to be perfect. You’re not strong in math, and what good is one night of studying going to do? Your verbal score would have been better if they still used analogies – paltry: significance:: cliché: originality. You had loved reading them out loud, discerning the relationship between words. But now the tests only give multiple-choice questions to assess critical reading skills, and many times none of the options look good. Analogies were removed because they didn’t take class or culture into account. Otherwise, one might have read… stepmother: your college fund:: this boy: your virginity:: poor choices: your shot at college.

The boy rolls down the window and begins to explain to the officer, as if trying to talk his way out of a speeding ticket. It’s true; it had all happened so fast. You pull at your skirt and stare straight ahead, hoping the cop doesn’t look at you. You listen to the boy’s pathetic lies—we were just studying for the S.A.T—as if that’s what you do in a car parked under a dim streetlight. He’s already disassociating himself from you, and you suspect that tomorrow you’ll hear snickers in the halls and you’ll feel a cool distance from him as he slides into his assigned seat behind you in calculus. He got what he wanted, his trains colliding at point C. You could have just let him feel you up or have a look-see, but instead you let him wreck you, and weeks later, in church two seats from you father, you’ll pray—please don’t let me be pregnant—because there’s a full-ride scholarship and the dream of escape, but when you walk out of church into broad daylight and feel a cramp in your belly, you’ll remember that God doesn’t answer emergency calls, especially from girls who gave it up on the first date and who only scored 540 on the math section on their S.A.T.


Tammy Delatorre is a writer in Los Angeles. She was the winner of the 2015 Payton Prize and the 2008 River Styx Micro-Fiction Contest. Her writing has also appeared in Los Angeles Times, The Rumpus, Salon, Many Mountains Moving, and Cleaver Magazine. When she’s not writing, she pursues interests in paddleboarding, photography, and culinary delights.


2 thoughts on “Studying for the S.A.T.

  1. judyreeveswriter says:

    Damn, this is good, Tammy. Clever and so poignant, too. Thanks for writing. Thanks, Citron Review for publishing.

  2. Nicole says:

    I love this line: “And if the distance between point A and point B is the same distance between his hand and your thigh, then the two trains have a possibility of collision at point C, and he should have stolen at least one of his father’s condoms.” There were so many others…

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