He flopped exhaustedly into one of the chairs as the students emptied the classroom. He buried his face in his hands and tried to breathe regularly.
-Uh…professor? Are you alright?
He looked up at Wade, one of the students that worked at his lab. The boy was looking down at him with a puzzled expression, like he was some sort of strange specimen.
-I’m fine, fine.
-Are you sure? Do you want me to get you some water or something?
-I said I’m fine!
He was startled himself from the harsh tone in which the words jumped out of his mouth and felt half-sorry as Wade hurriedly made his escape from the “mad” professor.
Only when the noise had totally subsided from the room was he able to collect himself–slowly, like piecing together fragments of broken china.
He looked up at the blackboard and shamefully noted that his writing was hardly legible. He, who prided himself on his tidy penmanship. Lumbering over to the board, he wiped it clean with a few swift strokes, wishing he could erase his memory in the same fashion.
That is what she had called him.
And it made him tremble because he was beginning to think she was right.
-Why won’t you sleep with me? What is it?
She let out a long sigh.
-I just don’t find you attractive.
-What, my personality?
-That, and physically too.
It was like his head had rammed into a brick wall. Maybe those flecks of light were stars.
-You don’t find me attractive?
-I think you’re a vain hypocrite.
-A vain hypocrite. You can cut that wounded bird look on your face. It’s not going to work on me anyway.
She laughed hilariously as blood rose to his face. He felt like strangling her, or clapping his hand over her mouth to deafen that condescending laugh– a laugh that would haunt him for the next few weeks, jumping out of every corner like devilish imps.
-You’re a sham, Henry. You use your looks and your dreadful, dreadful paintings to land girls, but inside, you’re nothing. I thought you knew that.
-Well, someone has to be frank! Did the other girls gush over them? They were probably intoxicated by the cheap wine you use to seduce them. Which reminds me…if you want, I could make some suggestions for your wine cellar.
-You don’t have to look like it’s the end of the world. The sun will rise tomorrow and by then, you will have found yourself another girl. Maybe she’ll be a young student smitten by the well-dressed professor with the dark buccaneer looks. The professor who probably enjoys looking at his reflection in the mirror as he rumples up his hair just to the point that it looks tousled enough to be sexy, but not so much that it looks uncombed.
-Do you have a problem with my hair?
-I do. As I do with your manicured nails, tailored leather shoes and diamond cufflinks.
-I don’t have diamond cufflinks.
-You’re missing the point, Henry. I knew you’d miss the point.
-What exactly IS your point?
-I guess my point is that I feel sorry for you and I can’t have sex with someone I’m feeling sorry for…I’d feel like I’m doing some kind of charity.
-Maybe it is…but you are surrounded by people who gush over you and pamper you. People who don’t care a shit about you, but like dancing to your charming waltz. People who use you while you are using them.
-Oh, and you’re not one of those people?
-That’s a stupid question. You know the only reason you’ve ever been obsessed about me is because I’m not.
She had a point, he thought, as he looked over her. Now in her mid-thirties, she looked everything but flattering: There were dark shadows under her tired eyes and her lips were pale and cracked. The beige sweater dress she was wearing unattractively hugged her stout figure, but for some reason, he desperately wanted to run his hands over her body– the curves that would have turned him off had they been on another woman. Sometimes, he would become aroused as he watched her eyes lit up while she was arguing her point…like now.
-Forget it. It’s never going to happen.
Her sharp voice cut into his thoughts like a sashimi knife.
-You know, Henry, you should seriously think about this. One day, Mr. Narcissist will fall asleep next to his pond and his soul will take a step out of his body and see that there is really no beautiful other being in the pond.
I sometimes fear for you. When that time comes, your world will come crashing down and you will be so alone…
Now, two weeks later, her prophecies were taking shape and he felt like he was falling apart.