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“Are you grading papers?”
My chirpy voice breaks the silence and the scratching of his pen stops. Without lifting his face, he looks up.
He watches me for a second or two, and I paste a small smile on my face. “Did you want something?”
“Not particularly,” I reply, tapping the pen against my notebook. “I was just curious about what you’re working on.”
In his usual fashion, he lets a few seconds pass where he stares at me with the same flat but penetrating look. Making me wonder if he does this on purpose, the time he takes before he speaks.
I bet he does.
I bet every word out of his mouth is measured and well thought out. He is a scholar after all. An intellectual.
He thinks before he acts.
Totally unlike me and yes, fascinating.
“You should be more curious about how much time has passed since you sat down to write.” He glances at the clock. “Thirteen minutes.”
I’m not sure why it makes me want to laugh, the fact that he’s so organized and controlled and methodical, but it does. And since I’ve just realized that I don’t have to pretend things in front of him anymore, I do.
I laugh a little as I say, “Which means I have about forty six minutes. To complete twenty pages of my heartfelt apology to you.”
“Close. Forty seven.”
“Right. Whatever. Forty seven. I’m not very good at math.” “You don’t say,” he deadpans.
I chuckle again; his dry humor has always killed me. “So?” “So,” he murmurs with slightly narrowed eyes.
I look down at his papers. “What is it that you’re working on?” Again, he waits to answer and I let him take his time.
Look, I get that this is not normal, me engaging him in a conversation — a polite conversation — and after four years of blatant and loud hatred, he has every right to be wary.
He has every right to watch me carefully right now. As if he’s watching a novelty act.
As if I’ve already surprised him by first asking him to stay with me in a room for an hour — I mean, blasphemy, right? — and now I’m acting like he’s my long lost friend, and he’s just waiting to see what I’ll do next.
It is making me a little flushed and heated, his scrutiny, but I absolutely understand where he’s coming from.
I just hope that he takes the bait and engages because otherwise, this daunting task that I’ve set out for myself is going to be next to impossible. “Grading assignments,” he finally replies.
And this relief is the biggest of all.
“Oh, you mean for one of the summer classes that you’re teaching?” Because he does that, teach summer classes I mean. At least, I know that much about him.
“So what’s the assignment about?” I ask next.
“Factors that led to the end of the renaissance era in the 15th century.” “Oh, interesting.”
But only because it’s interesting to him.
And have I mentioned that I’m glad — so glad — that I don’t have to hide it anymore?
I use another smile from my arsenal, this one is supposed to put him at ease — although I think it only makes his curiosity thicken because his gaze becomes even darker and penetrating than before — and say, “Well, I don’t know much about history or the renaissance era. But why not? I mean, it’s interesting. If you’re into that sort of thing. Which you clearly are.”
“Clearly,” he repeats, his face still dipped and his dark eyes still watching.
“Because you have two PhDs.”
“One in history and the other in art history.”
I’m on such a roll right now that I close my notebook altogether and bring my hands up on the desk, threading my fingers.“So what made you go into history? Like, why history?”
He glances down at my twined fingers, his own still gripping the pen and papers before looking up and saying, “Fifteen minutes.”
Finally, he shifts in his chair and raises his chin. “You’ve got forty five minutes left. You should worry about getting your assignment done than chit chatting about things you don’t understand.”
And we were doing so well.
We were talking and things were flowing. But of course he has to go ahead and throw a wrench in all my plans.
That I’m also disappointed about not getting to know the answer to my question is not something I wanna acknowledge right now. I can stew over that later.
For now, I say, “I was chit-chatting because we’re stuck here for the next hour. I thought talking would make time go faster.”
Not true. But whatever.
“No, it won’t.”
I roll my eyes. “Why, because I’m so boring.” I shake my head as I mutter, “Typical.”
“No,” he replies, looking me straight in the eyes. “Because nothing can make time go faster. Time is linear and moves at a fixed velocity. You
might, however, get the illusion of time moving faster in certain situations. There’s a difference.”
My mouth is open by the time he finishes his explanation. “Oh my God.” And because once wasn’t enough, I repeat, “Oh my God. You’re such a nerd.”
The lines around his mouth and at the corners of his eyes crinkle slightly, making him look so approachable for a second, so… beautiful that all I can do is stare.
Why does he have to be so gorgeous?
“No, simply a man with common sense,” he comment. “But I can see why you think that.” Then, “Why don’t you make time go faster by getting some work done? I hear it can do wonders with space time continuum.”
Ugh. He really needs to stop making me laugh when I’m annoyed with him.
“Fine,” I say crossly.