An excerpt from
Glancing at my watch, I breathed a small sigh of relief. My class was about to start and she was blissfully absent. Usually, I didn’t approve when my students missed a lecture, but it seemed that a lot had changed since the beginning of the spring semester when she sauntered into my classroom, annoying me at every turn. I looked at my watch again. Time to start.
Then the door swung open, and my good mood dissipated.
Of course she wouldn’t miss a class. She never has.
She danced into the room as she always did, wearing ridiculously large headphones, bopping her head to the beat. Did she even notice the stares she received? Did she care? Probably not, given her choice of outfit—if one could even call it that. The combat boots on her feet were unpolished and worn, her black pantyhose was riddled with holes, her skirt was far too short, and if that wasn’t bad enough, she had cut up the neckline of her long-sleeved shirt, making it fall off her naked shoulder. My eyes lingered there, noting the lack of bra strap.
The jocks in the back noticed, too, their eyes following her as her movements made it obvious that she definitely wasn’t wearing anything underneath the tight-fitting shirt. Lifting my gaze to her face, I met her eyes for a second. She flashed me a grin, winking. Suddenly, I felt as though my bowtie was too tight around my neck and I had to fight the urge to tug at it.
As she breezed past my desk, I pretended to glance at my watch. It was too much to take in when she was that close—those red lips and all that smudgy black stuff she wore on her eyes. It was like looking at a deranged version of a mime.
I didn’t understand why she chose to present herself like that, when she was otherwise reasonably pretty. She had a nice figure, large blue eyes, and long, shiny reddish-brown hair. But she never wore it down. Today, it looked like she had twirled large sections of it with an electric mixer and then pinned them up.
Her appearance wasn’t the only thing that bothered me. The girl seemed to have no appreciation for the fact that I was her professor, or for the decorum with which she was expected to act around me. She often addressed me as “Stephen,” even though I corrected her each time it happened. I wasn’t “Stephen” when I was teaching a class and I expected my students to address me as either “Professor Worthington” or “Sir.” Needless to say, my expectations were not met where this bothersome young woman was concerned. Today was hardly the first time she had winked at me, and I had no idea how to react when it happened. She was entirely unpredictable and it made me nervous. She never hesitated to interrupt me during class if she was of a different opinion.
And when is she not of a different opinion?
I had never met a more infuriatingly opinionated and stubborn girl in all my life. I was looking forward to the end of the semester, after which I’d never have to see her again. She was smart—I couldn’t deny it —and I was certain that she’d pass my class with flying colors.
She took a seat at the front of the class, like always, and I watched as she placed her bag on the floor. The movement made the already loose neckline of her shirt slide further down her shoulder, revealing more of her pale skin. That bothered me even more than the constant interruptions and inappropriate behavior. Why couldn’t she just dress nicely? She would be such a pretty young lady if she wore a decent-length skirt and perhaps a silk blouse. But, apparently, she was adamant in her desire to look like a trashy urchin, thus effectively spoiling my good mood. I liked order and predictability, neither of which I was able to enjoy with her in my classroom.
She was even appropriately named “Wilde.”
Ms. Wilde had become a constant source of annoyance in my otherwise pleasant Tuesday/Friday teaching schedule, and I couldn’t wait to be rid of her.
I cleared my throat to let my students know that I was beginning the class, and for once they settled down quickly. I knew the reason for this unusual occurrence without having to ask: today we were discussing the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. The risqué plot of a grown man who falls in love and has a sexual relationship with a twelve-year-old girl rendered the novel a perennial class favorite. It was still banned in many places, and nothing made my literature students feel more like adults than reading “forbidden” books. As the class started, I was surprised to see that for once, Ms. Wilde was not participating. She was writing her notes quietly with a small smile on her face.
As the discussion continued, a student in the back suggested that the main character, Humbert, was mentally ill and not in control of his own actions, and he should be allowed a little clemency.
“But you can’t actually defend him,” a girl whose name I couldn’t remember argued. “He’s a complete pervert and he corrupts the girl!”
“Actually, I think it’s the other way around,” Ms. Wilde said, without looking up from her notes.
“What?” the girl asked. “Are you serious?”
“As a heart attack,” Ms. Wilde answered. “I’m fairly certain that Lolita is the one who corrupts Humbert. She seduces him and he loves it. What guy wouldn’t?”
“But she’s just a kid!” the other girl insisted.
“She is, but she’s well aware of what she’s doing when she seduces him. She’s had sex before, and afterward he is basically eating out of the palm of her hand. I’m not saying that what he did wasn’t wrong, but you have to remember that he sees her as a young woman, and he himself only possesses the emotional maturity of a twelve-year-old.”
The girl had no retort and looked down.
“That’s a good point,” I admitted.
Although Ms. Wilde’s speaking out of turn bothered me, she always made excellent contributions to the class discussions. Usually, I would have enjoyed having such an active student in my class to liven up the debates. There was just something about her, something that I couldn’t put my finger on. She rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason.
“So, why do you think that the author chose to write about such a controversial topic?” I asked the class.
A few people started to raise their hands but gave up the second Ms. Wilde started speaking without being called on. Again. I gritted my teeth. The girl was undoubtedly intelligent, but why couldn’t she just play by the rules like everyone else?
God, she is so infuriating.
She stopped talking and looked at me. Sadly, she didn’t look intimidated at all and merely gave me a curious glance.
“Yes, Stephen?” she asked sweetly.
“Professor Worthington,” I corrected.
Thank God the semester is over soon.
She just smiled at me.
“You will wait your turn to speak or you can leave my classroom,” I said, silently daring her to continue her rant.
She motioned for me to continue and leaned back in her seat with an amused expression on her face. I asked the other students for their opinions and received a few uninspired responses about taboos. One of the other girls even started to argue that the author was the real pervert. I sighed and reluctantly called on the bothersome Ms. Wilde, who grinned and leaned forward.
“I think that Nabokov is using the main characters as symbols.”
I had a pretty good idea of where she was going with this, and she was absolutely spot on, as always. It would have been so much easier if I could have just dismissed her as both silly-looking and silly, but she wasn’t. She was smart, and I had no choice but to keep calling on her.
“How so?” I asked, giving her a nod.
“Humbert is older and sophisticated, but emotionally stunted. He likes serious literature and classical music. He represents Europe. Lolita is young, fun-loving, and naïve. She likes Coca-Cola, rock music, and glossy magazines. She’s obviously supposed to be the author’s interpretation of the US, which isn’t particularly flattering.” She hesitated and smiled to herself. “But I could be wrong. Maybe Nabokov’s motives were much simpler. Maybe it just came to him in a dream one night.” She looked up at me with her lopsided grin and added, “After all, don’t all older men dream of sleeping with a younger woman?”
She winked again. I may have been inexperienced when it came to the opposite sex, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that Ms. Wilde was teasing me. The tip of her tongue peeked out between her lips.
“Class dismissed,” I said, clenching my jaw.
I sat down at my desk and started to gather my books.
“See you Friday, Stephen,” I heard Ms. Wilde say as she passed by on her way out with the rest of the students.
I looked up and watched as she sauntered away in her ridiculous outfit. My gaze briefly caught something peeking out of the top of her shirt just below her neck: a tattoo. My gaze dropped to her backside and her slender legs, which were covered up by the hideous pantyhose. She glanced over her shoulder and gave me a smile before she was out the door.
Of course she would have a tattoo. She obviously doesn’t care about her appearance or having anyone take her seriously. I really wish she would wear some nicer clothes. She would be quite pretty if she gave it a little effort.
I threw my things into my bag and hurried out to my car. Class had left me frustrated and wound up, so I decided to hit the gym before going home. When I got to my car, I saw that I had a missed call from Matt. I dialed his number and he picked up after several rings.
“Stevie!” he practically sang. “What’s up?”
“I don’t know. You called me.”
“Oh, right. Why don’t you ever pick up?”
“I had a class. My phone was in my car.”
“You do realize you can bring it with you, right? It’s not like it’s a car phone, although I can understand why you’d think so.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You need a new phone. The one you have now is the size of a brick. Can it even text?”
“You know it can,” I said. “Why’d you call?”
“I want you to come out with me tonight.”
“So, don’t you have work tomorrow?”
“Yeah, what’s your point?”
I sighed. “Never mind. No, I can’t come out.”
“Why not, man? You don’t have classes in the morning.”
“I have papers to grade and an article to finish. Besides, I was looking forward to a quiet evening at home.”
“All your evenings are quiet ones at home,” Matt said, and I could practically hear him rolling his eyes.
“Well, that’s the way I like it.”
“I swear to God, I have no idea how the two of us are even related. You are the oldest thirty-three-year-old in the world.”
I chose not to point out the fact that Matt and I were only related through marriage.
“I’m serious,” he continued. “You’re single and have easy access to young hotties, but when’s the last time you got laid?”
Who can even remember at this point?
“I don’t have ‘easy access,’ as you call it. Dating a student is forbidden and you know it.”
“I’m not talking about dating,” Matt countered. “I’m just talking about getting someone’s hand on your dick other than your own. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
“I have to go,” I said. “I’m headed for the gym.”
“Great idea, I’ll see you there in ten minutes,” Matt replied, ending the call before I could protest.
Fantastic. Just what I need after the day I’ve had.