There are certain classes that I should not be made to take. English is one such class. I’m okay with nouns, verbs, sentences, periods and the occasional comma, but with the rest, I’m hopelessly lost. I’m planning on teaching gym at the high school level, and have no interest in anyone’s dangling participles. I have never been good at English. In high school, I thought it would be a breeze. After all, I speak English, but given my marks you’d think I was making up my own damn language. Granted English was my second language, but I had learned it at a very young age and growing up in Canada was enough to erase any trace of my German heritage. My distaste for English really began in the ninth grade when I handed in my first book report to Mr. Evans our teacher. We were in a new high school, with new teachers, having just graduated out of middle school. The social pressure was bad enough. Worrying about my face breaking out and what people said about what I wore was terrifying. But Mr. Evan's was the one that really broke my confidence.
“English isn’t your first language is it son?” It was more of a statement than a question.
I was a little confused. How would he know that? “No,” I told him hesitantly.
“Are you here on an exchange?” He asked. He immediately saw my confusion and tried to clarify. “Where are you from?”
“I live here in Victoria,” I was still confused, but my annoyance was settling in as I had a pretty good idea of where this was headed.
He laughed a little, and the conversation wasn’t feeling all that good. His air of superiority was something that grated on my nerves when it was directed at the class and here it was pointed directly at me. “Where are you from originally?” He emphasized ‘originally’ far too much and said it discernibly slower than the rest of the sentence.
“Northern British Columbia,” I said, mirroring his deliberate tone. “But I was born in Germany, and I came to Canada when I was three.”
He suddenly realized his initial assumption about me was wrong. I wasn’t a foreign exchange student just learning the language. I hadn’t just stepped off the boat as they say. I wasn’t suffering from thinking in one language and speaking in another. He finally got that what he read in my report was only due to the fact that I apparently sucked at English.
“Oh… well, here is your assignment back, pay attention to the feedback section.” I could tell he was embarrassed, good, but so was I, and I gladly retreated.
So here I am, four years later, sitting in English 110 Composition, in a circle with 26 other people. Four of us were smart enough to not show up today. The assignment was looking for inspiration from those around you. We were to look around the room and find something interesting about another person and begin to write about it. I almost groaned out loud when she said it. I looked around the room at everyone looking at everyone else. People smiled nervously when they made eye contact to break he tension of looking at someone in a way they don’t usually. This was my only class that we always sat in one big circle - it felt like group therapy.
There was Julie; she was far too giggly, and too loud. I could write about her, but I don’t think I would be writing anything too flattering so I avoided her. There was Alex, he was sort of the class clown, always came up with the comic relief if there was tension or a difficult subject anyone was talking about. There was Tomas, he was our diversity poster boy as his dark skin represented the only visible cultural difference in our class, but I didn’t really know anything about him. He transferred into our program last semester from another school and we never really spent any time together. Inevitably my eyes rested on the one person here that inspires me, I look over hoping he won’t see me looking his way, no such luck…
Our eyes met over the circle. He’s biting the end of his pen occasionally moving the tip back and forth over his lower lip. They’re strong lips, not overly puffy and soft. They always have a slight sheen of moistness to them. The top one is covered slightly by a young man’s facial hair, not thick, but sparse and sexy. He stares right at me with those amazing blue eyes, penetrating me, looking into what he knows is in my soul. He doesn’t care, isn’t bothered in the slightest at the looks our peers are casting our way as they recognize the connection we have. A connection so deep I can feel his heart beat in sync with mine. He knows they’re beginning to see our bond. The thread that always connects us, the love that has never been spoken, but understood. He just continues to drink me in with those intense blue orbs surrounded by lashes longer than humanly possible. I can hear them swoosh through the air as he blinks. He’s intentionally unaware of the uncomfortableness around us. He glances down to the assignment sitting on the desk in front of him, but only for a brief instant. Then it’s back to meeting my gaze and our acknowledgement that we mean so much to each other that English is utterly meaningless. Who needs words when you have eyes like his? Who needs to confuse love with the fumblings and trappings of spoken syllables when … oh no! He pulled his eyes away from me, I’m suddenly empty inside. All meaning is gone. Wait, he’s writing something. His hand flows through the letters like a calligraphy master, sweeping forms and jagged turns. He must not be satisfied with the result as he crumples up his paper – he’s such a perfectionist, never satisfied without giving it his best effort, the same way he makes love. Oh look! He’s tossing it toward me; maybe it’s a poem…
The crumpled wad of paper hit me in the eye and shocked me back to reality! It bounced off my face and landed perfectly in the middle of my desk. As my vision cleared he was staring at me, I felt the warmth creep into my face and knew he could see it too. No one around us seemed to notice, but I’m sure my face was red enough that if I had been at a child’s birthday party, they most likely would have mistaken me for the entertainment. I slunk down in my chair trying to avoid his eyes as I unravelled the paper bomb lobbed at me. Inside were his words, “Why the hell are you staring at me?” I couldn’t look up and fortunately heard our instructor saying that next class we would be looking at the post-modern deconstructionist movement and how it is influencing today’s writing. I took my cue and hurried from the room, the first to the door, so I could escape any confrontation from him. I sprinted to my dorm room, collapsed on the bed. I could still feel the heat in my face. I am such a loser!