It was the start of my college career. Everything was new . . . new subjects to study, new organizations, new friends and new opportunities. There’s even a new flavor about classes . . . the predictability of high school instruction is gone. Subjective studies are explored within a framework that satisfies classroom curiosity – dialogue is used as an instructional tool. Sure, some disciplines, such as accounting, work within normal parameters but now allow for a deeper understanding of financial theory. (In my dad’s Accounting 101 class, however, they will still begin with this rule: The debits are on the same side as the windows.)
I enrolled in a class under the general heading of English Composition which promised to engage this new approach to education. The possibilities were inviting and the professor of my early afternoon Creative Writing 101 class has a doctorate in the subject, so I’m all in. Setting a relaxed tone, he sat on a stool before the group of twenty or so students and after a brief review of his class rules and a cursory introduction of the subject it was time to jump in to our first assignment in Creative Writing.
We were to turn to the person next to us . . . close our eyes . . . and feel their face with our fingers. Then, with eyes still closed, describe to that person what their face feels like and have them write down our thoughts. From these notes we would then prepare a paragraph or two to paint their portrait in words.
This college thing is better than I expected for, you see, the room is full of lovely women and seated next to me is a beautiful first year coed from Indianapolis. I’ve seen her around campus and for days I’d been working up the nerve to ask her out.
This assignment was my ticket. Even before being told to begin I was at work on the subject matter. It was all there . . . exquisite complexion, chiseled goddess like facial features, rose-like lips, and her eyes were the window to my future. The promise of spring was at hand. My creative forces were launched – this is the start of something big.
Here I was, worried about how to ask her out and now the professor is handing it to me on a silver platter. The stars were aligning – I knew she was from a good family, although I had yet to learn if her father had money. This brilliant, insightful, class assignment might include a proposal of marriage before I could get to that delicate chin. College is so much better than high school.
I was mentally editing my third draft before the assignment even began. I remember thinking something poetic about unborn children. For a moment I contemplated a Departmental Honors Paper and was already outlining my graduate coursework in modern poetry. I knew now, because of the inspired and gifted teaching of my college professor, I would become a writer . . . wear tweed and live near a pond in Massachusetts.
But then, the professor said a significant thing and it’s stayed with me all these years. He said “Now, please turn to the student on your left and begin.” And there sat . . . Bob . . . a smiling, greasy faced, pock-marked, pimply headed guy from a Chicago suburb over whose face I had to run my fingers. But remember, the assignment didn’t stop there. I then had to describe out loud to him what I felt. Later I would have to read my prose to the entire class and Bob and I would relive the moment. What began as an assignment in Creative Writing became an extra credit exercise in diplomacy for a Political Science class.
It was then my career options re-centered and what can I say . . . I became a stockbroker. Today, I mostly wear a cotton/polyester blend and the closest I am to a body of water is after a heavy rain – the basement at my office floods.
I can’t blame the professor. I’m sure he doesn’t know he taught something far beyond the objectives of the day’s lesson plan. Come to think of it, this is the same English teacher who taught me a double negative is a “no-no.”
I never had a date with the girl from Indianapolis. Every time I saw her in the future my fingers got greasy and tingled with the tactile memory of Bob’s face. From then on, I made it a point to always sit next to the windows with a pretty girl next to me in anticipation of another adventure in Creative Writing.