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The Professor

by Maria Venter

He paced the front of the classroom, his eyes darting from left to right as he searched for the perfect combination of words. Rubbing his veined fingers against each other, he ventured into his next sentence. One deliberate word at a time, licking his lips for emphasis between each word.

He always sounded out of breath, like each word was a labor to pronounce. Maybe it was the pacing.

Suddenly he veered out of his worn path and shuffled into the second row. He placed two fists on the desk and stared questioningly at the bewildered student seated below.

“I pause for re-ply,” He stated. For one more second he stared down at the now- amused student and then turned and shuffled away. A reply to what? No-one really knew, since the questions all sounded like statements or else they had no answer.

“Have I left anything out?” He inquired, focusing his gray eyes on a girl in the fourth row.

“I don’t know, you’re the teacher.” She said with a shrug.”

“Now that just won’t do…” he said, pressing his hand to his cheek with a worried look. “You see, by the end of this semester…” He took a breath, licking his lips. Suddenly the light switch caught his attention and he flipped it back and forth once, staring blankly up at the light. “By the end of the semester….” He began again, “I want you to be able…” Another breath, and a lick of the lips “…to understand. I am not…(breath)…a genius.” The class chuckled. His mouth hung in its perpetually half- open position as he surveyed his classroom. “I am not a genius.” He repeated, with more confidence this time. More breaths. He leaned against the whiteboard and placed is index fingers in the base of each nostril, thinking. The class looked on.

Coming out of his trance, he said, “Do you see what I’m saying?” He shuffled briskly towards the girl again.

“I don’t…I…you’re so hard to follow sometimes.” The girl blurted, shaking her head with her hands over her face.

He stopped and tilted his head, confused it seemed. “I’m hard to follow?”

“Yes!” She said, not daring to meet his eyes.

“…Well I wonder what that means.” He said, turning away and finding his way back to the whiteboard. “Madmen are hard to follow.” He announced, staring at the wall in the back. The class laughed. None of it made perfect sense.

And maybe he was a madman– either that or a genius. He was indefinable.

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