My skull is usually filled with voices. Placid voices. Violent voices. Hundreds of voices, willing to argue at any hour of the day – which they do, constantly – inconsiderate of what I, myself, am trying to get done in the physical realm.
But there are times of the year when the number of voices is reduced, when only three are yelling, or even two. One of these respites comes with every finals week, when the usual babble dwindles down to just two voices chattering in the dark.
They refer to me as The Big One.
The Big One is urinating, one voice says.
Don’t you think I can hear him? says the other.
What were we saying?
Ah, yes. The studying.
Yet he does it anyway.
Yes. For those grades.
Think of the time wasted. The things he will learn and forget.
Hours and hours.
Remember when the Big One was an engineer?
Like it was yesterday.
What a joke. He studied and forgot everything. Within a month, I’m telling you.
The formulas, the theorems…
It’s all gone. I checked.
What’s an integral again?
My point exactly.
Four years of forgetting.
Except for stories and writing. He remembers those. For whatever reason.
Never say that again. The point is that, whatever it is, the things he remembers are things worth doing.
What’s that ruckus?
The Big One. He’s on the move.
He’s sitting down.
Listen to that. He’s probably going to meditate. Try to block us out.
Will he succeed?
Of course not. We’re still here, aren’t we? Just keep saying perverse things.
Like toad testicles.
Shout it! Toad testicles!
Maggot vomit shit bitch!
When the voices finally fade I open my eyes and stare about my room. I go to my desk and open a textbook. Behind my concentration I’m thinking about how I haven’t written anything but essays in the past week, haven’t read anything but school books.
I feel like a sucker wasting his time, like there are dancing people behind me laughing together in a golden field, tossing up butterflies from cupped hands, and all I need to do is look over my shoulder, stand up and go to them.
My textbook lies cold. I close it and extinguish the desk light. There are books scattered on the floor beside my bed and I stoop to pick one up. I open it to a short story, and without taking my gaze from the page I sit down at my chair next to the window. I turn the page.
I know that finals are approaching. I know that my grades may suffer, my GPA. I turn another page.
The afternoon passes and I am happy.
KOJI FRAHM lives in Davis with his three wives and 12 daughters, all named Gretel for convenience. He does not endorse polygamy.