She asked me why I didn’t have a real job.
“The hairdresser’s daughter is a nurse. Just a nurse,” she said. “But you’re smart; you have all those degrees and you worked for the big government. You could be a doctor or a lawyer. Who makes more money, a doctor or a lawyer?”
I had stopped listening sometime back, when she said writing was for rich vagabonds without responsibilities; people with weak minds, a lot of time, and no real ambitions.
She never thought much of reading either. When I was a kid, I had to hide to read. I would climb a tree and spend hours devouring Bible stories, myths, and romance novels that weren’t appropriate for a brain that still wore pigtails.
She celebrated my grades, though. “This is the one that will take us somewhere,” she used to tell her friends. “I just know it!” Her expression would linger somewhere between a grin and a grimace whenever she said those words.
I hated that face.
Today, I dislike her grinning grimace more than ever. I’ve suffered it for too many years, and haven’t gotten used to it.
I sat in front of her, plotting the best way to ignore her face; telling myself, she is an itch in the middle of my back, but I’m not armless.
“Why are you going to that college anyway?” She crossed her arms as if waiting for an answer, but continued talking. “Wasn’t someone paying for you to go to that rich people university? Famous people went there. I saw it on TV.”
I’ve always been good at pretending she is eternally set on mute. “I’m leaving. I have homework and work to finish. Maybe I’ll see you next week.” I picked up my bag, forced myself not to glance at her crossed arms or at her grinning grimacing face, and walk to the front door.
“It’s not like you are learning anything in that place,” she shouted after me. “You can help more if you go back to your big government job and make some real money.”
I felt like slamming the door, but her face wasn’t close enough to it for the gesture to count.
I walked to the bus stop wondering if I should tell her that to me, studying has never been about money or learning scholarly things. It is about interaction. It is about the many faces of learning: the “I just got an A!” face; the “What the fuck am I doing here?” face; and most of all, it is about my “Wow! I’ve been going to school for over a quarter of a century, and I still love it!” face.
I doubt I’ll ever tell her. I know she would sully the moment with her nasty grinning grimace. I also know I’ll be too tempted to scratch the look off her face.