In the period during exams, overwhelmed with anxiety about those objective assessments of who we are compared with the rest of our peers, I am often bestowed with vivid dreams that are about as dramatic as dreams can get. They are as realistic to me as they are hilarious to everyone else – and even to me…in hindsight.
The paper before me blurs, a swimming pool of letters and numbers shuffling to a dance of their own and drowning each other out with their buzz of chatter. There is a throbbing in my temples and my fingers find that nerve pulsing on either side of my head and I press it hard, willing it to go away. The pain pushes past the back of my eyes and suddenly I can see again. The blur clears and I stare at my exam script on my desk, but it still doesn’t make sense to me. Suddenly I am aware of the sound of people sniggering and choking back on lewd laughter. I glance down and am surprised to see the stretch marks on my bare thighs. Scratch that. Creamy coffee-coloured even toned thighs. Even as I look down at my naked body I am aware that this is a dream, yet my dream self feels the rise of bile in my throat as I squeeze my legs together and hunch into myself, the laughter of the other students hitting me like shards of glass. I can’t make out the words but I know they are all laughing at me, the girl who is naked in the exam room. I stand up, pushing my desk out of the way and tears flood my eyes as I run for the door.
“Hahahha nice box gap anushka” one boy calls, and I cringe with embarrassment, even as I self-congratulate myself (sigh. One can dream you know. Hmm I wonder if you could have dreams within dreams….and like layers of dreams? Wooow I think I’m onto something – maybe I should make a movie out of it!) I run from the room and end up in the cloak bay of my year six class room in primary school. No longer 10, but 22, and with apparently with an ass to go with it.
The wind whistles past my ears as run through the forest, stepping on pine needles and cones, the pain searing through my sensitive skin. My short hair bristles in the cold night air and the ground flies in front of me as I dodge trees and manage the uneven terrain. Sweat beads on my forehead and my neck is damp but the fear sits like an iron weight in the pit of my stomach, slowing me down. I’m flying but my feet feel like they are dragging milestones with each step, like Jean Valjean dragging his feet through the sludge as a convict. He’s closing in on me and the adrenaline pushes me just a bit faster as I self-preservation comes instinctively. Suddenly his footsteps disappear and after another half a kilometer I slow down as I realise the chase is over. I sink down on my haunches and rest against the truck of a tree. I suddenly feel the numbness in my foot and look down to discover there is a hole hollowed out in the sole of my left foot, the white bone gleaming in the moonlight, brighter in the pool of blood that surrounds it.
I wake up with panic beating like a caged bird in my chest as I realise that there is daylight streaming through my blinds. I turn to look at the clock on my wall in horror. Its 8.30! I must’ve missed all three alarms I realise and try to stay calm. My exam starts in 45 minutes, I still have time to make it if I hurry. I jump out of bed and run out the front door to get my shoes which are drying outside. It shuts behind me with a loud bang and I realise with a sinking heart that I do not have the keys to get back in. Banging on the door and on the bedroom window fails to wake my parents even though I attract the attention of the five year old child next door who is probably curious about the girl standing in her garden in a cow-print onesie. Gritting my teeth I realise I will have to hitchhike to Uni.
Thirty seconds later I am standing on the side of the road with my thumb stuck out like a hitchhiking leather-clad mini-skirted girl in Europe. However I am not wearing leather. Or a mini-skirt. I am wearing a cow-print onesie and am surrounded by the remnants of my dignity. Recently destroyed. Cars honk as they drive past and a couple of kids make faces at me and point. A kind man with a well-lined face picks me up and offers to drive me into town. I accept gratefully and we share the ride in silence. He is true to his word and I rush into OGGB with 15 minutes to go, running past stunned students to my exam room. I feel nauseous as I realise its Comlaw 301. And all my take-in notes are at home. I scab a pen, a pencil and a spare calculator off an eager student who has three, and attempt the exam with my memory alone. Whilst all around me other students delve through pages of legislation I look at wistfully.
The fire alarm goes off at work and I usher the customers out quickly, pulling the shutter down behind me and we all assemble outside the glass doors of the mall, waiting for the building to be cleared by the fire fighters. It’s just a drill but we are told not to lock the door. It’s a summery day and as we go back into the building, I enter through the side door of Decuba and loiter in there for a while having a quick look at the clothes on sale. As I’m leaving, I pull the door and laugh. Oops it must be ‘Push’ I think to myself. Pushing the door, it doesn’t open that way either. I run to the other exit, that door is locked as well, and the next, and the next. With a sense of doom I realise I am locked in the ground floor shop while customers are going back into the mall and my shop is still unlocked due to the fire escape. I pound on the door like a rejected boyfriend beating on the glass of the airport lounge only to watch his girlfriend get on the plane before he can tell her he loves her. Think that creepy little boy from Love Actually. It’s that bad. Other customers stare at me bewildered.
“Noooo! I can’t get out!” I yell and they just shake their heads tsking.
I call my boss quickly and explain the situation to her, “Nerissa, I don’t know what’s going on, the doors won’t open and the shops unlocked, I can’t get to it!”
“Why didn’t you just go straight back to the shop?” she asks worried
I am asking myself the same question
Half an hour later, when the doors are finally open, I rush out, racing past other customers and pushing people out of my way as I run up the escalator to our shop. I approach with a growing sense of dread and am faced with bare hangers and empty racks. The shop has been stripped bare of all its fittings like a bare tree in the middle of winter. They wasted no time in taking what they could. My other colleagues stand there in the empty shop and look at me, and I realise I have just cost 5 people their jobs. The shop is closed down. And it is all my fault.
I run down the stairs of my primary school, deceivingly broad and wide but treacherous in reality. My feet are flying like UFOs in front of me I can barely recognise them as they stretch into strange saucer like paddles and I look like blade runner. Suddenly the spring in my foot-contraption pushes me forward and I feel a tug in my belly button as I am floating motionless in mid-air, spread eagled like a Tasmanian daredevil. My sweater sleeves pan out and act like a parachute, the air pushing up into my bat-wing arms. It slows the fall as I sink at a mind-numbing speed and I wake with a jolt, my entire body jerking out of my bed.
What actually happened during exams…
The night before my Accounting exam, I decided to get an early night. So I packed up my stuff at 1.30 which is the equivalent of a 7pm bedtime for uni students. Getting my stuff ready for the next day, I find a cluster of ants swarming all over the top shelf of my wardrobe. It seemed that they had found their way into a tin of wax. Who knew bikini wax tasted that good. Sighing I cleaned out the mess and the sickening smell of dead ants filled my nostrils before I finally went to sleep at 2am. The next morning, I thought I had seen the last of ants for a long time. Opening my Uni bag to check that my notes were all there, I discovered an infestation in the side pocket. A rogue throatie had escaped from the wrapper and turned into a gooey mess in my bag which I hadn’t touched in a week. It was probably ant Christmas down there. Then began the frantic transfer of everything important, trying to salvage makeup, nail polish, dried flowers, broken jewellery, ipod, earphones, and the other junk that I accumulated over the year. Without realising it, it was 8.30 and I had to leave for my 9.15 exam.
I got back from my exam several hours later, wondering, like everyone else thankfully, how we had ever been expected to do that exam in two hours, and happy that our absentminded lecturer had accidently allocated three to do it in. Group study for the next paper only left me feeling like I knew nothing and everyone else were geniuses. Starving, I went for the kitchen, reassured that there would be amazing food there for me to eat. It turns out my parents had already cooked it. And my brother had eaten it. The greatest downfall of a Saturday exam. I then went on to talk about my current obsession, Jennifer Lawrence. My newest role model, following the likes of Jess off New Girl.
“Omg Jennifer Lawrence is so humble and self-depreciating. I really like her”
My brother sniggers into his plate. “Deprecating”
If there as a word for this face =.=, I would say it.
2nd exam. I rush into the exam room, the Maori murals on the wall highly distracting and find that I have nowhere to sit except next to the most god-like creature. Exam supervisors watch me like a hawk as I smile to myself and blush suspiciously. Along with phones, hormones should also be able to be turned off during exams. They too are subject to getting called at most inopportune moments. I go home in a daze, and get back to work to study for my last exam the next day…one that I have thankfully left behind 4 hours ago.
By 9.00pm I am ready to sleep like a baby and am tempted to hold my eyelids open with a device like the one in A Clockwork Orange. Sadly those might be illegal in at least 10 countries including this one. Sleep hung on my eyes like a spider just biding its time and eventually I succumbed to it. ‘Just half an hour…and then I will study again’ I think to myself. At 10.30 my brother wakes me up and makes me a coffee. It is the first time I have had coffee in years and I feel like I’m on drugs. My eyes bug out, my head feels like an anvil is pressing on both sides, I would say ‘to my brain’ but sorryyyy then Mr Blake for coming into the future and stealing my line. Reverse plagiarism should also be punishable. I study for a couple of hours, sneezing often and shaking like Ray Charles on heroin for no apparent reason. Finally at 1.30 I decide to sleep, but I can’t. I lay in bed tossing and turning, waking myself up every time I try to fall asleep as I congratulate myself too early on falling asleep and this then wakes me up. This is why I don’t drink coffee. The next day I feel invincible. Coffee is like my magic potion, my elixir of youth, but like Obelix I think I fell into it as a child….I must not drink any more. Nausea is the one word that stands out about this morning. I glare at a person about to sit in the last seat in the row as I covet it, hoping I won’t need to run out and throw up during the exam. Thankfully I don’t.
3 hours later it is all over. 13 weeks of uni crammed into 8 hours of exams. Already it is but a dream 🙂