There are thousands of people in this hall. It is absolutely silent. Row upon row of teenagers and twenty-somethings are sitting at their tables, waiting for an announcement
Just moments before, it wasn’t so quiet. People chatted nervously, asked last-minute questions about when this was published or who that author was, and dashed for the washrooms at the back of the hall. One girl, huddled over her desk, even lit up a cigarette, and smoked it without any of the professors or TAs noticing.
But when the exams started being passed out, silence fell over the giant hall. Anticipation mixed with nervousness was thick in the air. The setting sun streamed in from the windows on the far side of the hall, glinting on the backs of the metallic chairs. We have two hours to write the exam. An essay and four mini-essays.
“Raise your hand if you don’t have an exam yet,” a voice booms. An entire section of people in the back-right corner raise their hands. The TA in charge of handing out their papers turns red, and looks down. He quickens his pace.
We start writing a few minutes later. We all scan through the assignment, and read our options. Some of us are glad: we’ll pass the class. Others aren’t.
Fifteen minutes for each mini-essay. One hour for the full essay. Not impossible.
Scour your brain for the answers. The Book of the City of Ladies. 1409. No. 1405. 1427. 1409. Trust your gut, Nicole.
Who wrote about Universities? Doesn’t matter. That’s one point out of 80. Just write. Why do you remember that was written in 1873, but not the guy’s name? Don’t think about that. Write.
The sound of two-thousand pens scratching on two-thousand papers is distracting. It’s hard to concentrate. You get stuck on one word, reading it over and over again. Circumcision. Why? It’s not even an important word. It doesn’t matter. Move on.
The essay. Try and construct a thesis. Truth. Fact. Non-fiction. Non-fiction is hard to write. There. That’s the thesis. Build on it. Um. Truth is hard to understand. No. It is hard to depict truth. No. Whole truths cannot be represented. Closer. “To bake an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe.” Why am–Oh. Okay. Because of the complex nature of truth, it cannot be portrayed in its entirety through literature. Non-fiction is hard to write.
Some people leave early. Some people are there to the very end. It doesn’t matter. It’s over.