I was making an effort to catch the essence of what she was illustrating. The chart showed how Old English changed and developed into Middle English. How the words in late Old English period started loosing their inflections. A slight noise was intruding. What was it? I looked out the window. The sun was shining brightly. The leaves of birch trees showed a deep tone of green. It was unusually quiet, even the birds were taking a rest on this early spring day in April.
I turned my head back to the professor. She had a very gentle expression on her face. Her eyes reminded me of the sea on a quiet cloudy day. On those days the water would have a clear light-blue colour. With waves pushing back and forth slowly and gently, time seemed stand still.
The noise returned, considerably louder this time. An explosive sound. Now I recognised what it was. Someone was snoring. It came from the other side of the classroom. She noticed it too, the professor. She might have noticed it even before I did.
She turned her head to the student who fell asleep. With a slightly raised voice, she said “could you please wake up?” Her face remained calm and soft, as if she was still talking about the loss of inflections in Middle English.
“Sorry”, a deep voice came in. She smiled kindly and nodded to him. Then she resumed the lecture, talking passionately about the works by Chaucer and Shakespeare.
My mind started wandering, bringing me back to another setting. An auditorium of a renowned business college.
I was young and studing my first degree at that time. It had been many years now.
On that dark winter evening, I hurried back to the college from my part-time job in a bakery. We didn’t normally have evening lectures so it was a rare occasion. I was a couple of minutes late and hungry. Pushing open the back door of the auditorium quietly, I walked slowly in and got myself a seat at the back row.
I placed the notebook on the small auditorium table, and removed the cover of my yogurt carefully. It should be fine as students do sometimes bring food to lectures. Our lecture schedule does not always give us sufficient time to have lunch. So I thought.
“Take your food and leave the auditorium.” The lecturer raised his voice.
I sensed the irritation in the 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 did bring the yogurt with me and waited in the corridor. But the feeling of hunger disappeared, so I threw it into the rubbish bin.
It was not quite as what I expected, this evening. The heart felt heavy. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of awkwardness.
When the lecture was over, I walked in from the front door of the auditorium. The lecturer was gathering the books and notes together. I looked at him and said quietly: “ I apologise for the disturbance, I shouldn’t have brought food to the lecture.” He looked at me, no acknowledgement was shown, no words. Then he picked up the books and walked out of the room.
So there I stood, alone, surrounded by the overwhelming emptiness and silence.