The buzz of the alarm gradually roused me from dreamless slumber. My eyes blinked open, and I winced into the sun shining through the window. It was a peaceful December morning and I buried myself deeper under the covers before glancing at the alarm clock.
I launched myself out of bed, searched for a passable pair of jeans and yanked them on while scanning the floor for two shoes that, preferably, matched.
In my haste, the pants caught at my knees and I hit the ground, all the while swearing loudly and not caring if I woke my roommates.
Not even bothering with a jacket, I picked up my backpack and ran out the door, certain that I had already sealed my fate.
After all, the final started at 7am and my professor was not the type to understand being 40 minutes late for such an important exam. Especially when my attendance record for this class would have made Ferris Bueller jealous.
Slipping on ice, stomping through snow banks, and narrowly avoiding a new career as a Buick hood ornament, I rounded the corner. Campus was only a block away and my feet moved as quickly as I could make them.
I cursed myself as I leaped over a puddle.
“You are such an idiot!” I said.
“Lazy! Moron! What were you thinking?!” I screamed. That part might have been out loud.
That was the nickname we gave to the head of the French Department.
It was not a term of endearment.
He was the kind of professor who liked games. Not the good kind. Not the fun games that help you memorize French verbs or the names of all the world capitals.
He preferred mind games. He enjoyed his reputation as the most intimidating teacher in the French Department. It didn’t matter that there were only three of them. He wore that title proudly, roaming the halls with his head slightly bowed, his eyes constantly moving and the slightest hint of a smirk at the corner of his tight lips.
I was not the only student to remark that he looked like someone who would appear on the Megan’s Law website.
I hated everything about his Phonetics and Phonology class. I hated the way his questions always seemed to be directed at the students who most obviously didn’t know the answers. I hated the way he wanted you to guess what he was thinking. Even if there were six correct responses to a question, you were wrong if you didn’t offer the one he was looking for.
One week, I avoided his class because I just couldn’t muster the energy to face him.
That Friday, he called me at home to make sure I was okay and expressed his concern that I had missed the entire week.
I hated him for that, too.
Thinking of all the reasons I hated G Funk, I briefly considered turning back, climbing into bed and retaking the class next year. But, since the department was so small, that would most definitely mean spending another entire semester avoiding his beady eyes. I crossed the street and kept going, picking up speed as I saw the building up ahead.
I dodged a few oddly parked cars, avoided running full-speed into a light pole, jumped onto the sidewalk and reached for the door.
I ignored the stitch in my side and the gasping for air as the wet soles of my sneakers squeaked down the hallway until I reached the classroom.
The door was closed.
I stopped and took a deep breath.
I glanced at my watch.
I was sound asleep ten minutes ago.
I took another breath and turned the knob, slowly pulling the door open and trying to be as quiet as possible since the exam had started forty minutes earlier.
I took a step into the classroom and stopped dead in my tracks.
G Funk stood in front of my classmates, commanding the full attention of every one of them.
All eyes turned to me as I took my seat in the front row.
G Funk looked at me pointedly as he plucked a sheaf of papers from the desk.
“Now that Karen has arrived, let’s begin.”
I was never late for G Funk’s classes again.