Sunday, November 18, 2012
The story of us
During my senior year of college, I was massively burnt out.
I had spent three years obsessively studying physics, biology, and chemistry for a pre-med major I gave up at the last minute. I was an editor at my university's newspaper. I had a boyfriend who consumed every waking minute of my free time.
So, by my second semester of senior year, I just didn't give a damn anymore. I was tired.
I skipped classes. I barely turned assignments in on time. Sometimes, I didn't even bother turning them in at all. I hated school and I wanted it to be over.
I was also immensely disappointed with my American Literature class. I expected the reading assignments to include Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, and John Steinbeck. Instead, my professor dug up dry, boring novels by no-name authors. It was a complete snoozefest.
One afternoon, I was lounging at my college newspaper house and decided to go to my American Literature class. I had skipped two in a row, and figured it might be good to catch up.
As soon as I got to class, a realization hit me like a ton of bricks. I had a book review presentation that day! Holy shit. I hadn't even read the book I was assigned! And it was some random book from the 1970s that wasn't even well-known. Every student in class had been assigned a different book, so it wasn't like I could quickly ask someone to fill me in either.
With three minutes remaining, I ran down the hallway into the computer lab. I googled the book, finding nothing but a very short summary on Amazon. There wasn't even a customer review on the novel, it was so obscure. Fuck, fuck, fuck!
When I rushed back to class, my mind was racing. Should I pretend to be sick and bail out? But I've already missed so many classes! I'll just have to wing it.
There were three students who had presentations ahead of mine. They each took about ten minutes and afterwards, when it was time for the class to ask the presenter questions, nobody raised their hand. I was relieved. At least I wouldn't have to answer any questions about the book!
Finally, it was my turn.
I got up to the front of the room and cleared my throat. Staring at the class, it hit me that I was wearing pink flannel pajama pants and a glittery shirt that read, "Boys come and go, but diamonds are forever." I wanted to die.
I held up my brand new copy of the book, which I had thankfully dug out of my backpack minutes earlier.
"I have never been more haunted by a book, than I have with this one novel," I lied. "The tragedies the main character, David, faced were astounding, to say the least."
I glanced over at my professor. She nodded encouragingly.
"This story is a lesson on courage, strength, and honesty," I continued. "David went through so, so much. He encountered struggles most of us can't even fathom. He was consumed by the choices he had to make."
My professor pumped her first up in the air.
"Yes!" she exclaimed from the back of the room. "'Consumed by his choices'! That was brilliantly stated, Jennifer. Perfect!"
I smiled weakly.
"Um, I found myself feeling torn inside, trying to come to terms with how he dealt with his struggles and all the important people he faced in his life," I said. "And there were so many people who stood in his way. David really overcame a lot of obstacles."
I had no idea if this was true, or made any sense. My classmates stared at me, oblivious. They hadn't read my book, so as far as they knew, I wasn't just making shit up. I relaxed.
"So, does anyone have any questions?" I asked quickly, starting to walk to my seat.
A good-looking boy in the front row raised his hand. I froze and then walked back up to the front of the room.
"What?" I asked wearily. None of the presenters before me had to answer any questions! What the hell.
"You didn't mention anything about the Vietnam War," the boy said. "I was curious as to why."
I stared at him blankly. Was my book about the Vietnam War? Wait, how did he know this? Did he actually read my book?!
"If you listened to my entire presentation, you would have known that the Vietnam War was exactly what I was talking about," I responded, coolly. "The war was the struggle to which I was referring. Now does anyone else have any more questions?"
I started to walk to my seat.
He raised his hand again.
I glared at him.
"What." I said, frostily.
"I've read passages of this book in the past, and I found the scenes with Michael most interesting," he said. "Didn't you find him a bit abrasive, especially after he saves David's life?"
I closed my eyes. This was not happening. Who the hell was Michael? Amazon didn't mention that shit.
"Abrasive might be a harsh word," I said, condescendingly to him. "If you had read the entire book, you would understand. But I guess you didn't."
The boy looked at me, startled and confused. I smiled patronizingly and walked straight to my seat, without even bothering to ask if there were more questions.
I ended up getting an A on the presentation.
And six years later, Rian would admit that the moment I first glared at him was when he fell in love with me.