It was very noisy in the room. Alex sat on the desk, not sure it was finally the time. He could hear the scraping of chairs and desks. The buzz of people all around him was bugging him. After a while, a loud but distant voice called putting everyone to silence but Alex couldn’t quite hear it. His ears were ringing and he was terrified of what was to come. Sure enough, when a hand came down to his desk and slammed down sheets of paper in front of him, he knew he was done for good. He remembered his father scolding then asking politely then telling the consequences and at last begging him to do what he asked ‘for his own good’. And now the time of regretting had come. One of his nerves had been telling him the whole time that father was right and he should do what he was advising but he just couldn’t come out of his comfort at home. He squirmed uncomfortably on his hard wooden desk. Then hesitantly, picked up the parchment as though expecting a monster to erupt from in there. Slowly he read the words written in black and he thought he could faint right there.
The atmosphere was very tense. Every now and then someone coughed or scribbled something. Occasionally, Alex would look up to find one of the people at the front of the room watching him like a hawk. ‘What he won’t give’ to be anyone else’s place right now. He could smell ink in the air. For the first time, he noticed that a lot of people were sitting in that room with him, all on dusty brown desks like his. All were scribbling hastily on their sheets. At that time, Alex felt very lonely.
His head was bent over his sheets when someone tapped on is shoulder. He turned around to find a boy around his age with stuck-up hair grinning stupidly at him.
‘What?’ Alex asked him in a husky voice, frowning at this interruption.
‘Do you think you could just pass this tissue to the boy in front on you?’ the boy told him, extending a hand in which he held a tissue which was scribbled all over by a pen.
‘Huh? Oh sure.’ He said feigning a smile. The boy nodded his head in appreciation but as soon as Alex turned back to his paper, he immediately opened the tissue up, hoping for some hints. He was not disappointed. He scanned it hurriedly as the boy tapped him harshly on his shoulder but he didn’t turn around.
‘Hey!’ The boy behind him protested in a low voice.
Ignoring him, Alex quickly noted the points from the tissue and tapped the boy in front. He turned around immediately.
‘Yes?’ he asked eagerly.
‘The boy behind me told me to give you did.’ He said carelessly, handing over the tissue and before the boy could say anything, bending down on his own paper.
‘Is there a problem over there?’ A woman at the front of the room who was wearing a black suit and highly polished shoes asked Alex in a stern voice.
‘No no every thing’s fine.’ Alex said innocently and bent back to his wad of papers.
Even after the ‘hint’ from ‘the tissue’ Alex was getting nowhere. He searched his mind for anything that could help him go-through this laborious time. ‘What did I ever do to land myself in this place!’ he thought bitterly.
‘I wish I could go back and change the past. Do what I had not done.’
He sighed wistfully as he returned to the spiteful sheet in front of him only to wonder what to write.
Alex knew that he was going to hate this place forever. At that moment he felt alone with no one to help him. He felt that even in this packed room with people breathing, he could almost feel like he was only one. He felt friendless and isolated. He just wanted to go home and forget that this happened. But everyone has to go through this. He remembered his grandfather saying that this was the worst part of his life. He slumped down on his seat, out of options. The clock was ticking, making him guiltier that he had not written anything. He looked at his pen. Maybe he could just kill himself by putting the nib through his hand. He laughed at his own thought.
The next thing he knew the woman in the suit came right up to him and to him dismay stood next to him and looked at his paper.
Alex was devastated. He could not open his paper or she’ll know that he had not written anything. On the other hand, if he sits there idly, she’ll ask why is he not writing anything. ‘Oh God, what should I do now?’ he asked himself, looking around. With shaking hands, he randomly opened the paper and read the topmost question.
1) When did the Syrian civil war begin?
‘Oh I know that’ he thought surprised. It was just yesterday when on the news he heard that the Syrian civil war was still ongoing which had started in March 15, 2011. He quickly jotted the date down and waited expectantly for that woman to go. Sure enough, the woman grunted unsatisfactorily and walked away. Heaving a sigh of relief, he went through the bunch of sheets trying to add a thing here and there which he knew.
Alex was tired of everything. He swore he’ll always do the thing he hated most before coming to this place he hated most: study before reaching the examination hall. He had somehow completed the paper and thought that he’ll manage to pass. Full of hope, he turned to the clock and at that exact second the bell rang. Happily, as though Christmas has arrived early, he leapt to his feet and hurriedly handed his paper to his teacher. He was out before the other students even got up from their desks.
He reached home and convinced his mother that he did good. After reaching his room, he slumped on his bed and fell asleep.
A couple of days later, he was sitting in the awful examination hall, cradling his pen in his hand, wishing he had studied.