Sometimes Jo strongly disliked sitting up front. It wasn't the attention gained, or the interaction with the professors that made her uncomfortable, but rather the dizziness that portended an especially exciting powerpoint presentation.
A skull whooshed from left to right against a yellow background, checkers portioning up the brain.
Alice had raised her hand and Jo turned-
Alice? In the class- Jo squinted, confused and felt unsteadiness wash over her as the teacher grabbed the projection screen and shook it like a picnic cloth.
Jo watched her thoughts, cleanly partitioned as it was her character on display, words not yet spoken, glances that should not have been shared- Alice watching watching-
Jo shut her eyes and hoped that it would stop. When she finally opened them, she fought the heaviness in her lids, pushing past the door to outside. Fresh air.
She stood in the middle of fine green rolling hills, tall grass alternated with short. Her hair tickled the back of her hands as she pushed her slip off her shoulders, felt the slick grass under her bare (bare?) feet and trailed her fingertips across the tall tall grass.
It felt like bitter glass and she wondered how she was to sit here.
Shiver of strength and anticipation
speck of white on the horizon
kept her limbs loose and thoughts from falling away.
I didn't think I'd miss high school so much, y'know? My friends, they all went to Cali, they wanted the sun and sand I guess. Me, I thought I liked our rain and cold weather - most of the year. The occasional bake in the summer, that's good enough. But I miss my friends - mostly white girls, that's fine, that's like my mama; we tried Spanish together in school. No good at it mostly, enough to make abuela smile. Thought I'd try more when I got here.
But here is really big - you don't know, when they show you around in the summer, it's all quiet then. They tell you 'wait till October' and you think no, it couldn't be so bad, it's pretty here, the campus all in bloom, the roses round the fountain. But you come and there's the noise, the people, the rain - I like people, I like rain. This is too many people. The rain is just right.
It's at the changing of the classes - bad enough at high school. Worse you'd think, those tiny halls. It's not anything, though, like this - Red Square. Those boys on skateboards - I'm younger than them, sure, but you'd hardly think so, yeah? Whooping and yelling and rushing so fast by you, you think you're gonna get run over. It looks like fun, maybe, but I want the library, gotta do important college student things like study, ignore the press of people. I follow some guy slouching up the stairs to Suzallo, he walks so fast, maybe he's gotta use the loo or something, I dunno. Return a late book? Makes me walk fast, too. He opens the door and I almost smack into him, not looking where you're going, Maria Rosa, looking at the back of some guy's head, what's with that?
He pauses, a little. Maybe I did touch him, I don't know. I push my hair back and look up.
Sugar lay thickly over all the stone faces. Plugging up mouths and scrunched eyes, nostrils and earlobes. None of the rocks seemed to mind it, or did, but not any more than they minded everything else.
Over the leaves on each bush of the hedge wall, over rocks without faces and grass, and around the trousers of the man in a very large green hat, sitting at a vast table covered in crisp linen, lay the sugar. The linen had been ironed to perfection, waiting to be mussed by tea and plates of tea cakes. Platters of tea cookies and the requisite watercress sandwiches. The more substantial fare of ham and cucumber, crusts absent, bread, butter, jam, but mostly tea.
Teacups and teapots and cream and sugar tongs and enough for four friends... or four enemies, or two enemies and two friends, but whose? Two cups for each guest and five for the man in the green hat. One never knew when one's cup might become dirty.
But at present, there are none at all.
Only the man, his table, the chair upon which he sits, and a growing structure of architectural glory...
October isn't meant for plump girls in too-tall platforms. October is brilliant cherry leaves blowing down from the Quad. October is chalked-on pumpkins with edges already running as mist drips into rain, heavy with the scent of the ocean. October is skateboard wheels churning as the freshmen boys try to impress each other, themselves, anyone who wants to look. October is the slick bricks underfoot as Alice wobbles her way down past Red Square.
October smells like sky. She turns her face up, shakes the rain from her umbrella. The clatterclack of skateboards is like train tracks or ticking clocks or the clicking needles of a knitting sheep. It echoes through her head and falls away as she slips into the entryway of Mary Gates Hall - like a gateway to a castle, she thinks, though there's no crown for her inside. But the building's all over arches and turrets, and the walls ring her footsteps as she coaxes her umbrella down and steps inside, and that's almost just as good.
Six o'clock is time for tea - at least, that's what the summary said, an afterhours tiny elective something like art and something like history and nothing at all like the rest of classes in the catalog. But she likes the idea of a time for tea, not here and there and anywhere like she usually drinks it, and learning black and white and red teas and what that actually meant.
Though I think in this sort of class, you actually have to talk. Umm.
Upstairs the hall is quiet and empty. She murmurs the numbers on the doors as she passes, turns the handle of the one second-to-last, and waits for the sky to ring six o'clock.
It is dim in the vast hall with the exception of the center, where the moonlight coming through the high set windows illuminates a tall woman. She stands next to a raised stone dais and the light bleeds away subtly, shadows lapping at the light in the center. Her hair is blonde and silver in the light, wavy with a thick braid falling down her back. She wears a loose dark blue mantle, arms bare and a crown with a crescent at the apex. A small child sits next to her, watching her movements.
Her white hand clasps a fan loosely, the closed edge pushing a powder around the dais. A pattern emerges slowly, traced and retraced lightly before another area is refined.They might be symbols, sinuously created only to be quickly transformed into another. The child squirms and her eyes lock with the young boy (or young girl?). She lowers her eyes to the dais again and she works silently.
The child sneezes, obliterating the drawings, sending powder into the air.The powder is dark and spicy. Pepper?
She clenches her hand around the fan and her lips thin against each other.
Angela breathes in her tea as she sits as the booth in the back. She's always liked the semi-seclusion, the hangings and the dark wood. The boy at the counter was nice as always, apparently eager to speak with someone in the semi-deserted tea shop.
The printouts spread out in front of her are punctuated in highlighting and notes in the margins, but reading them makes her feel as though they were written is some sort of code. The code was apparently only generated when she was attending class, some secret part of her brain that had become inaccessible when she wasn't in the room. It was shameful really, watching the highlighting and notes dwindle to almost nothing over time. Hopefully Jo didn't think too much of it.
Ha, was she nervous? She gave a slow blink and felt her eyelids twitch. Opening them, she saw the words in front of her swim and then resolve. She didn't feel tired?
She rubs at her eyes with the heels of her palms, her hands still cold from outside. She really had miserable pockets, lining torn, scraps of paper always tumbling out.
She sips at her spicy chai tea, enjoying the slight punctuations of flavor. Picking up her pen again she begins to write in her spiral notebook, working around a problem with cell growth, questions questions, what to grow, how long? Why don't I add this... She begins to draw a Purjinke cell and smiles at herself, feeling a bit silly as she draws a little face on the nucleus. Smile smile! She puts down her pen and glances around, furtively flipping a few pages back.
She begins to take notes again, hoping to find her Rosetta page.
I’m walking to class and it’s crowded, and the crowd is moving the other way. I weave through it quickly, making progress, and I know I’ll be on time, but I feel unsteady, a little out of control. Every step is a collision barely averted; part of me wonders how long I can keep this up before I hit someone.
Jo passes by and waves, and, with a smile, calls out that she heard how I shot across the bow. I remember that I did shoot across the bow, but I can’t remember where or when, exactly, or what that means. I also realize that I’m dreaming, but that’s a fleeting thought. It’s more important to make it to class on time than to worry about things like that.
I keep moving, but I realize that the crowd isn’t moving, they’re all standing still, looking behind me with fixed, solemn expressions. I turn around, and a lion emerges through the crowd. It’s huge; its mane comes up to my shoulders at least. It’s a brilliant gold, like Mufasa, I think, though he doesn’t look anything like a Disney lion, really. Nobody else reacts. I step back, trip and land on my butt, and I’m staring it in the face.
It growls, but it doesn’t move. It’s waiting for me to do something.