Commencement

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“Why did you insist we take this old car?”

I take my eyes from road ahead and glance to the passenger seat. I can’t see much of my wife’s face in the green glow of the dash lamps, but what I can see, eyebrows low in a line matching her lips, is enough for me to guess her mood.

Seema and I attended our youngest son’s graduation from university this afternoon. For us it was a commencement as well, the beginning of another stage of our journey. But the answer to her immediate question lies at another juncture in my life; a time I have not told my wife about. Perhaps seeing our own boys go through that age she may at last be able to understand.

As much as one can understand.

It was thirty years ago, near the end of the war in Vietnam. Not that I had to worry about being drafted. I wasn’t even a citizen yet. Even so, I was not the target of scorn a foreigner might have been a generation earlier- or later. It was a time of acceptance, to a point; no one seemed to mind a brown-skinned young man walking about campus in a turban, but that didn’t mean I could get a date with an American girl. The young ladies seemed to have plenty of love to give to everyone but me. In this manner, they were much like the Punjabi girls from my homeland.

Looking back, I know it was not so much the color of my skin or my headgear or my heritage or my religion or my appearance that kept the girls away. It was me not having the confidence to simply express an interest.

The catalyst for my metamorphosis came in the unassuming form of Leona Jaeger. She was but one of many sophomore English professors, teaching courses nine out of ten students did not even want to take, me included. So forgettable was her curriculum that I have no recollection of her or her class prior to the last day of September, 1970.

On this day she returned to me a paper, one with a big red ‘F’ on it and a note at the bottom: Mr. Singh, I know you can do better. See me in my office this afternoon at 5:30.

I looked over the other four pages of my assignment for any hint regarding the shortcomings of my work, but found not a single other mark. I was more than miffed; I was angry. But I was also on a student visa and I had to take every grade seriously. I looked up my teacher’s office in the campus registry and was there come the appointed hour.

Staring at the frosted glass of the door, I confirmed the painted black digits were the correct numerals before raising my knuckles to rap upon the wood. Through the translucent pane I could make out a motion, a smudge of pink, but that was all, before the door opened to reveal the broad grin that graced Mrs. Jaeger’s face. I had been that close to her before, I’m sure, leaving a paper on her desk during the exodus from class, but I’d never really looked at her.

Her face was on the round side and a tad ruddy. Her nose was sharp by comparison, almost rodent-like, a resemblance enhanced by the mild overbite apparent in her smile. Dark brown eyes lurked beneath a pair of thin curved brows of the same color. As if that was not enough to alert me that the hue of her short blonde hair was not natural, dark roots peeked from between the sprouts in the center of her scalp.

“Come in, Mr. Singh.” With that my teacher turned and began to walk back around her desk. Her body was much the same as her face, round and soft. She settled into the seat across from me, then motioned toward the simple wooden chair on my side of the desk. “Please.”

I dropped my satchel to the floor and sat, then leaned back on two legs and closed the door behind me. Mrs. Jaeger began to speak before I had quite settled. “I asked you to come by today because I thought it better to not discuss your paper in class in front of the other students. I was worried you might be embarrassed.” With that, she tilted her head and raised her eyebrows.

My eyes wandered for a breath before I concluded she awaited some response from me. “Ok?” I prompted, anxious that she get to the point.

“Do you recall when I suggested using a bit of personal history to make your paper believable?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

My teacher smiled. “Your story is hollow.”

“Pardon, please?”

“Your story follows the patterns we discussed in class, but it lacks depth and emotion, especially for a romance. That’s why I suggested infusing a little realism by…”

“Infusing?”

“It means adding,” Mrs. Jaeger explained. “Is it polite to interrupt like that where you are from?”

“Uh, no.”

“Where is it you’re from?”

“India.”

“India’s a big place. If you asked me where I was from, I’d say Iowa, not the United States.”

“Iowa?”

“Yes. Is there something wrong with Iowa?”

“No.”

“Ok then. Where in India?”

“Punjab.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Pardon, please?”

“Your home. Tell me about it.”

I leaned forward, my brow dropping as I did so. “I’m not sure what you mean. You want to know what? Culture, religion, economics…”

“Religion. You are Sikh, correct?”

My spine stiffened. “How did you know?”

“India. Beard. Turban. What else do I need?”

“Most illegal bahis everyone sees the turban and thinks Muslim. They don’t…”

“Shows how stupid they are.” My teacher leaned toward me, her forearms resting on the edge of the desk, her hands clasped before her. “Now what I’d really like to know about your homeland is why you are here instead.”

I sat upright and took a deep breath, deciding in the time it took to do so that I would not point out how it was just as rude for Mrs. Jaeger to interrupt me. Compounding my frustration, I had no clue what she wanted. On the other hand, I knew exactly what I desired- to be out of her office. But I needed at least a ‘C’ in her class, which left me little choice but to remain.

“Money,” I declared. “Plus, who wouldn’t prefer to live here if they had the choice?”

My teacher smiled. “If you didn’t have money in Punjab, how is it you can afford an American university?”

Leaning back, I crossed my arms. “I have family here.”

“They support you?”

My lips formed a line. “No. I stay with them, but I drive a cab at night to pay for school.”

“A taxi?”

“Yes.”

“How long have you being doing that?”

“Two years. What does this have to do with my paper?”

My teacher passed a large breath and settled back into her seat. “I was just trying to ascertain whether or not you have the experience needed to infuse the story with some realism.”

“Pardon, please?”

“Well, there are two possibilities as I see it. Either you are shy about relating your personal experiences with young ladies- or you don’t have any to relate.” Mrs. Jaeger paused, her head tilting to one side. Her eyes remained locked on mine. “Well?”

I felt my cheeks warm. Hoping my dark complexion obscured my emotions, I took a breath to steady my nerve. “I’m not sure what you mean?”

Mrs. Jaeger leaned forward until her chin was near the surface of her desk. Gravity claimed the front of her blouse and the exposed portion of her bosom claimed my eyes. When I jerked my attention back to the woman’s face, I found her beady brown orbs still locked on mine.

“Much as I suspected,” she said. With that, she sat upright and drummed her fingers along the edge of the desk. “I can help you either way, Mr. Singh, whether it’s lack of experience or simple shyness. Or both.”

“Pardon, please?”

She smiled. “Experience with the young ladies, Mr. Singh- do you have any?”

I stiffened at the candid inquiry. My eyes fell from hers and flitted about the carpet. Certain I had already surrendered the truth with my mannerisms, I admitted it verbally as well. “No. Not much.”

Her smile broadened as I looked up. “See,” she said. “That wasn’t so hard. I don’t know why young men are so embarrassed just because they have yet to be with a woman. Still, I wouldn’t want to hold it against you in a literary sense. Given your lack of knowledge regarding relationships, I think I could grade your paper on a special curve. Would you find a ‘B’ a fair mark?”

I nodded. My throat flexed through a swallow. “Sure.”

“Well,” Mrs. Jaeger said. “I suppose that will do then. Unless, of course, you’d prefer an ‘A’?”

I cocked my head. “And how would I get an ‘A’?”

“By acquiring the experience of course. But, if you wish to remain a virgin…”

“I don’t.” The words were already an echo before I realized I had spoken them.

My teacher’s lips curved into a grin. “I see. Like I said, I can help you gain some experience with the young ladies, overcome your shyness, your embarrassment. You can be rid of your virginity by the end of the week, if that’s what you want.”

My brow dropped. “How can you do that?”

“I teach more than English, Mr. Singh; for those willing to learn.”

My eyes bulged as I considered the possible meaning behind her words. I gulped again before asking, “Are you, uh, offering to tutor me?”

Mrs. Jaeger issued a single polite nod. “Yes. We both know exactly what kind of tutoring too, don’t we? But I don’t want an answer now. You still have your paper?”

“Yes.” My eyes and hand moved toward my pack.

“No.”

I stopped in mid-reach and looked back to my teacher.

“Take it with you,” she instructed. “Sleep on it. Write the grade you want on your paper before class on Friday.”

“The grade I want on it?” I queried.

“Yes,” she said with a smile. “An ‘A’ or ‘B’, whatever sort of education you really want.”

Wandering to my bus stop, I couldn’t pry my eyes from the sidewalk. I am sure I must have passed countless young ladies that only hours before would have turned my head. But this day I could barely see the concrete, let alone the girls.

Forty-five hours later I was back in my English class, waiting in my seat for the other students to leave. Only when Mrs. Jaeger was the last soul in the room other than myself did I stir, march to the desk, and place my assignment face down before her.

My teacher flipped the paper over. A smile crossed her face. She turned her eyes to me. “Ok. I’ll change your grade to an ‘A’.” With that she looked away and began to gather her books.

There illegal bahis siteleri I stood, my lips pressed into a pucker, my eyelids beating while the orbs beneath them shifted about the room. Checking my memory, I confirmed my reasons for thinking there was more to me getting the ‘A’ than simply writing it on the paper.

My head pivoted toward the door. My shyness had dictated many a similar maneuver on prior occasions, but this time my body did not follow my gaze. With a sigh, I turned back to my teacher. “Ma’am?”

Mrs. Jaeger looked up, her eyes wide, bright, even glaring. “Yes?”

I swallowed, then said, “I, uh, when we spoke Wednesday, I thought you mentioned some tutoring?”

For a moment, my teacher’s eyes shifted upward in apparent thought, then they returned to me. “Yes. I did mention that. But I decided it was inappropriate of me to perhaps lead you to believe your grade depended on such extracurricular activities. I can still tutor you if you are interested, but I want you to understand it will neither hurt, nor help, your grade.”

Considering her words for the length of time it took me to exhale, my insecure side found cause to seek reassurance. “I’m still not sure what you intend to teach me.”

“I’ll teach you whatever you want.”

“How to get a girlfriend?”

“Yes. And what to do with her. But only if it’s what you want.”

“Ok.” My head vibrated in an enthusiastic nod. “I want you to teach me.”

“Very well then. My office. Eight P.M. Wear a tie.”

My eyebrows leapt upward. “Tonight?”

Mrs. Jaeger smiled. “Of course tonight.”

I was there at the appointed hour, but my teacher was not. At once, I felt like the biggest fool on the planet for having called in sick to work in order to keep the appointment. I began replaying the conversations in my head, attempting to understand how I might have misinterpreted her words. In spite of a growing certainty that I was in error, I waited.

I’m not sure how long I would have remained, but the question became immaterial fifteen minutes later when a ding down the corridor signaled the arrival of the elevator. A second later, the doors opened and my teacher emerged.

Wearing a wide grin, she sauntered my way. I could see at once my original assumption had been correct; whatever we would be doing, it would not be studying. She wore a pale orange dress with some frilly white lace and a plunging neckline that exposed a generous portion of cleavage. Large, dangling gold earrings matched an equally flashy pendant. She’d added pink lipstick and a touch of makeup on her cheeks, accenting her face’s natural rubicund glow.

“Very good,” Mrs. Jaeger said. “You learned your first lesson.”

“I did? What?”

“It’s the man’s job to wait.”

“Oh,” I muttered. “So I passed?”

“Yes. Your given name is Tejinder?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I’m Leona when we aren’t in class.”

“Leona?”

My teacher giggled though a smile. “That is my name. Did you expect to call me Mrs. Jaeger all evening?”

My eyebrows bounced upward as those last two words registered. “No, I, uh, guess not.”

“Why didn’t you bring flowers?”

My head retreated an inch as I absorbed the inquiry. My eyes wandered too, before I steered them back to Leona. “Because I didn’t think about it?”

Lips pursed, Mrs. Jaeger nodded. “That’s exactly why you give a woman flowers.”

“Because I didn’t think about her?”

“No. To show her that you think about her when you’re not with her. See how that’s important?”

I blinked through my own nod. “Yeah. I think so.”

“Don’t bring flowers every time either. If in doubt, roll a die every date. When it’s a six, she gets flowers. Simple enough?”

“Sure.”

“And you never, never, give her flowers as an apology.”

“I don’t?”

“No. What’s the message there? ‘I was an ass. Have some plants. That makes it ok, right?’ ” She paused for a disdainful snort. “Whose stupid idea was that?”

My head bobbed again. “I see what you mean.”

“You ready to go then?”

“Go?”

“Yes. Go. On our date. What were you expecting?”

My eyes wandered. “I, uh…”

“Don’t worry,” Leona interjected. “You get that too. If you behave. Now, do you even know on which side of the lady you are meant to walk?”

“Which side?”

“I thought not,” she began, turning and walking as she spoke. I didn’t notice at first, but she strolled directly down the center of the corridor. I followed on her right, a half pace behind as she continued, “The first rule is, always put yourself between the lady and any harm. This could be traffic, a ledge, a stranger, anything. Got it?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“The second rule, failing the first, is you walk on her left.”

My head had bobbed but once before I jumped across behind the woman.

“And don’t lag,” she added. “You aren’t a servant.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Leona stopped at the elevator. “Ma’am? What the hell is that?”

“I, uh, was just trying to be polite.”

“That works fine for class. But we’re on a date. I’m Leona. Got it?”

I nodded, wondering canlı bahis siteleri what I was getting myself in for. “Yes, Leona.”

“Ok. Next lesson. You always do everything for the lady. Not because you have to, but because you want to.”

“I want to?”

“If she isn’t the type of lady that deserves having the door held for her, do you really want her as your girlfriend?”

“I guess not.”

“Of course not. I know there are some bra-burners out there who disagree, but I don’t recommend dating a girl that doesn’t wear a bra anyway. Got it?”

“Yes,” I nodded. “No girls without bras.”

“And?!”

“And do everything for her.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to.”

“Like, just now, you want to press the elevator button for me.” Her eyebrows shot upward. “Don’t you?”

My eyes leapt to the lift controls. My extended index finger followed a second later.

“Ok,” Leona said. “That’s your free one. The next time you forget it affects your grade.”

“My grade?”

“You’ll see.”

I cycled a breath through a pair of tight lips, suppressing a sudden urge to flee for the stairs. Riding the elevator down, it dawned on me that I would soon be walking across campus in the company of a professor; and both of us dressed for anything but study.

“Aren’t you, uh, worried someone will see us together?” I ventured.

Leona shrugged. “We’re adults. No one cares.”

“Not even Mr. Jaeger?”

“There is no Mr. Jaeger.”

“Ok,” I replied with a nod.

Neither of us spoke again in the few seconds before the bell dinged and the doors slid open.

“You have a car?” Leona asked, stepping into the corridor.

I fell in step beside the woman, again to her left. “No. I take the bus.”

“Fine,” she said. “We’ll take mine.”

I patted myself on the back when I got to the exit in time to hold the door for her. She proceeded through without a word.

Once outside, I found myself examining every passerby for signs of contempt in their expression. Leona was correct, no one even noticed, much less cared, about the two of us crossing the campus as a couple.

We approached the staff parking area and I recalled enough of her instruction to shift to the correct side as we entered the lot. I was anticipating a compliment, but instead my teacher held out a set of keys.

“Unless the lady expressly wishes, the man should always drive.”

“Ok,” I agreed with a nod, accepting what must have been several pounds of metal. I fumbled through the keys, eventually finding one I knew belonged to a General Motors vehicle.

I was expecting a Buick, or maybe even a Caddie, and began scanning the nearly empty lot for such a vehicle. Soon it became apparent we were headed for one car in particular- a pearly white Firebird that shined even in the fading light.

“That’s your car?” I all but gasped.

“Any reason it shouldn’t be?”

“No. I guess not. What year is it, a sixty-eight?”

“Sixty-nine.” Mrs. Jaeger issued a slight chuckle, then turned her shining face to me. “Of course.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but then realized I had no clue how to respond. There was a tightness in my chest. I looked to the car, then back to the woman.

Mrs. Jaeger walked to the passenger side while I headed for the driver’s door. I was concentrating on guiding the key into the lock without scratching the paint when a single word from the opposite side of the vehicle snapped me from my focus.

“Door!”

I looked up, expecting I had somehow damaged her car without even touching it. “Yes?”

Leona’s expression was granite as she leered across the roof of the vehicle. “You forgot to open my door.”

I scurried around the vehicle, muttering a quick, “Sorry,” en route. My shaking fingers unlocked her door and then held it wide.

Mrs. Jaeger remained standing exactly where she had been. Her lips formed a line as she looked from the car to me. “You must remember every time, Mr. Singh, without fail. That’ll cost you one letter grade.”

Without awaiting reply, she slid into the seat, then dragged her legs in after her. I closed the door and walked back around the car.

“I suppose you’re wondering what I mean by grade,” Leona began as I climbed into the driver’s seat. “Well, in this case it means you can’t get an ‘A’ tonight. Of course, you can still get a ‘B’. You see, blowjob starts with a ‘B’, and you have to get at least that before I’m giving you one.”

My jaw fell and hung limp. I felt my cock twitch, enraged by her declaration, incensed by my oversight. My eyes shifted to the passenger seat, then forward again. How I wanted to ask what started with an ‘A’. Instead I muttered, “Ok,” and put the key to the ignition. A moment later three hundred and twenty-six cubic inches rumbled to life.

I turned to face my companion. “Where to?”

“It is the man’s job to choose, with the lady’s wishes in mind, of course. However, I think some hints may be in order as this is your first time. I’ve not had Indian cuisine, so a favorite of yours would be the best choice. If you are worried about your family seeing me with you, I understand you may want to avoid those places. In that case, you’ll have to wing it. As a rule, downtown is usually a good place; near the airport or attached to a hotel, that is usually a bad place. Of course, McDonald’s isn’t even on the list.”

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