Even the temperature in the make-shift exam hall seems to have soared several degrees higher since you last heard the stubby, bulky man, the invigilator, announce that there are twenty-five minutes left to the end of the exam.
Suddenly, you are a mere block of something hard on the harder seat of some rickety chair. You barely cover the decrepit desk with the sparse frame of your upper torso. Your shoulders sag lower, by the seconds, as you bury your long face, dig your BIC pen deeper, into the paperwork before you.
Soon, “Ten minutes more!’’ thunders the invigilator.
By now, you have attempted most of the Multiple Choice Questions. You are still struggling with the first question of the second of a three-section exam.
You begin it:
Thinking. You think and think your mind away.
But even the scanty clues you eke from all the drudgery of thinking play elusive games with you. So that by the time you have carved one definite idea out of the already scanty, tricky clues, the clues slip out of your mind’s grasp like a morsel of banku in the throat would, when greased with thick slimy okro stew.
All this while, time does not wait. It gallops. And you find that you have to quickly try something else:
Recalling – since Thinking has failed you, and you do not wish to fail this one critical exam in your life. But much sooner than you expected, you are to be failed again.
Recalling too fails you.
Perhaps, this is either because you are remembering things you should not be remembering in the middle of an exam of this nature or you are remembering things you have never learnt in the first place.
“Oh, my God!” was all that you can muster to mutter.
Still, time does not wait.
You are not sure if you will hear all the words in what will be the invigilator’s next announcement.
But you are certain you did hear a word that sounded like ‘F-i-i-i-v-v-e’. Fine beads of sweat sparkle in your right palm. The other palm, it is as cold as a three-day-old kenkey – a coldness which cannot be cured even by the hottest pepper sauce, the freshest of ground pepper and its embellishment of crescent strips of onion, and of course, the sexiest of fried fish.
It must be the thought of food, again, that makes your mind turn a stream muddied and choked by stones pelted in by a bunch of naughty children. Besides stones, the children hurl shouts, and together with shouts and stones and worse, the children let themselves wallow wild and wide. In your muddied and choked – messed and tossed – mind.
Your mind sours and hurts. Your head quakes with aches unknown and uncountable.
And time makes more haste.
Suddenly, steadily, the familiar deep voice begins to loom large and louder in the room. It rumbles and tumbles in turns. The voice.
But you are not listening. You are fastening your answer booklets together. You have long given up on this exam, and school, yourself and…and…and maybe God.
The voice rumbles on. But just before the man finishes speaking, a generous chunk of your memory returns, to you. It is as sudden as it is surprising. This return.
And with it comes all the answers to all the questions you are yet to even attempt. These jump out of nothing, it seems. The answers.
And each answer leaps about you, out-shouting the others for your attention.
You refuse to mind them all. All these run-away-suddenly-come answers. You use my mind for something else:
a) Sitting on the cold cracked concrete floor to weep at the import of the announcement.
b) Jumping up and down, rolling and roaring with laughter at this sweet second chance…
All that one Mr. Kwakuvi Mawutor, the invigilator said was:
“I am sorry, ladies and gentlemen. I have just been informed, by a representative of the West African Examinations Council, that this year’s Literature in English Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination has been cancelled.”
North Kaneshie, Accra; Friday, 3rd November, 2017.