Wacky Wednesday – “PHYS101-A”

25 Jul

The lecture hall buzzed with the noise of students arriving, sitting down, and chatting about the night before. Laptops emerged from bags and laughter bounced off the walls. The smell of coffee was strong in the air, and Professor Wright breathed deep as he approached the podium. Professor Wright had always loved that smell. To him it was as invigorating as the drink itself; a sharp chemical aroma which heralded the beginning of a new day and the awakening of young active minds. So many wonderful moments had passed in this very room, under the hazy fragrance of coffee. It was the smell of learning.

As was his custom, Professor Wright set his satchel down on the right side of the podium, and removed his computer, placing it on the short table beside him. He connected it to the projector, and retrieved his binder of notes, which he opened on the stand and thumbed through as he sipped at his coffee (two sugars, one cream). There were still four minutes remaining until class began, and he used the time to collect his thoughts and gaze out at the assembled throng before him. Boys and girls they were, still so young to his eyes. Their conversations were energized with the confident zest of intelligent, attractive juvenescence, and he envied them the world that was theirs for the taking. Their noise died down gradually as the hour approached, and when he saw the second hand sweep past the clock’s zenith, he dimmed the lights and began.

“Good morning everyone, and welcome to Physics 101-A. My name is Leopold Wright.”

The lecture went swimmingly. A few latecomers interrupted him early on, but he waved the distraction aside with a gentle, knowing joke about the perils of alcohol. For the most part, his audience was rapt and incredibly attentive, posing wonderful questions and offering good insight, some of which was downright creative. There was magic in the air and Professor Wright was lost in the energy of it; a public speaker-cum-thespian, informing and entertaining in equal doses. He was swept away, the way he always was, by the complex beauty of the mathematics – even at this elementary stage – and he knew that his students saw it too. He knew also how he must look to them: wild greying hair and garish bow tie, tweed jacket and loafers, the very picture of a mad scientist; and he knew this only enhanced his effect. He hoped that it was as fun for them as it was for him.

When it was all said and done, the lights were up, and the hall was filled again with the clamour of students packing up and leaving, a girl approached the podium.

Professor Wright was putting his binder away and unplugging his laptop when he saw her, and he stopped moving entirely. She was beautiful in a way that was hard to describe, completely arresting his attention. She shone, radiant from within, creating a smudged blur of the world around her until it was her, and only her, that he could see. Even if he could have looked away from her, he wouldn’t want to. Professor Wright gaped, and she smiled at him.

“Hi, Professor. Awesome lecture. I just wanted to ask you a quick question.”

She removed an earbud and shifted her keffiyeh as she said this, her glossy chestnut hair tumbling across her chest in wavy curls. Professor Wright was suddenly and very keenly aware that he was in his late thirties. He mumbled a reply and immediately forgot what it had been.

Her bright green eyes, vibrant against the almond of her skin, looked straight into his. “Would you like to grab a coffee with me sometime?”

Professor Wright felt half of his mind fall away from under him, as if the supports holding him up had been knocked away. His years of academic training blazed across his brain, countless hours of equations, blackboards, computers, and paper; he saw himself at graduation, shaking his own professor’s hand; he saw his very first lecture, and felt his nervousness come rushing back; he saw his first girlfriend’s face, and then the faces of all the others, each of them sad and angry and confused as they said their last goodbyes. How was it that nothing, nothing in all that had prepared him for this? The most enigmatic and convoluted mathematical problems were nothing to him – his brain was the point of a laser, carving through layers of truth and exposing the fabric of the cosmos that was hidden within those tiny scrawled shapes. But this girl – this girl! – was the most bewildering thing he had ever beheld, and his mind was a broken toy in her presence, a useless contraption existing solely to get in the way. His body was betraying him too, flushing his skin, accelerating his heartbeat to a diabolical level, collapsing his legs and shoving sweat through the palms of his hands. She was so young, and so very very beautiful, and he knew it was wrong, but he was in love with her, and he didn’t even know her name.

His slackened mouth managed to blurt, “I love coffee,” and her smile was the breaking of a sparkling wave on a ship’s prow, washing him away in its wake.

“Me too,” she said.

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