As a TA, I have the rare distinction of having an office on campus, albeit a shared one. My office is on the 3rd floor of Johnson Hall, a mere four doors down from Dr. Martin. Without trying, I’ve subconsciously learned the footfall of every professor and lecturer in our hallway. This is usually a defensive measure; we all too often get dragged into unwanted conversations with one particular English lecturer down the hall who, being not much older than most of the TAs and having an office of her own, visits us often for company. I memorized her gait first, as hearing it meant I should quickly grab a book and look busy.
My officemates are Caroline and Lauren. I am usually happy to be greeted by one of them when I arrive in the morning, but this morning is atypical. After I walked out of Dr. Martin’s house I realized I must have left my car at whatever bar I’d ended up at the night before. I took the bus home, quickly brushed by teeth, threw my hair up in a ponytail, changed my clothes, and rushed towards campus. Now, entering the building with what very well may be sex hair, I can’t stop thinking about last night and I’d really rather not discuss school right now. Or bump into Dr. Martin.
Unsurprisingly, Caroline is in the office. She is practically always in the office. She is also always immaculately dressed, all peter pan collars, sweaters, and adorable skirts, and her make-up is usually flawless. I walk in quietly and begin plugging my laptop charger into the wall as she finishes a phone conversation and eats a light lunch of a small salad. With Caroline it’s always a light lunch.
As I open my laptop and start opening up my readings for the night’s seminar, Caroline ends her phone conversation and quickly swivels around towards me.
“Hey buddy,” she coos enthusiastically. “I missed you early this morning. You never ditch me unannounced!” she swivels over quickly and rests a hand on my right knee.
We are always the first two in the office in the morning and use that time to share coffee and complain about work.
“Sorry, girl. Got caught up grading some papers at home.”
“Well, Susan Morris was in here earlier. She said you wanted to talk to her about the Darner fellowship so she thought she’d pop by. Anyway, she said she’d email you.” She swiveled back to her desk.
At this my heart skips. A distraction from my thoughts, and a good one at that. In May, I will graduate with my MA. As such, I’ve been busy working on applications to PhD programs and fellowships. Ever since I was an undergraduate, I’ve dreamt of being a Darner fellow and studying in either Italy or France for a year in between my MA and commencing a PhD program. Susan Morris is an instructor in our department and I’d read online that she was a Darner recipient. She seemed like a less intimidating person to start collecting information from on the fellowship than some of my other options.
I pull up my email account and find an email from Susan with the subject re: Darner fellowship questions. I open it with anticipation.
Of course! I am always here if you have any questions about
the Darner, but based on your interests I really think
that Dr. Martin might be a better resource. He could provide
contact information for Universities and colleagues in the
Best of luck for the rest of the semester and let me know
if you are still interested in having a meeting with me
I catch my breath: Dr. Martin. I read it again: Dr. Martin. A better resource. Yep. Today of all days.
I feel Caroline behind me. She squeezes my shoulders and squeals.
“My little rising academic star!”
I hear footfall in the hallway. It’s Dr. Martin, I’m sure of it. I wait until it’s past our door and peek out. Bingo.
© Copyright 2016 Mary Harris. All rights reserved.