Courtesy of MCT
Sam Fishman is a third-year in philosophy. This is a work of fiction based off Fishman’s observations.
From time to time, as a university student, it will happen that you’re inclined to speak with another student in your class – a man, a woman, a potential mate. You decide what should be done to give the best of impressions. In one case, you comment on their pants. In another case, you comment on the weather.
They sit next to you, across from you, maybe a combination of the two. In these classroom instances, there’s no hurry, it’s a seemingly inevitable interaction. The semester’s length dictates confrontation. It’s only ever a matter of how, not when. So you reserve your “hello,” as it is an unnecessary procedure used for stranger conversation while waiting at a bus stop or sitting at a bar. You’ve got far too much time to be direct, and so your actions delve into the realm of the indirect. And so you plan, as you can, given the luxury of your situation. But a new problem arises, a conflict of two sorts of intentions – one of directness, another of indirectness.
The professor signals the end of class, and you’d like to strike up conversation. In this case, a certain she begins putting her books away. You count four books – while all you’ve got is your laptop and your charger. You decide to walk slower toward the outlet in the wall. You deliberately pull your charger out in two tugs rather than one, leaving you time to glance back to count that, yes, in fact, she still has three more books left to pack. You walk back to your seat, wrapping the cord of your charger slowly. Slower than you would have, slower than you ever have, knowing that it is necessary that this must be done in order for you and her to end up at the door together – by accident – as it were by your plan of indirectness.
You might enjoy how neat your laptop charger looks, bundled into a neat ball. You might think, “How tidy this is,” while you do it. For the less introspective of us, we believe ourselves. We value our tidy ball. We reassign our whys. We believe we have packed at this tempo for the sake of cleanliness. “How nice this is that I’ve done things in such a way, and I should next time, too.” But this moment is not long enough. By then, after you’re packed and have finished your contemplations, there she sits with one book left on the desk.
Let us not even discuss the zipping of the backpack she must complete, the putting on the coat, one arm at a time, and then the backpack over it all. You cannot stand there for longer – you’re ready to go. You realize that you’ve had the urge to relieve yourself, but to go to the bathroom would forfeit the possibility of a chance interaction. You turn to look out the window; maybe there’s something believably interesting to watch. A carnival, a flash mob, a fire. How you hope for something, for a tree is not enough excuse to stand in a room. But nothing of the sort happens, as is usual of the view of your classroom window. So you know you must leave, as the room is barren of excuses.
You walk out slowly, hoping it will be enough, but by the time you leave the classroom it seems all for not. And now you’re in a hallway and so you look around. Surely there must be fliers for clubs you’ve wanted to join your entire collegiate career but had yet to seek out. Surely there must be a poem posted that you haven’t read, one you would have never read unless it were there now. But there are none of these things – only a water fountain. A water fountain directly next to the exit of the classroom. A reason to remain.
By drinking at this fountain, (and let’s remember, friends, while under the urge of having to relieve yourself) you must admit to yourself the outrageous measures you’ve taken for this “chance” interaction. Have you put too much intent into your methods for your meeting to have any feeling of chance? There’s no time to wonder. And so you sip. You sip for a long time. Your legs shake as you watch the exit of the classroom out of your peripheral. Students exit: the fat kid, the talented writer who’s work you’ve always enjoyed but wished was prettier, the anal grammar patroller. You thank them for their momentary presence at the door. For allowing you, for an instant, to forget your bodily urge – but you resent them for not being the one you’ve waited for. Eventually the flow of students stops and you haven’t seen her. You consider how this could be. Did she walk out alongside someone else and was missed that way? Did she pass by in the moment you looked at the fountain to press the button?
And now there are only two ways about things: to go back into the classroom, or to leave the building. To go into the classroom, to walk in and be seen watching her as you stand there – an impossibility. And so there is only one decision left to make, you must act on the assumption that she’s outside. You run down the stairs and out of the building.
And there she is, 20 yards out, walking alone. She’s nearing the entrance of another building, you’ve got no time to run and catch her unless you plan on following her into another building – another impossibility. And so at this moment your indirect methods and your desire for conversation conflict. You’ve paced your packing, and done so unsuccessfully. And now your mind, almost unbeknownst to you, abandons all previous methods of indirectness. While running toward her, as she reaches the door handle to enter the next building, you no longer remember why you’ve done anything you’ve done. How simple it would have been to approach her and say “hello.” How charming it would have been to comment on one of the books she was reading. To ask her about her impressions on the class. To mention that you liked her shirt. You imagine these things and become assured of the blasphemy of your indirect approach. And so your body rejects all of your previous methods, your strained subtlety, and yells mid-sprint, in an expulsion of repressed intention, the truest and most direct thing you could have ever said.
“I held my pee for you.”