The First Exam

Waking up is a terrible experience, unparalleled by any method of torture, comparable to being given an acid bath by a manic robot. Of course, some days waking up is tolerable- Christmas day as a wealthy white male, for example, one can imagine is quite enjoyable, almost. Being hurled out of the peaceful embrace of sleep and into a world of presents and good food.

However, waking up as a working class not-quite-a-woman is considerably different. The manic robot has no idea how to handle your boobs, for a start. The acid bath is incredibly rough on your- kneecaps

Anyway, yeah. Waking up. C1 exam. MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Blares the alarm.

Shut up! People are trying to sleep!


It’s actually May the 17th, but whatever.



The warning of a thousand days of college is in your head: It’s bleedin’ cold in that exam hall. You grab two jackets and a scarf and head out into the sunny summer day, only to figure out you also need coffee and breakfast and you don’t need to be several hours early.

Damn, my boobs look great in this jumper. The manic robot inside you glares at you in a told-you-so kind of way, even though it doesn’t have eyes. It’s sensors are very expressive, though.

Having a fry up for breakfast, with a double-shot of espresso is like throwing a grenade into your anxious stomach, and you feel close to exploding with what could be vomit or could be energy as you rush to college. Seat number 7E, E7. Candidate number…. Something. Definitely something. Most likely a number.

The walk through the working class neighbourhood is fraught with young children, playing hookey or going to school (though at that age there’s not much difference) and workers whistling, day-drinking, or swearing, or actually going to work. The homeless mostly just sit there and look at you, and make you think sombre thoughts.

The cars beep you on like a licentious crew of cheerleaders as you run past them. From the neighbourhood to the exam hall is precisely 15 minutes and 48 seconds of jogging, and you get there with too much time to spare. The problem with doing resits is you don’t know anyone else who’s doing the paper.

The exam hall is located in the bowels of college, in the one crag that must be avoided above all others: the sports hall. Row after row of desks and posture-pedic chairs and hard desks form the trenches and the no-mans-land of the exam season.

Wow. You really love over-playing this in your head, don’t you?

Shush, humour and hyperhole is how I deal with my stress.

What’s the equation to find the length of a line?

Hey brain.


Hey, hey brain!


My ass is an asymptote, you get so close but you never get to touch it.

…Why am I attached to you?

Then there comes the great finding of the seat, after the utter purgatory of waiting for the doors to be opened. E7. E7. E7.

…Shit, wrong side of the sports hall.

E7. E7. E8.


E7. E7.

Finally sitting down, you sniff and regret instantly the coming hour and a half. Having a cold during exam season sucks almost as much as the exams themselves. Being an almost-smart person, one can only imagine how the conversation to set up the country’s education system went:

‘Hey, now we’ve devised a way for kids to study for 2 years and really learn whatever it is they’ve done, how shall we make sure they know it?’

‘Give them one day to remember everything.’

‘What? Really? Are… Are you sure we shouldn’t do it in smaller doses, like, giving them coursework so that they can draft and redraft and learn from their mistakes, just like in university and their future careers?’


‘…Sir, I think you have some issues.’

The conversation abruptly ends, with one examiner leaving to kidnap 100 puppies or so; the other is left in the dungeon/office building to finalise the paperwork.

It is some miracle this segway ends just as it’s time for the final minute. ‘We start at 9:12.’ Says the old white man at the front of the gymnasium. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. You can feel yourself ageing, your life melting away as the clock refuses to turn on to 9:12. Maybe it’s fro- NOPE.

‘Best of luck!’

Thanks, old white man. I feel you sympathising with me right now.

The first 5 questions are easy- every time, full marks.

‘A production company is making alskdkfjhsjhsdlkjfh bikes. Every year they increase their production by skjdhflkshklh bikes, until they’re nth year. What is the-‘ WAIT-A-FUCK. 

They used the wrong their. 

Let it go, brain.

I can’t. I can’t. 

They probably used those commas on the last question the wrong way. I didn’t want to point that out. We were in the flow and everything. But the wrong they’re…

Don’t sulk, brain. I need you to work out this question.

I can’t work like this!

Fine, I’ll do it without your help, then. 

And so it is done, however for the next 6 questions are utter hell, without a brain. Suddenly your brainless mind is in glorious technicolor as it sings:

I could wile away the hours
Confusin’all my powers
Consultin’ with the brain
And my head I’d still be scratchin’
While my answers were busy hatchin’
If I only had a brain

I’d unravel every question
Save every kid from this depression                                                                                               From trouble and from pain

With the thoughts I’d be thinkin’
I could be another Jim Lepowsky
If I only had a brain

I would not be just a nothin
My head all full of nuffin’
My head all full of pain
If I only had a brain

If I only
If I only had a brain



Jesus, old white guy. You startled me.

It takes another half an hour to collect every single paper. The silence would be deafening if it wasn’t for the rustle of all the papers taking off like a flock of accursed swans.

Then you get to go home, eat some junk food, and sigh.

The ordeal is over for another week.





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