He lay on his bed in the darkness, unable to sleep, and for that, he was angry at himself. He knew had to get some sleep and if there was one thing, one personality trait he took pride in, it was his ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime.
It was such a cliché, too. That he couldn’t fall asleep on the night before the big exam. It had nothing to do with that. He knew there was no need for him to be nervous about the exam, and he wasn’t, he really wasn’t.
He had been studying for it for weeks, or, if you want to look at the big picture, he had been studying for it for twelve years, since he began school. Now it was just the time to show them what he could do. “Them?” He chuckled a little in the darkness. Who were “they”? Who was he showing what he could do? The testmasters? His teachers? His parents? Himself?
He didn’t know.
He did know that he had worked hard during the break which is why he wasn’t nervous. He knew he was on top of things. He knew he was smarter than he had ever been, something their biology teacher had told his class the day before they had left the school to study for the finals.
“Enjoy this, because you’ll never know as much about things as you do now,” he had said.
They had laughed. All of them. The entire class.
But not the teacher, he realized.
For weeks, he’d been on a strict study regime, getting up at 8, and then studying at his desk until noon, not taking breaks, except to either flip the tape on his tape recorder – or switch it to another one.
He knew he knew everything he needed to know. He could recite the years of all European peace treaties, he knew what a mitochondrion was, he was ready to debate Aristotle’s views on the elements, he knew Pythagoras and derivatives of functions, and he could conjugate French verbs.
He had cleared his mind just before going to bed, and he knew that the next day, he could retrieve just the information at the right moment. He had turned on his world receiver radio, and rolled the tuner to Radio Luxembourg, “Planet Earth’s biggest commercial radio station”.
There was static, there was always static, but this time there was so much static that he couldn’t tell the difference between Barry Alldis and Rob Jones. One of the DJs, though, excitedly announced “the new single by the American band Van Halen!”
Then there was just silence. Or, there would have been silence had there not been all that static. He thought he could hear his heart beat but it was getting faster and faster and it wasn’t right. It couldn’t be his heart, it was something else. And just as he thought about taking his pulse, another sound, a squealing one came through the airwaves, but it felt as if it was coming from inside his head.
It was a funny feeling.
And it got funnier when Sammy Hagar, the band’s new singer, opened with, “Oh here it comes, that funny feeling again”.
He didn’t hear the rest of the line for all the static, and it was too late to turn up the volume without waking up his parents across the hall so he pressed his ear to the radio’s tiny speaker and wiggled the antenna with his hand.
It worked. He could hear Hagar singing again:
“Baby, why can’t this be love?”
He let go of the antenna. Hagar sounded anguished and desperate and, even though he was just a teenager, he – unfortunately – knew exactly what he was talking about. He understood him. Did he have an answer to the question? Of course not. That’s what kept him awake.
This is a part of an ongoing series of stories, mostly flash fiction, inspired by 80s pop songs. You can find them all here.