It always starts with denial.
"Hooommmeeworrrrrk?" says my brain.
Every day the wall goes up.
The wall that points to other, more enjoyable activities that won't make me fall asleep.
Sleep? Oh. Ha.
This time I am determined to sleep long enough.
Determined to be alert for my 2-test day.
They say 8 hours is enough.
But you can't trust the system
Because I did what they said
And 8 hours later, there I was.
In the testing center.
Red bubble sheet.
Red, the blood of martyred students.
Martyred by their own apathy for the institution they pay to attend.
Orange pencil. Mocks me with its cheery hue.
Cookies N Cream milk promises sugar rush and sweet, sweet reassurance.
500 calories in all. Not comforting.
Woeful glances at the clock.
No real time limit
But limited by sanity-meter
Drained by the second
"DID YOU KNOW THIS SEEMINGLY INNOCENT PLASTIC BOTTLE CONTAINS WAY TOO MUCH SUGAR? AND I JUST DRANK THE WHOLE THING!!!"
I only shout in my brain.
I'd rather wallow in my own insanity
Than allow strangers to be in on the secret.
Sleep finds me now. It seems 8 hours can never be enough.
20 minutes? 30 minutes? You don't sense time when your head's against the wall.
When you're far away from that dingy curtain and ice-cold vent by your feet.
I wake up and fill in the bubbles.
In 3rd grade, filling in the bubbles was a courageous task.
The risk of wrong answer was outweighed
By the risk of stray marks outside the lines.
Now I need to know which lines. Which. Bubble. Which bubble.
Test finished. Practically sprinting.
Drop it on the grading desk like a venomous snake.
Out of my hand, ye fiendish stapled stack.
It's what I deserve.
Study. Attempt to study. Another test awaits.
A friend. We quiz each other. We don't know what lies ahead.
We only prepare the best we know how.
It's too late for listening better in class
For reading the whole textbook
For taking better notes
It's here and now, the final countdown.
I feel better
Not ready. Never ever ever ever ready.
Always just "as ready as I can be"
But this time I'm confident.
Too confident, perhaps, for we all must be humbled.
The Great Assembly Maximilian Robespierre Japanese Imperialism Charles Fourier Catherine the Great
CATHERINE THE GREAT
I thought I knew you, Catherine,
But none of these answers look familiar
I throw my desk to the ground
Spring up with a rebel yell
Scream at the top of my lungs
Raise my fists in the air
"CATHERINE THE GREAT KILLED HER HUSBAND BUT I DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE"
I yell as I wave the flag of the impoverished university students
I am the standard bearer of the downtrodden
I run through the halls, a hero
I don't. I sit.
I want that daydream to be real. But instead I must complete the task in front of me.
I must fill in bubbles and engrave words into a blank essay response page.
The essay embraces me, and we are friends together.
I stride with dignity to the grading desk for the second time.
I watch dreams crumble.
Very, very bad score.
Very very bad.
iPod, give me some comfort.
Oh you prophetic device. Feist speaks through you.
The song is "Past in Present."
The words that play immediately into my eardrums are
"It's okay you know
It's okay you know
It's okay you know
It's okay you know"
And it is. It really is.