And then the alloted time expired, papers were collected, the room emptied out. (Except for the Arab fella, who remained hunched over his desk working feverishly away, producing strident sighs of anxious protest as one of the facilitators stood by him, waiting.)
We'd been told the last part of the exam, the oral, speechifying part, would happen somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 or 3:30, giving us a little more than an hour and a half for an over-lunch post-mortem of the experience so far. Lunch, test, head home in time to beat rush hour On the way out of the building, C., A. and I saw that the times for the oral exam had been posted, which is when we discovered that the oral exam began at 3, with one person going every fifteen minutes. We'd been scheduled last, starting with me at 6:15. Meaning five long hours of waiting. FIVE. FREAKIN'. HOURS.
Lunch got eaten. The day to that point got picked apart. The center of Alcalá got wandered around in. Time got killed.
Until I finally found myself in the exam room with the two facilitators from the earlier in the day. The two I'd had to ask to quiet down. Didn't see any evidence of resentment (for which I gave silent thanks), just the slightest tinge of boredom, though they did their best to project positive, encouraging energy. One sat behind to my rear taking notes, the other sat at a desk in front of me, interacting, giving instructions.
The instructions: Talk. First about anything I felt like. Then they presented me with two photocopied images, I had to describe them, come up with a relationship between them. Then they presented me with a sheet of paper containing three quotes -- my job: pick one, expound on it.
By this time -- after a long, long day of hilarity, everything building up to this final stage of the experience -- so much adrenaline was shooting through my system that I realized talking was not going to be my problem. Trying to get me to shut me up would be the problem. At some point the examiner behind the desk realized just that, realized that he was trapped in a room with a furriner so intensely wired that the result would be hours, days, possibly weeks of unstoppable, high-speed blathering if he didn't take some action, at which time a fleeting look of terror crossed his face before he composed himself and leaped in, stopping me, moving things along.
I finished up. My classmates finished up. We bolted, making our way through the town's Friday evening bustle, pleased at being out and free.
The train ride. The Metro ride. When I emerged from underground, the streets of Madrid lay damp from recent rain, alive with people getting the weekend underway.
That was Friday.
Saturday: I drifted, dealing with having no deadline, no studying, with the sudden disappearance of pressure. Spent the entire afternoon in front of the 'puter. Ate. Ate some more. Went out, late afternoon, spent a couple of hours with a lovely woman, E. [see entry of May 3], doing the intercambio thing. On the way home, received a call from Jorge, [see entry of May 1] -- he who has connected me with a sizeable circle of people -- inviting me to a wingding. (The classic my-parents-are-away-let's-party scenario. Jorge is 36.) A short time later, I stood in his kitchen nursing a beer, Jorge making a salad, another friend cooking up eggs with garlic and kiwi (works out much better than it sounds), other folks about, conversation zipping around the room. By midnight, I sat with 11 people in the living room, gelati being eaten, the music getting loud and weird. Two of Jorge's cousins arrived, one turned out to be an AC/DC fanatic. An AC/DC disc quickly flew into the stereo, the volume loud enough to register on the Richter scale. Followed by the Village People. (Why the Village People? Who knows?) Also at high volume, Jorge and his cousins doing scary disco-style gyrations. At 1:40 a.m., half of those in attendance took advantage of a lull in the soundtrack to take off, I followed a minute or two later, finding myself back out in Madrid's crowded Saturday night streets, glad to be in the middle of it all, moving gradually in the direction of home, bed, sleep.
Sunday: Drifted more. Recused myself from social hooha. Got less sleep than I would have preferred. Ate. Noticed I seemed to be slowly recovering weight lost during the last couple of weeks of work/study. As insurance, ate some more.
Am now back into classes, the days cascading by at unnerving velocity. Madrid's summer weather has retreated a bit, the days remain beautiful, if a bit cooler. The trip back across the ocean looms ahead, eight short days away.
Eight short days. But that will be then. This is now.