On the first day of the spring term when he, the Author, was a young grad student, he accidentally sat in on an advanced acting workshop that had been going on since the beginning of the school year, although he didn’t realize it.
He took notes as the two actors—professors, he had thought, team-teaching the course—delivered their lines.
The male professor kept saying, “I think I’ll pop out to the buffet, doll.”
The Author—or author, as in a little a aspiring one at that point, a fledgling—hadn’t seen the buffet when walking in, but just the mention of it, every time, got his stomach wildly gurgling.
The woman professor did not seem very confident or even prepared. The author might have used the word disheveled, without qualm, in those days, but whatever it was, she had what appeared to be a sleep line along one cheek as if she had only rolled out of bed a few minutes before class.
Weren’t they going to hand out a syllabus?
Evidently, she had recently had an affair with this man, but she was more concerned, at present, with the hussy that he had brought with him to a recent yacht party that they both had been at.
This hussy, as the male professor tried to explain to her, was his wife, but it was not getting through to her.
Strange as it was that they had been at a yacht party in Iowa, late December, stranger still was not so much that the woman felt the need to bring up their affair in front of the class. But at every mention of the word “hussy”—and she said it several times, perhaps even as often as the man said, “I think I’ll pop out to the buffet, doll”—she grabbed a tissue from a Kleenex box that she had been holding, dabbed at her eyes and flung the tissue away from her, towards the audience. The author’s classmates jostled with one another to catch each of these tissues as if a bouquet of flowers tossed by a bride at a reception.
After this vivid introduction, the two professors asked if there were any questions. The author raised his hand to ask, “Will this be on the final?”
They laughed at this. The whole class laughed at this, as did he.
But their laughter seemed like something real to him, whereas his laughter was only pretend. He was hoping even so, while laughing, that the object of their laughter would make itself clear to him so that he, too, could actually and truly begin to laugh and not only act like he was laughing. But it never did. It never and it hasn’t up until now made itself clear. Although he’s still waiting. And laughing yet.