Monday, January 10, 2011


I wasn't looking forward to going back to work today, even though I genuinely enjoy my job. It has been amazingly easy to lose days and hours, like misplaced erasers that no one misses. As I was walking to my Greek mythology class this morning, I remember shuddering inwardly at the prospect of ungraded work yawning at the mouth of the quarter, like Scylla's maw. The main reason for this unexplainable ennui is, of course, that my mind hasn't quite recovered from the fevers that had haunted my afternoons during the holiday season. Even on days I didn't have any demands, my rest hours would be spoiled with apprehension at the afternoon fevers; today, I was absolutely dreading the afternoon, even though the fevers are quite gone.

I was not excited, merely exhausted, a condition very unfamiliar for the beginning of the quarter, of the year.

As I clutched my pencil with renewed determination before stepping out of the elevator, a sudden music startled me. A student, who was sharing the elevator with me, had a cell phone and it had just gone off, trilling the forgotten strains from the old Star Trek, a mythology that invariably hovers over all my Greek myth classes with amazing frequency.

This, alone, is proof that the Universe is not a messy heap of unconnected masses, yoked together with violence (to borrow from Dr. Johnson) and accident; it is a wonderfully balanced entity, meticulous in arrangements and detailed designs.

The Star Trek strain righted the world on its axis: I was on my way to meeting an entire room full of people who loved the things I did, who are moved by the same stories that resonate with me, who, truth to tell, understand a part of me not available to my family (close as they are to me, closer than a heartbeat, even), and to very few friends, if any. In the classroom, time encloses us all in a bubble, from which we observe the milling humanity, like a species under a microscope, unconscious of our study, indifferent to our temporary removal from their midst. The concerns of leaking roofs, sick children, and gas prices await outside the doors. My students stared at me, enthralled by Orpheus' need to look behind, the secrets of what makes us human contained in that one restrained glance.

What are a few hours of grading to such magic?

The story is old and hackneyed, boring to tell and hear. But the miracle lies in recognizing the strains of the keys creaking to make puppets dance exuberantly, delightedly, to the twitches and whims of Universal strings.


  1. I really enjoy this story! And I understand your feelings; I went back to my students last week.