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I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Studying had never been so hard, and I decided to rest for a few minutes before confronting more perplexing material. Noise came knocking outside my door; my brother was watching TV and my mom was cooking enthusiastically in the kitchen. I shook my head and stretched. The temptation to relax with my brother or to clumsily cook next to my mother — to do anything but study was great. Allowing my conscience to take over, I reluctantly opened my tattered textbook again.
The next day, I rushed into the classroom and dove into my seat. Rummaging through my heavy backpack, I caught glimpses of students filing into the cluttered classroom and milling about, waiting for the bell to ring. I finally extracted my notebook and flashed through the pages, reviewing what I had painstakingly studied the night before.
Ding, ding, ding chimed the bell.
I calmly put my notebook away and took out my pencil and petite eraser. The feeling of invincibility surged through my body into my every nerves. I was prepared to surmount anything after the intense studying, but there was also a small tinge of uneasiness that always escorted the hazy future. As the arid teacher entered the room, the students became more excited, jittery and nervous. “Now students,” addressed the teacher. “Are you all ready for the test?” The teacher went around the room, distributing a menacing packet to each student. My exam landed on my desk with a soft thump. “You have the entire period to take the test. Good luck.”
I hurriedly scribbled my name and the date at the top of the test, eager to tackle the questions that were looming before me. I carefully read the first question, but winced: I didn’t understand it. I just shook my head and smiled, putting a small mark next to the question, and continued to work. After reading the next question, I started to answer it and reviewed my work afterward. I frowned; my answer made no sense. Slightly frustrated, I erased my answer thoroughly and moved on to the next problem.
Question after question, anxiety and panic began to conquer me. I timidly answered eight or nine questions but eventually wandered back to my dark confusion. I quickly glanced around at my peers; all of them were flying through the test without any hesitation. Even worse, the crowded classroom felt hot as if the temperature increased for every question that was left unanswered. With sweaty hands, I silently pried off my sweater and tried to immerse myself in the test once again. Chewing on my bottom lip, I reread the first question. I scanned the words over and over again, staring intently at them in hopes of gaining some clue or understanding.
Quickly, my eyes started to hurt from staring at the test for so long. With my eyelids growing heavier with thought and burden, I closed them in order to reorganize my thoughts that were bouncing around in my head. As soon as I plunged into my darkness, I became aware of all the sounds that were emanating from the classroom. The scribble-scribble of the pencils, the scratch-scratch of the heads, and the huff-huff of the slow steady breaths found their way into my ears and rested on my eardrums.
Tic tock whispered the clock.
I glanced up at the source of the new sound which always rushed forward, never allowing an extra minute to anybody, and panic filled my senses again. With less than fifteen minutes remaining, I cradled my head in my trembling arms; a headache began to emerge.
I attempted to answer the questions once more, but only hopelessness echoed in return. I realized, as an ice cold hand clutched my chest, that I could never pass this exam. As the chilling hand caressed my heart, jolts of frostiness surged up into my head, freezing my brain and disabling me from thinking. My eyes darted back and forth from the ticking clock to my exam, helplessly watching the minutes slip away. My legs were shaking involuntarily; I chewed on my tiny pencil eraser with a throbbing headache and a queasy stomach. I helplessly made desperate but pointless marks and then violently erased them over and over.
At last, the allotted time expired and I was still shaking and chewing, marking and erasing. The merciless packet mocked me, the test that was the origin of my headache. I slowly got up and stumbled out the door, blinded by tears and despair.
I skulked through the crowding hallway as each student transitioned to his or her next class. Unable to lift up my head, I bumped into the beat-up lockers and the passing students. The buzzing commotion of the students around me pounded my ears so that it was difficult to think. I decided to get a drink of water in order to calm down and clear my pulsing head. Slowly, I found my way to the gray dingy water fountain. I drank deeply from its contents and after I had my fill, I turned my back on the blank white wall and stared out a window on the opposite side of the hall.
I gasped. The school yard wasn’t magnificent, but nonetheless it was a breathtaking sight from this position. I gazed upon the tall plants and the bright flowers, intertwining to weave pleasurable green scenery. The oaks stood grand while the squirrels played on their mighty arms and the roses blossomed at their tangling feet. Spring itself sprouted from nature’s product and the yellow sun glazed upon it all.
I finally managed to take my eyes off the wondrous sight and unable to form words, I merely nodded and walked on. Trudging past the gleaming gold school trophies in their shiny case, I smiled to myself as I reflected back on the amazing scene. It’s okay, I thought. It’s not the end. I can always try harder the next time.