My Last Day of Grad School

14 Dec

Since my last post, I have gone to a semester of graduate school. Did you miss me? Did you replace me with something else (the news?:/ )? I hope not. I hope you’re not reading the news.

[Flashback]

“Editor?” I call, leaning back in my seat. “Who is our number one competitor?”

“Our number one competitor?” he calls from his office.

“Yeah. Who takes away the most of our readers?”

“I’d say our biggest competitor is most likely you and your unmitigated ability to take a good thing and–”

I slam my door shut and turn up Hybrid Theory.

[Flashback Ends]
I’ve decided that graduate literary study is not for me.

I sit in my last class. It’s a class about Toni Morrison. It’s a survey course, so we have covered all of her books. Today, on this final day of class, we will be discussing our final, seminar-length (15 pg) papers with the class. None of these people care what any of these other people have to say about Toni Morrison. We all just want to go back to our one bedroom apartments, get under the covers, and try to remember a time when crying made us feel better.

We sit facing one another at a large, square table. We are a melting pot of people. We come from all walks of life–white men with glasses (me), white men without glasses, a Mexican guy who looks like a well-tanned Jeff Goldblum, one black girl, who must really get a kick out of watching whitey talk about oppression, a mother or two, some MFA women who appear to have gotten their wardrobes from the dumpster behind their grandmother’s (whom they never visit) retirement home.

Our instructor is a diminutive black gentleman who always dresses extremely well.

“Who would like to go first?” he asks.

“No one,” I think to myself, and they say to everyone, loudly.

“Excuse me?” the professor asks.

“I didn’t say anything. I’m putting my head down.”

“Part of your grade is contingent on your participation in these presentations.”

“My grade in my Master’s level Literature course?”

“Yes.”

“Will you also decrease the amount of stardust in my moonbox?” I ask, then give a thumbs up. My professor smiles. I quickly turn the thumb down and make a fart noise with my mouth. My professor at first seems shocked and then quickly his expression becomes one of heartbreak.

“All right class, it appears I have been given a thumbs down and a fart from Mr. Irion. I don’t see any way to smoothly transition into our presentations, so let’s not even try. Who wants to go first?”

A mother with a young soul raises her hand. The professor nods approvingly. I slump in my seat, pull my shirt to the level of my nipples, and beginning playing in my belly hair.

“Mr. Irion, please,” my professor pleads. “Can you lower your shirt? We can see your abdomen.”

“You can?” I ask. “As a white male in a Toni Morrison class, I’ve always felt pretty invisible.” I sit up and pull my shirt down. “Go ahead, Ms. Simpson,” I say.

“Go ahead Ms. Simpson,” my professor says.

“Uh, is there an echo in here?” I ask, bringing my cupped hand to my ear, surveying my classmates’ faces in an “Am I right?” fashion.

“No, there is not an echo in here Mr. Irion,” my professor says.

“Sounds like it.”

“Yes, but there isn’t.”

“I know, but it sounds like there’s an echo in here.”

“Can I start my paper, please?” Ms. Simpson asks.

“Go ahead,” the professor and I both say at the same time. I give him a cutting look. I am going scorched earth.

“So can I go?” Ms. Simpson asks.

“Yes, I said. Who’s the professor here?” She’s struck dumb by my question. There are murmurs of confusion in the room. The MFA’s all lean back further in their chairs, trying to seem more even more blase about the class as a way to combat their fear. One shabbily-dressed man slips from his chair to the floor. They’re mortified. I can see it in their eyes.

“Do you have a syllabus?” one young lady, her lip trembling, asks me.

“Whose name should I put on my thesis board form?” Mexican Jeff Goldblum asks.

“Excuse me!” The professor shouts. “You are all graduate Literature students. Is it really that easy to pull the wool over your eyes?”

“It appears so,” I say softly, looking out at the confused, frightened faces, suddenly terrified by my own power. “I will now relinquish the class to this man here.”

“Who?” a fearful, portly gentleman in a sweatervest asks.

“My god,” the professor whispers, rolling his eyes.

“Everybody, this nice man will be your professor from here on out. I had a great time being your instructor this semester. Dr. Sherman–” I turn and gesture toward the professor, Dr. Sherman.

“Yes,” Dr. Sherman begins, the words coming slowly as if they pain him. “I am now your professor.” He winces. “Mrs. Simpson, will you please give your presentation?”

Mrs. Simpson gives her presentation. Then someone else does and someone else does and so on and so forth until it gets to me.

“Okay,” I start. I like to start this way. “I’m Kyle Irion. My paper is about–” I look out onto and into and out of the faces of my peers. I think of how much work some of the second year students have put in. I think of how hard it will be for them to find work any better than the work they had before they got here and how much worse that will be with $40k in debt. I think of how academic literature study’s sole focus seems to be sustaining academic literature study. I think about my own life, and how I thought this would fill the hole in my heart that the lonely drift of post-graduate life dealt me. Then I remind myself that I don’t need this.

“Honestly,” I say, “this isn’t very good.” I toss my paper onto the table. “It’s a lot of horse shit. At some point I talk about Morgan Freeman. That’s the high point. It all sucks other than that.”

I get up and walk out. And as the doors shut behind me, it feels like the building was, for a moment, more than just a building. I turn back and look before getting on the bus. It’s just a building again.

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