The last of his exams barely over, he sat in his chair and gazed into the distant wall. A part of him felt like yelling in joy and relief, while a part of him felt like howling in anger and frustration.
It has been long since the feeling of bliss visited him. Back then, exams were but another doable piece of practice. He’s been brushing his hand through his hair far more lately; an act of stalling for time and pretending to be busy.
The smiles hardly ever appeared anymore. His grim jawline made him appear much older than he actually was. Walking out of the hall wasn’t walking any longer, it was shuffling. Everything he seems is blame. Blame for the lousy teacher. Blame for the lack of practice materials. Blame for the school. Blame for everything but the self.
He got up steadily, deciding that all he needed was a long nap to make him feel better again, and shuffled out of the hall.
“… , therefore we ought to review his work and reevaluate if the positive admiration received by his work is justified.”
As his fingers hit the final full stop key, relief flooded his body and an entire week of pent-up stress released itself in a single breath. He flexed his shoulders and enjoyed the feeling of being able to do it without feeling the guilt that every passing second spent flexing his shoulders is a passing second that could have been spent productively.
His eyelids closed, and he entered a state of bliss. It was as though his pupils were producing magical water that had miraculous healing qualities. He leaned back in the chair that has been imprinted with his rear for the past week and lazily, he moved his mouse cursor and clicked “Submit.”
It was the way she sat. It was the way she sank into the chair, heavy with burden, yet sustaining an impossible air of grace. She leaned towards the floor, reached for her backpack and began to rummage for unfinished homework.
It was one in the morning, and she was weary, but this is her life now. Textbooks found, she pulled it out of her bag and placed it on the table, squarely in front of her. But instead of opening it, she placed a hand across the book, and sighed at the man at the opposite side of the table, me.
“What are you studying today?”
I half-pouted and told her I needed to study for my upcoming mid terms.
She mirrored my pout and reluctantly removed her hand from the textbook and flipped it open.
It’s been almost a year since I last saw her. But time has blessed her well and she’s now even more beautiful than before. Her hair was now a length that finally allowed for natural curls and it was dyed a fierce and passionate deep red. She was definitely the best view I’ve ever had for months.
Perfume emanated from her and floated in the air. It lingered mischievously in the air, seeming to disappear when I inhale deeply, then teasingly returning when I take an unconscious small sniff.
We studied for a while, before she left the room, saying she needed fresh air. I put my pens down and abandoned my work to follow her. We walked out of the deathly silent room and it was as if we had entered an alternate world altogether. This new world we entered was silent too, but it was the peaceful quiescence of the night, not the oppressive quiet of students cramming for an exam that will not matter at all five years down the road. This silence is blissful, and it calmed our senses down, despite us being one of the few beings awake amongst a slumbering majority.
She answered nature’s call as I waited at the top step of a flight of stairs that faced a small thicket of trees. She joined me shortly afterwards, playfully flicking water towards my face. We laughed heartily together, ignorant of the fact that we were guilty of puncturing the night’s tranquil.
Then we quieten down, as if an invisible guardian of the night robbed us of our childish jubilation. We were forced once more to face our own realities. Hers, of her exams, and mine, a more current problem, how to figure her out? I wanted so badly to hold her hand, which I was strongly aware of, through furtive glances from the corner of my eye.
But I could not. She is not and will never be a lover of mine for reasons complicated beyond explanation; I felt like the male lead in my tragic literature books that were all governed by the rule ‘So near, yet so far.’
She stood up. And so did I. Then she walked back to the room, and so did I, with the undying question on my mind – never wishing more than I did then for the ability to read minds – how does she truly feel about me?
The monsters were closing in. Their hands could reach out and grab his ankles and he would be done for. Any second now. His lungs were already burning and he had no idea where he had been running in. He just wanted to live. Then he heard a monster behind him bellow loudly. Shortly after, he felt a huge weight hit him from behind.
Fred woke up startled in his bed. His hands were clutching the blanket tightly and his knuckles were white. His neck was drenched in a cold sweat. But he felt relieved that the nightmare had ended and that he was back in his own bed. He rolled in his bed towards the edge and groped around the floor for his phone and spectacles.
He examined his phone for the time. Eight in the morning. Splendid. He was early. He sat up in the bed. He realised now he had drooled a lot that night. His pillow were wet in many spots and it looked as if it had a polka dot pattern. Gingerly, he denuded the pillow and tossed the pillowcase into his laundry hamper. Then he got up and wandered to the toilet.
As he brushed his teeth, he looked at his reflection and tried not to acknowledge the fear in his eyes. University life was starting soon and everyone said it’s a whole different ball game. He was scared. Really scared. Who wouldn’t be? If you were in his shoes and had such high hopes to live up to, you would be scared out of your wits too. Fred gargled and spit. Then he realized the irony: his nightmare was just beginning.