Exercising the craft—October 6, 2014

Prompt: College Introduction: It’s your first day of college and, in your first class, your professor does something unusual—she has you all sit on the floor in a big circle and introduce yourself, as if you were in kindergarten. When it gets to be your turn, you say, “My name is _____. Every day I like to _____ in purple and yellow______.” Amused, the professor asks you to explain. So you do.


I pulled out my laptop and booted it up, waiting for the prof to come in. Sitting in this desk I knew that I’d left behind all of the bad stuff. I managed to finish high school; I walked across the stage and picked up the piece of paper that said I didn’t have to go back to those hallways. I didn’t have to see those people—the football players and the smart kids. The cheerleaders.

G-G! O-O! Go, go, go!

I finally did.

A nerdy looking guy walked in and put his briefcase on the worn wooden desk. A briefcase? Really? Who carries briefcases anymore?

I shared a look with the cute guy in the desk next to mine and rolled my eyes. The guy smiled, and I saw dimples. Oh, man. Yes, college would definitely provide me with new opportunities.

The briefcase man clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention. “Good morning, freshmen, and welcome. I’m Professor Pitts. Can we make some space in the middle of the room please?”

I looked at him for a minute and then around at everyone else. They all gave the guy the same blank stare that I’m sure I had on my face. Space for what?

He smiled and tried to make it one of those “I’m your friend, not your professor” kind of smiles.

“Let’s push these desks out of the way and make ourselves comfortable on the floor. I like to keep things informal.”

Informal or infantile? I couldn’t believe what he was saying, and I thought he would bust out laughing and tell us he was just using this as an icebreaker, kind of a weird apology for us having to show up anywhere before 9 a.m. But he just kept staring at us, and it started to come to me the he really wanted us to move the desks out of the way.

I shrugged and got up. I pushed mine to the wall and picked up my laptop. While I waited with my computer in my arms, other people started moving their desks too.

As soon as we had enough space, the prof mimed putting his arms around us. “Gather in, everyone. You,” he said, pointing to me. “Since you were kind enough to get the ball rolling, you can introduce yourself first.”

I shared another look and another eye roll with Cute Guy, but he didn’t exactly smile this time. He looked a little puzzled. I saw the bulging biceps and started to wonder whether his IQ went only as far as the dimples.

Everyone got on the floor, and I put the computer in front of me. “Um, okay, well, my name is Polly, and every day I like to practice cheers from my old high school with purple and yellow pom pons.”

Pitts pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and kind of smirked. “You like to practice cheers?”

“With purple and yellow pom pons. They were our school colors.”

Someone snorted, and I just looked at the prof. This time he rolled his eyes, but I guess he decided to humor me.

“And why do you like to practice cheers?”

“Well, the poms are kind of a souvenir. See, I wanted to be head cheerleader, but Susie Farmington won out over me. I really didn’t think it was fair. My splits were better, my jumps were higher, and don’t even get me started on how many hours I practiced my yells so people all the way across the field could hear me. But, no. Susie got it. It might have had something to do with her rep. You know. She was one of those girls. And she didn’t mind giving it up to anyone. They had two guys from the football team on the selection committee, and I think that’s probably where I lost the votes.

“But I don’t like it when life isn’t fair. So I decided to even the score. I made sure Susie couldn’t cheer for the rest of the year. And those football players? They’re never going to give out votes based on someone’s slut quotient ever again. So I practice my cheers with Susie’s poms and use them as a reminder that I can do anything I want if I just put my mind to it.”

The prof’s jaw hadn’t closed since I started talking. I looked around at the other kids. Two of them slid away from me a few inches.

I got confused for a second. “I’m sorry, isn’t this Introduction to Writing Conflict?”

Pitts rubbed his jaw and looked relieved. I mean, he even took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose for a second.

“No, it’s Anthropology 101,” he finally said.

“No worries,” I said, shrugging. I turned off my computer and snapped the lid shut. “I’ll just find the right class on my own.”

I stood up and pulled my laptop bag out of the seat of my desk. Sliding the computer into its slim pocket, I secured it with its Velcro latch. Then I grabbed something from the bag and turned around.

“Hey, Professor Pitts, catch!”

I tossed a shiny miniature purple and yellow pom pon at him. He caught it and then dropped it. Wiping his hands on his jeans, he let out this weird high-pitched laugh but I saw sweat beads on his forehead.

I couldn’t help it; I laughed.

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