i was in my 2nd year of the MA program in english literature, the one thing i’d loved since birth it seemed. i transferred back to AU b/c my first year had been so hard at the public university — i needed something familiar.
during that first semester, i took a lit class that somehow resembled a history class with all the facts and dates. it must have been co-taught. the male teacher was a middle-aged white scholar whose laid back style i enjoyed. he made it all seem so simple. his hair line receded and he wore a lot of bland colour combos like khaki and black or a washed out navy blue. we discussed some author’s politics.
at the end of the first less, i think, we had an in-class essay test. i was by no means thrilled at the thought — i don’t recall having time to study. the man proctored the test. it was then graded by a french lady whose overall look resembled celine dion.
i sat in the classroom as she graded my essay. for some reason, i was the only student who’d stayed behind to learn my fate.
i watched her face as she read my ideology. for the test, we were given key passages to read after which we were presented with a question. she looked frustrated by my answer. at one point during her grading, she got up and went into another room where the male prof was and continued grading. when she returned, she had a look of disgust on her face and her tone was nasty.
how could i have written such an awful essay, she wanted to know. i got 6.5 out of 20. “i was so annoyed i slammed your paper down, you know. what were you thinking?” she pointed out the weaknesses in my logic, her utter disgust at my argument. “you don’t know how to write a paper. you must learn how to write a paper!”
she was visibly distressed by what i’d produced. “how did you draw this conclusion from this information? look at this page. where did you get that idea?”
i sat there peacefully as she squashed any confidence i had in my ability to compose complete thoughts. she didn’t know that i didn’t care about this author nor did i care for his politics or the opportunity to discuss them but for all i knew, I’d done my best. there must have been a change made somehow between when i wrote the essay and when she read it.
she continued to give me a look of shame as she discussed how much grading my essay affected her physically. “perhaps you would do better if we had a closer connection.”
just then, c.s. lewis and his wife appeared, their bodies laying on tables that came out of their shared tomb. they were like morgue tables that slide into the wall.
c.s. opened his eyes and gave me a knowing look.
“i’m so hungry,” i said.
he knew exactly what i meant.
then i woke up. the birds were chirping. it wasn’t that bright outside. i knew it was early. i knew i had to write this all down.
lesson 1 for today is this: eat a good supper so that even if you go to bed 5 hours after supper, you won’t wake up starved.
lesson 2 for today is this: read “a grief observed” by c.s. lewis
lesson 3 for today is this: don’t let fear give you scholastic nightmares
lesson 4 for today is this: don’t believe everything you read 🙂