People ask me why I retired.
Towards the end of my teaching career I had grown to detest grading freshman essays to a degree that had become life-threatening. I had to do breathing exercises, calmness meditation, and plead with the gods for fortitude before I could even look at those folders. I had to be careful not to put them in stacks for fear of cardiac arrest at the sight. And even then I had to proceed with palpitations, trembling, cold sweat, and shortness of breath. Like my regular attributing of malevolent motives to inanimate objects, it was a response out of proportion to the cause—but I was powerless to change it.
Since sitting in my office with those papers in the creepy late afternoon began to feel terrifying, I tried the evasive maneuver of taking (a few of) the hated folders to the library where I always had the third-floor faculty lounge to myself with a view over the campus and Vernon Street. One day, after I had taken twenty slow deep breaths, opened a folder and read the first, thankfully grammatically complete, sentence ten times trying to get it to catch, I saw across the way a man enter the back door of my building, Manget, and I knew he had come to kill me. I didn’t know why, or who he was, I only knew it was so.
So you see, I had no choice. I slipped out the west utility door, and kept going.
September 10, 2018
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