“George Drops Sociology” by Danny Hoffman, Washington Heights

Borders July 13, 2011 22:53

topic: BORDERS medium: TEXT

as shared at a PenTales event themed “Borders”

Just be strong. Get in there, do it, and get out. Nice and quick, like a band-aid. Just be strong. Be strong. BE STRONG! George was thinking so hard he was mouthing the words without realizing. He was pacing in the corridor outside his sociology professor’s office, waiting to be called in for his appointment. He’d practiced what he was about to say many times on the way over, and about thrice more while pacing. I’ve decided that your class, though it’s a great class, is not what I’m looking for this semester, so please give me permission to drop it. George prayed that Professor Wingblatt wouldn’t ask why. I don’t want to lie, but how to you tell a teacher his voice makes you want to run around banging your head into things?
“I’m ready, come on in!” The professor’s voice came from the office, sounding as nasal as ever.
“Hi, Professor Wingblatt,” George said as he closed the door behind him and headed for one of the chairs opposite the already seated professor. “Thanks for meeting with me.”
“Oh, it’s nothing, Jonathan,” the professor honked. “How are you doing?
George fought back the urge to correct the name. Hopefully this is the last time I’ll talk to him anyway.
“I’m good, thanks. I just wanted to –“
“I’m glad you’re here, Jonathan. I wanted to commend you on your participation in yesterday’s lesson.”
“Yeah, thank you. Very much. I actually wanted to talk to –“
“You’re welcome. You know, often I get the feeling that youngsters these days don’t want to learn. They go to college because everybody else does, and they try to just coast through. Do you know what I mean, Jonathan?
“Yeah. I do, but –“
“And then someone like you comes along and contributes to the class discussion the way you do and restores my faith in today’s young. It is a pleasure to have you in my class.”
“Thank you, professor.” Crap. If I leave his class he’s going to be depressed for sure. He might start crying in this office. I don’t want to have to deal with that.
“You wanted to ask me something, Jonathan?”
“Uh, no. I mean, well, yeah. But – um.” George let out a sigh. “When is the next reading due?”
“Ah Jonathan. Always trying to stay ahead.” Professor Wingblatt beamed. “The next reading is due in three weeks, on the 20th.”
“The 20th. Got it, thanks.”
“You’re welcome, Jonathan, see you Tuesday.”
George got up to leave and opened the door when an unignorable voice shouted at him, “Be strong, you wuss!” George closed the door again and turned around.
“Actually, there’s something else.”
“Yes?” Professor Wingblatt put down the letter opener he had picked up and trained his eyes on George’s.
George sat back down. “Well, first of all,” What the hell? “It’s George, not Jonathan. My name is George.”
“Really? The professor pulled the class roster out of a drawer and scanned the list of names. “Oh yes, there you are. George. George. Very good.”
“Right.” The small victory had George feeling confident. “And also, what I actually came in here to say is… are you alright?” George noticed that the professor’s eyes had gotten suddenly red and he was clenching his jaw.
“I’m fine. It’s just that I have a cat named Georgie. And he he’s very sick. I think he’s dying!” And with that, the professor had his head in his arms on the desk and started sobbing. Loud, ear splitting sobs, each of which sounded like a complete flock of seagulls.
You’ve got to be kidding me! A dying cat named Georgie? What are the odds? George marveled at how badly this meeting was going. He definitely didn’t want to still be in Wingblatt’s office, watching the bawling professor, still enrolled in the class. He watched for a minute, waiting for the sobbing sounds to go down.
Professor Wingblatt snapped up, rapidly wiping his eyes with a handkerchief he pulled from his jacket pocket.
“I’m so sorry, Jonathan, there’s no excuse for that. I – oh! I got it wrong again! It’s not Jonathan anymore, is it? It’s…”
George saw the professor’s eyes begin to well up again and cut in. “It’s alright, professor. Jonathan is fine.” After receiving a nod of thanks from the professor, George continued, “Professor, I’ve decided that your class, though it is a great class, isn’t what I’m looking for this semester, so…“ George hesitated, then looked down at the professor’s desk and continued, “So please give me permission to drop it.”
George did not enjoy the silence that followed. He determinedly avoided the professor’s eyes by focusing on all the different baubles decorating his desk, one at a time.
“Why?” Professor Wingblatt’s voice broke the silence after about a minute.
Stick to the script. “It’s just not what I’m looking for this semester.” George glanced up at the professor’s face, which currently displayed an expression what wouldn’t be out of place on a little boy who had just been told Christmas was canceled. “It doesn’t fit in my schedule,” he added.
Professor Wingblatt’s eyes drooped. “I see.” His chin rested on his chest and he seemed unlikely to move from that position for a long time.
George felt bad. He knew he wasn’t responsible to stay in the class just to make the professor happy, but he also realized that he was the only person who could allay the professor’s current sadness. Be strong, wuss!
“Well, I better go. Thanks.”
George waited a moment for a response, but then left the room without receiving one. I’m sure he’ll get over it soon enough. He gave a slight nod and smile to a pacing student he passed in the hallway, waiting to meet with the professor. He was already feeling relieved at not having to hear the professor’s voice again. That feeling only increased when, as he was turning the corner at the end of the hall, he heard that familiar honk, ”I’m ready, come on in!”
Yeah, he’s fine.

1 Comment