By Chef Roommates69
“If you are late, you will not take my exam.” These words echoed through my head as I marched through the snow. I chanced a look at my phone. 6:55 AM. “Oh fuck!” I almost squealed as it popped from my mitted hand like a bar of soap and slid down the sidewalk in the direction I’d just come from. I decided to leave it- I could not be late. The most important test I would ever take was in a building 10 minutes away and I had 6 minutes to get all 310 pounds of me into that seat. God damn of all the days to oversleep! Of course, this wasn’t without reason. My son Arthur (he liked Arty) had been struggling to breathe for most of the night. Alice knows he has asthma (he takes after his dad heh) but he stopped factoring into her decision making the moment I got custody. Neither of us had much money but at least with me, he’d be able to breathe.
He’s just like me in every way except appetite. In fact, he’s very small for his age. Alice had attempted quitting when she got pregnant but she gave in around 3 months in. She started smoking and god only knows what else so we split. He likes his mom but everyone will tell you: Arty loves his daddy. I think he sees me as a superhero because I’m so much bigger than him. He’s even drawn me into some of his pictures fighting alongside Superman and the Justice League. I haven’t the heart to tell him I couldn’t run for more than 40 yards even if his life depended on it. But that’s all gonna change; everything’s gonna change after this.
When I picked him up from her apartment, I could smell the reek of her cigarettes on his overalls as I listened to him wheeze. I couldn’t fight her- not now. I was too tired. For the last 2 weeks, I’d been studying like a madman. That’s the only reason he was with her in the first place. Almost every minute I got outside of work was spent in that book. I knew it cover to cover but I couldn’t take any chances. I reread his notes and relistened to his lectures. That on top of 40 hours a week cleaning bathrooms and offices resulted in about 3 hours a night to sleep and/or spend time with Arty (he normally won out). Even so, it would all be worth it as soon as I passed this exam. I’d take him far away from her and this filthy city. Somewhere he could see trees and meadows. Somewhere he’d breathe in as much of that beautiful air as he wanted.
But for now, I needed to focus on making it to this exam. My professor was notorious and even infamous in some cases for his tardiness policy. He made it excruciatingly clear that if anyone showed up more than one minute late, they simply wouldn’t get a test. My plan had been to pull another all nighter studying the way I always did: using his bed as a desk. I’d even figured out a way to prop my book up on his stuffed animals. Then I would sleep after the exam the way I always had. The last thing I remember was dozing off into my book as his wheezing faded away. I awoke in a haze. I was just as tired but at least the wheezing had finally passed and Arty had finally gotten to sleep. I’d say it was actually the most peaceful moment I’ve had in a long time until I saw the clock. 6:45 AM. I didn’t even kiss him goodbye. I told myself I could give him plenty when I got back. I was still in my pajamas when I grabbed my jacket and ran out the door.
Now, more than 10 minutes later, I was still running. I would not be late. I dropped my book bag and broke into a dead sprint which, in the snow, was more of a frictionless waddle for me. I didn’t care, it was faster and that’s what mattered. I had no idea how much time had passed since I dropped my phone but the ghost town I sprinted through told the story of a man out of time. At 7:02 AM on Wednesday December 10 (according to the classroom clock), I burst through the door of McDougal Hall wheezing, out of breath, and a minute late. Maybe it was the look on my face or someone’s watching out for me because the professor handed me an exam and walked back to his desk. Have you ever taken an exam and known every single answer? You know that feeling? Well square it and you’ll just glance the bottom of the mountain I was on top of. It was ecstasy. It was all gonna be worth it. I couldn’t wait to get back home and hug Arty until long after my arms went numb. We were definitely going for ice cream that much was already decided.
The only thing that cast a shadow on my victory was the sound of wheezing. Some people looked around and shielded their mouths from what they thought was a case of the flu. But this was a sound I knew all too well. I scoffed at the thought of someone having an asthma attack in the middle of an exam but then it got faster. I looked around but couldn’t see the culprit. Then I realized: someone was making fun of me. Of all the immature… no I wasn’t about to let some asshole ruin this for me. I focused on the day me and Arty were about to have and I guess eventually they figured out it wasn’t as funny as they thought so they stopped. But the sound of wheezing was only replaced by some freshman’s phone going off. I looked around annoyed but no one was reaching for their pockets and the phone just kept ringing. The professor didn’t say a word. The tenured old fart didn’t even raise his head. 5 minutes later I’d had enough. I leaned forward to pull myself out of the desk and froze. On the ground right in front of me was my phone. 6:55 AM.
I awoke with a start. The sun shone through Arty’s window illuminating his last super hero drawings. My mind went blank as I stared at the room. My phone sat on the bed, alarm blaring loudly as the screen flashed the time over and over. 9:32 AM. 9:32 AM. 9:32 AM. I had missed the exam. It was over. Nothing mattered anymore. But then again, the cold body in Superman pj’s means it’d been over for a while.