Starting Over

I twirl the pen like a baton, back and forth through my fingers, surreptitiously hoping the action will fan dry my palm. I’m too old to be nervous, I think as I study the faces packed into the auditorium with me. Most of them don’t look old enough to drive, let alone be attending a college course. Maybe they were all baby geniuses. I begin to glimpse a few older faces toward the back of the room. I cursed my promptness and the sad belief that the middle of the room would be a safe place.

Silence ripples through the students gathered there as a man steps up to the podium. Finally, someone my age and he just happens to be the professor, just great. My stomach gurgles beneath my shirt. I close my eyes, praying that no one heard. Peeking through a slit in my eyelids, I spy the exit sign. The warm red glow beckons me, begging me to take my leave. The black box encasing it adds to the drama of the act it implies. Even in the darkest of night, it still proclaims its demand, exit.

The professor, after welcoming the class, has now moved on to speak of the objectives of the course. Feelings feud within me: my desire to flee, to accept the relief the sign offers battles my desire to learn, to begin this new chapter of my life.

I measure the depth of my embarrassment, of walking out and admitting defeat in the face of these youngsters. Would they think I couldn’t face the challenge, snicker as the door slammed behind me? My legs tense, easing me closer to the edge of my seat.

I look back to the professor, see his eyes upon me. I melt back into my chair beneath his curious stare. I cross my legs, my decision taken from me with the weight of his gaze. He speaks of history as I ponder my future.

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