Classroom Showdown

“Attention professors of New Paltz: you really need to stop calling upon me when my hand is neither raised nor has it twitched since you walked in. I know that this stolid face of mine that you see looking in your general area through the obscurity of tapering eyelids looks like it has something interesting or important to say, but no. That twinkle in my eye, which you seem to have mistaken for intellectual vigor, is in fact the glassiness resulted from staring at the wall behind you for so long. So, I hope my message is comprehended fully, and that there shall be no more confusion. I shall see you all in your respective classes. Thank you, and do enjoy the rest of this lovely Spring day.”

I click the submit button on my Facebook status update. I then glance at the “redrum” red halogen numbers on my mini-fridge, and leave the comfort of my desk to go through the trials of the day, the numbing obstacle course, the charade of academic verve – my classes.

The class sits quietly in unrest, waiting for their least favorite course to begin. The door to the classroom opens. Professor Lyons, hello. We meet again for the second time this week.

“Hello class, how are you guys doing?” You ask us this questions with that cold disdain only a disillusioned teacher could truly express. No one responds.

“Class, tell me, what did you think of the chapter?” He began abruptly, like a close-range gun shot.

The upright students listen as his voice peaks at the end of his sentence. Their heads drop to the blank notebooks on their desks – an instant leveling of the posture and integrity of each student.

He’s already made his decision as his gaze wanders between the aisles of each student. Think Dave. Think! What to say? What to say?

“David! Tell us, what did you think of the chapter?” Panic! OK, what are my personal reflections and constructive criticisms about a 59 page chapter I haven’t seen, in a used book I’ve never opened? How do I exert an air of studious admirability while being in a state of hysteria and unease?

“Um, I liked it!”

Nice one, Dave.

“Interesting.” He knows my game, and by god he knows it well. “Explain.”

“Oh, well you know, I felt it was very realistic.” Bam! That’s called magic, ladies.

“I’m so glad to see this book is touching you the way it has. Can you give me a specific part in the chapter?” Oh, you son of a bitch. You wanna dance, let’s dance.

“Well,” I look down at the cover of my book. The cover-art is nothing but an archaic oil painting of a woman in her mid-twenties, or maybe in her late forties depending on the cash this broad laid out for this work of mediocre eye-candy. The words Pride and Prejudice are below this needy spinster, with a font type to recreate the lettering of the 19th century time period – nice touch, Penguin Classics.

“I really enjoyed, on a personal level, the main character’s overall mental development from girl to woman, daughter to wife, sister to mother, and most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed her intellectual maturity as exhibited through the book’s narration. I’m sure you can agree.” I think Rite Aid has the intensive ointment you need for that burn, Lyons.

“Actually, I disagree,” said Lyons. “I think the book is a testament to Elizabeth’s enduring intellectual maturity and overall moral sensibility. I’m sure you can agree.”

Why the hell isn’t anybody else chiming in? This is a class of 35 students for god’s sake! It’s not like they’re not paying attention, each pair of blood-stricken watery eyes are staring at me; waiting for me to come back with a small-worded retort.

“Um, true…” Quick thinkin’, slick. “Agree to disagree then,” even quicker.

“I don’t know if I’m willing to let you off the hook that easily.” He smirks. “Come on David, convince me.” This is a literature professor’s version of popping a switchblade.

“Well, I don’t know, I guess, um, I’ll have to get back to you with that one.” Oh god, I feel like a wounded giraffe.  I’m sure this is not the effect Jane Austen intended for her following of effeminate readers.

“Next class, then” Outstanding. I think I just scheduled my first duel. I don’t know whether to actually read the book now, or come back with the Bloods. Lyons turns his back on me to get his expensive edition out of his leather-ish briefcase. I could strike him now, but I feel like it would be a worse cop-out than me just sitting here wide-eyed. I do like your shoes though. “Aw thanks, Dave. They’re actually from Payless believe it or not.”

“What?” What?

“What?” He tenses as he whips around and looks at me.

“What?” I tense.

Samantha Tansey

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