All the pretty young girls

It was a conference. I’d gone on my own, early in the morning.

There he was, my professor. He came in late, the seats already half populated. He eyed me as he came in, and I looked firmly away. At my book, my chair, away. It’s the same strategy I use when a man gets on the bus or train and eyes me up aggressively, as if I don’t notice he’s looking; as if my refusing to look back isn’t a pointed response.

He sits down with an older, female professor instead. But close to me, near to me. “Oh, you’re sitting with me,” she says. “When I knew you, you’d be sitting with all the pretty, young girls!” She laughs.

There it is. She laughs? How many people know? They all know. All the pretty young girls. Except it isn’t funny to me. It’s not funny at all.

“Yes,” he laughs back. “I’ll sit with you. But if I had my choice, I’d sit with her.”

He points at me. He actually points.

She laughs again. But it’s not funny at all.

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