I raised my hand. With a response on the cusp on my lips, I heard my professor call a different name. The girl behind me raised her hand higher. I dropped my hand and pretended to scratch my ear as if it was really itchy in the first place.
My instructor dismissed our class when the intro-discussion on Medieval age ended. I never studied it before, but a lot of it involved people cutting into each other’s lives. A lot of white people murdering each other, having sex with each other’s wives and husbands, and mystical creatures shapeshifting beautiful people into ugly hags. It sounded a lot like the stuff I watched on television.
I intentionally packed my bags as fast as I could, making sure to clasp the side-release buckle on my bag as swiftly and quietly as possible. The buckle pinched my finger. I shook it, eliminating whatever pain I feel. Some students that already left the classroom stood by the elevator outside, interacting with each other about their plans for the week. They were enveloped in their conversation. I strolled past them to take the fire exit stairs. I whistled some random notes of some song I made up at the moment and they echoed in the staircase.
When I arrived at my next class, I opened the door and plenty of eyes stared at me. There were brown and green and blue and hazel ones.They probably expected the professor I thought. After all, no matter how bad or a good one was, professors had the ability to keep students at the edge of their seats. Disappointed in the fact that I wasn’t there to teach, my classmates reverted their eyes back to their pixelated cellphone screens.
(I wore a red and gray striped sweater in the sea of glum faces and black-and-gray clothing combinations. If I were Waldo’s student, he would be pissed at me for sticking out like a thumb.)
I chose a seat at the front of the classroom. I always liked the front because I heard somewhere that you were more than likely to get a better grade if you sat in the front. This meant your focus would be imperative. Front, back, side – it didn’t matter. I knew I was smart as a whip, but I also knew that most of the seats in the back were already taken or reserved. It’s like being on the subway: you either stand the whole ride or you sit right next to the bearded man with smelly fingers. The front would work for now. Considering the fact that I was studying poetry for this class, I needed to focus more than usual.
I had trouble focusing, because there were so many more things interesting than studying poetry itself. Take for instance: the people in the class. At one moment after I arrived, a lanky man walked through the door with the confidence of a racehorse. He wore an herringbone overcoat and a bowler hat made of wool. When students thought that he was going to stand at the front and address us, he took a seat. Looks could be deceiving.
It’s tough to focus with a view of the window from my desk, I couldn’t help but wonder how it was like outside. The tree scratching at the surface of the window pane sounded way more depressing than Poe when he talked about dead pallid women. When trees swayed, they swayed with the winter winds. When they stood still, they were enveloped by sun rays. When they were naked in the hue of red and orange, autumn probably arrived. It must be lonely to be tree in the city.
I slouched in my chair, toying around with my pen as if I were in my room. The professor eventually entered the room. “Hey class,” he says. “How y’all doing?” He must be from the South.
I straightened my posture a bit and opened the pages to my notebook. He asked us to introduce ourselves, tell him a little bit about ourselves and what we studied.
What was something interesting I could tell the class? I thought about all the adventures I’ve had. I’ve lived in many countries before. Maybe I could say that I’ve climbed Deer Mountain in Alaska and camped atop of it during the Summer Solstice. Perhaps I could tell everyone that my first kiss was in Italy. Or I might let them know that I worked as an elementary school librarian in South Korea.
“What’s your name?” the professor asked.
“Kris. I’m an English major. Don’t know when I’m going to graduate.”
“Name one interesting thing about yourself, Kris.”
“Interesting? Well, I went to Vegas this Christmas break. Got addicted to craps. And it was pretty fun” I replied unconsciously.
Silence pervaded the room. No responses or laughter. Is that a sweat bead on my forehead? Too much of a gamble I thought. Now everyone thinks I’m a lying douchebag.
I stretched my legs and I put my hands in my pocket. They were the same pants that I hadn’t washed since that rooftop party at Caesar’s Palace.
Class continued with twenty more other people introducing their own selves.I tried to listen to each and every person, but it proved hard because there were just too many people to remember. It honestly didn’t matter because half of them were going to drop the class anyway, and I was right. A week later, the classroom looked less like the express train on a Monday morning.
The last class that day was certainly not too memorable.
As an icebreaker I was supposed to write about a book that had affected me in my life. While I listened to most people talk about their lives, rambling on about why and how the book changed their life, class time was running out. I was one of the final people to speak. Everyone had already clocked out mentally, because class was about to end. I told everyone about a book that changed my life. The response was the same as the previous class. Now everybody thinks I’m a pretentious douchebag.
You probably already know that I took the train back, so no need to explain that too much. Everyone takes a train every now and again, but in the city only those that need to get to point B. The only feeling that I felt on the commute back was invisible. But who doesn’t feel invisible these days? Well, to me that ain’t so much a rhetorical question. It’s pretty clear why I would feel invisible, but I wouldn’t burden you the time to tell you why. Just know that I’m listening.
I walked out the first day that semester feeling invisible. Yeah, invisible is the right word. Too many times can I recall what it means. According to some racial studies classes, my place in society is at the back of the line. I’m the unwanted presence outside of the discussion circle. But let us not resort to the easiness of a race argument. Let’s make it about my own experience.
It harkens back too many times when I was a new kid. I always have been the new kid, and so many of you too have felt this way.
Hell, I recall the times in high school when I sat in the library with a book in my hand. During lunch, barely anybody went to the library. Yet, when someone would walk past me, I would pretend to be reading the most sophisticated book I could possibly find on the shelves. I would furrow my eyebrows, rub my chin, and clear my throat. “The Sun Also Rises” is first book that I tried to read. It’s the one book that I never read, yet told everybody to read after that day. The librarian, a man with neatly combed and curly hair, told me the writer’s prose was terse and straightforward. I connected with terse and straightforward. It was what I was all about.