(2:15am in the Master Suite) The nightmare awakens me as it releases its grip. Its paralyzing fear is deadline-based, a pounding inevitability that cannot be escaped without rousing. I am working against a clock.
I haven’t had a nightmare about school since…I left school, over 30-years ago. My recent return to the classroom, both as an instructor and a student, has apparently resurrected some old anxieties. This time their return comprises an interesting mix of phobias and infirmities compiled over six decades of life.
The month of May means graduation and freedom for the summer for students of all ages—at least until the summer sessions commence. May also means final exams, and tonight’s nightmarish scenario places me in a classroom in the midst of finals. The seat is agonizingly uncomfortable, built for the frame of a teenager, and its confining contours bind my body and my brain.
A former government professor is administering this course--some English Composition derivative in which I am certain I was enthused to enroll. His cryptic and arcane instructions, however, are blurring before my eyes, and my hands will not obey my brain’s commands to commit to paper the answers to the test.
“Create your response in the ‘Lifestyle Narrative,’ describing blah-bluh blah-blah-blah,” the instructions drone across the page. My mind struggles to recall the chapter discussion on this particular style of prose, with its arcane textual properties and irregular sentence structures. Don't you remember the lectures? (I don't even know what that means--it’s a nightmare, remember?)
My brain infarction is double-teamed by an onset of crippling arthritis in both hands—something that’s not on the course syllabus. Each word is painfully inscribed on the test packet that is growing more rumpled by the minute.
“Indicate your satisfaction with the instructor by drawing a circle next to the word, ‘then.’” More instructions. “If you enjoyed a positive experience this semester, draw a green circle; if you did not have a good experience, draw a red circle.”
College professors are on the hunt for feedback as they build their resumes and justification for tenure. I carefully draw a circle next to the word, and white ink comes out on the page. I scramble for a different colored pen as the classroom begins to sense the expiration of the test period. A low rumbling of tittering and shifting in chairs begins to stalk across the room. Students complete their tests and leave, one by one. I’m still struggling with Question Number One. And that red or green ink thing. My hands won’t work.
And suddenly, it’s over.
The room is dark. I’m in my bed, our dog gently breathing between my wife and I. The test isn’t just over; it never happened.
Regular posts to this site have been suspended for the past few months, thanks to job changes and time shifts. And school. Watch this space for more regular and frequent submissions from the daily adventures of the human race.