It was the last day of class. Finally I would be free from the toils of the mountains of essays and the relentless onslaught of writing page after page of dull, lifeless prose that sucked out my soul and left dark rings under my eyes. No longer would I have to sit in the classroom that smelled of wet cardboard and stale kitty litter and listen to Professor Hammond’s twin prattle on about Iambic Pentameter while making a makeshift beat on his podium, losing it about five seconds in and restarting the lesson from the top.
I was positive that I had begun to develop a brain tumor out of stress, not due to difficulty, but out of frustration that he insisted on using the space bar when the tab key would indent the correct amount already. I was mentally exhausted from holding back audible screams of rage when ever he would look into my eyes and proceed to center his words using his fast little clicks.
Tiptiptiptiptiptiptiptip “Oh darn, too far” Tack Tack Tack Tack Tiptiptiptiptip
My right eye twitched as I thought about it. I watched the line of sugar ants along the wall and rested my feet against the legs of the desk in front of me, strumming my fingernails along the table top of my seat. This was my last class before I transferred and began my new life as Me 2.0, College Student, Working Professional, National Treasure. The last two were in progress but in due time I was sure I would get there.
I turned my head and there he was, my tether to sanity these last five weeks. He wore a white t-shirt with a faded fishing logo on the front and a pair of dark worn jeans. Why did all his clothes have to cling to him as if he was covered in static electricity?
“Hey” I smiled and sat up in my seat, watching him gracefully slide into his own and stretch his arms above his head.
The hem of his shirt rose with his movement, exposing tight golden skin along the waist of his jeans. I could hear the angels singing. I felt like I was suddenly in the ending scene of Les Miserables where everyone is sing talking their feelings and it’s raining French bread. Wolverine was there, telling Princess Mia that he likes that fact that she’s a princess. Fine, I fell asleep during that movie, but either way it was a brief but magical moment that caused my eye lids to get strangely heavy with phantom tears of ecstasy.
My eyes snapped up to meet his. I almost hated making eye contact with him. It was hypnotizing. The icy steel of his eyes froze my brain and slowed my heart. Everything was white noise with him. It terrified and delighted me. It was as if he stopped the eternal pendulum of my mind with his finger. Everything was still.
“R-ready for what?”
Saif lowered his arms and the golden skin was once again covered by cloth. He turned towards the notes on his desk, breaking what ever spell he had in his gaze.
Flipping through his notebook he smirked and furrowed his brow. “Our final thing is today, right? That essay is due?”
I felt the gears in my head creak and turn at last. “Oh! Yea, It’s due by tonight at midnight on BlackBoard. To be honest, I’m not sure why we’re here since it’s all on the internet.”
He narrowed his eyes at something on his page and then shut the notebook, letting pages flip through his fingers until the last one slipped through his fingers.
Other people began to file into the room and the class was slowly filling. A guy with an abnormally large head and an obscure tribal tattoo snaking up his right arm walked down the aisle of desks and stood in the space between me and Saif. His back pack was practically hitting me in the face. I sighed and leaned as far as I could away from the fear of getting my eye lid caught on the dented Miami bottle opener keychain that dangled from the pocket closest to my face.
“You going to Gene’s? A lot of us are going to have a little party after class.” Tattoo man shifted his weight and the back pack pressed closer to my face. I tapped my finger impatiently on my desk. I could hear the desk creak as Saif straightened his posture.
“I might show up.” I heard a cough and then in a lower volume, Saif spoke to the man, “I’ll go, but can I bring someone?”
Oh, hello. Someone? I mean it could be anyone, but it could also very well be me.
“Yea, man, ‘course you can! Shit, ask Professor Hammond if you want.”
The backpack finally swung out of my face and the sharp tooth of the bottle opener flew past the tip of my nose. I instinctively touched it with the back of my hand. Saif was leaning over now, resting on his elbows and smiling at the clumsy man with the tribal tattoo.
“God, ya’ll should invite him. I’ll buy him a beer”, he said with a hint of laughter.
Tattoo man mimicked his expression and opened his mouth to speak but I didn’t hear anything he was saying. I was listening to a group of girls on the other side of the room.
“I don’t think he’s coming”, one said, smacking a wad of gum with every other syllable. From the little I had overheard from her during the course of this class, she was married with three young children. She maybe mid-twenties and had her hair cut in a edged bob that was harshly angled this way and that. The smacking was disgustingly loud. “I SMACK didn’t SMACK see SMACK his SMACK car SMACK in the SMACK lot.”
“You know what his car looks like?” The other two girls I knew nothing about except that they were much quieter than the gossipy head of their triad. I assumed they were friends outside of class due to their synchronization. Both wore black yoga pants and patterned compression tops of alternating colors. Their messy hair was tied into buns that sprouted little spikes of loose strands and a thick headband kept the mass of it from falling into their faces. If they had been siamese twins post separation, I would not have be surprised.
“I saw him get in to a little old Buick once, but anyways, I went to his office. Not there.” She took out her phone and swiped her fingers on the screen. “Nothing on blackboard either. Danielle, you know Danielle? She has him in the class before this one and said he didn’t show up for hers neither. ‘Said they just left.”
One of the twins tilted her head and frowned. “You think he fell? Old people fall all the time. What if something happened?”
I looked around the room. It appeared that the rest of the class were also listening to their conversation. A murmur filled the air as people began speculating what was happening.
“There wasn’t anything on blackboard.”
“He didn’t say anything on there?”
A gray man in an ill-fitting gray suit stepped into our classroom and the murmurs stopped.
“Professor Hammond hasn’t checked in with us about missing class. I’ve just been informed that he was absent from his earlier class as well so just so ya’ll know this is extremely unlike him and quite frankly we’re all a bit worried. All attempts to contact him at this point has been a failure.” He pursed his lips together and tugged at his loose sleeves, looking down his long pale nose as if he smelled something foul. “Policy dictates that you are to remain present in the absence of your professor for fifteen minutes without penalty. After that you can leave but just sit tight incase he shows up.”
The murmur once again grew as the man walked out of the room. I checked the clock. Our class began at 6:00 and it was now 6:10. Five more minutes and we were to leave but where was that little old man in the straw hat that always hobbled in on a gnarled old cane. I started to feel bad about the way I had treated his class. To me it had been a chore that I was adamant about disliking, but to him it was his life’s work. I felt horrible. What if something had really happened to him? I groaned and put my head on my desk.
I’m an awful person.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and I knew who it was immediately.
“Hey, what do you think happened?” Saif’s voice drifted into my ears like the sound of a spanish guitar. No, no, this is not the time for fantasies.
“I don’t even know but I feel horrible now.” I sat up and ran a hand through my hair. “I mean, I feel like shit now. That poor guy!”
He tapped a pencil against his desk and nodded. “Yea, I know. God, I could have been nicer in my emails. I think everyone is feeling that now.”
I looked around the room and he was right, the other students were in the same positions as our own, even the triad of gum smacking girls from earlier. Wringing their hands, a look of guilt on their faces, they were all included in the rapidly filling pool of self-hate that was our classroom.
At 6:13, we all began to solemnly pack up our things. It was our last day of class. We would never know what happened to the eccentric Professor Hammond with his hobbit stature and fascination with simple computer operations. Maybe we would see something on the news and that would put our minds to rest, an accident or some sort of police coverage. Either way, he was missing and the worst scenarios filled our heads with poison.
“Sorry, I’m late! I took lunch at home this afternoon with my wife and over-napped.”
I raised my head and there he was in his little amish man on his way to Mordor outfit. Over-napped? Here we all were thinking he had broken a hip or was currently simmering in a pot of Professor Hammond chili and he had just been a little sleepy?
“I ain’t dead yet! Old Grimmy can’t touch this.”
After class ended, I grabbed my stuff and walked to the parking lot.
“Hey! Wait! Just one sec!”
I turned and Saif was running towards me. I was reminded that it was the last day of class. I would probably never see him again. He slowed to a jog and then stopped in front of me.
“You walk insanely fast, you know that? I looked up and you were gone.” He caught his breath and put his hands on his hips.
“Yea, sorry. It’s a habit, I guess. Dark parking lot, don’t really like walking in it at night.” I gestured around to the dimly lit lot. There were a few cars sparsely spread out but it was essentially empty.
He looked around. “Yea I get that, it is kinda creepy, but anyways listen.” He ran a hand through his hair and rested it on the back of his neck. “A lot of people from class are going to this bar right now. Go with- just come with us? You can follow my truck.”
I made a face. “I can’t actually, I have work tomorrow and I’m not 21.”
He actually looked disappointed. “Oh, yea, I see.” He pulled out his phone.
Now I was sure I was a bad person. I genuinely liked this guy and it completely looked like a lame excuse. “No, no really I just can’t.”
He frowned at his phone. “Hey, if you can’t, you can’t. No big deal there. Shit, my phone just died. Could I use yours to send a text real quick?” He looked back up at me and there was something in his eyes. His mouth fought a smile as he put his phone into the pocket of his jeans.
“Um, yea sure, here.” I pulled mine out of my purse and unlocked it before placing it in his hand.
He smiled and then I heard a buzz come from his pocket. It dawned on me.
“Did you just give yourself my number?” I laughed at how cliche it was.
“I did actually! I didn’t want to just ask and I was planning on being super smooth later but since you can’t go I had to do some kind of wow factor.” He was actually blushing now and brought out his own phone, saving the number to a contact.
“Well I am wowed. That was just. I mean boom goes the dynamite right there. Mind blown.”
He laughed and we both talked as he walked me to my car. He was transferring to the University of Texas next semester and I the University of Houston. It was kind of sad in a way. He even opened my drivers’ side door for me and shut it when I was in. I rolled down my window and thanked him. He assured me that we’d see each other again. He had my number and I had his. He stepped back and I rolled my window up.
I decided to go ahead and pull through as there wasn’t a car in front of me. I pressed gas and I saw his eyes open wide and he waved me to stop. Too late. I felt my tires roll over the giant concrete barrier in front of the space. There were only two of those in this lot still remaining and sure enough I had parked in front of one and forgotten about it. I bit my lip and looked at him. He shrugged and grimaced.
I had no choice but to keep going now. I felt the second row of tires go over and my car was steady again. I awkwardly waved as I subconsciously beat myself over the head with a tube sock full of combination locks, driving away into the night.
Well I completely ruined that moment.