I sit up higher in my seat, clearing my throat just as a few junior girls turn their heads to stare. “Ah, just that Descartes got people thinking about the relationship between the mind and the body in a different way.”
Hell, I fumbled that one. My face feels uncomfortably warm. That’s it, no more talking for me. And I’m grateful when the girl in the flower skirt jumps in. Only her eyes are narrowed at Anna in annoyance.
“I wouldn’t say Descartes is such a hero. His belief that animals did not possess a soul led to wide-spread abuse of animals.” The girl’s expression grows irate as her voice climbs. “Vivisection, experimentation, neglect, these atrocities to animals can be drawn back to Descartes.”
Since the girl’s yelling this at Anna, all eyes are now on the both of them. Anna doesn’t cower, though. Her response is smooth as cream. “Given that my argument wasn’t about Descartes, but on how philosophers changed societal beliefs, I’d say you just proved my point.”
Hell, but I like this girl. I like her quick mind and her fire.
Flower Girl, however is turning red. “So you’re just going to ignore the ill his theory brought to the world?”
“I’m not ignoring it,” Anna says. “But I also don’t think we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. He was responsible for a lot of positive changes as well.”
Despite my former resolve to shut the hell up, I find myself saying, “Jones is right, we can’t judge the whole of a person’s work based on one negative outcome. Shouldn’t we give the guy a break? Maybe he had no idea the damage he’d do with a few misunderstood words.”
I will Anna to answer that. She stubbornly ignores me. But she’s the only one. As usual, whenever I talk, eyes turn my way. It’s annoying, but I’m used to it. The fact that I’m defending Anna, however, sends curious glances her way as well.
I hear the blonde who’s been trying to catch my attention for weeks now mutter in a voice meant to carry, “‘Jones?’ He knows her name?”
A flush pinks Anna’s cheeks. Tension lifts her shoulders, and I could swear that she’s fighting the urge to duck her head. It’s strange, as if she both wants to hide yet refuses to cave. But I have to be wrong. Nothing about Anna conveys shyness, and she didn’t seem bothered when she was arguing with Flower Girl. Yet she drops off from the discussion and concentrates on taking notes.
Since she’s no longer in the conversation, I lose interest as well. I resume watching her out of the corner of my eye and wonder if there’s some sort of remedy for this kind of fascination. A sane man would give up the ghost and let her go.
Does that stop me from following her when class is over? From stalking her like some creeper as she heads to the food court at the Student Union? No. Not even a little bit.
WHEN I STARTED college, I loved it. I loved the freedom of choosing what classes I wanted to take and when. I loved the exchange of ideas and the notion that professors were actually interested in what I was thinking. They might not always agree with me, but an intelligent argument was valued. And I loved the anonymity of it. No one here knew the old me. I was no longer that weird loner who everyone assumed was smoking up before class. Which is kind of ironic considering I was never even offered drugs until I got to college.
There weren’t any stupid cliques in college. Not, at least, in that incestuous way of high school. Sure, you could find one, create one, but there were too many students to even notice those groups. I loved being one of thousands, not one of a hundred. Because I could start fresh, be myself without being told that being myself wasn’t good enough.
But now I’ve grown weary of school. My brain is tired. I don’t want to spend another night writing papers or cramming for exams until my eyes blur. I don’t know if it’s normal to be twenty-one and burnt out, but that’s how I feel. I just want it all to be over. And I still have a year left.
Of course, that fact brings its own brand of issues, as in what the f**k am I going to do once I’m out? I majored in European History because it interests me, not because I wanted to be a historian. The truth is, I don’t know what I want to “be.” Oh, I have a list of life wants: happiness, security, excitement, and making enough money that I can travel whenever I want. But shouldn’t I have an idea of how I’m going to live my life? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to go?
I just don’t know. It’s been plaguing me of late. What to do? What to do?
And because the question brings a sick lurch of fear into my gut whenever I linger on it for too long, I try to ignore it.
I’m trying now, trying to study, trying to not think about the rest of my life. Only I end up staring off into space, my pen tapping against my class notes as I sit in the Student Union dining hall.
Students come and go around me, a constant chatter of voices punctuated by random bursts of laughter. I don’t even know what I’m looking at when a familiar—and not appreciated—sensation steals over my skin, prickling it.
Don’t react, I tell myself. Don’t do it.
I turn my head anyway. And immediately spot him. Baylor.
How does my body know? Why does it instantly perk up when he’s near? It’s like I have internal Drew Baylor radar. I ought to be studied by the NSA or something. At the very least have my head examined. Because this has to stop.
My only consolation is that he’s looking at me too. Maybe before I even noticed him, because our gazes instantly clash. A buzz goes through my body, a low, warm hum that has my lower belly clenching.