I gazed intently at the whiteboard trying to catch the essence of what she was illustrating. The examples showed how Old English changed and developed into Middle English. One of the important features was the words in Old English started loosing their inflections.
And then I heard a slight noise. What was it? I looked out the window. The fresh-cut grass was bathed in warm, spring sunlight. The leaves of birches had turned into a deep shade of green. It was very quiet, even the birds seemed to have taken a rest on this beautiful Thursday afternoon in April.
I turned my eyes back to the lecturer, a middle-aged linguist. She had a calm and gentle expression on her face. Her deep blue eyes reminded me of the Atlantic Ocean where I watched sunsets on the island of Tenerife.
The noise returned. I could hear it clearly now. It was a kind of plosive sound. Someone was snoring. It came from the other side of the seminar room. The lecturer noticed it too. She might’ve heard it before I did.
She paused and turned to the student who fell asleep. With a slightly raised voice, she said “could you please wake up?” Her face remained calm and soft.
“I’m sorry”, he responded awkwardly. She nodded smiling friendly. Then she resumed the lecture, talking passionately about the works by Chaucer.
My mind started to wander. It took me to a different setting – the auditorium of a renowned business college.
In the autumn of 1997, I enrolled in International Marketing (BA) and worked part time to cover the tuition fees.
On that dark winter evening, I hurried back to the college for an evening class after finishing my shift in a bakery. We didn’t usually have evening lectures so it was a rare occasion. I was a couple of minutes late and feeling quite hungry. Pushing open the back door of the auditorium slowly, I walked in quietly and got myself a seat at the back row.
I placed the notebook on the small auditorium table, and removed the lid of my yogurt carefully. It should be fine as students did sometimes bring food to lectures. Our course timetable didn’t always give us enough time to have lunch. So I thought.
“Take your food and leave the auditorium.” The guest lecturer raised his voice.
I sensed the irritation in his voice and realised that the words were addressed to me.
Some students turned around and stared at me. I rose and made my way to the back door. I waited in the corridor with the yogurt in my hand. But as I no longer felt hungry, I threw it in the bin.
When the lecture was over, I walked into the auditorium from the front door. The lecturer, a man in his fifties, was gathering the books and notes. I looked at him and said quietly: “I apologise for the distraction. I shouldn’t have brought food to the lecture.” He cast me a glance. He didn’t say a word but picked up the books and notes and walked out of the room.
So there I stood, in that huge auditorium, alone.