I sat down in the tiny narrow corridor outside his office. My legs were exactly as long as the breadth of the space; the soles of my red, rain-splattered boots rested neatly against the wall. Gingerly arranging a damp coat in my lap, I waited. When the elevator bell went off, he looked so much like a student, swaddled in coat and ball cap, that I didn't move.
"Good morning, Gloria," my professor panted. He looked irritated; having cycled through windy, pouring rain to make it to his office for 9 a.m. on a Monday, I thought he should be. I had almost been blown over three times on my own way here. I nodded to a classmate at his heels.
"Whose idea was this again?" he asked, rhetorically. She and I exchanged grins.
He squeezed by to unlock his office. As I followed, he had already removed his coat and was pulling off a Duff Beer baseball cap. Seeing it made me smile.
"I like your hat."
There was a pause before he replied, "Thank you." As he dropped into his chair, he reached back with both hands to touch the back of his head, adjusting his yarmulke in a fluid, long-practised motion. I relaxed, a little, but as I remembered why I was there, I started to fidget excitedly.
"So," he said, eyes trained on the screen of his booting laptop, "what do you have for me?"
"Look at this." I gave a sheet of paper to him, just stopping myself from shoving it right under his nose; his eyes snapped to the black and white Xerox. "Arrows!"
There were mysterious symbols in a French Romanesque illustration I was studying; only yesterday, I had found them in a earlier Carolingian manuscript. I was ridiculously excited. And, I was quite comforted and tickled to find, he was too.
Maybe he was humouring me. "Ooh." He removed his glasses, squinting as he peered at the picture.
I rambled that I had found it "completely at random" while examining the collection of enormous German folios of manuscripts he had sent me to look at; I could hardly believe my luck.
In an amused tone, he explained that in our field, this "luck" was called "research."
As he handed back the photocopy, which I carefully replaced in a zippered pocket (precious evidence!), he smiled at me, glad that I was finally enjoying my work.
"Is this your last year?"
I confirmed it. I was taking some final summer credits (irritating); I had no solid job prospects (worrisome); I was thinking of undertaking graduate studies (dubious).
He considered. "Hm. Well, if you need a recommendation for a job or for graduate school, I'd be happy to be asked."
I paused. "Really?" My voice had a high-pitched tone of skepticism to it.
He chuckled. "Really." He added, "I'd hire you."
"Well ..." He shrugged; I thought it seemed like that sort of shy wriggle that usually means something embarrassing is about to be said and cannot be retracted. "I'd hire you for anything," he admitted.
In an instant, I wondered what sort of motive he might have behind issuing such praise to me, or whether he was in the right mind to even give it. I had to protest -- he knew I had self-esteem problems, so perhaps he was just trying to compensate for that hole in my confidence -- except I remembered I did this too often, he didn't care for it, nobody did, and also, it was rude, even if he didn't mean it.
"Thank you." As I felt genuinely pleased, I must have begun to beam. I hope the fact he did not meet my eyes only meant that I had taken a quip too seriously.
posted at 7:34:43 am
2. As "Americana" defines itself as artefacts of American culture, "Gloriana" consists of the artefacts of my culture.
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