The Great Orator
(as part of my exercise, here’s a John Fuller-esque short story that I improv’d along the way, which I ended up liking enough to post here. And it still ended up way longer than these things should be :D)
Really, it is a thing of amazement. Amazing to see a man orate – no, sorry, I would not call this oration – to see a man drawl monotonously to his students – at his students – without the slightest spark of consciousness in his eyes. Oh, yes, sometimes he shows a dumb chipmunk’s smile and every now and then coughs a laugh with all the mirth of a glacier, following an inexplicably ludicrous joke so utterly inconsequential and forgettable that we, well, forget immediately what it was.
But this man is a teacher, supposedly, and so perhaps reserves the right to excrete his lessons in any garbled form he sees fit, trusting that we the students of his class know it is our job to learn and thus bear the burden of making sense of his gibberish. Never mind his lack of basic clarity, sentence structure, or even logical progression, for he has earned his doctorates and accolades and prestigious assignments and is, I imagine, above such things.
So whenever it is his period, we the students indeed come fully prepared, in apt condition to receive the day’s lecture. Most of them have their computers out, pretending to take notes as they search through social networking sites and friends’ electronic diaries; others embrace the soothing lullaby his dullness provides and sleep fitfully in the seats at the back of the room; and I keep my notebook open on my desk for random sketching and musing, for surely if a student has a notebook open in the classroom the teacher rests assured that he is dutifully taking notes and paying attention.
And to think I sit at the center of the room, nonetheless. So it is that he often turns to me to fulfill his quota of “audience eye contact” or however they refer to it on the self-evaluation form for public speaking exercise, and I politely accept the role by granting him an encouraging smile each time, that vaguest of messages that can so easily be interpreted as “I am thoroughly enjoying your lesson” belying the inner stream of “oh dear God how much longer will this go on”.
But so it goes, for I regularly take to the center simply to be right next to the seat dear Paulita always chooses. God knows why she elects to sit there, right in his direct line of sight, when she spends most of the period punching the keys of her mobile phone from under her desk. Surely it would be better for her to take to a more obtuse corner of the classroom? Perhaps the thought simply hadn’t occurred to her – lovely and alluring as she may be, I cannot confidently vouch for any brightness on her part. Oh, not to be harsh on her – the last thing I’d wish to be – for surely it is in the interest of fairness that her flawless form and facial features and red hair offset her IQ.
Ah, but she is intelligent enough to appreciate the tiny secret jests that I share with her in the middle of his class. Often I may draw amusing portraits in my notebook; sometimes of our great orator himself, liberally interpreted, or sometimes accurate depictions of our less-fortunate classmates who have fallen asleep with mouths drooping. Or I share my deliciously witty comments on the new levels of turgidity our orator’s lessons sink to each meeting, which never gets old. I tap her lightly on the arm with my pen, and she turns to me expectantly with life rising in her sleepy eyes as I show her the pages of my notebook with these bits of delight, that never fail to inspire a gratifying chuckle from her – and subsequently an inner cheer from me. How sweet these periods turn out, how much I ironically take from each session of this lecture hour I long since declared valueless. Oh, dear orator – and I submit to referring to you as such, since it may still be more fitting a term for you than “teacher” – how unwittingly you have blessed me with a class that has given me the freedom to entertain Paulita, with no woes of missing anything important from your actual lesson.
Still, I expect him to give us a written examination of sorts at some point, for surely that bit of logic cannot have possibly escaped his sieve-like mind, and so I keep up on the lessons nonetheless. I take to the study hall in the evenings after my last classes, reading the texts of his subject on my own and absorbing them readily and comprehensively, reinforcing my deep-seated confidence in my intellect. I wonder if my classmates are capable of as much; perhaps it is down to me to teach them and ensure they pass our orator’s subject, since certainly I can explain it in better terms. Then again, mayhaps this is the secret of the subject matter after all; it is meant to be passed and accolades on it earned only by those who are talented enough to learn the matter on their own. Perhaps all those who teach it keep the lectures dreary on purpose, to ensure the club of understanding remains insular and exclusive. Or perhaps I can teach only Paulita; indeed she will be thankful beyond bounds to me then.
This was the exact thought that occurred to me on the night when – as the clock of the study hall read nineteen hundred hours, with only a few truly dedicated and determined students remaining around the room – I did turn up from my books, resting my mind for a moment, only to see to my great surprise the lustrous red locks of Paulita shimmering from a dark, faintly-lit corner of the hall. What a girl like her was doing in the study hall this late, I had no idea. My pit rising in excitement, I stood from my chair and walked over to her desk to greet her, an expectant smile at the ready…
And then stopped short. There was someone in the seat beside her, squeezing awfully close to her in the corner. I did not get a good look at his face at first, though I immediately judged him to be quite rude and imposing to put his arm around her as he did – had she offered to let him do that, anyway? – and tried to tell myself that the delirious smile she wore for him was insincere, unlike the smile she showed whenever I made her laugh. I turned abruptly on my heel, adrenaline pushing me back to my own study table…when a click in my recognition made me double-take, to fully realize the face of the man beside her as that of our own orator.
His classes were never the same since then – no longer did I wonder why Paulita elected the seat right in his line of sight, why he ignored and never called attention to her clear breaking of classroom etiquette with her mobile phone, and no longer was it pleasant for me to have my notebook out to entertain myself…or Paulita. Not that she showed any signs of missing my entertainments at all. But dreariness somehow refused to seep into me during these now unpleasant sessions, for I took instead to determinedly scrutinizing this man and the unfathomable, illogical, infuriating and just perhaps amazing entity that lurked mockingly behind those sparkless eyes.