The students seated upfront deal glares until you fold the corners of your essay down into some makeshift airplane. The professor’s comments soar. She sits in the back with her paper piles and assortment of pens: green for you, red for everyone else. She comments on the presentation you just gave, reaches for her green pen before you even hand her back the essay.
The students shoot glares. Your knees buckle before you walk to her. You’re wondering if every glare is loaded and cocked, aimed for your legs or even worse, your Achilles. You walk to the back smiling because your best guard is a grin. The first row of students releases their ammo on cellphone screens instead.
The students in the middle of the classroom chew on chuckles when you pass by. You wonder if they are laughing at you and then remember that they are sitting in the middle. They camouflage behind the overachievers and blend in with the slackers who are seated closest to the door. You make eye contact with the professor whose hand is reaching out. You imagine standing in the center of the classroom reaching out to her too. She is God. You’re Adam (but I know you’d prefer to be Eve).
You pass in your essay and sit next to me. Your sigh harmonizes with the groans from the front and the yawns from the back.
I give you a thumbs up and whisper “good job” in exchange for your grin. I wonder if you’ll put your guard down for me.
After class your voice cracks like Styrofoam under my step. You let them get to you. You slowly open up to me, lessening your smile, loading up your own stare. Your eyes channel the sky: cloudy with a chance of rain. It hurts me to see how much they get to you.
The students dropped their weapons, but the target still marks you.
Now looking at you I can make out the red and white spiral on your forehead.
This is how it feels.
This is what it means.
I give you a hug and offer a joke because you are who I want to be.