He stood at the front of the classroom. His classroom. His palms were sweaty in anticipation of the first lecture of the school year, just as they were at the start of every year, and his cheeks were starting to flush. He scrawled his name across the blackboard and then leaned over the desk at the front to shuffle through some of his notes one last time. He loved public speaking, especially teaching, but he always got so jittery before any kind of presentation. The exhilaration afterwards was worth a little stress in the beginning, though. Had he ever tried any drugs, he imagined that how he felt after class was what it felt like to be high.
As he shuffled through his folder of notes, he came across a letter from Chloe he had received a few days ago. Even though there had been much time and distance between them since their years together at Dartmouth, they still kept in touch, still wrote “I love yous” and “I miss yous,” and spoke often on the telephone. As he began rereading the note, tracing his fingers along her loopy handwriting, he was startled from his reverie, suddenly, when a young woman walked into his classroom.
She was tall and lithe, with strong cheekbones and a big, wide smile. Her hair was long, a mess of fiery curls and her green eyes sparkled when the light hit them. He was stunned instantly by her beauty and the sense of deja vu that washed over him looking into those eyes. He had to look away quickly or he’d betray the storm of emotions and not-so-kosher thoughts she seemed to stir up within him just with her presence.
“Good morning, Professor,” she said with a smile, “does it matter where I take a seat?”
“Um, uh, a-a-a-a-a-a-nywhere’s fine,” he managed to stammer, turning every shade of red and purple with embarrassment.
“My name is Rosemary Winship, if you need it for attendence,” she stated, as she took a seat in the center of the front row. She pulled out a notebook, a copy of the English literature anthology for the class, and a pencil. Then, she reached into her purse and pulled out a small mirror, which she opened with a quick flick of her hand. She looked at her reflection, using her fingers to rug a couple spots on her face, and then flicked the mirror shut again, placing it back in her bag, which hung on the back of her chair.
He couldn’t take his eyes off her the whole time, and he stared without even knowing he was doing so, still leaning awkwardly on his desk at the front with one hand, clutching Chloe’s forgotten note in a tight fist with the other. His heart beat so fast he could hardly breathe and his mind was racing. It wasn’t just her beauty that had him in such a state, though she was certainly striking, but there was something in the air around her. He wanted to tell her all of his hopes and dreams and fears, he wanted her to know his inner workings, what made him tick, and he wanted to hear everything about her, too, to get lost in her depths and drown in her wisdom. He thought about winding his fingers through her hair and kissing her passionately; he thought about waking up next to her; he dreamed of sitting across from her at a dinner table, hands interlocked; he longed to hug her until there was no more sadness left; he yearned for the simplicity of sitting in silence in the same room, each absorbed in their own book and thoughts; he heard church bells and babies crying.
She looked up from her desk and smiled at him, and parted her lips as if to say something to him, but then, before she could get the words out, several other students filed into the classroom, and suddenly the moment was gone. The room filled with laughter and chatter, and Rosemary got up and moved to the back row to sit with some of her friends.
He turned his gaze back down to his desk, shook his head a little to release himself from the fog of passion that had consumed him. His fist relaxed, and Chloe’s note dropped to the floor, which he didn’t notice, as he shuffled together the rest of his lecture notes and, with a deep breathe, addressed his new class.
“Let’s begin,” he said. “I’m Professor Steinberg, and this is English Literature 232.”