I was always a reluctant college student. I never gave any thought at all to what I wanted to do with a higher education, except to endure it. I accepted my family’s proposed curriculum and diligently took every required course for a major I absolutely hated.
Speech communications. How is a four-eyed wallflower like me supposed to survive public speaking and intimate class gatherings for less numbers than fingers on both hands?
My goal was keeping a perfect face for thirty class periods of Interpersonal Communications. With an overly cheerful professor and the bare minimum of students, things were ridiculous. Assignments were sporadic and pointless in nature.
The most hated one was given during the “non-verbal communication” section with mandatory participation.
Justin, the class clown took charge, creating an activity for everyone. Slips of paper were folded, bearing a written challenge within. “Just do ask the paper says—we’ll go in the quad, since there’ll be more people. Kymirithea, this one’s for you.”
“It’s Kim, just Kim.” I snatched the paper from his hand.
“You too, Prof!” Justin tucked the remaining slip into the professor’s shirt pocket.
Like the obedient class we were, everyone trooped outside with Professor Allen loudly rejoicing on Justin’s creativity.
A makeshift circle of misfit students, we watched the sparse traffic flow of other, equally occupied college students. I tried to see what the other slips said before I dared to open mine.
Compliment someone. Help someone. Convey a message. How…beyond a smile? Yecch. I can’t even smile at perfect strangers…it’s bad enough to stand here feeling like an idiot—now I have to look like one too!?
I read the paper.
“Uh, Professor Allen?”
“Just Allen, Kim, what’s wrong?”
“I-I, uh…here.” I handed him the paper. “I don’t know how-”
“Annoy someone. This should be fun. I can’t wait to see how you’ll do this.”
“I’ll be watching.”
“Hey Kimmy, what’s yours?”
Kim. Not Kimmy. “Here.”
Gwen wrinkled her nose. “Wish I had yours! You, being annoying? Hilarious!”
“No trading allowed!” Justin appeared over his girlfriend’s shoulder. “What’s yours, babe?”
I sat stupidly on a wooden bench to watch them all quickly carry out their challenges.
Idiots. You all had the easy ones. I don’t want to do this!
“Kim? We’re done, hurry up!”
I really don’t want to do this!
“C’mon, it’s not that hard.”
Can’t you hear me? I don’t want to do this!
“Hey, let’s all try!”
No! Listen to me! Please!
“This is fun!”
No, it isn’t.
“Kim? We need to get back inside, if you can-”
Nonverbal communication huh? Read my face. Read my eyes. Listen to what they’re saying. Can’t you hear me?
“Sure, Professor Allen.” I turned on my heel and began walking towards the far entrance of the building. Tearing the stupid paper into tiny, jagged pieces,
I waited until the next student passed.
A hiccup caught in my throat and I put on what I hoped, was my best apologetic expression. Catching his eye, I ducked my head in apology and thrust the handful of paper scraps in his surprised hand, darting off before he could speak.
I hope I never run into him again.
I didn’t see him when I rounded the corner. My darkened world was so perfect in its misery that I stared into his handsome face while my senses caught up. “I-er-uh, hi!” I grabbed the front of his sports jacket. It was soft and cold. “Um, yesterday! I’m sorry! I’m very sorry! It was for a speech class, if I caused you any sort of-”
“It was for a class, right?”
“It’s fine. Are you okay?”
“Yesterday, when you gave me those scraps of paper, you seemed so—sad. I wondered what happened.”
I blinked. “I’m fine! Just fine! In fact I-”
“So you’re a speech major?”
“What class was it?”
“Interpersonal communications…on non-verbal communications. Participation was mandatory?”
“You know, talking by using gestures and stuff. I was supposed to annoy someone without saying anything. I’m really sorry. Normally, I don’t-”
“You’re good at non-verbal stuff. I was annoyed when you ran off looking like that before I could ask if you were okay.”
I snatched my hands back from coat. He laughed as I blushed. “I’m fine.”
“Could I verify that over coffee?”
“I don’t drink coffee.”
“Hot chocolate then.”
I smiled up at him.
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