It was a warm, sunny day in April when something happened in classroom 202. It was sudden. Nobody was ready for it. No one knew how to react. They were so used to normalcy that when the unthinkable happened, nobody lifted a finger to stop it.
At first, everything was usual. All seemed well, everyone was relaxed. Hazy sunshine filtered through the partly open blinds. The clock read 9:40, ten minutes until the end of class. A lonely fly bumped against the windowpanes in confusion, buzzing steadily.
Most of the students’ laptops were open. They were answering emails, watching sports videos on mute, and scrolling through Instagram. Some people were falling asleep, nodding off only to inhale a mouthful of mask and jerk upright. The others were at the ready, waiting for the tiny little clock on their computers to say those magic numbers, 9:50. They were ready to close their laptops, shove everything in their backpacks, and get to the next place.
A smattering of students sat staring at the professor, but he couldn’t read from their glazed eyes and blank expressions if anything he said was making sense. So he paused in his lecture mid-gesture, one hand on the desk, one hand in the air. “I’m getting ready to wrap up,” he said gravely. “But before I finish, are there any questions about the lecture content so far?”
Then it happened. Out of the blue, completely unexpectedly, a hand rose up from somewhere in the fourth row. It was an average hand: long fingers, slightly tan, ink marks on the side of the palm from an overzealous ballpoint pen. The fingers waggled in the air, making sure to get the professor’s attention. A gasp went up. The students sat trembling in their seats.
“Excuse me, are you stretching?” The professor asked. “No? D-do you actually have a question? A-are you sure? Absolutely sure?”
The hand went down and a deep voiced answered, drawling out an unmistakable “Yes.”
The professor reached for his box of Kleenex. He grabbed one and buried his face in it as his eyes filled. The class sat in silent stress while his shoulders shook. Nobody wants to see a professor cry.
The clock read 9:43. 7 minutes until the end of class. The perfect time to get out of class early. The perfect time to talk to friends before running to the next classroom. Every eye in the room was trained on the person in the fourth row, and their faces read pure hatred.
“Thank you, thank you,” The professor sobbed. “Please. Go ahead. Ask your question.” His hope-filled eyes sparkled with anticipation.
“Um, could I let that fly out the window? The noise is really bothering me.”
The professor’s face crumpled. “Any other questions?”
A comfortable silence filled the room as everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Freedom.
“Class is over for the day.”
As the fourth row student walked out of the room, he mumbled to his friend, “I can’t sleep with a noise like that buzzing in my ear.”
“Dude, what were you trying to do, scare us half to death?” His friend replied, shaking his head.
Alone at 9:45, the professor in classroom 202 put his head down on his desk and cried.