Ago 25, 2007

Office Against Sexual Harassment

One thing to wish to understand better, another to work hard for the knowledge. Hard enough, that is, so that no time remains for wishing. It was noontime at the school when I was guilty of taking a break, one of those absent-minded instants when the sudden sight of an empty bench steals you from the plans of the day. It looked like such a fine solid as the shade of the leaves compressed its lowly entirety into a cool dullness to the eye. Impossible for noon to tolerate such a presence. It was a bench that the sun forgot. I took a seat. I arranged my bag and books beside me. These could share the bench. It was an impervious moment. It must have been a minute. Maybe it was three or five. Maybe more. Nobody cared. Then I noticed one of my students sitting on the far end, reading something in a violet folder. I had no idea how long she had been sitting there. The folder had some glitter, but what annoyed me about it was the fact that it was plastic. The student herself was diligent and handsome and enough to ruin a perfect bench. A plastic folder was overkill. I opened my bag and tried to fit the books in. Each of my books whispered to me in terms of page quotas and schedules, the student’s papers groaned their need for criticism, and the empty notebooks hissed what must have been accusations in a dead language. My phone had zero messages. My student initiated small talk. She was already talking about her family and her plans to teach at the university when I said “oh hello.” She said, “you know, sir, I usually recite a lot in my classes. But you’re intimidating. We’re afraid of you. When you ask your questions, we all just wait for the activists to answer.” I said, “when you say we, don’t you really mean I?” She nodded. It was a series of nods that trailed off into defeat country. There was no activist to the rescue. “Do lighten up,” I said, “hey, here’s what you can do: next time you find me intimidating, think that all I am is someone insecure – I need to eat your fear to gain a sense of worth – okay?” She did not nod. Despite professorial enmity against redundancy, I asked again “will you please think that? For me?” She stared into her folder. Her body had fallen silent. There was no touching her. “Please?” There was no activist around. I kicked that folder off her hands, grabbed my things, and ran the whole way up to the Department of Humanities where I kept pages under lock and key.