Thursday, 21 February 2013

Unexpected Date

Hopeful 7   Hopeless  2

The same week I had my rather discouraging and upsetting conversation with Thomas, I was very busy.  I had decided that I did not have time to go on any dates.  I intended to resume the following week, which promised to be less hectic.  That is not exactly how the week turned out after all, though.

That Thursday, October 18th, I had class in the afternoon.  It just so happened that Steven was in this class.  I had seen him the week before and chatted with him briefly after class; it had been the first time since the day that our student association voted to end their strike.  Our conversation had been okay, but I was still a bit nervous.  In an attempt to normalize the situation on that Thursday, I tried to casually integrate into a conversation Steven was having with a friend of his.  "Did you go to the conference?" Steven asked.  "I was really interested; was it any good?"  When his friend responded affirmatively, I chimed in, "Listening to M Cartier is always good."  I had assumed wrongly that they were referring to one of the conferences in our department that week, that several people including me were just coming from (hence why I was sitting near him in the first place; seat selection was limited when you arrived late).  Steven's friend corrected me, but not in a polite or friendly manner, rather with a condescending tone and energy that I didn't appreciate.  Steven didn't say anything to this or say anything else that could help me integrate into the conversation, so I simply turned around in my seat and looked straight ahead of me.

I was mildly embarrassed.  That was nothing compared to what happened next.  Someone passing by my seat in this very cramped classroom knocked over my water bottle.  It was so quick, I didn't realize what had happened for a few seconds.  I don't even know if it was him or his schoolbag that knocked my water bottle over.  In my confusion, I didn't react very quickly and therefore was not effective at preventing the water from going everywhere.  I was most concerned about my loose leaf.  It was all wet, some sheets more or less.  Then I saw that some water had splashed into my lap.  My sweatshirt, which had been in my lap since there was no space on the backs of the chairs in this classroom, was soaked.  I quickly put it in the compartment under the chair.  I was surprised to find that my pants were a bit wet, but since they were black, it didn't really show.  Then I looked down to find the puddle under my chair.  Still a bit dazed, I mumbled something out loud about probably needing to find a washroom for paper towel.  Meanwhile, Steven and his friend did not react at all.  The only thing I heard was Steven's friend make some sort of "oops" noise.  There were about forty people in this class.  Not one of them got up to help me.  I had to make two or three trips to the bathroom to clean up the mess all over my desk while Steven and his friend watched.  I was embarrassed and mildly offended besides.

That, unfortunately was not the end of my embarrassment.  It was bad enough to be sitting in class wet trying to take notes on damp or crinkly loose-leaf.  The first twenty minutes of methodology class was reserved for questions aimed at research trouble-shooting.  I raised my hand and asked a question that I should've spoken to the professor about after class.  He was just usually so swamped with students after class, that I decided to ask during the question period instead.  Big mistake.  I asked if he could give me direction for my subject, narrow it down a little and if indeed that was the appropriate time to ask.  This was supposed to be an any-question-goes zone, a class where there were no "stupid questions".  Yet the professor looked at me and said, "But that's not your subject."  I was stunned.  How could I not know my own research topic?  He made a slight correction to one of the words in my topic and that radically changed my research.  It was important to ask before I got much further in my work, but I wish I had not done it in front of the class, because at the teacher's reaction, my classmates burst out laughing.  I just wanted to disappear.

So as soon as we had a break, I left the classroom as quickly as I could.  I felt the need to get out of there.  Usually I sit quietly during the break and often eat a snack to replenish my energy.  Since I had been wanting to disappear for about an hour and a half, I could not fling myself out of the room fast enough.  I wanted to put space between me and that class so I could clear my head.  My concentration had not been very good because my embarrassment had really affected my mood.  Normally I am able to put feelings aside when I am in class and focus on the lecture.  For whatever reason, that day, I was not really able to do so.  I went and found a computer, though I didn't have a lot of time before I had to be back in class.  I had gotten an idea that I couldn't shake.  It was crazy.  It was also very unlike me.

I took Amin's advice for reaching him.  I sent him an e-mail, which he was certain to see on his phone.  He said it was always an effective way of getting him to sign in to chat if he was not already online.  Sure enough, scarce a few minutes had gone by and there he was.  So I told him I was having a bad day and that for whatever reason I just couldn't shake off the bad feelings.  I didn't understand why, but I was really not coping that day.  I couldn't roll with anything; everything was affecting me and I was having great difficulty getting through the rest of the day.  I had to stay after class for an activity for the mentoring program I had joined at school.  I couldn't imagine myself doing so.  In fact, I had wanted so badly not to sit through any of the class even.  I felt sorely lacking in courage.  I wasn't able to help myself, so I decided it was time to ask for help.  I needed some support that day.  Amin was ready to offer it, very ready and willing.  He cancelled a meeting with his PhD supervisor; he rearranged his entire schedule just to meet me after class.  His assurance that he would spend some time with me got me through the second half of my class and the activity I had to attend afterwards.

I felt extremely strange making this request.  I later realized that it was okay for me to ask for help or support, certainly.  I asked the person whose schedule was most flexible and who was most likely to be available at the drop of a hat.  What felt strange, was that it was so uncharacteristic of me.  It was so unusual for me to essentially be falling apart based on such a slight thing as an embarrassment or two.  Normally I am tougher than that and it takes a lot to stop me from getting through my day well.  What was most certainly not like me was to ask someone else to help me in such circumstances, to feel that it was so very necessary.  It felt like I was asking to be rescued and though I realized that was not entirely true, it still did not sit well with me at all.  I despise the notion of the damsel in distress being rescued by the knight on the white horse.  I most emphatically do not want it to happen to me.  I want to be my own independent person, not requiring a man to save me.  My internal objections, however, did not stop me from asking Amin to meet me.

Those were not the only strange feelings that I had that day.  Amin didn't say a lot; he mostly listened to me recount the story of my multiple embarrassments.  He let me vent.  Just talking to him began to cheer me up.  While I was talking, though, all I could seem to think about was hugging him or putting a hand on his arm.  I know I touched his arm a couple of times, but in my mind, I was touching him frequently.  All I wanted to do was touch him.  I was surprised at myself.  I suppose it had been awhile since I had had such feelings and that is why they felt foreign.  It made me confused: Amin was my friend; why did I feel the need to touch him?  In fact, I am not even certain my reflection got that far.  I must've been too preoccupied with self-restraint that I couldn't sort out what those feelings actually meant. 

What did emerge clearly for me, was a further illustration of Amin's character.  This Thursday proved to me that he was dependable and supportive.  It confirmed to me that he was a good listener and also very thoughtful and caring.  He offered to stay till I was done my mentoring activity.  After the function, I brought him a piece of cake to share.  He was very happy with that.  I thought there should be some reward for waiting for me like that and certainly the mentorship program could spare the piece.  Then he accompanied me part of the way back home.

I called this entry "Unexpected Date".  It didn't have most classic elements of a date.  It was unexpected because I had not planned to see Amin that day and furthermore did not consider that I had time for any dates that week.  He just spent a couple of hours with me at school, which is hardly romantic.  Yet, other than feeling bad that day, I had some other feelings, which were quite unquantifiable... 

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