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Over the Rainbow with Brian Burns: For Adderall I Know


Photo: Juliette Luchini

Had I spent less time typing Erykah Badu lyrics into my TI-84 calculator, I probably wouldn’t have failed algebra freshman year of high school. I went to public school so it’s not like the class was hard. It was taught by Mr. Conway, a guy who climbed mountains for fun and was eye-level with my navel. I estimated his waist size at 21 inches and that was the first and last time I thought about numbers for the semester.

After a lesson on phospholipid bilayers, Mr. Conway asked me to stay after class. Feeling the onset of scoliosis as I hunched over to hear him, he told me he was surprised by one of my recent test scores.

“Yeah, I guess I just have a hard time relating with the material,” I said.

“Well, I don’t think anyone relates with logarithms,” said Mr. Conway, having none of my shit. “You always seem to be working pretty diligently. Do you mind if we go through the history on your calculator? We can make sure you’re inputting things right.”

I couldn’t say no before Mr. Conway had my calculator in his meaty, little callus-hands. And with a few presses of the up-arrow, we were both staring at a display screen that read “every time I ask you for a little cash, you say no but turn right around and ask me for some ass.” Avoiding eye contact, he handed me back my calculator and said he’d see me tomorrow in class.

By the end of high school, my transcript had every letter grade represented. Which I guess is an accomplishment. Math and science were a struggle but I did fine in the classes that didn’t have questions with right or wrong answers. Essays always took me weeks to finish but I wasn’t strapped for time. Then I came to college and started regularly drinking. I’m strapped for time.

“So, bud, what brings in you today?” asked Dr. Barr, my primary care physician, at an appointment I had last month.

“Well,” I said. “I’m a college student. And I just had mid-terms. And I got my scores back and I failed two of them. And that’s—well—that’s just unheard of for me. And, you know, I’m interning. And I have to stay up late at night and wake up super early in the morning to get everything done. And I’m not sleeping. And I’ll watch movies and not be able to explain the plot afterwards. And I, um, I take risks. And restless! I’m constantly restless!”

“And how often do you exercise?” asked Dr. Barr, having none of my shit.

“I think I have ADD!”

With a sigh, he scheduled blood work, waxed my three chest hairs with those ECG suction-pads and shot a look that said, “lazy piece of Millennial shit, every last one of you.” A week later, I was prescribed Adderall. Alone at a cubby in amphetamine’s natural habitat—the college library—I toasted to a scholarship-maintaining GPA and swallowed the day’s dose.

My feet are freezing and I can’t listen to any music with lyrics. I’m writing a paper for a science class about what defines a human and I just skimmed all of Brave New World in five minutes. I forgot a textbook in my room so I walk back to grab it and I think, “Shit, this is how Mormons must feel all the time.” After getting distracted by tile grout, I’m on my hands and knees cleaning the floor of my room with a Clorox wipe. I alphabetize the food in my fridge and triple-jump back to the library.

I walk into the bathroom, undo my zipper, look down and choke.

“No. No, God. Why?”

I look like a 6-year-old fresh from a swim lesson at the Y. I google how Adderall works and I read that blood drains from your extremities in order to pump to your brain and heart. I learn today that my penis is an extremity.

A friend who transferred freshman year messages me to say that she’s visiting and is in the library. I find her and develop a cramp in my tongue.

“You’re-in-Washington,-D.C.,-right? Did-you-know-D.C.-has-more-gay-guys-than-any-other-city? Can-you-believe-that? The-Emmanuel-College-of-American-metropolitan-areas,-I-swear-to-God. And-how’s-the-subway-system? And-the-homeless? Aren’t-you-cold?”

I’ve never been so impressed with my ability to maintain eye contact and I wonder if Nancy Grace sweetens her coffee with Ritalin. I shuffle my friend’s papers into neater piles as a parting gesture.

I go to the cafeteria and feel an intense urge to eat a parfait for the first time in my life. I take it to class and I ask myself what the deal is with dairy. And then class begins. I’m engaged, I’m interested, I’m clenched from finger tips to asshole. I draw conclusions and raise my hand and come up with an idea for Sallie Mae student loan gift cards.

The class ends, as does my high, and I wonder what kind of difference this crack-lite would have made for me. I probably wouldn’t have done that much better in school and I still would have appropriated R&B lyrics into my calculator. But, at least, I would have had none of my shit.

Burns is the Executive Managing Editor and Columnist for The Hub. He can be reached at or via Twitter @brianTburns_

Posted by on December 9, 2014. Filed under Opinions & Editorials,Over the Rainbow with Brian Burns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

5 Responses to Over the Rainbow with Brian Burns: For Adderall I Know

  1. samantharaemancino

    December 9, 2014 at 11:49 pm

    Loving your posts Brian! So funny because I’m actually doing similar blogging and stuff in school as you are !!!!! Great to see you’re doing well 🙂

  2. Laura

    December 10, 2014 at 3:50 am

    This is generally offensive to those actually suffering from ADHD. You should probably take your conceited ass out of your brain if you need a little focus and clarification, and not turn to medication to help your pathetic, clearly sad self.

  3. Reed

    December 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    I would disagree with Laura and suggest you keep your conceited ass within your brain- it makes for very interesting writing.

  4. Lil D

    December 9, 2015 at 7:14 pm

    This is generally offensive to those with naturally small penises. You should probably take your concentrated adderral out of your blood if you need a bigger penis, and not turn to medication that hurts your pathetic, clearly sad penis.

  5. Olivia

    December 9, 2015 at 7:59 pm

    As someone who has ADD, this is hilarious. Sorry Laura is no fun.