Image by neil-san via Flickrinstructor walked among the desks asking questions of individual students. He was having one of his eccentric, ramble-on-about-anything-other-than-class-material days. And, on this day his questions were mostly about life.
“Where do you want to go?” he asked a student. He hadn't ask me, so I tuned out the answer. “If you were going on a trip to Mars…,” he asked another, but I never heard the rest of the question.
My mind was mostly elsewhere, lost in thoughts about my own life and recent trials with love.
“Mr. Roth." Hearing my name caused me to focus, though I only answered by sitting up more straightly.
“What do you think you can accomplish in life?”
I wasn’t sure where to begin, so I bought some time by saying, “There are a lot of things that I’d like to accomplish, can you be more specific?”
My question was answered with silence as the teacher walked away from me and toward the back of the classroom. It was a common technique in his class; his larger-than-life stature was commanding even without his bellowing voice.
Though I rambled about travel and education and family, it was the last thing I said that halted his gait. “I’ve been raised to believe that I can accomplish anything I want and that’s just the way it is.”
His answer didn’t come in verbal form. He strode back to his desk at the front of the room, sat down, leaned back in his chair, and with fingers laced on his chest he said, “Let sisters be sisters.”
With this verbal cue, the rest of the class jumped up from their desks and headed for the door. My folders were as scattered as my thoughts, so it took me a bit longer to put them in my backpack. When I was the last one in the room, the instructor walked over to me carrying a folded piece of notebook paper in his hand. In my mind's eye, I recalled a memory of giving a draft of my book to him for review. The notebook paper must be his comments. Though he and I were on good terms, I often avoiding looking directly into his gaze, this time was no different. Instead, I peered at the paper he carried and made out one word, in caps, at the top of the page.
“We’ll have to submit this one to collections,” he said, then handed me the page and walked away.
And then, I woke up.