I’m a terrible diarist. I have a stack of old journals with an average of three used pages apiece, and yawning rafts of blankness in the backs. But the used pages add up over time, and a few still seem halfway entertaining. So here I offer what I wrote a few years ago on the night of my first grad school class as the most “mature” person in the room…
July 8 – The first day of my first grad school course, Literature for Young Adults. I’m an old adult. Blistering heat and blubbering humidity and my head still hurts from bonking it on the hub’s elbow the other night and I’m wondering if I have a subdural hematoma. I look up symptoms on the Internet and one is irritability. The symptom is growing by the minute.
I get there early. Others have the same idea, and the room is half-filled 15 minutes ahead of time. A cluster in one row is laughing and talking animatedly, and they have “teacher” tattooed in radiant light all over them. I sit a few chairs away and soon the place fills in. There’s a very chubby young woman in front of me munching pretzels. A bookwormish woman with straight hair and glasses gushes to the professor about how quickly she reads books, like a frat boy bragging about how many cans of Leinie’s he can chug in a sitting.
One of the radiant teachers with a no-nonsense haircut asks the professor if she can incorporate the “state standards” in her papers, telling how she would hew the line in each instance to fulfill the bureaucratic mandates. The professor is taken aback but deftly clarifies how the Anal One would do so.
After we all write a one page essay about who we are and why we are taking the class (yawn), we are told we must read and write about one extra book, and are shown the list of options, then sent packing to the bookstore to rent the textbook in the lower level.
When I arrive, I hit the basement where a big sign reads, “Grad Students Must Purchase Books Upstairs.” Upstairs I can’t find the book, so I go back downstairs. What are you doing, asks the employee. I don’t know what I’m doing, I reply. She asks if I’m a grad student and I say I am. You have to go upstairs, she says quickly. I did, but couldn’t find the book, I answer. Ask the lady in the desk in the corner in a blue pantsuit she tells me, her leg twitching as if to kick me in the butt on my way out.
The lady in the blue pantsuit is on the phone but she eventually gets off and goes to the basement to get the book, while I scoop up the required paperback reading. One of the books, the one we need to read for the next day, is not on the shelf, I tell her. The professor said she ordered 35. Well we don’t always order as many as they want, she explains. Can’t you go to a library? She doesn’t mention that the textbook she has just dug up for me costs $66, USED! The new price is $88.00. And there aren’t even many pictures in it, and it isn’t even thick. My total comes to $125.00 and I still have to go to the library to get Bridge to Terabithia. I go home and call the doctor because I now feel irritable enough for at least three subdural hematomas.
Postscript: As it turns out, I ace the class and love YA lit so much that now I write it, meself. I do not have a subdural hematoma. I become friends with the radiant teachers. And we all begin to take turns bringing the pretzels.