I can hear my heart thumping.

The cage around it might just break with the strength of its palpitations.

My hands are ice cold. I blow a puff of my shaky breath into them trying to warm them up.

Yet they just tremble in response.

My head is in a frenzy, I hadn’t paid attention to what my friends were saying a while ago but now

 I walk with weary steps, my hearing has enhanced.

I can hear beyond my own heart.

The wall clock right in front with its seconds hand rushing but somehow exactly on time. 

The click of the teacher’s heels on the floor. The other students in the hall, unzipping their pouch and taking out their pens and pencils.

 Even the scratching sound of the sharpener’s blade across the hall echoes in my head. 

I start to envy the cleaners as I can hear the rough strokes of the broom from the floor below. 

Focus. Empty your mind. Focus.

I feel the nausea in my stomach intensify. Taking shaky breaths, I shiver. 

No matter how many deep breaths I take, I just can’t breathe.

Are my lungs suddenly as useless as me now?

Just breathe! 

Am I only exhaling?

Inhale. Come on, inhale! 

You’ll feel better. Inhale. The nausea will go away, your heart won’t shake. Inhale.

I feel my stomach knot. I feel like gagging but I need to inhale. I wonder if this sickness is the harbinger of the outcome of this exam.

It’s time to pass the papers now. The scent of freshly printed papers used to calm me some time ago. But now I feel my vision blur. I wipe the water away.

Maybe it’s just the wind getting circulated by the fan that’s getting in my eye or maybe it’s just me.

I glance across the hall and see everyone writing their names. So I fill mine. 

Will I be disappointed when I get this paper back? 

Will I wish that it wasn’t my name written next to those marks? Will my paper once again be littered with red ink just like my mind is littered with fear?

Each and every cross in red despite being only ink is like blood to me. My blood. Every cut on that paper is cutting open and ripping apart my skin which has protected me but it is now stained red, left weak again.

I wish I could tear apart the paper.  My marks dictate both my heart and mind.


Once again I put on the mask of an optimistic liar and tell myself, it’s just an exam, there’s nothing to fear. These marks don’t make who you are.

About Snehal Srivastava

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