“They do this every year – lock us up in the Faculty Club, force dinner guests down our throats and compel us to beg for donations. Are we a public university or aren’t we? Shouldn’t the Chancellor and Board worry about how to get those state funds to us instead of their pet projects? Then there are all these conferences, all week long – I could have gone to Las Vegas instead, mind you – where we walk around, pretend to be important and talk about issues that are irresolvable if this sort of attitude persists. I don’t understand these meeting one bit!”
My colleagues are at it again. And what’s the use? Sure I am all up for protest if there is any use in it, but of course there isn’t. Otherwise, something would have been done already and we would all be at home, enjoying the long weekend, rather than here – walking around under the noses of the Chancellor and President and the University Board officials, pretending we are finding solutions. What annoys me even more is that Political Science is right. It annoys me because the only reason he’s even bothering to say anything at all is because he likes attention. So he talks and everyone listens, leaning back in comfortable armchairs around the lounge fire. The turkey we had at The Dinner made everyone pseudo-sleepy so no one’s in a hurry. The coffee is warm and the fire attractive – there’s hardly anything to do in our temporary, on-campus housing rooms and we’re supposed to be working. Not listening to PoliSci’s diatribes about things we already know.
I wonder if I’m the only one who knows he’s acting. He is very safe in his position in the University. No one is cutting his resources. Why would they? Plenty of soulless little drones who are a lot more interested in Law School than International Affairs, anyways, are willing to line up at his door waiting for acceptance into the major.
Or maybe I’m just good at spotting an actor when I see one. He’s not shabby at it really, in his own perverted sort of way. Some would say I’m bitter but that’s not it. When I’m angry or hurt or happy or exited – everyone can see it. I don’t carry grudges around like some people. Now, Black Studies, that’s a different story. She’s bitter because her cousins, Chicano Studies and Asian Studies, didn’t get their funding cut and she did. I don’t see why she’s so indignant though, acting like it’s some big surprise. That’s what happens when you stop offering classes pass/fail. People stop taking them. People stop taking them, bad things happen.
Simple. Even I know this and I’m no logic expert.
That would be Math. He’s got his head in a notepad again. Probably calculating some big statistical thing. That was always beyond me – math and numbers. It’s all supposed to make sense but there’s no soul in it. I can’t work like that – when there’s no connection. His buddies – Chemistry and Physics – are sitting on the couch next to him, talking among themselves. They don’t care much for what PoliSci is saying. I’m not surprised. His lot and theirs had never got along much. They’re civil and all, but absolutely uninterested in each other.
“…Of course, everyone just wants to be comfortable and not be the one to stand up to the Board. But that’s the only option, don’t you understand? Otherwise, there will never be a solution. If we keep running this university like a business it will only harm our students and us!” PoliSci is getting carried away. He likes to listen to himself talk so he talks. Propaganda and falsity are his strong suits. He even manages to make the truth sound double-edged. Like right now.
Economics is about to say something – probably to bitch about how profitable it is to run the University the way it is being run – but Sociology puts in her word first. “Do you know they’re cutting scholarships? By a fourth!”
“Actually, it’s more like 25.44645%.” The silence is pretty comical as everyone attempts to figure out who just blurted out that ungodly long number. By the time everyone is staring at Math, he’s already managed to stick the pencil he was writing with behind his ear. “What? I did the calculation…”
Sociology blinks at him. “Have you never heard of rounding?”
“Well, it’s more accurate this way, All by itself it might not matter but when you put it into a larger equation—“
“That’s NOT the point,” Soc pouts, cutting into his reflection on accurate calculations. “The point is that they’re cutting scholarships, not just our funding. We’re not the only ones suffering. It’s those underprivileged students in those horrible ghetto conditions who are suffering.” She tosses her head, flutters her eyelids and sits back in the armchair she’s occupying and watches the ripples she has made. Chicano Studies and Black Studiers are looking up from their little conversation, Philosophy has forced himself out of his little meditative trance and a few of the other Departments have perked up as well. Except for Math, who has gone, inconspicuously, back to calculating something, muttering under his nose, and Exercise Studies – PE, as he’s better known – who is alternatively checking out his biceps and all the ladies in the room. Music is pretty oblivious, too. He’s checking out PE. There may be a ballade about hopeless love written this weekend after all. I was getting worried.
PoliSci is looking at Soc like she is the most incredible thing in the world and she looks back up at him through her eyelashes. They fool around a lot, those two. It’s an off-and-on thing. She has her principles and limitations and he has his goals. Sometimes they can’t come to an agreement, but there’s an irresistible attraction between them. Everyone knows they’re meant to be together even if they don’t say it. It could almost be tragic. Soc likes to stir things up and somehow people trust her a little more than PoliSci when it comes to facts. Maybe because she gets along alright with Math and one would have to be a complete imbecile to not realize how solid that guy is when it comes to facts and things. She’s the ethos to PoliSci’s pathos. Though this time she seems to have struck a chord. Econ doesn’t seem happy with this. He tugs on PoliSci’s arm and tries to tell him something but his friend isn’t inclined to listen. Their other mutual friend – Communications – seems pretty indifferent either way.
“What are you whispering about over there!” Black Studies finally buts in from across the room. “Sit down, Econ. It’s people like you and their ideology that get us all screwed!”
She’s done it now. Econ jumps to his feet, furious. “You’d just give out free scholarships to everyone of a racial minority whether they deserve it or not!”
“Now, stop it. We’re supposed to be talking about this productively,” Psychology said plaintively, attempting to calm everyone down. She’s the ultimate peacemaker around here.
“’Deserving’ sometimes is a very relative measure,” Philosophy starts in a drawl.
“Shut up!” Black Studies and Econ snap. They’re still glaring at each other. “All you can do is blather endlessly about things no one cares about. Not a bit of practicality in you!” Econ continues scathingly.
Philosophy withdraws, eyebrows drawn together. I feel bad for him. He tries his best but no one seems to take him seriously. I can hear Psych murmuring something about him being a “great mind” and to not worry about what other people think. She has one hand on his arm and it almost looks like she’s flirting but he’s not paying attention to her anymore.
“You know,” Feminist Studies says, eyeing Black Studies steadily. “It’s not only racial minorities who get marginalized.”
“Oh please!” – when did PE start paying attention to this conversation instead of Art’s ass? – “As though anyone cares about a bunch of fags.” Music visibly flinches and Art puts her arm around his shoulders sympathetically.
“DON’T USE THAT WORD!”
PoliSci steps forward and puts a hand on Fem’s shoulder to keep her from bull-charging PE.
“Oh what are you gonna do, girly?”
Fem looks like steam might come out of her ears and nose. “You know I can kick your ass if I wanted to.”
I sigh and get up from my place by the fire. I stalk over to where the coffee is and proceed to pour myself a cup. They’ll be at it for a while now. Sure, I like drama and conflict and emotional interactions and all that but my colleagues tend to take it too far. Besides, their interactions are a bit…tasteless.
“You wanna pour me a cup as well?” I almost jump at the quiet voice lilting against my ear. Film Studies. She’s going to give me a heart attack some day.
“Must you creep up on people like that?” I grumble, reaching for a second styrofoam cup.
“I prefer the phrase ‘being subtle.’ Not all of us are as overdramatic as you, Theater.”
“I can’t help it. It’s in my nature,” I snap, glaring at the small waterfall of coffee pouring from the faucet of one of the thermoses. My relationship with Film is a strange one. On one hand, we can’t stand each other. We don’t understand each other and we don’t care to try, having decided long ago that we were simply going to deny the fact that anything could bring us together. On the other, we are insanely attracted to each other.
Well, to be perfectly honest, I’m insanely attracted to her. I have no idea about how she feels. She is a lot more popular than I am – extraverted and a perpetual people-person. Liberal in her tastes and views, she attracts such a broad range of people that I have trouble keeping up with her friend count. But to me she also seems fake half the time.
Sure, I’m conservative and emotionally unstable and sometimes snobby. I’m introverted and picky and only a very select group of people are really close to me. But at least I’m open and honest. I wear my heart on my sleeve and everything I’m thinking and feeling is out there for the world to see. I have few secrets and I’m enthusiastic in my own way.
My personality makes it hard for me to hide. Her? She puts on her make up, her trendy clothes, whips out her laptop and cellphone and hides behind an image that is so drawn-on that she is hardly recognizable without it. But she is glorious and glamorous and a good person at heart. That took a long time for me to figure out but when I did I fell so hopelessly that I wish I never had figured it out.
I put a lid on each of our cups and hand her one, taking the other for myself. Film leans easily against the table and sips at her coffee, eyes half closed. “Where’s English? I haven’t seen her all night?”
I shrug and look out across the room where Psych seems to have finally succeeded in calming everyone down. “I made the mistake of loaning her my copy of Hamlet. She’s probably still reading,” I say flatly.
Film nods absentmindedly. “You’ve been avoiding me lately,” she says after a pause.
“I have not!” I protest, knowing full well, that yes, of course, I’ve been avoiding her. I couldn’t let her see just how much in awe of her I am. She would try to get me to change and I have no intention of doing that. Not even for her.
She looks over at me slowly and lifts her eyebrows in delicate arches. “Am I supposed to believe that?”
I almost choke and stare straight ahead, determinately. “You’re not supposed to anything.”
Film stays quiet for a few minutes, then reaches back and sets her cup on the table. She comes to stand in front of me, a small smile playing across her lips. “Just because we have different definitions of what constitutes art doesn’t mean we can’t get along,” she says softly. “Imagine what it would be like if we could become friends.”
I scoff, not bothering to hide my disdain. “We can’t agree on a single thing!”
She shakes her head and continues to smile that infuriating, smug smile. Like she knows something. “Well, maybe if you tried to change my mind instead of puffing up like you’ve swallowed a hot air balloon, we could.” She reaches out and touches my shoulder briefly. I flinch and look away.
When I look back, Film has already reached the far side of the room. She pushes open the glass double doors that lead into the front courtyard then looks back at me, almost coquettishly. Another moment and she’s gone.
I take a long drink of the coffee and sigh loudly. A thousand possibilities rush through my head all at once. Maybe she could change. Oh! To think of all the Broadway productions I would take her to! But of course it is an empty dream. She will never change and neither will I. She is only playing with me, teasing and taunting me because she is a temptress. That is her nature.
I give my colleagues – still arguing about funding, scholarships and still not getting anywhere – a jaded look before tossing away my empty cup and stalking out of the room. If I hurry, I might be able to get my copy of Hamlet back from English before she goes to bed.