Test Question

To Y.J.

9.

It was, arguably, the singular test question
Most repeated, most plagiarized, most modified
In my classroom history:
“A train sets out from Town A to Town B at an average speed….”

Advancing with me from grade to grade,
It evolved with every station on my journey.
By high school, it was utterly transformed:
“Total passenger weight…engine power…wind velocity…track friction…gravitation….”

I did not realize that I, too, was on a train.
Nor that it was a trick question –

A communal secret, a joke shared by all my teachers, now deceased.
I imagine them laughing together, skeletal,
Marking my answer wrong in the Teacher’s Lounge of the Afterworld,
Their angelic fingers caked with the chalk dust of eternity.

“What time does the train arrive…?” It never does.
At Town B, it will be a different train.
Wheels, cars, conductor, engineer, passengers – all will have grown, aged, changed.
They will barely resemble their Town A counterparts.

I am still on the train. I am the train. And the question is not
“What time will I arrive?” or “How far will I have traveled?”
But:
“Who will I be at the end of my journey?”

– 6/4/2014

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