9:30 AM

The tree blossomed with white flowers

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

He sauntered into the classroom, wearing his blue shirt and blue denim jeans. His salt and pepper hair may seem like a decade ahead in age, yet his skin was barely wrinkled. In fact, it was luminous, and there was a shine in his eyes.

I looked into his eyes and I felt like a little girl, giddy and excited to hold his hands as we left the parking lot. I had to walk faster just to keep up with his long strides.

He was supposed to be slower since he is older. Yet, his pace was quicker, walking a few feet ahead of me. He had to slow down to allow me to catch up with him.

Then, he asked, “ Would you like some coffee? “ No, I want some soup,” I replied. We headed for the university cafeteria and I ordered vegetable fun noodle. I loved every bite of it -- fine and thin noodles, bok choy, bean sprouts, mushrooms, cubes of tofu, celery hearts, with two lemon quarters and cilantro as garnishing.

I sipped slowly, trying to be graceful since he was looking at me, studying my every bite. I spooned each serving heartily to my mouth. But, it was more than I can finish, so, I offered him half. He agreed to help me finish the soup and I thought that it was really sweet of him. He unwrapped the chopsticks, and I begin to imagine more than what he is actually doing.

Is this love that takes you places, while enjoying the moment? He slowly picked out the mushrooms, the white tofu pieces, some bok choy and then he quit. I boldly took the opportunity to drink the broth. Oops, what happened to my grace? What happened to my femininity that I am supposed to create as my exterior image? I failed in my first attempt to alter myself in front of my date.

We walked to the classroom and my professor divided the class of 24 students into four groups. Last week, he showed us a video of “ Race is an Illusion “ on KCET.

Today, we are deconstructing the entire video. He called on four people -- three senior guys and a girl named Julie from a lower batch who decided to play her part and embraced the responsibility of leading the group. We were all asked to write the themes and some terms, discussed by our group.

My group was led by a senior, Alfonso, who fell asleep last week in class. He had his hoody on and kept his head down, in the hopes of making himself invisible. My professor called on him to be the leader of our group. We took our seats, forming a semi-circle. One young guy assumed the icebreaker for Alfonso and tried to get the group going.

Alfonso still had his hoody on. He shared he plans to drop out of class and suggested that someone else take the ropes from him. A smartie in the group wanted to end the suffering.

I looked at Alfonso and said, “ It is not fair that you are checking out on us. You were chosen, so you must accept your responsibility. We will help you. But, you have to take leadership as the professor assigned you.“

“ But, I do not know how to lead,” he was quick to reason.

“ All you need to do is to be here and talk to us,“ I blurted.

He tentatively opened his mouth then noticed that one of his key terms was picked by the professor: eugenics -- the science of race, which was debunked and demythologized in the video. And our group leader thought it was real. That’s what happens when a student sleeps in class. What is false becomes true, and he was willing to accept the illusion that he is “ less than. “

The group set him straight and said that the theme of the video carefully examined eugenics and reduced it to a mere myth, a falsehood. Because he slept in class, while the video was being shown, the group explained to him that “ Race is an illusion, it is a social construct, that is not proven by biology. “ After class, I wanted to talk to him but decided against it. I left him in peace, even if it is a troubled sense of peace.

Of course, I shared what happened in my group with my professor. Not to score points but to inform, so my professor can speak with Alfonso. I was very concerned by Alfonso’s false beliefs and wondered if the group discussion challenged him to aspire to do more. Not to bail out but to be involved, to be engaged. I wonder what would happen if Alfonso learns from a professor who couldn't care less about him. Would he graduate?

Fortunately, my professor is engaged and involved. The group dynamics seemed to have encouraged the entire class to participate.

My professor continued his lecture, quite animated:

“ Race is an artificial, man-made idea, not rooted nor proven by biological DNA, yet, has acquired a social reality. “ I was really enjoying his class. He had a way of conveying concepts and connecting it with daily realities.

Two concepts I learned in class today: “Scientific tradition is bent on classifying and setting up categories, and also is predisposed to setting up hierarchy. When applied to human beings, the tradition of science in categorizing and setting up hierarchy should be examined”.

Okay, I have not gone out yet with my professor, he is just offering me occasional treats, and after class today, he offered to buy me a cup of coffee and oatmeal raisin cookie from Freudian Sip. Honestly, that is the name of the snack bar at CSUN, missing an L, but since love is the topic of our conversation in this story, I would emphasize on the missing L-- for "Loving" my professor…

We sat and conversed under a tree with white blossoms which, he shared, would last a few weeks.

I took a photo of this tree to share with you at this moment of falling in love with my professor. For those who know me, this may come as a shock, but allow me to savor these moments.

Thirteen weeks have passed. I am still here. And yes, that was a true affair, an affair of the heart, as well as of the mind, for I learned a lot.

As for Alfonso, he no longer wears his hoody on, just his sweatshirt. He also showed me his homework and proudly showed me the 8 out of 10 points that he got. He no longer sleeps in class and is now participative in the group discussions.

I joined another group and the discussions were more robust. I learned the backgrounds of my classmates, how they think, how they view the world. And they are viewing them with post-racial lenses in some instances. Others have not quite challenged the world order’s false beliefs. I am glad I took this class. It enabled me to write again, to stop myself from believing I cannot, when I can.

And my professor? Well, folks, he happens to be my husband of over three decades. I went to school twice a week this Winter 2009 and I found myself in love again! Yes, the truth of the matter, is I had an affair! But, what I did not share is that my professor also dropped me from class since I became a truant, even if excused, when I went to France and Amsterdam. Oh well, that was his loss, and it was my gain!


Jenni said...

What a beautiful writer you are Prosy. I loved this story.

Post a Comment