Day Zero.

Though I arrived early to find my classroom, I am late for my first class in over a decade. I run down the stairs into an empty hallway. I see a trash can propping a door open at the end of the hall. BINGO!

I walk in, apologizing profusely, looking for the professor. I look towards the front of the classroom as I rushed in and see a young, thin woman with a mane of thick curly brown hair.

I think I am older than the professor.

She has braces and a big smile, she is wearing clogs with peace signs on them. I thought she was a student, a teen at that.

I was in the gifted and talented English classes since I was in 6th grade. I taught English to non-native speakers for more than two years. I’ve been sitting on a half written memoir for the better part of three years but never got around to finishing anything. Now here I am, sitting in a windowless classroom on a Saturday afternoon in the basement of a community college. How is this happening to me? HOW? I am not sure why I couldn’t have tested out of composition 121. ONE TWENTY ONE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.

This could be the start of a sitcom if it wasn’t my life.

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing” they say. I have this on good authority; I’ve lived this in no uncertain terms. I have been out of high school…well let’s just say the world was a different place and no teacher ever took my smart phone from me, because they didn’t exist.

I think I am the oldest student in the class.

I search around and see a very tall blond girl with glasses. Her sweatshirt says the year she graduated, and it was recently. REALLY recently. We went to the same high school. I do some quick math; I wonder if she was in kindergarten when I graduated, or if she was a little older. Another tall blond woman walks into the class, dressed in pink camo with a matching pink camo back pack and a tattoo of a star and a swirly on her neck, below her right ear. Why a tattoo on her NECK? How is she going to get a job? Kids these days! Why am I policing a woman I do not know and what she got tattooed and where? What do I care?

I think I am older than the professor AND I’m the oldest student in the class and I FEEL it.

I’ll be spending every Saturday afternoon from 12 PM to 4 PM for the next sixteen weeks here. The teacher introduces herself and asks us to do a quick ice breaker activity. I am reminded of my old life, when I was the teacher and I was doing the activities to get the students to talk to each other. I am irritated at the lack of participation. The prof is trying so hard to get people involved. Everyone is behaving as though they have taken one too many Xanax.

It turns out I am not the oldest student in the class. That award goes to a man who could be my father. I am sort of relived. I take a quick assessment of the students. A handful of HS graduates. Three people (myself included) who have returned to school ages after we missed the initial boat. A girl with bad teeth and a bad attitude. Two young black girls with private jokes and loud laughter that is distracting and INCREDIBLY irritating to me.

The professor settles the unruly group and tells us a bit about herself. She smiles kindly at us and then hands out an article that we are to read and write a response to. The response must be 700 words. Some of my classmates audibly gasp.

“Only 700 words?” I say as I scoff at the puny number.

I have already written over fifty thousand words in a book I am desperately trying to finish. What is 700 words to a girl who was called “overly verbose” in a call center? NOTHING. Bring it.

I am clearly high on the smell of my own farts.

During the break I ask the professor if she gives four points. “I don’t give them” she says simply “If you work and earn it, you’ll have the grade you deserve.”

This is all I want to hear. I tell her “This sounds horrible but I feel like after you, I’m the smartest person in here. I will gladly accept a well earned four point.”

My prof raised her eyebrow. “I don’t doubt you are the smartest one in the room. Just make sure you don’t get ahead of yourself and give up towards the end,” she answers. “a lot of students come in here with big ambition and peter out in the end. I hope I can give you the grade you aspire to earn.”

I walk out with the knowledge I can finish this class with a great grade. I walk into the cold January winter, start up my ancient pick up truck and drive home.


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