Very recently, I discovered that my survey teacher is also an undergraduate adviser for the English department – as, in my experience, survey teachers are apt to be. This taken into account, I’ve been contemplating visiting his office hours. When I imagine how such a visit would go, the opener goes something like this, “Hello, Sir, do you know me? I’m in your 18th and 19th century survey class… you once instructed me to slap the sleeping student in the desk that comes before mine and I was delayed in my response because I was lost in my notebook and only partially paying attention.”
“Yes, Kathryn, I already know who you are,” he might say.
Oddly, this is how professors usually respond when I preface interactions with an explanation of how our lives overlap enough to justify my making contact with them. Somehow, this never ceases to surprise me. Maybe this is because I’m one of those animals who maintains the preconceived and long-outdated notion that if I sit anywhere from the middle to the back of the classroom or lecture hall and keep my head down, the professor (and everyone else for that matter) will somehow remain unaware of my existence, save for the initials scrawled next to my faceless name on the roll sheet. And every time, the recognition is not only unexpected, but mildly disconcerting for some reason.
But I digress. As I am wont to do. *Blogging Stick*
Then the survey professor might ask me if I’ve stopped by to see the painting that he mentioned in class that ties back to a poem we read, or if I had some question or insight about What’s-His-Name Goldsmith’s proto-feminist undertones in She Stoops To Conquer. To which I’d have to say, “Well, no. Not at all. I have worse reasons for being here, stupider ones, and I’d lie if I didn’t mention that I’m also here to scout out your bookshelves because I may not be well read, but I am rather fond of book spines, including but not exclusive to anthologies like the Norton Doorstop.”
“What might these stupid reasons be?” he’d say – a line of dialogue provided here to break up these enormous blocks of text which will, very shortly, grow to unreasonable proportions.
“I have inquiries as to how the gears of enrollment work at this fine institution, because I’m wondering what might happen if I take a semester off…”
And for the purposes of this blogpost, he wouldn’t directly answer my question as he undoubtedly would in Real Life. Instead he would say, “Why would you want to do a thing like that?”
To which I would respond, “Professor Sir, I wouldn’t say I’m at a crossroads, per se, in my tiny, suburban life, but a prolonged moment of stagnation that would be simple and effortless for anyone with half a brain to pull themselves out of. Alas, you see, access to cerebral faculties necessary for accomplishing such a task were rendered unavailable to me after I foolishly removed my brain from my skull, and sat on it, thereby making it go numb. Now when I try and use it, on those few and far occasions I get a response of any kind, it’s all pins and needles.
“Mind you, it’s not the ENTIRE thing that’s gone numb, just the parts that would enable me to pull myself out of this mess. And it is a mess, Professor Sir. Mostly shards of broken martini glasses, because there’s a petulant brat in my brain throwing them against the wall of a garden shed, embarrassing the ungodly hell out of her bourgeois parents at their bourgeois cocktail party in front of their bourgeois friends. She’s screaming the whole time, too, which brings me to repent for the error of painting her as being at an outdoor cocktail party in the company of people: that’s an intermittent delusion. In actuality, she’s in a confined space, and you can tell because when she screams it all bounces back in a horrible, endless cacophony of petty screeches, rants and caterwauls about how life’s not FAIR, and it’s always somebody else’s fault, and how she couldn’t wear the dress she wanted to wear today because it has yet to be acquired and the second-best runner-up is detained at the dry cleaners and for that someone should PAY. And how dreadful to confess that this woman is really me, but at the same time she’s separate enough that I can feel my patience rapidly thinning from having to endure her as I sit in a series of desks, day after undergrad day, with this cacophonous screaming and glass-shattering – it’s the screaming, mostly, that gets to me. Sometimes she’ll use her fists on the walls, too, either ignoring or in direct defiance of the fact that the walls that enclose her are actually the very brain – MY VERY BRAIN – that I’ve been sitting on all these years. It’s bruising and it’s hemorrhaging from her abuse, and it may be too numb for me to feel it, but suffice it to say, I’ve had quite enough. I sit in class and I dissociate with pen in hand because paying attention is hopeless (believe me, I’ve tried), and anywhere is better than here, and she’s everywhere because I’m everywhere, at least as far as my personal human experience is concerned. I’m tired of being insulated in this incessant shit, and I’m tired of standing there in the brain-room with her and being her, sometimes finding myself staring at an open exit and wondering why the fuck I can’t get myself to go through, and why, those times I do go through, it spits me out into the very room from whence I came.
“So I was thinking I would skip a semester and fly to the other side of the country, maybe even in an aircraft, to smoke ‘vegetarian joints’ with Igby Slocumb and Sookie Sapperstein in Central Park – have you seen that movie? I rather like it, myself – Come to think of it, this would reinforce insulation, because those people are actually fictional characters and when I would speak with them, I’d really be talking to myself and one thing would lead to another and I’d be back to listening to my own – her own – angry shouts like a boot stamping on a human face forever. And wasn’t Camus right when he concluded that all this philosophical consciousness is the perilous toxin of the human condition, and isn’t it a shame that all of our favorite paperbacks will inevitably eat themselves alive with their acid-paper, and isn’t it a shame, Monsieur Professor Sir, that none of this matters anyway? That the Myth of Meaning was such a seductive lie, just like those of Monogamy and Starbucks. But maybe – just maybe – if I took a break from sitting in these stupid desks and being a slave to the ingrained routines I’ve etched into my everything, I could listen to something else besides all this insolent noise. Maybe I could get that bitch to shut the fuck up once and for all and my ears could be tuned to hear the ocean instead, because that’s what happens when you put an empty beer bottle to your ear, isn’t it? And maybe I could realize that this ocean isn’t something I would drown in but something onto which I could set forth and have adventures like Robinson Crusoe, minus the slave-driving I would hope, which I never read despite you assigning it. And maybe this new noise would be empowering and maybe, in the event I find myself overboard, it would result in a tea party with mermaids and not some horrible drowning sensation that couldn’t be unlike the room I’ve been stuck in, unless of course I was ACTUALLY thrown overboard because the sea was upset from my disobedience and the crew caught onto the fact that I committed myself to their voyage not to live into a divine appointment, but to run from it, and being thrown into the tireless ocean wouldn’t result in tea parties with mermaids – however tea parties are supposed to work underwater – but would result in me sitting in the belly of a big fish until that day that may never come: the day when I come to my better senses and say, ‘Okay, Jesus, I’ll return to Nineveh University and complete the coursework for my already-ridiculously-delayed and subjectively-useless major.’
“So what do you think? Should I take a semester off?”
To which I imagine my professor replying, “Go home, English Major, and do your reading for once.”
Now, for the weather: