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“All right, everyone, the test is about to begin.”
I was sitting in a nondescript desk that was swimming in an ichthyologic school of nondescript desks. The administrator was moving through us, pausing occasionally to hand out a paper or rap a student sharply on the head for moving ahead without listening to instructions; other than this she was silent and stalwart. A stone face on Easter Island emoted more than she did.
In truth, I wasn’t really listening myself. I was too busy thinking of problems that wouldn’t appear on the test. My girlfriend, Stacy, kept springing to mind. She was a cheerleader; that I had no problem with. The problem was her late-night practices, and how she would return sweaty and disheveled with each long night. I told myself that I was crazy, that she would never do what I was suspecting.
“…test will consist of…”
It wasn’t rational of me to think this way. Or was it? I wasn’t sure. Most likely, this was pre-test jitters and a couple of multiple-choice questions would set me straight; get me thinking on the logical plane again. The admin passed out the test, mouthing something about stopping when she said to. Or maybe she spoke it. Once again, I wasn’t sure.
I wasn’t sure about a lot of things lately.
I snapped out of my reverie/pensive thinking as the spidery lady in the purple-and-red muumuu snapped, “You may begin,” succinctly. I brushed the sweat from my brows, blinked three times, ran a hand through my hair, tapped my eraser twice on the desk, once on each side of the test booklet, tapped my right foot twice and my left foot once, and slowly opened up my test booklet. It was my good-luck ritual. I don’t know why, but for some reason I had developed an irrevocable belief that it would help me in some small way.
I looked at the questions.
Stacy, I love you : What? :: You said we needed to talk? : ____
It’s going good, sweetie.
Yeah. Greg, there’s someone else.
Good, now that you’re here.
Hey, Greg. It’s going okay. Want to go get ice cream?
I choked on my own saliva. It said Stacy? What—what kind of sick joke is this? I immediately dismissed it as pre-test jitters (again), and circled letter B. Then I moved on quickly, almost frenziedly, to the next question.
This was only what I had expected. I mean, what did I want to think? Stacy’s doubtful fidelity had always been an issue with me. I had never questioned that she was a cheerleader; it was her life and she could do with it what she wanted. It just seemed that, time in and time out, cheerleading seemed to take precedence over me. This I was not cool with. I figured that, as her boyfriend, I would move up her hypothetical “To-Do List”. That sounds bad. What kind of test was this? I promised myself that I would endure one more question before asking the admin if I was on Punk’d or Candid Camera or something of the sort. I hastily circled B and quickly ran through my pre-test ritual again before I turned the page to the third question.
the word Stacy says when Mark Donaghy kisses her neck
I saved myself the trouble of choking on my spit again and coughed out of surprise before any liquid could ooze its way down the wrong windpipe. I coughed partially because every answer had been B, but more importantly because this test was highlighting my girlfriend’s infidelity and it was my ticket into college. And I was failing.
I raised my hand indignantly, stabbing the air with my open palm. The muumuu-wearing-a-lady-underneath came stomping over, sighing like it was the end of the world. Which, technically, it was: The world of me and Stacy was going to implode, should this line of questioning continue as such.
“Yes, what is it?” she snapped. I gesticulated wildly to the questions in front of me detailing my girlfriend’s actions. She looked at them, and then looked back. “Well? Is there a problem?” I looked down at the test questions.
The word Stacy appeared in none of them, nor did the word neck, nor did the words unlimited or supply or of or Diet or Coke, which, when strung together, form a phrase that is always lovely to hear; however, now was not the time to think about luscious beverages that Stacy and I drank two-liter bottles of at parties on dares.
I sighed and muttered that no, nothing was wrong. The female skeleton dressed in drapery muttered something about “bubble head” and swept back pompously to her desk.
Wipe. Blink. Blink. Blink. Slide. Whap. Tap. Thump. Thump. Whomp.
Stare at the next question.
Also the usual.
Read the question.
That was when it stopped being normal. Or resumed its normalcy, if this test was the gold standard of normal. Who was I to judge?
Revise the bracketed section of the following sentence: The cheerleader whispered that Greg [never needed to know] about her and Mark.
was completely oblivious
knew completely and was furious
didn’t have a clue
No revision needed.
Finally, an answer other than B. I circled D.
This pattern continued on through the English section.
the spot where we first got ice cream
on the lips
possibly because she’s bored
the captain of the football team
is cheating with your girlfriend
and you can’t do anything
to stop it from happening
under the bleachers after practice
d) after school in the locker room
every day you’re not there.
I had finally survived the English gauntlet. The wave of relief that washed over me was quickly replaced by terror at the math portion and what it would bring.
Math. It was never my strong suit. English, obviously, was more my subject of choice, though at that moment I could think of no worse subject. Math was the curse of my GPA; it was the reason that I wrote. In my opinion, math was the ultimate blasphemy against the sacred temple of Writing. Math. The word filled me with contempt. Now, however, there was no escaping it. I closed my eyes and broke the seal on the right-hand side of the page. The first question greeted me almost cheerily.
If a cone has a circular base with radius r and the height h is 4/3 the length of the radius, how much will the cone hold in volume?
Not enough to save your relationship with Stacy
4/3 ∙ 2πr
The answer, like it was most of the time, was B.
If x = 3/4 y² + 14z, what does x/3 equal in terms of v, if v = 3/8 y² + 7z?
x = v(ery likely your relationship is over)
Answer not given
Once again, it was B.
I sighed once and tried to concentrate, knowing that my relationship was through, it was done, whether this stupid test was right or not. Whether or not my fears were founded, it was worth it to escape this torture of the mind that occurred every day Stacy was gone.
It was worth it to pass this test and get to college.
Leave all this behind.
Leave her behind.
Almost imperceptibly, I heard a bird whistling from beyond the window.
Whap. Tap. Whomp.