"You know you disappoint them...
He won't leave me alone. He won't be quiet. Even here, in the silence of the exam hall, he is next to me. Whispering in my ear, whispering lies."
The clock is ticking.
It’s all I can hear. A constant in my ears, the clicking, the ticking, the sound of the hands hitting each number. It’s counting down my time, my minutes. Counting down what I have left. I am doomed to fail, he tells me. I am doomed to be a failure.
You know you disappoint them…
He won’t leave me alone. He won’t be quiet. Even here, in the silence of the exam hall, he is next to me. Whispering in my ear, whispering lies. I try to tell myself they are lies but he interrupts, insists he tells me only truths.
Your parents…your family…they try to smile at the failure you are…but in their eyes I see it and you see it, the disappointment…burning…
I can’t focus on the page in front of me. Its maths, I know that much. Something to do with algebra. I never have been any good at that.
And you never will be- you know you can’t do it. Why try?
I’m staring at the page anyway, trying to ignore it. The equation blurs in front of my eyes. I can feel the heat spreading beneath my eyes, brandishing my cheeks a bright red. I can feel shame building in my chest, like a weight on my heart. I know we learnt this recently, in fact I can recall seeing the equation upon the teacher’s whiteboard but beyond that I can remember nothing. I try to strain my memory. But it’s blurred, blurry, like the water filling beneath my lids is making my eyes blurry.
Pathetic. You’re crying over maths. You know what the others would say. Pathetic.
Shut up, I think, but the thoughts are taking over like they always do. Always at the worst time, always the same voice, always filling my head and telling me things I don’t want to hear because they sting so bad, because they hurt me. They hurt my heart. I don’t want to think about the reason they hurt my heart so much but he has already heard the voice, he interrupts.
I heard that. You can’t keep anything from me, you know.
I feel the shame at the just the idea of the other people in the hall noticing my panic. No one panics over such a small thing as an equation, I know this. I know he tells me the truth. Of course he tells me the truth. He always tells me the truth because he is me. And I know the truth.
You’re a failure.
It’s too much, I want to leave. I want to run away, get away from this equation glaring me accusingly in the face, confronting my stupidity. Run away from the voice, from him from me. But of course you cannot run away from yourself.
That is why I am doomed. Although my knees are coiled like springs, my hands clenched so tight the knuckles are white; my heart pounding against my ribcage like its only wish is to escape, despite all of this I can never run because I can never get away from myself. So I am doomed to sit here, through this and many other exams, to cry to myself and to fail. To listen to my own voice telling me truths I try to ignore, to toil away, sweating into my clenched palms.
Fingers rattle against my table. A teacher checking if I am okay. I want to laugh in her face at the notion. But I force a smile through gritted teeth, force a polite nod.
Good boy. Always lying. It’s a sin, you know. You’ll go to hell, you know.
I can’t sit here and take this. Soon I’m going to scream and show everyone my insanity. The teachers who sighed over my results, the boys who laughed at me, the girls who looked on in scorn, they’ll all be proved right.
Because they are right. Duh.
I push back from the table, my chair scraping hard against the floor. I stand. A teacher moves towards me, but I ignore her and walk away, through the tables, my movements controlled and careful. I stare ahead, avoiding the looks I know I am receiving. I would be trying to ignore the teachers rushing to stop me but I can’t even hear them over the laughing in my head.
Ha! Pathetic! You know that’s what they’re thinking! They know why you’re running! They can see me! They can see you talking to yourself! You’ve done it this time!
The teachers give up and they both walk back to the front, perplexed. They don’t know what to do.
People generally don’t with failures.
I am a failure. I know he speaks the truth because he is me.
I leave the hall, slam the doors.