Popped Question – No. 11B

Trevor leafed through the PhD paper written by a foreign student from last semester and grimaced.

“An answer Mr. Gable.”

Trevor’s fingers began sweating as he flipped through the text again. The eyes of Professor McDermott and the rest of the class bored through his bent head and slumped shoulders while charts and diagrams of blood samples blurred between the paragraphs. The sentences he had read the hour before blended into a spider’s scrawl.

“I’m not sure,” he mumbled.

From the back of the lab, he heard chuckles.

“Hemochromatosis?”
“Not quite, Mr. Gable.” Professor McDermott returned to the white board, marker squeaking and wafting a sweet, inky stench. He droned on about white blood cells and contaminants, leaving the query unresolved, bound no doubt for a final exam.

Trevor followed the pacing professor and his fluttering white lab coat, but the lecture washed over him. He glanced down at the dissertation written by someone now half a world away and free of the saturated lecture hall. Letters formed words he understood, but the theories kept escaping him, like a slippery fish half caught on a line. By the time he had reread the abstract and begun discerning a notion of the study, slamming notebooks and laptops shattered his tenuous grasp.

Trevor looked up and met McDermott’s scowl. He winced and shoved off his stool, stuffing his books into his bag and turning his back on the academic glower.

“I’m not sure I’m cut out for this,” he said as headed out the lab.

Grace, her books tucked on her hip like a baby, nudged his shoulder. “Come on, it’s only biology.”

“Pre-requisite 101.” Trevor shook his head. “If I don’t pass this I’m screwed.”

They exited the sloped hall and Trevor slouched against the concrete wall. The cool surface bit into his flushed skin and he shuddered.

“Did you see that paper?” he asked the floor tiles.

“I even read it.”

“So?”

“Thalassemias,” said Grace.

Trevor beat his head against the wall and let out a frustrated sigh. “I can’t believe I didn’t get it. I mean I read, but it’s like I’ve got a mental block. Nothing’s sticking.” He glared at the ceiling.

“It was a PhD paper you know.”

“Shouldn’t matter.”

Grace dug through her folders and held out a class card. “Take this.”

Trevor stared at the square of paper, marked with a dashed line waiting to be filled with the student’s choice of auxiliary class. “What about you?”

“I’m doing ok.” She shrugged. “I don’t think I want to sit through another of McDermott’s lectures again anyway.” She wiggled the card like bait on a hook. “Use it, go to his afternoon class and see if repetition can’t get this through your thick skull.” She smiled, softening the jab.

Trevor licked his lips, hovering his fingers over the card. “You sure?”
“I’m sure,” she said. “I need to do something to keep you around don’t I?”

“That’s just so you have someone to show off to,” said Trevor, taking the card and tucking the paper into his biology textbook.

“Something like that,” said Grace with a roll of her eyes. She stared at the flow of students making their way through the corridors, a flush highlighting her cheeks.

A warm rush of blood countered the wall’s chill and Trevor straightened with a weak cough. “Anatomy?”
“Anatomy,” said Grace.

They merged with the human tide, and wound toward their next class, weighted with texts and expectation.

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