Professor Rudensky ate spaghetti for dinner. There is a spot of tomato paste on his white dress shirt and a bit on his tie. He wears green corduroy’s from 1970, fastened snugly with a weathered brown belt. The light of the classroom gleams from the lenses of his sparkly spectacles, perched along the slope of his nose.
A quiet man. He could have very well been a church usher, hunched over at the end of a pew to collect the offering plates. But instead, he teaches a literature class at the University and litters his lectures with filthy words and foul gestures, appropriate for the humor a boy of 14. Just a couple of inches over five feet, he’s a wee man in his sixties.
Spirals of crooked gray hair sprout from the cuff of his dress shirt, buttoned snugly at his wrists. Peppery gray stubbles of beard, to match his patchy head of hair, tell of his wisdom and his age.
I’d like to tell you a bit about my professors. They are entirely interesting and brilliant. I have four of them.
I can’t pronounce the name of my Russian professor, so I call her, “Dr. Ursula”.
She poises herself at the lectern every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon to meet the gaze of a few dozen doe – eyed English majors like myself, mostly girls.
Dr. Ursula models the archetype of what my girlfriends and I might call, a fashion “project.” Definition: a girl who is blissfully unaware of her potential for “hotness.”
She gaits along the hallways of the University, clad in ill – fitting office wear, that disguise her shapely dimensions. The elegance of genius, masked beneath red rimmed reading glasses and woolly eyebrows. Stacey London would kill for the chance to transform this chick into the chichi waiting to be discovered underneath.
I can hardly focus during her lectures as I am consumed with thoughts of how desperately this broad needs a good tweeze and dust of blush. If only she loosen her hearty blond tresses from the bun atop her head, a hairstyle intended for graying librarians or the Amish.
I imagine she spends Friday nights ruminating with the intellectuals at the local brewery, feasting on skim lattes and Parliament cigarettes over talk of the Classics.
A smudge of lip gloss, a stroke of mascara, and a date with a hair dresser could transform the world of this studious starlet. What a scholastic scandal she would be, to reveal what modestly hides beneath her tweed.
It’s obvious she’s sacrificed her “sex appeal” for the study of Dickinson and Donne. Books before beauty, for this donnish damsel.
I’d trade the promise of an “A,” for a chance at getting at those eyebrows with my tweezers.
Meet “Greg.” A pasty – skinned, momma’s boy from rural Illinois, with a temperament as subdued as the hues of his sweater vests. When he’s not pouring over Poe or Plath, he can be found playing Warcraft on his lap top with a tube of Pringles and a cold beer. Or tearing up levels on Mario Kart with buddies from the English department.
Greg makes little eye contact with the students in class and has yet to exert his voice above that of a tortoise. He nervously picks at his bottom lip when he’s unsure what to say as his bespectacled brown eyes are always glossed over with a haze of indifference.
Most of us know this poetry teaching gig is a requirement for his graduate program and he’d rather be playing Zelda.
A skittish schoolboy in loose fitting Dockers, this guy just wants to be back in his apartment with his collection of Keats and a joystick.
Mary Emerson has a mane of bouncy black curls that spring wildly from her head like fireworks. A super mom by day, and artsy writing professor by night, Mary manages it all. Her luminous smile glimmers proud against her olive complexion. A woman of her late twenties, I am convinced Mary and I should have been sisters. Or next door neighbors. We would have been best friends, matching bracelets and all.
She’s the professor you watch and study, noting every mannerism and expression. She enters the classroom every Wednesday evening at promptly four o’clock, Starbucks in hand, dark roasted, like the ruffs of her hair.
We spend the three hour block divulging the genius of contemporary greats, the writers who have shaped and shaken the boundaries of modern prose.
This is my favorite class.
She is petite, with the build of a runner. She sports funky threads and animal print flats most days.
Her sophistication sings of Etta James, with the chill of Jack Johnson, and the abstractness of Thom Yorke.
A graduate of Northwestern and a published writer, she’s finesse and fineness, with a brain.
Dauntless wit and deadly seriousness, there’s no stopping this Journalistic Moxie. I want to be her.
— And there they are. All four of them, the characters of academia I encounter every day. They are my teachers, weird quirks and all. And really, I wouldn’t want it any other way.