I take my seat, begrudgingly. Even classes I enjoy I surrender to with reluctance and mild dread. High school’s tyranny, the hellish 50 minutes of straightjacket mediocrity, has made me forever the wounded cynic.
The professor enters in a hurry. Not because she’s late, but because she’s always busy. Immediately, I sit up straighter. Busyness is contagious. It promotes health, progress, and success. When you’re a senior, these things become important. I shudder at the silent, sickly, ivory freshman, obviously hung over, with his greasy hair and awkward beard. I deplore his apathy (he’s my opposite, but wasn’t I once the same!).
The professor and her books: I pay close attention to her edition of Barthes. She lifts the old cover and touches the browned, stiff pages. Margin notes are rare and short and I imagine they express the most poignant, pointed, scholarly thought. Her hands intimate a compassion for the text’s body, the text’s life. The entire mystery and lure of Academia exists in the sensual tension between her fingers and the paper.
I grasp my new copy with the cheap paper and carelessly stylized cover. If only I could have hers! We talk about desire. The text is not the origin of our discussion or the end. In some ways it’s only a companion and a tool.
The first time I speak is always strange. Introducing my voice as a player in the classroom, it has to acclimate to the quality of air, the dynamics and subtle nuances of this day’s discussion. I adjust. Ideas take shape, excite, evolve. I push myself, trying to make sense with my clumsy language, learning how to quickly order my words. On good days, I fall into an intoxicating groove. The professor listens, facilitates, (through her students) the professor is forever young.
The inspiring seminar extends to every part of my life. I certainly fetishize the material existence of books, but I am more enraptured by the ideas and thought that transcend the object and permeate throughout my day. I leave class stimulated, I’m more engaged in conversation, and the smallest things are fascinating. My shirt collar, a chair, the computer screen. I can’t wait to sit down to read, write, and explore. It’s a palpable happiness (my vision is more crisp, I swear). Literature will be with me my entire life. I’ll never stop learning. How happy that makes me!
The professor walks in, agitated. The fluorescent lights flicker. He looks at the class with a scowl. We are not people. We are an undistinguished mass of bodies he must suffer
I’m still on my iPhone. I slip it in my pocket instead of on the floor in my bag. Is this a conscious or unconscious decision? Who cares. I’ll inevitably check the time soon, pray for a text message, and spend the next two hours deciding on the most clever response.
This man makes literature suffocate. The book in his hands is a caging, blunt object. Stammering he says, “What he meant was. In the preface he tells us. Any other reading is wrong. Because, of course, the felt life!” He slams the book on the table like a judge’s hammer ruling death. He is the figure of criminal authority, vessel for God the Author. This is not a text, this is a textbook. “Now, moving on to Mann’s use of Flaubertian repetition—what? That passage? That passage is obviously unimportant. But the repetition.”
The book is a tumor, a dumb rock between my temples, and I can’t push my intellect any further through it. When my mind is stilted my body craves release. I expend my energy in strange, perverse ways.
My leg brushes against the girl sitting next to me. In my desperation, I mistake this for sex. She is the object of all my desire that’s been reduced to a wholly physical, animal horniness. How can I fuck you with this book and pencil?
The professor is screaming. Nobody’s listening. Amidst my terrible boredom I’m day dreaming a Dionysian celebration. The women in my class “[shriek], holding their breasts in both hands.” The men are “horned and hairy.” I pour cheap tequila all over the girl’s body and lick it up. Burn my fucking books. After class, I look at shit on the Internet and make some phone calls. Get drunk. Literature helps no one.
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