It was the first day of my final semester in college, or as my friends and I officially deemed it, “Senioritis Awareness Day.” This day had been a long time coming. I celebrated it preemptively last year only to realize doing so too early can seriously jeopardize the likelihood of you celebrating Senioritis Awareness Day in its proper year of observance. But I made it. One more semester and I’m out of here. Classes were carefully selected based entirely on class start time, workload, and online lecture availability. I was a set for an epic spring.
We rang in Senioritis Awareness Day at the stroke of midnight with several rounds of shots involving prune juice–going with the “senior” theme, if I remember correctly–and I was in pretty bad shape when I woke up for my early morning, 2:00 PM class. I got there late but still managed to find a strategic seat in the back of the classroom where I could sit in peace and quiet, celebrating Senioritis Awareness Day as is customary: by not listening to a word being said in class and doing the crossword puzzle I’d strategically hidden inside my textbook. I opened up my textbook to the puzzle, dug into my backpack to get a pen, and then it hit me worse than my splitting headache. Dammit! In my hungover rush to get to class on time I’d completely forgotten to bring a pen. Ugh. I blame the prune juice. And by taking my seat in the time-out-corner of the classroom there wasn’t even anyone nearby to borrow one from. Dammit to hell. Now I can’t even doodle to pass the time. Ugh. Maybe if I just zone out……
“Hi I’m Ben. I’m a senior. Studying economics, and I’m taking this class because….”
Whatever, Ben. I could care less. I’m officially tuning you out….now. You and that stupid, preppy-ass shirt. You look like an orphaned golf caddy. You’re taking this class because it’s easy as hell. Or at least I am. “Gods and Monsters: Supreme Beings in Children’s Literature.” Seriously? A whole class on ogres and fairy tales? Gotta love liberal arts. It’s senior spring and I’m officially coasting.
“I’m Janice, also a senior, and this class ties in really well to my thesis since….”
Oh for the love of….whatever Gods she’s studying. Poor Janice. She actually seems sincere in what she’s saying. Four years of college, hundreds of thousands of dollars in education, and her crowning achievement will be a thesis on sexism in Viking fairy tales. That’ll be a huge boon to her job prospects come graduation. If there’s one thing companies need in this economic climate, it’s a fine understanding of the phallic symbolism in Norse mythology. Maybe that’s a bit like the pot calling the kettle black, being a philosophy major myself and all. Though at least I recognize the futility of my major. Or do I? Damn existentialism classes.
“Steve here, sophomore, heard about this class from a buddy of mine and sounded pretty sweet….”
No, Steve, no! You do not take this your sophomore year! I’m not one to plan out my life besides by what days of the week the dining hall has popcorn chicken, but you always, always, save the GUT classes for senior year. That’s like riding the ski lift down the mountain. Or filling up on fro-yo before the popcorn chicken. Now you’re going to be stuck taking an actual class with actual coursework your last semester while your friends are boozing it up on the quad. Though from the looks of it you may not make it that far. Godspeed, Steve. Godspeed.
“I’m X, also a senior, and I’m interested in this class…”
No that’s not a typo. I really have no idea what “X’s” name was. Right when he started talking I looked to my right and saw her sitting there in the corner. I didn’t hear a word of whatever else X said. For all I know he was the King of Siam. Or maybe he was actually a she. Anna from Siam? Whatever. I completed tuned Mr/s X out. It was her, after all. The ghost from freshmen year’s past. The phantom of the quad. My “white whale.”
OK, I know that’s just about the least flattering thing you can call a girl. For the record, she was not obese, and I’m pretty sure wasn’t white. But I gave her that name after seeing her once during the first week of orientation freshmen year. We were at one of those school-sponsored mixers where you go around introducing yourself to everyone for the first time. You wear nametags, attempt to remember people’s names, and try your best to shake whatever persona you’d been tagged with in high school. At the time, it was amazing. A celebration of your first time away from home, and the beginning of what everyone (somewhat frighteningly) tells you is the best four years of your life. It retrospect, though, it was painfully awkward. We were 18, as full of raging libidos and we were devoid of social skills, and worse yet, totally sober. But awkward sobriety aside, I can’t say it was all that bad. I’m pretty sure no one picked up on my goth past. And more importantly, that’s where I first saw “her.”
While I was listening to another X (non-typo again) tell me what he did before college, I had noticed her out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head and we made that great, fleeting eye contact when you immediately look down and pretend that you weren’t looking up. Classic. Right out of a movie script. Or maybe even a fairy tale.
Despite the serious lack of liquid courage available, I made a beeline to go over and introduce myself to her. I was a mere three feet away, ready to strike up a conversation with the obligatory stare-at-nametag-ask-about-hometown ice-breaker, and then some ass I knew from high school pulled me aside and starting raving about how much hotter the girls were here than “back home.” When there was finally a break in conversation I told him to “check out the hottie over there” and that finally got rid of him. Too late though. She was gone. I looked for her the rest of the night but she was nowhere to be seen. Great start to college. One week in and high school was still screwing with my love life.
Since then I’d seen my “white whale” around occasionally. Sometimes in crowds walking to class, sometimes on the way out of a party I was going into, and even a few times in the library where I worked. But after 7 semesters of waiting I was finally in a class with her. Thank you, Gods and/or Monsters who were responsible for this! I knew I took this class with an open-book, take-home final, pass/fail for a reason!
“And you?” The person next to me poked me. Shit! It was my turn for my introduction. Dammit to hell. I was so transfixed on the White Whale I’d totally forgotten the circle-of-introductions was slowly making its way clockwise to me. Shit. Why didn’t I pay closer attention to what was going on? I could have gotten up to go to the bathroom when it was my turn so they’d skip me. Or just gotten up and left. It was shopping week, after all. You’re supposed to “shop” for classes and people get up and taste-test a new one in the middle of periods all the time. Shit shit shit. Too late now. All eyes are on me. Everyone is waiting for me to start. Why is it so fucking quiet? What’d I’d give for some background noise. Or a fire alarm. Or a bomb threat. Anything to get me out of here. Ok, you can do this. This is your 8th semester. You’ve done it before. Here goes nothing.
“Hi my name is….”
Shit, you can’t pause here. Get your name out, otherwise you’ll get one of those “you forgot your name?” jokes afterwards. Fucking hilarious.
Phew, OK, that’s always the hardest part. Skip the last name. First name is good enough. Now just make up some stuff about why you’re taking this class. Keep it short. Quick strike and even quicker retreat.
“…and I’m a senior, I’m….m….studying philosophy….”
Nice. Light at the end of the tunnel fast approaching. Maybe they didn’t catch that extra “m” in there. Tried for “majoring” but wasn’t coming out. Nice switch to “studying.” Well played. You’re home free now.
“…and I’m taking this class because it looks interesting.”
Done! Thank god. Pulse slowly returning to normal. Eyes finally able to look back up. Save for that one pause and one substitution I don’t think that was too bad. Wow could I use a drink now. Or several. Phew. Now back to the White Whale. I finally get to learn her name now and even get a little more intel on her. How many seats down is she anyway? I should probably get out my notebook and take notes so I don’t forget any key information.
I look back over at over. She’s smiling. Wait, that’s more than smiling. I think she’s laughing. Is she fucking laughing at me? Seven semesters of waiting and I get this shit. That’s it. She’s dead to me. She’s no longer the White Whale. She’s now officially the White Witch of Narnia.
(Author’s note: This post is part one of what I’m planning to post as a serial, not-so-short story in monthly installments. Readers of my old blog know that this sort of “fictional memoir” was one of the reasons I started writing again. So here’s my go at it).