What would a story about nothing sound like? Many, many years ago, I had to take a simple exam that would have assured me a very nice job. I was the best of the best and I had to take a written test and then have a final interview with two prestigious teachers. I was so confident, that I didn’t even bother to check my answers after the written exam and it turned out I was right: I did perfect. The next day, the day of the interview, I wasn’t nervous at all. I just went in and patiently waited my turn, having a huge smile on my face that said: “I got this!”. On the chair in front of me there was a small guy, about my age, that was biting his nails and whispering something to himself. I said hi to him although I knew it was between me and him; he was the enemy.
After ten minutes they called us inside and our seats were next to each other while facing the two teachers. The room was a perfect square and the furniture included four chairs, a table between us and them, a huge library filled with heavy books and a giant clock on the wall in front of me. That clock was to become my nothing. First we had to introduce ourselves and I did a better job than the other guy, but the clock kept staring at me. The next step was a round of questions and we each had five minutes to answer. He used his five minutes wisely, talking rarely and clearly, not wasting any second to impress the ones judging us. When I got my turn, I felt pale. I had never been nervous at exams or interviews in my entire life and I knew this wasn’t the case either, but that giant clock… The teachers asked me the first question and when their mouths stopped pushing words out into the room, silence made its presence. The only thing I have heard was the tick-tock of the clock. I never heard the question, I didn’t know the answer, because my brain had stopped and processed only the tick-tock.
“- Mrs. Ela, are you with us? Can you answer the question, please?
– I… (tick-tock) I… (tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock)
– Do you want us to move on to the next question?
– I… (tick-tock) guess so (tick-tock).”
I could feel the satisfaction that raised the corners of my opponent’s lips into a devilish smile, I could feel the disappointment into the teacher’s eyes, I knew I was failing and still, screaming at myself inside, slapping my face to wake up didn’t work and I felt as if I was brain dead except the tick-tock of the clock on the wall. I had never failed in my life until then, so I had no idea what feeling failing leaves you with. My five minutes were up and although we had a couple more rounds to go it was pointless for me to go on, I couldn’t even look anywhere else anymore except at that fucking giant… tick-tock.
When I left the building and I had to face D, my tears were rolling undisturbed on my cheeks. I hardly ever cry; I was taught that crying is an act of weakness, so my eyes have limited tears supplies. We never spoke until we arrived into the metro station and I kept crying and crying, not being able to stop, not being able to tell him what’s wrong, not being able to understand what happened. I finally swallowed my tears, wiped them off with my sleeves, like any respectable lady, and told him about my first failure in life. He smiled at me, then his eyes got bigger, the way they get when he suddenly has a brilliant idea, and said:
“ – Can you imagine a screenplay about your story?
– What story? Didn’t you hear me? I just stood there like an idiot; I did nothing.
– Exactly; a story about nothing, while a giant clock on a wall stares at you and goes tick-tock, tick-tock.”