I arrive twenty minutes early, whip my car into one of the few parking places within a block walk of the building that houses my first fall semester on-campus class, and hang my parking pass on the mirror. A gulp of water to calm my first-day jitters, a deep breath, and the beep of my door lock are my final recognizable rituals before I walk toward the building, pretending to know my destination.
Inside, I shun the wide staircase and opt for the elevator, saving my energy for the uphill treadmill at cardio rehab tomorrow. Upstairs, I follow the circular corridor towering above the gym floor. I move to the end of the line of students leaning against the waist-high barrier facing my classroom. I wait in shared silence of apprehension and anticipation. Ten minutes to class time, an enterprising student tries the door. It’s unlocked. We drift inside and settle into seats. Five minutes to starting time and the room is half empty or, like the optimist’s glass, perhaps it’s half full.
I extract a single-subject notebook and a couple of pens and pencils from my California Writers tote and place them on the thin table that pretends to be a desk. I add the folder with enrollment confirmation. I am the single nontraditional student, triple the age of others in this room. The instructor enters. I recognize her. She is half my age, maybe less. In her introduction, she says she has taught on this campus for several years, but today is her first time in this building. Late students who enter while she speaks breathe a collective sigh of relief that she understand their difficulty.
Students fill the room for this English 1A course, a late addition from a long waitlist. It now has its own waitlist of students, many present today, hoping to fill the place of a dropout. Don’t look my way. This prerequisite is a stepping stone to English 45, Studies in Fiction, I need to improve Escape, my mystery novel in progress.