I signed up for a class my second semester senior year of college solely because the course description—I shit you not—said, “In this course we will be learning about memory in primates, race, photovoltaic cells, gender issues in the game of soccer, and”—wait for it—“proteins as nanomachines.” If you’re thinking, “lolwut?” then we’re on the same page. Most people probably wouldn’t sign up for a class that sounds like it was created by a person with severe ADD, but I’m not most people.
I very quickly found out that unfortunately we would not be spending 15 weeks learning about racially aware primates of different genders who played soccer and used solar-powered objects, but rather, the course was set up into five separate mini-units, called modules, and each module would be taught by a different grad student, or “Teacher Scholar.” I guess that’s what they call people who are teaching a class so they aren’t quite TA’s, but don’t have a masters yet so aren’t quite professors. Like the “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” of the academic world, I don’t know.
After realizing that the class wasn’t as delightfully random as I’d hoped and actually made a lot of sense, I was understandably disappointed. But I was in for another rude awakening when I found out the main purpose of this class was for us to design a research project and at the end, write a 20-page proposal.
For the scientifically inclined portion of the class, aka 99%, this was like, “cool, awesome, research proposal. Totally makes sense and a very useful thing for me to learn how to do.” But I was a Creative Writing and French double major who had somehow wandered into this class under a slew of false pretenses. Reading a surrealist novel in French made more sense to me than designing a research experiment did. Not to mention, the last research anything I did was a 5 page paper for my “Baseball and American Culture” class exploring if NY Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson stole the sign between the pitcher and catcher to hit the “Shot Heard Round the World” in the 1951 pennant race against the Brooklyn Dodgers. Did I mention I was a humanities major? Yeah. What the hell kind of research experiment could I possibly design?
I was determined to get out of the class quicker than Chris Brown gets out of jail and/or rehab, and I wasn’t exactly discreet about it, either.
That is, until I was approached by one of the TS’s, for the sake of marginal anonymity let’s call him Jared. He came up to me after one of the first few classes and said, “I know you’re thinking of dropping this class, but I think you should stay. I think you could come up with a really cool research topic about something you’re interested in, and I would love to work with you.”
“I would love to work with you.” That to me was awesome, that even though I felt more out of place in the class than a Southerner in a snowstorm, this professor saw something in me and personally wanted to work with me. It was flattering. It was motivating. So I stayed.
Each student was assigned to a TS to mentor him/her throughout the research proposal process and I naturally was assigned to Jared. We corresponded regularly about each benchmark leading up to the final paper, but soon our emails grew to sharing concepts and current events related to my project, then to just funny things we found on the internet we thought the other would enjoy.
If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well, there it is right there. How could you not see the hookup coming?” well then I guess you’re slightly less naïve than I. Yeah, I was closer to Jared than any of the other students were to their TS mentors but I thought it was because we were the only two Humanities people in a science-y class. We just got each other, you know? Our relationship may not have been 100% typical, but it was strictly platonic and honestly completely innocent. Two people sharing funny internet articles does hardly an affair make.
“Okay, Sara you’ve bored us enough with the backstory,” you’re thinking. “Can we get to the juicy hookup part? Did you guys do it? Did he have a big….bed?”
First of all, you can’t rush greatness. Second of all, I’m getting to it!
We hung out outside of class for the first time over the summer at a kitschy bar in an up-and-coming neighborhood. We each had a beer; then we moved on to a swanky cigar bar with a rooftop patio. I had a mojito; he had tequila. He paid. At that point it was nearing 8 or 9 and I needed to drive home in the near future, so we headed over to a nearby restaurant to grab dinner sober up. We talked about what we might do after dinner—I was house-sitting for a friend a few miles away, and no matter what I had to end my night safely back at his place because, you know, that’s what he was paying me for. Also drunk driving is not my M.O. so sobriety had to be factored in.
Sidenote: if you ever get the opportunity to house/pet sit, do it. You get paid a fuck-ton just to sit on your ass and watch TV (which you’d be doing at your own house anyway and you would not be getting compensated for it), eat food from their fridge, and in my case, have free reign over their fully-stocked bar.
Why did I throw in that stellar recommendation? Because eventually our superior deductive reasoning led us to the conclusion that the only way to include turning up, me getting back to house sit, and no DUI charges was to take advantage of the aforementioned open bar at said house.
We were maybe two drinks in, having a conversation…probably about the class we were in (can I say we were “in the class together” even though one of us was teaching it?), when suddenly, without a word, he grabbed my face and kissed me. And not just like, gave me a peck, no. He kissed me; he really kissed me. Questions were firing inside my brain like neurons. Wait, oh my god, what is happening? Is this really happening? Shit, what should I do? Should I like pull away, or…? Why the fuck am I letting this go on for so long? I mean he’s not bad at it but like…what the fuck am I doing?!
I pulled away.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “That was weird. I don’t know I just…I always thought you were cute and I was so happy you were graduating this year and when I saw you tonight wearing that little dress…I hope this isn’t too weird.”
This was weird. This was definitely weird. How long had he thought I was cute? Is that the real reason I’d gotten an A in the class, and not all the hard work I (thought I) had put in? Is that why he wanted me to stay in the class so badly, so he could hook up with me? For so long I had thought our dynamic was this cool and unique thing. Now I just felt cheap.
“Umm…I…don’t know,” I said tentatively. An awkward silence stretched out before us.
“Do you want to watch something on TV?” he asked, gesturing to the room with the sofa.
“Yeah, that seems like a better idea.”
We positioned ourselves on the couch with some strategic distance between us. But at some point in the middle of a second episode of Baggage (quality TV programming), we started making out again. I don’t know why, I didn’t expressly want to, but I also enjoyed it on some level, I think. I must have. The whole experience—hooking up with someone who was ten years my senior and oh yeah, also used to be in a position of somewhat authority over me—was new. I was nervous, and when I’m nervous I tend to freeze up into a weird ball of complacency and just go along with whatever’s happening.
That’s why as I felt his fingers inch closer and closer to my crotch all I could do was think, “Wait, no, please don’t do that. Don’t try to touch me. This is too weird. Just don’t get any closer—“ but my mouth stayed frozen on his and before I knew it, his fingers were underneath my underwear and then inside me and it felt strange and scary and at the same time, kind of good, so I didn’t say anything. That is, not until he made a move onto his knees and I knew that that was not what I wanted because I hate that feeling, feeling like the spotlight is on me and I have to be very aware of my reactions and also because when someone goes down on you, societal conventions say you’re supposed to reciprocate and going from “respecting this person as my mentor” to “having his dick in my mouth” was way too much for me to handle in one day.
So we stopped. We went to bed. When he left in the morning, he kissed me one more time before pulling away, looking at me thoughtfully, and saying, “Yeah, this is weird.”