EVIE PRICHARD is losing her memory and turning to porcelain. Standard exam term then.
My friends are at the beer festival. People are making out in the sun on the grass outside my window. I can hear the sinister tinkle of an ice cream van behind the birdsong and laughter.
What am I doing? Sitting in a darkened room writing to you, deluding myself that I’ll still have time today to learn the whole of political philosophy, feeling like this slinky and idly wishing I had one of those tooth whiteness charts so I could measure whether my legs have upgraded themselves from ivory to porcelain yet.
In other news, I’ve realised that every new item of knowledge I cram into my aching, slightly sun-burnt skull is expunging something better. I sat my metaphysics exam on Friday, and as I laid down my pen and relaxed my mental grip on Quine’s objections to correspondence theories of truth, I realised that the preparation for this intense and draining session of mental masturbation had permanently overwritten knowledge that could have had some practical use. If I ever find myself having to perform emergency surgery with my penknife or fend off a wild boar, I’ll have Quine to thank for my failure.
So many treasured memories are beginning to slip away. The time a teacher intercepted a note I’d passed that strongly implying I’d like to put a bullet through my German teacher’s brain, and I and my parents got treated to the full, hush-voiced, Columbine prevention program. The time my sister got her hair braided on holiday and caught me emailing friends at home to tell them she looked like a cancer patient in a moth-eaten wig. Without these memories to guide me, history will repeat itself. And I can’t face them a second time.
And it gets worse. Prosopagnosia – the syndrome I wrote about last year, which makes it so difficult for me to remember faces – goes into overdrive over the exam period. Almost a year ago, the day after my first year exams finished, I was at the bar of Lola Lo, feeling pretty cheerful and sipping something fluorescent from a coconut, when some random sleazy guy oozed up to me with the worst chat up line I’ve ever heard.
He asked me what the cheapest cocktail was. I was just beginning my escape attempt when I noticed that he was wearing the same cologne as someone I know. Someone, in fact, with whom I’d been, well, intimately linked the previous term. Linked very intimately indeed. Weirder still, this boy was wearing a very familiar shirt. The sort of golfing-style American-high-school-nerd polo shirt that only one person in Cambridge could possibly own.
You guys know where this story is going; I unfortunately did not. Instead I came to the obvious, utterly intuitive conclusion that this strange person was friends with my ex-fling, had got ready to go clubbing with him, used his cologne and borrowed his shirt. And that’s the story of how I came to ask a guy with whom I’d been doing the wild thing for an entire term whether he knew himself.
I wish I could say the poor boy had had some disfiguring accident – cycled face-first into some barbed wire or singed off his own nose in some kind of chemistry lab farce – but he’d only gone and got a haircut. My high heels had thrown off our height ratio, too. You have to feel sorry for the sod, and I would too, if he weren’t at the beer festival right now being happier than me. And if he hadn’t tried to have sex with my 45-year-old ex-babysitter; but that’s a story for another day.
My point, though, is that if that’s what happened to me after first year exams, God only knows what kind of facial amnesiac will stumble into the job market after finals. I’ll be introducing myself to family members and wondering who that weird old lady is on the corner of all my rejection letter envelopes.
And once that happens, I really might as well have gone to the beer festival and saved us all a lot of time.