Originally Published May 9, 2013
Don't read me I'm weird
I had this professor in college. Poor bastard, he hated everything, and he loved everything all at the same time. It made him socially awkward, around 20 year olds anyway. Back then I was convinced in my own greatness. Not so much that I thought I was great, but that I could be, someday, if I wanted to. I don’t think he liked me very much.
Unfortunately for him he taught what I wanted to learn. He had it, I wanted it, it didn’t matter at all if he liked me. I would not be denied.
I don’t know how many classes I took with him over four years but I do know that the only grade I ever got (except for one) was a B-. Every piece I handed in, B-. Every essay, poem, short story, or lyric I sent his way…B-.
I wouldn’t quit though. Not me. Not this guy. I got tons of A’s in other classes (ok, maybe not “Tons”) but none of those mattered. I don’t know why I wanted to be good at such a ridiculous thing as writing. Wait, full disclosure, writing poetry…what was the point of learning how to do that? It became an obsession. I loved it. I loved the technique and the nuance. It was beautiful and powerful and delicate all together and I wanted to be good at it. I knew there was no career in it. I knew my father thought it a waste of my time. None of this mattered to me. He had it. I wanted it.
So we struggled to exist together. I tried to be charming and charismatic but probably came off as cocky and boorish. He tried to make me feel like a talentless hack but deep down I knew he liked me…a little…a little more than heartburn…a little less than traffic. I asked him once “Doc, why do you try so hard not to like me? I mean, we are almost like…friends.” The look of him, standing there in his too tight tweed sportscoat with his jaw wide open (yet weirdly clenched at the same time) like that… I thought he was going to strike me.
That was the way of it for years. I enjoyed it mostly, honestly.
I can’t say that I ever got very good. But I did love it with all of my heart. I wanted to be good. I tried to be good. I lived the life even though I did not have the talent of my peers. I knew that, about the talent, but I truly believed that I could do it because I felt so hard back then. There was no buffer between my mind and my heart. Every day was like falling off a cliff and just before hitting the rocks I’d learn to fly, just for a second, then WHACK!
Just pain, not death, just pain.
I didn’t even try to be like that, I didn’t make that part or mix it up. Anywho *
I was sitting next to this girl one day in class. I don’t remember her name but lets say it was Beige. Beige wrote a piece called “Candy Cane Dreams”. I got my standard B- and Beige got an A. So a looked at him, I stood up, and I left. (I still do this from time to time).
I was stomping my way home to my apartment downtown when I realized that I drove to school that day and I had to go get my truck. By the time I got back to the parking lot I was so angry that I walked right past my truck to the English building. I swung up the stairs and kicked the good doctors door (I really did) and I slammed my B- on his desk.
I wanted to rip all the books off his shelves and bury him under all the words he had read that I hadn’t. I wanted to roar like a beast and storm like a wizard. I wanted to kill Christmas and all the things about it that made him happy.
Dreams? I snarled.
An…A? I choked.
He just looked at me. Just fucking looked at me. Like he was more confused about me not knocking then the kicking or threatening behavior.
“Would you like an A Mr. Buckley?” He asked.
My brain exploded
“What?” I asked
“Fuck You” I said (true story).
I was so much better than I was when I got my first B-. I was so much better, I, I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t process it. Learning shit hurts.
Later that year we find our hero…
…graduated I was and all dressed up in my cap and gown when I saw him on the lawn outside the fieldhouse. I walked my parents up to him and made an introduction. He looked at my parents with that pompous face and noses up glasses down posture of his and waited just until my father started to speak, and I mean half of the first word my father said and the doctor interrupted…
“You know…(weirdly long pause)… it is quite amazing. Your son, (he paused and pointed back and forth between them as if to make sure they knew he was talking to them specifically) your son actually managed to squeeze a decent education out of this…(he looked around) place. That is an accomplishment. He really is quite…tenacious in his own…way.”
For the rest of my life I will never forget those words.
So my father said (still seething over the rudeness) “What about all of the B’s”
“The B-‘s you mean” The doctor corrected him.
“Yes, (pulling on his collar) why not A’s?”
I waited for the first syllable of the first word before I interrupted the good doctor and I said
“I didn’t want the fuckin A”!
I still don’t.
*pretty sure writing Anywho would have cost me my B-