You guys, I had the best topic ever picked out on Sunday. So good, in fact, that I knew I didn’t need to write it down. It was that good.
Good or not, however, it turns out, my memory is that bad. I was hoping it would come back to me, but alas! It has not. I even went up and down a bunch of stairs, in case I’d left it on a different floor (I feel like this method may work better if you actually have stairs in your abode, which I do not). But nope, it’s gone.
Lucky for you (I hope), I have some drafts half-written. See? Procrastination does work.
So today, I have a brief yarn about my last final exam during my undergraduate reign. When it takes you seven years to procure your bachelor’s degree, it’s officially a reign, as opposed to a mere academic sojourn.
Now, I majored in anthropology and I minored in professional writing, after a brief foray into a creative writing major (“Oh, you don’t like my fictional main character’s hair colour? Tough beans.”) and then getting enough credits in history and psychology to have gone a plethora of directions (after four years, they will make you choose a major).
After the requisite two years of journalism (“Rachelle, you can’t just make up facts in a lead,” my prof said. “What? I’m sure the royal corgis didn’t just sit there and watch the flames lick their fur!”), I grasped onto creative nonfiction like a cat in a bathtub clings to the tile grouting.
Why creative nonfiction? Because you get to make shit up, is why. I get to tell stories, but I’m allowed to make them better. By exaggerating. Hyperbole. It’s like a million times better than journalism. See what I did there? I get to embellish. It’s like I write stories and then use a Bedazzler on them to make ’em sexier (if this can be considered sexy. I submit that it cannot.).
Anyway. The classes for fine arts degrees are sporadic, since the faculty is small and the students of writing few and far betwixt. So, for the last course of my degree, which was offered once every Age of Aquarius, after a blue moon when the sky shines purple and the faun dances with the president, we had a bunch of creative nonfiction to read. Suffice it to say that I had not, in fact, completed any of the readings. Interestingly, my literacy level declined the longer I remained in post-secondary. Unless it was a mystery, fantasy or cheesy-ass romance novel, its pages and their contents were not graced by mine eyes in any great detail (I’m not proud of this and I’m sadly not making it up, either).
My professor, a renowned writer in her own right, had me pegged. “Rachelle,” she said, “I can tell when you’ve read the least of a book, because that’s when you always have the most to say.” She wasn’t wrong. This lady, she had all the great instincts.
You see, in grade 11, my social anthropology teacher (I took International Baccalaureate courses—but not the full diploma, thanks to chemistry being so frigging hard—so we had interesting options) once mentioned something similar: “Rachelle, I know you pull out the shovel, but I can’t tell where the truth ends and where your bullshit begins.” I think he was trying to say I’m a genius. Obviously. I was made for creative nonfiction. This is me choosing an empowering interpretation.
Regardless, this a skill (super power?) served me pretty darn well over the academic years. I wrote an (multiple?) entire paper(s?) (the night before, naturally, despite knowing about the deadline for three full months) by finding keywords in the index and then writing my supporting points completely out of context of the research/book, which of course, I’d never read, on account of it not being a mystery, fantasy or cheesy-ass romance novel. Well, and the fact it was like 3 am and the paper was due in seven hours.
NB: This renowned writer and professor shall, for my purposes here, remain nameless. After all, I don’t know what the statute of limitations is for her to change my final grades and I don’t want to risk it.
So, fast forward to the final exam. It’s open book, on any of the six books we’d covered (well, the six books they’d all covered and about which I’d bullshat ad nauseam). The night before the exam is also Adam’s company Christmas party. I was going to attend (what? I needed to eat dinner regardless, right?), but I was absolutely not going to have anything to drink, and I was going straight home afterward to speed read all my exam books and absorb their information by sniffing the spines (that’s where all the good stuff is). And then I wrote the exam and got 100 percent. This is exactly what I did.
No it’s not. This is a lie. Well, part of it, but I won’t tell you which part just yet. The other part is, at the least, a pretty magnificent expansion of the truth. What really happened is someone forced me to drink a mojito (“Okay, well, just one”) and then it became a contest and oh lord I have no idea what happened after that, but sobriety was definitely not on the list.
We made it home (I think? I don’t remember where I slept, to be honest, but I’m pretty sure Adam got us home) and I went to bed. I needed to be well-rested for my exam, right? So I could get up early and cram six books into my brain before my 9 am test. The last-ever exam of my seven-year undergraduate degree.
I totally overslept, since I had not, in fact, set an alarm. When I woke up, I swore profusely—”oh shitshitshitshitshit!” (because profanity always helps)—and put on clothes (maybe? It’s possible I wore my pyjamas) and somehow made it to school a solid 25 minutes into the exam. Well done, Bay. You should’ve seen The Look I got for my tardiness. I would’ve thought a little recognition for my determination to show up might not have been misplaced. I was like Frodo climbing Mordor, for crying out loud. Riddled with guilt and fear. And unlike the hobbit, I was hungover, to boot.
It was at this point I realized I’d left all my books AT HOME. Because that’s a good place for them to be during an OPEN BOOK EXAM. Good grief. So then, during the exam, I had to sneak around to beg surplus books off my fellow students. Why she didn’t toss my sorry ass out, I’ll never know. I took any book someone wasn’t using. Not like it mattered, really, since I’d read all of them in equal detail, which is to say, none at all whatsoever.
So then, I wrote like a madwoman, or certainly like one who has supremely wagged the dog and is trying to rush through an exam for which she is completely unprepared and late, to boot, all the while avoiding the laser beams boring into the crown of my unbrushed head from the desk at the front of the room.
I managed to look adequately and abashedly ashamed of myself when I handed in my exam and slunk out of the exam room, tail between my legs (just for the record, I don’t actually have a tail, in case you read that literally). This was when I realized that I would need to repeat an entire year, just to take one bloody course again, because there was no way I didn’t fail that exam. DAMN YOU MOJITOS. DAMN YOU TO HELL AND BEYOND.
A couple of weeks later, I was checking my photojournalism marks in the Fine Arts Building, when I ran into my creative nonfiction professor. Really, I just didn’t have time to duck into a bathroom or closet or garbage bin to avoid her. That’s when she smiled and congratulated me on my final exam score. I tried to remain nonchalant, because I just knew she was about to tell me I failed and then do a jig to celebrate my pain.
“It was a perfect exam, Rachelle. 100 percent,” she smiled beatifically.
What. The. Eff. I glanced at her suspiciously through narrowed eyes, waiting for the guillotine to drop. It didn’t.
To this day, I’ll never know if I actually aced the exam, or if she fudged it when she realized she’d just have to deal with me a year later if I failed. It doesn’t really matter, though, does it? Not even one percent (because there’s no percent to spare when you ACE THE FINAL EXAM!).
All of this story is true, except for the parts that are obviously embellished. I’m (almost, but not really) ashamed to say it is more truth-based than most of my creative nonfiction. More nonfiction than creative, if you will.
The 100 percent is pure fact.