By Sami Jean
In the corner office of the old, established college, the professor thinks he’s written books on topics entirely new. He sits in the corner office and studies a young woman, whose hair cascades and whose eyes are like deep, emerald pools. They are talking of casual things. A paper lies face down with red slashes in the margins, barely visible.
The young woman is on a chair and crosses one leg over the other, though the lilac skirt is long enough to cover her knees generously. The professor compares her to a portrait he once saw of a duchess, though he would much prefer it were otherwise. There is a billboard across the street and the model wears no lilac or colored fabric of any kind. The professor’s eyes linger where he would have preferred to see the beginnings of a collar bone at the base of the woman’s neck. Instead, she shifts in her chair and repeats, “No, I haven’t seen the show.”
The professor blinks a few times and hears himself asking, “And why not?”
There is a faint blush in the woman’s cheek.
“It’s uncomfortable in mixed company.”
Sunlight streams through the thick and tall windows.
The professor smells a mix of sweat and rosewater.
“Load of bull,” he tells the young woman, blushing himself.
She is startled for a moment, but at last slowly smiles. The office smells of new leather. The man is fidgeting with his collar and there is a thin film of dewy mist about his palms. The small smile that plays over the lips of the young woman recalls bars late at night and fine, young men with their hands around cold drinks. At nineteen, the woman in lilac sits regularly across from doctors and lawyers and men involved in big sales. The office is indeed large, and the college is indeed old and very established.
She’s looking harder now at the professor, at the man who is young and has chestnut-cherry hair. He keeps his hands very still on his desk, and his concentration is endearing. There are books lining the shelves and piled on the floor. The man’s eyes are looking now at the floor.
“About me taking the class—” she starts.
“Fine, fine, it’s just fine,” the young man says. His voice is higher than it ought to be.
She waits patiently for the man to look at her. The bindings of the books are blurring into a color like mud. There is a teasing shade of purple in the corner of his averted eyes. His doctoral degree is framed on the wall. The cells in his body are laced with a gene that makes his hair reddish-chestnut and his torso large. The professor rises slowly from the leather chair and lets his hand brush the length of the lilac skirt.
The young woman reaches down to catch the hand and whispers low, “You can call me, sometime.”
There is no lull between the honking of the horns of the newest model cars beneath the tall windows. The model in the picture has a fixed and knowing smile from her place on the billboard. The young man and the young woman disappear behind a draped window shade.