"This isn't productive," she said, "I should have stayed in bed." She sat down, her right hand across her forehead as if shading her eyes. The cat jumped on her lap to ask what's wrong and say whatever it is it's ok because I'm here.
"Silly cat," she said. She wanted to be cheered up. She also wanted to throw something. Instead, she scratched the cat under his collar.
She felt like a fly smashing her face against a window over and over again with a growing suspicion that whatever was blocking her way was very simple but she was too stupid to comprehend it.
The cat protested as she leaned over and picked up the book. The words became blurred and the symbols laughed at her. Her brain was jell-o. She set the book down again, instead of chucking it through a window, and collapsed back into the chair. She had already taken, and passed the class once, but apparently that wasn't good enough to be certified. She was doing better than the last time, but she still only got so far before it all ceased to make sense. It was as if there was a secret someone forgot to tell her, a key to make sense of everything.
She wanted to cry. The cat purred louder, with purpose, because she stopped petting him. She wanted to laugh. The clock said something way past two in the morning. She wanted to scream, but scratched the cat behind the ear instead.
So this was freedom. This was the land of opportunity. She could do, she could be anything she wanted. Oh, but wait, that is, as long as she got at least a B on her chemistry final. Didn't you read the fine print? Sure, a basic knowledge of it, and how it worked would be useful, and sure it would make her well rounded, as if she needed that. This stress would more than take care of her roundedness. Sure there was some logic behind it she couldn't deny, making it all the more aggravating, but all this, when would she use any of this? She could always look stuff up if she ever needed it. That's what they did in the real world anyway. She knew she was more than capable of doing everything she wanted if she could only get the knowledge, which she could, and the permission, which was the problem. Was this all a joke played by sadistic professors and administrators exercising their power over everyone's hopes and dreams? Exorcising the hopes and dreams from those that actually had any? Was it job security? Or was it simply a way to find out who really wanted it? To weed out the flakes?
Oh, was she a flake? Was she destined to fail? Would she have to face the facts and let go of her dream? She wanted to cry, so she did.
The cat didn't like this, so he closed his eyes and purred harder, as if to say, "see, this is how you do it. You close your eyes and purr and everything is better."
Maybe, but she didn't know how to purr. Just one more thing she couldn't do. But if she could, maybe it would be better. She began to try, but started to laugh instead. This was no laughing matter so she stopped. Laughing was the one thing cats couldn't do. She couldn't remember ever seeing a cat laugh.
"Ok," she said to the cat, feeling a bit better, "here's the plan. The test isn't until late this afternoon, so I'll get some sleep now and get up earlier than I'd planned and take another look at this then. Maybe everything will be fresh. Maybe it'll make some sense." The cat thought this was a perfectly good plan, until he realized she would have to stand up. He wasn't too crazy about that little bit, but everything else sounded just fine.
Everything was ready to go. All she had to do was survive one last final, grab the cat, skip town, and hope it didn't snow. There would be a whole month to not think about it.