My friend Jenna and I walked by two people smoking cigarettes on Boylston. As we passed, we could hear the boy talking at the girl rather than to her about the merits of Pulp Fiction. Jenna waited until we’d walked by them before she turned to me.
“You know what I hate? I hate these motherfuckers who think we give a shit about their shitty opinion. Who think-,” she continued, “once they get to college people will finally give a fuck about their ‘intelligence.’ Hey, guess what? The world still doesn’t care. And guess what? You’re still an asshole.”
One day I was early to my gender studies class and a boy sat down in the desk to my right. I’d never talked to him, but I’d been in the class for a while and thought that his name was Josh. He was short, white, and had thick-rimmed glasses. The whole package. He was the boy who, on the first day of class, had violently announced that Sylvia Plath was his favorite writer. I remember wondering what Sylvia Plath would have thought of this. Today, I was at my desk reading Ophelia Speaks. The classroom was silent and empty apart from three other girls who were on their phones or looking at their notes. I heard a rustling from my right.
“Oh no…” said Josh, loudly, but apparently to himself. I continued reading and the other girls continued checking Twitter.
“No, no, no…,” another sharp rustling of papers. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Josh had pulled out an old vintage camera and was messing around with the buttons on the side. He continued muttering. I flipped a page.
“No… Please don’t tell me you…Ugh, no!”
Josh continued to make noises of distress to himself. In my head I heard a voice (maybe my mother’s) that told me to be polite. I should ask him if everything was ok, could I help, and then patiently sit and listen to him talk about photography for the next ten minutes. I quickly smothered that voice down. I was reading a good book, I did not care. It was only a few seconds later that Josh looked around the room, and in an act of desperation, held up his camera and pointed it at the girl, Maria, sitting across from us. A slow shutter noise came from the camera and Maria, worn down, looked at him. Josh looked through the viewfinder and clicked the button.
“Are you taking pictures of me?”
“I’m just testing out the film.”
That was all it took.
“This camera is, like, such a pain. It’s so old, but it takes exquisite shots. I think the pieces got ruined because the back here – here, do you see the back here? - is opened, which means the pictures are gone. Do you know anything about photography? Ugh! I spent like six hours yesterday on Boylston taking pictures and now I think I lost them. There was this one shot I took and the lighting was just so warm. It was really beautiful. You can’t get those kinds of shots with a lot of cameras, but-”
Josh continued talking. I saw Maria politely nod at him, try to look away, look back out of pity, and then make a vaguely affirming noise. After a while, she just gave up and started checking Twitter again. It didn’t matter because Josh didn’t stop.
As he started discussing why his camera was so great, I was struck by how little any of us cared. People were filing into the classroom, opening their notebooks, and taking off their headphones. Girls avoided eye contact, else they too be sucked into the conversation. It was so remarkable how important Josh thought he was. His thoughts, his ideas, his fucking camera. Sylvia Plath was a genius because Josh recognized her talent. No one was listening and yet he continued to force his opinion to be heard. He was every gym teacher I ever had, every older male cousin who had told me which college to go to. I closed my book and wondered when I had learned to stop being mad and to just let them talk.
When the professor pulled out her lesson plan and stood at the front of the classroom, Josh finally finished his monologue and leaned back in his chair.
“Ok,” she said, “Let’s learn about some women’s history!”
Chloe B. McAlpin is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major. Originally from Florida, she enjoys crunchy orange leaves, used bookstores, and Simon & Garfunkel. If she had to pick a favorite animal it would be a Persian cat, and if she had to pick a favorite person it would be Virginia Woolf.