“Professor, is there any way I can pass this class?”
“Well, Jonathon, you’ve missed more than half the classes, you’ve done no homework, I don’t know if you’ve read any of the books…”
“I did. I read them all. Honest.”
“That’s good, but it’s a writing class and, you know, you kind of have to write in order to pass. So what’s your story? You haven’t made sense to me all semester. You’re smart. You like to write, You’re a good writer. Did I mess up somehow?”
“No, professor. You’re cool. I just don’t want to be here.”
“So why ARE you here?”
“My mom made me come to college.”
“I don’t know.”
“So you’re teaching your mom a lesson by failing your classes. That’s good. That’s going to set HER straight. Dude, I have a secret to tell you. You’ve just lost four months of your life. YOUR life, not your mom’s. You’re getting an F in this class.”
“There’s nothing I can do? I could take the final.”
“Finals are next week. It’s just a small part of your grade, anyway. Why sit here for two hours writing something that’s not going to change anything? There’s nothing you can do. The lesson you needed this semester might not have been writing or bio or comm or anything. It might be not to waste your time. Opportunities don’t come twice.”
“Can I take you in fall?”
I knew in my heart — though I was still months from formally deciding and more months from telling anyone — I wouldn’t be back. “I’m scheduled to teach two sections of this in fall.” That was true. Whether I’d be around to teach them? Another question.
“I’ll do better, professor, I promise.”
“Don’t promise me, Jonathon. It’s not my life. I honestly don’t care. You’re not here for me. Come to school for you, for what you can learn. You want to write songs? Come to school to be a better writer. Do it for your songs.”
“No one explained it to me that way before.”
“Maybe you just weren’t ready to hear it. Just do better next time, OK? Don’t short change yourself. There are plenty of people in your life who will be happy to short change you. Don’t do it to yourself.”
“What should I tell my mom?”
“I think the truth might be useful, Jonathon. Just tell her you weren’t ready for college, but now you are. Maybe you’ll get a second chance. Anyway, you have all summer to figure that out, right? Are you getting a job?”
“Yeah. I got one already. Thanks professor, thanks for talking to me. Can I give you a hug?”
I smiled and nodded and stood up and we hugged and I knew I would never see him again.
And that’s life for you.
The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.