Chapter 2 – The Worst Part of University
I took my time walking to class. I'd spent most of the day playing hermit in my room, and rather enjoyed myself. The only reason I was even enrolled in this class was because I'd already read all the course texts. For that reason alone, I shouldn't even have to go to lecture. The fact that it was a night course and I had better things to be doing with my time was also a major factor in my anti-class argument. A compromise would have suited me just fine. I could procrastinate through the first two hours of lecture and then show up for my tutorial at nine. That way I can hand in my essays and get participation marks.
My roommate isn't into compromises. She likes things her way and doesn't really care if it means I have to walk across campus alone at night. I have a fleeting suspicion that she's kicking me out of the room to do dirty things with the boys across the hall. She hasn't owned up to it yet, but I feel she's near breaking point.
I trudged across campus to what I considered the furthest building possible from our residence. Sure there were other buildings even further away, the engineering building for one, but I never go there. So clearly, my building is the furthest. Aside from its marathon distance from my residence, it's not the most attractive landmark ever created. It's dank and gray, and has peculiarly shaped gargoyles hanging from the rafters. They stare down at you in a seemingly judgemental way. If I were and author writing a fantasy story or some intense drama I'm sure I'd find them fascinating and be itching to whip out my pen. But I'm not, so they really just annoy me. They shouldn't make me feel judged; I only ever see them when I show up to class.
I walked up the steps carrying my bag containing my Oxford copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I'm too cheap to buy a second copy of Othello. After forcing the door open I grudgingly made my way up to the third floor where my class was held. A building like this really needs an elevator. I looked down to the schedule my roommate pushed into my hands while pushing both me and my bag out the door.
7:00 – 9:00: English 1A03 – Studies in Longer Genres VGH 354.
I walked down the hall watching as the numbers increased from 301, until finally I found room 354. Bonus, there was an elevator right next to the classroom door.
I pulled the door open only to find a flustered professor pulling books out of her bag. A number of eyes flickered towards me before diverting back to her. Exaggerating my movements, I lugged my bag up towards a row in the middle of the room. I listened to the groans of people as I accidentally kick knees and elbow faces while shuffling towards the center of the row.
"If you want a middle seat show up on time," someone hissed as I passed.
"Hi," I smiled. "I'm Allison," I said thrusting my hand out to shake his. I waited until he reluctantly stretched his out in return before saying, "I'm really sorry for ruining your evening by making you shift twenty degrees. Please accept my humble apology for any inconvenience I may have caused you." I paused and made sure to meet his eyes and I forced an expression of feigned sincerity onto my face. "Oh," I added quickly, "I'm late because my roommate threw me out of the room with no idea where my class was. It's not my fault she's sleeping with the entire fifth floor." I smiled at his awkward expression. "Enjoy class."
I made it to my seat – which it was considering I spent all of the class carving my name into the arm of it – just in time to hear the professor sigh and explain that she's never late, and rarely ever forgets things. Which is something I considered a little unfortunate considering that my tendencies to lateness would have been well suited in a class where the teacher takes a good fifteen minutes to organize and compose herself. Oh well, you can't have everything.
"I think I provide a very different reading of Othello than you're used to." I heard her say. I rolled my eyes as I continued to use my mechanical pencil to etch my name deeper into the seat. "I hope you've all read the play. I'm afraid that if you haven't you'll have troubles following along. We move rather quickly and it does do you good to have read the texts in their entirety before we begin discussion." I glanced down at the syllabus that was distributed by overtly keen students in the front row. Damn. The teacher had added a text, and one that I hadn't read at that. No matter, I figured I could just skip lecture those two days and read it instead. I doubt Vanessa would like that very much.
"What are you doing?" Hissed a voice to my right.
"Sorry?" I asked, genuinely unsure of what he was referring to.
"Why are you vandalizing the lecture hall?" His eyes were wide with astonishment and something that in hind sight I consider terror.
"If you knew what I was doing," I whispered back, "why did you ask?"
"You need to stop." He said, half convincingly. "They can charge you for that."
"Did you know that in Europe they sometimes charge you to use public washrooms? They also charge extra if you want a couple squares of toilet paper."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm just saying, that you can be charged for a lot of things in life. It doesn't mean that you are." I watched as a conflicted expression crossed his face. "You know..." I drifted off motioning with my hand.
"Jim." He said rather shortly.
"Jim," I repeated. "If you want people to do something, sometimes all you have to do is ask."
"If you wanted me to stop carving my name into the seat so badly then why didn't you just ask?"
"I did." He sounded offended.
"No," I said. "You told me that I needed to stop." I continued dragging the metal tip of my pencil up and down the first L of my name for effect. "You never said 'Allison, could you please stop defacing school property? It's bothering me.' Did you?" When he didn't say anything in return I shrugged my shoulders and moved on to the second L of my name. I have to say, by that point my name was looking rather striking. I was contemplating adding a star on top of the i instead of the small dot I had when I heard a mutter from beside me.
"Sorry there Jim," I said looking up at him. "Did you have something to say?"
"Would you please stop scratching up the seat? It's distracting."
I paused a moment.
"Sure," I said, smiling to him.
I spent the rest of lecture drawing shapes in my notebook and giving them mathematical names. Every once in a while I'd nudge Jim and ask "What do you think of my Flameazoid? Isn't it proportioned to perfection?" I don't think he appreciated it all that much, but he never asked me to stop, only grunted and scribbled something illegible onto the loose-leaf in front of him.
"Thank you for your time." I heard the professor say. "Those of you with tutorials now please make your way to them. The rest of you enjoy your night."
I turned to Jim. "Do you feel as if she's telling us that those with a tutorial shouldn't enjoy our night?"
"Or that we won't." He said as he gathered up his books.
"Touché," I said, overcoming my surprise. He answered me. I thought I annoyed him, but he answered me. Weird.
I walked down to the front of the lecture and rolled my eyes at all the students pushing to introduce themselves to the professor, pathetic really. I pushed the door open with my back and snorted as my new best friend Jim stretched his hand out in greeting.
I made a quick pit stop at the café in the lobby of the building. The guy behind the counter was just about to lock things up when I arrived.
"Large coffee black." I cried as I threw my hand between the wall and the gate he was moving to lock up.
"We're closed," he said looking me up and down bewildered.
"No, you were closing. I got here before you did. If you were closing that means that you weren't closed. That means you're open."
"I'm sorry miss, I've already turned off the machines."
"Oh come on," I said trying to sound as convincing as I could. "You couldn't just quickly make me a cup?" When I saw his mouth open to protest I dealt the last card in my hand. "I've got to spend the next hour discussing Shakespeare with a bunch of people who think that he wrote his own plays. If I don't get a cup of coffee one of two potentially horrible things will happen." I waited anxiously to see if he would take the bait."
"Name one." he said. Oh I so had him.
"I'll likely fall asleep, land flat on my face and fail." He laughed lightly. I smiled as he walked back towards the coffee maker.
"That's not so horrible." He said, loading in a package of grounds and turning the machine on.
"No, it's not really." I said, moving to sit down at one of the tables inside the almost closed off area of the café. I watched quietly as he put a large paper cup under the machine and it slowly fill up. "I probably wouldn't even fail, just get docked participation marks."
He smiled, "black right?"
"Yea," I said as he slid a cap onto the cup. "How much do I owe you."
"On the house." He said smiling.
"Oh come on. I just wasted a whole three minutes of your life. You're not even going to charge me?"
"What was the second reason?" he asked instead.
"Oh that," I say lightly as I walk out of the shop. "I'd get violent."
I heard him laugh as I walked around the corner and down the hall. Glancing at the numbers on doors as they went by I found the one I was looking for. Walking in I couldn't help but laugh inwardly at what I saw.
"I'm Jim. I'm in Commerce, and I chose this course because I prefer literature where the author has enough time to develop character. I don't think you can effectively do that in shorter genres."
"Hey Jim!" I said smiling. "Sorry I'm late," I added to the TA. "I got lost."
"Don't worry about it." He said smiling. "We were just introducing ourselves, name, program, and why you chose this course."
"Oh, well I'm Allison." I said smiling to everyone as I took a seat near the entrance. "I'm in Humanities, and I this course because I didn't think I'd have to read anything for it. Unfortunately the prof. added a new text... Harlem's Duet or something... anyways I haven't read that yet so I guess I'll have to read something. Oh well."
"Alright, and the last one in the back?" the TA asked, motioning to a boy sitting beside Jim.
"I'm Cole. I'm in Commerce, and I chose this course because my friend Jim wanted some company."
He smiled at me then, and I felt my stomach do a small flip.
Oh shit, I thought. He's really cute.