Monday, February 27, 2017

Characters: The Rollins Professor

Just look at his face and you'd think him lean, covered with no more than a single layer of chiseled muscles, a fit body to go with his Mediterranean face, the dark eyes, dark thick brows, and high cheek bones. Only early hair loss -- just a black strand or two surviving on his gleaming olive skull -- prevented him from being a romantic Gothic lover, a Byronic hero, but more cheerful. 

But back away a bit and you see a soft torso that spreads gently outwards near the bottom, finishing with a belly just a few inches too large and a rear end more noticeable than most men would like. He was never certain at what level his pants should define his waist.

His legs were wrapped in baby fat, shapeless, enough so that you could only assume he had knees. He walked with heavy, labored steps, as if, though fatigued, he was rushed but not allowed to run.

We thought it odd that after he showered from our weekly faculty basketball hour, he would sit naked upon a bench, put on his right sock, then right shoe, then left sock, left shoe, all the time with his bare ass on a bench.

No one ever asked him why he did that. Sometimes after pulling on a single sock, he would get caught up in a conversation about some ramrod of a dean, his entire body, save his right foot, made slightly jaundiced by the fluorescent bulbs gazing indifferently from above.

He seemed a cultured scholar, urbane and within shouting distance of the elite. He even used words such as "urbane." Also, "pro forma," and "moreover," and one of his favorites "fait accompli," as in "Not once has the dean consulted us before the budget was already a fait accompli."

He was a bit of a film scholar, but his wife did not enjoy "going to the movies," and would not join him to see, for example, The Sorrow and the Pity or Porky's. He took one of us with him to see the latter, and he studied it carefully throughout, and when it ended he described it as a "good film" because it "achieved its goals." 

The all those naked girls in the shower scene was "not gratuitous, but adequately motivated and integral to the film's theme."

So, sure, he was a sophisticated man, but when the department gathered for a business luncheon, he smacked loudly as he devoured his salad gently bathed in Vinaigrette Lite, and would go over huge segments of the agenda with his mouth full, and no one ever really mentioned this or discussed it among themselves.

After one item on the agenda had been exhausted but never any action taken, never a plan posited, he would rub his hands together like a cartoon villain moments from doing a dastardly deed. Then he would bring his hands together as if in pious prayer, but then, piston-like, rub them together, keeping them warm as he gazed to the side of his salad and leaned in, still chewing loudly, to find the next topic. 

He also smacked when he kissed his female students in the fall when they returned to pick up their schedules, back when they would crowd into the field-house and stand in line while their academic advisers un-snafu'd their troubles, and he would see one of his, hurry up to her, and right on the mouth, big smacking wet kiss. We weren't sure that was okay, but it must've been. 

We never did that, none of us. But was it okay? What if we wanted to? Was that okay?

Sensitive, easily hurt, vindictive in the kindest, most clandestine way, half Iago, half Uriah Heep, his kingdom unraveled some time during its second decade, little things, trouble with the son, loss of interest in his withdrawn, plain and bloated spouse, some misunderstandings on campus, spats with his departmental nemesis, his office door opened at just the wrong moment, a noisy but seemingly harmless kerfuffle during faculty basketball, rumors that cast him in a dubious role, well, it became too much.

Dethroned, cast out, silenced, appearing only briefly on the periphery of our collective vision, but without speech, gloomy, brooding.

Then suddenly he made himself disappear. He was gone forever, completely not there anymore. Even now, some 25 years later, no one knows where he is or if he is still alive. 

Seemed like a nice guy, though, basically.


  1. Love it...he seems vaguely familiar to the coed I once was...:-)
    Thanks for the scintillating sketch and the morning chuckles!

    1. Holy shit! A comment! Thanks, Kathleen. We'd to visit again, but we're afraid Karl might be there.

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