from zero to "that girl" in just under three years
the thirty-minute span between 3:15 and 3:45 this afternoon was the most amazing half hour i've spent in recent memory.
i was running hopelessly, shamefully, dreadfully late. i was supposed to be meeting a friend of mine on campus for some cafe au lait and chit chat when she got out of class just around 3:10. but i'd dillied, and, oh, how i'd dallied, and i still had to meet with the world's hunkiest professor before i could sit down and be social. but when i got to the english department i found a post-it note on his office door. "back at 3:20" it said. so i sat, and pulled out some work i'd brought in case of just such a waiting scenario.
it was nice to be waiting to see a teacher but to not be a student, to not have a grade at stake. 3:20 came and went. but, really, who likes to wait? especially when outside of the little campus cafe my gal pal was probably wondering where the heck i was. and still no professor. soon the benches in the hall outside his office began to fill up. first someone sat on the same bench as me on my right, then someone came and sat on my left. i kept working, kept my ears pricked anxiously for the telltale sound of his dress shoes on the tiled floor. after all, this is the fellow i have an enormous (albeit off and on) crush on... i was eager to see him, eager to see how he would fill out my recommendation form for an on-campus job i'm applying to for the fall. 3:30 rolled around, and still he wasn't there.
the woman next to me sighed. "what class of his are you in?" she asked. i laughed. "oh, ha, well, actually, i'm not, i just need a form filled out. i've had him before, though, for a few classes." she seemed nervous, tense. "yeah, he's intimidating. he's tough," she said, fussing with a book and some papers. again, i laughed. we traded minor observations about his teaching style, his approach; hers were about being overwhelmed, mine were, well, subtle, all things considered. then a former professor of mine passed by. "hi, punkin!" he greeted enthusiastically. "oh, hey!" i said in return. i turned to my fearful benchmate. "where is he, anyhow? i'm supposed to meet my friend. i'm going to have to tease him about this!"
then another former professor of mine walked by--really, the hunky professor aside, she's my absolute favorite teacher. she stopped at our bench. "hello, punkin!" she said. "you know, i read your work," she said, referencing the publication that was put out a couple of weeks ago, "and it was great. i really enjoyed it. i was really quite impressed." and as i thanked her, she ducked in to a co-worker's office. my benchmate looked at me, incredulously. "wow. that must feel great," she said. i was feeling, admittedly, like a little bit of a celebrity. and she was right--it did feel great to hear such praise. "it's been a long few years here," i said, more out of personal amazement than for conversational relevance. and it has. i'd gone from quiet, withdrawn and anonymous, vowing never to make school friends, never to feel attached to the english department, to being an actual someone, with pals and the respect of some amazing professors.
moments later i heard the shoes, and saw the man at the end of the hall. he was all in black, shades still on, cup of coffee in one hand, satchel in the other. hasn't changed a bit save for a little extra padding in the gut area. still drop dead gorgeous. still making me forget how to string words together into cohesive sentences, at least outside of papers on topics regarding the study of early english literature. "ah, punkin," he said, "you must be here for your thing." "yes, yes, my thing," i said, aiming to sound coy. "well, come on in..." i sprang to my feet, feeling rather top-of-the-heap considering the small line that had formed outside his door. "sit down, please...ah, yes, here's your thing..." he pulled out the form i'd left for him, and uncapped a pen. "now, let's see, what is it i'm recommending you for?" i explained, and he began to check off my qualifications, reading his selections aloud as he went. "exceptional, yes, i'd say you were an exceptional writer..." and so on, checking 'exceptional' in each box, then pausing to scrawl a brief sentence in the optional area at the bottom. he ribbed me about one bad grade he'd given me, then reminded me gently he was only teasing. he explained that he wasn't going to write a great deal, that all they were looking for was a bit of information, and that with my grades, and with his high recommendation, i'd be a sure choice. i told him my other professor--the fan of my writing--had said the same, and he laughed. "she and i are often in accord," he explained. i tried to be witty, but, as usual, i was marble-mouthed in his presence. why did it always seem he was flirting with me?
he reached the bottom of the page and signed his name. "'position'?" he read, amused. "professor," he said, "mmm, like on gilligan's island
." my heart dropped. did he know
? quick, punkin, make a joke
, i thought. "but can you fix a radio?" i asked. (god, that was so stupid
, i thought.) but he laughed, "no, i can't fix a radio," then, "you're going to take a class with me as a master's student, right?" he said. "oh, i suppose i could work up the nerve for that..." i said, again aiming for coy, flirtatious, though probably hitting pathetic on the mark. i remembered the poor woman sitting outside, worried about her grade, worried about how intimidating he was, able to hear everything we were saying, all the random bursts of laughter, since he kept his door wide open while in his office. what must she think of this conversation?
i wondered. "as i recall, you've done extremely well in my classes. what's your gpa with me, like a 3.86?" "if you're counting the a minuses," i said, frowning. he smiled. (egads, so handsome!) "i'd say that was pretty impressive..." and i smiled. "i'll be there. i'll see you in the fall!" and i left as he offered his goodbye in return. i stopped in front of the nervous woman on the bench. "well, bye," i said warmly. "and good luck!"
i walked down the hall, feeling about ten shades brighter than cool. i felt a little triumphant, a little like a big fish in a small pond.
of course, the epilogue to the story is that my friend had just about given up waiting and had used the last of her cellphone's battery to call her boyfriend to come pick her up. we had about ten minutes to chat as we perched in wait on the steps near the parking lot. not exactly as we'd planned. but there'll be other days to gab, and, something tells me, other days of getting to feel pretty damn good for just being me.