Teach Me(7)By: Lola Darling
Jack Kingston, leading expert in twentieth-century poets and a star professor of Merton College, is pretty damn hot, I must admit. Dark eyes that match his choppy, neck-length, jet black hair, and the kind of angled, severely masculine face you’d expect to see on billboards, not in front of a classroom. His nose is a little long, but it works on his face, gives him that distinguished academic air.
“I might be reckless, but I’m not that stupid,” I hiss back at MK. Dating professors is where I draw the line. Even back home with Derrick, I made sure he was only a TA before I let anything happen.
Only a TA. Are you listening to yourself? I heave a sigh and sink lower in my desk chair. It’s going to be a long day.
While the rest of the students file into their seats, I flip open my notebook and jot down the notes already scrawled across the board. Because even more than escaping from my litany of exes, even more than spending a semester with MK exploring a whole new country, this class, this professor, is the reason I’m here in Oxford.
Back home, I’ve already declared my focus on T. S. Eliot, who not so coincidentally attended this very college. Professor Kingston is a leading scholar on his work, the author of the paper that inspired me to start studying Eliot in the first place.
I need to forget the hookup, forget everything except this class.
We’re starting with Seamus Heaney. We’d been assigned ten of his poems to read before class, and an essay on those same poems due in a couple of days. I have to admit, though, I only skimmed the last one, “The Gravel Walks.” Someone insisted on dragging me out to a party instead. I cast Mary Kate a sideways glance. She’s busy batting her eyelashes at Professor Dreamboat.
Finally, the clock on the wall hits 8:30 and Dreamboat breaks the hum and chatter of the room with a clap of his hands. “Let’s get down to business, shall we?”
My eyes snap forward, lock onto him the moment he speaks.
He claps his hands and turns that stately, chiseled profile on us. “I recognize most of you from eighteenth century—glad you all decided my class was worth a second go-round. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Jack Kingston; you can call me Jack, Professor JK, Prof, I really don’t care what, as long as you do the readings and participate.”
No way. No goddamn way.
“As you know—hopefully—we are starting with Seamus Heaney, one of the great Irish poets of our time. Heaney won the Nobel Prize in 1995, and penned, in my opinion, some of the greatest literature not just of the twentieth century, but the English canon on the whole. You’ll have read ten of his best in preparation for today’s class—in fact, one of the lines from one of those poems is the epitaph on his gravestone. Can anyone guess which line that was?”
His eyes meet mine, and for a moment he frowns, faintly, as though confused. Probably because I’m gaping at him in abject horror.
“How about you, Miss . . . ?” He lifts an eyebrow, clearly waiting for me to tell him my name.
I can’t force any sound through my throat. It’s permanently closed. My brain has checked out. I manage to shut my mouth, open it again, then clamp my lips tight and shake my head.
Beside me, MK lifts an eyebrow, clearly wondering if I’m suffering a mental breakdown.
Professor Jack Kingston waits another moment, blinks a few times, and then calls on a boy across the room, waving his hand frantically in the air. “Yes, Henry?”
I already know what Henry’s going to say, even before he opens his mouth. I remember where I’ve heard that line of poetry now, too late to save myself. Far too late.
“ ‘Walk on air against your better judgment,’ sir,” Henry recites.
“Very good,” replies our famous professor, the man I came here hoping to study with.
The guy I hooked up with last night.
I close my eyes and I’m in the confessional booth again, my hands digging into her soft, supple skin, pulling her against me, her salty sweet taste filling my mouth. I want to keep going, flip her over and bury myself to the hilt in that tight, wet little pussy, go at her until we’re both gasping, and—
I force my eyes open and stare at my empty classroom. Focus, Jack. Jump off that train of thought before it gets me into trouble.
Besides, my mystery American is already long gone. She said she was up from London; no doubt she’s headed back there even now, miles away, completely out of my reach.
It’s better that way.
I shove myself onto my feet and pull out a piece of chalk, jotting down some preliminary thoughts on the boards. We’re starting with Heaney, because I already assigned them the readings. I would rather skip ahead to the big announcement, the sheaf of papers the Merton librarian found stuck between a pair of the dullest botany texts in the entire college, which likely explains why no one found them before now.